#1) Obtain a whole-house evaluation by a professional energy contractor – This evaluation by a professional identifies leaks of heated (or cooled) air, walls and roofs with little or no insulation, and can advise on the full range of potential mitigation measures and their costs. Weather-stripping and crack sealing is a low-cost, high-payback mitigation measure that is guided by such evaluations. Increased insulation is possible where needed and is affordable relative to the otherwise wasted energy in most situations. Replacement of windows can be effective in saving energy, but is a major investment; storm-window installation is somewhat less effective but typically much less expensive. You can find a certified contractor at www.resnet.us.
#2) Upgrade your HVAC System – The heating, ventilation and cooling system in your house is likely your single largest energy user, and may also be the least efficient. . (See www.dmme.virginia.gov/de/LinkDocuments/HandbookHeatingCooling.pdf). Today’s state-of-the-art systems are dramatically more efficient than historic ones, offering a reasonable payback through energy savings on what is admittedly a major investment, but is a no-brainer if the old system breaks down. The current generation of high-efficiency air-source electric heat-pumps, ground-source heat-pumps, and high-efficiency gas furnaces all operate on a fraction of the input energy their 20-year-old models did.
#3) Upgrade your water heater – The second largest energy consumer in a typical house, water heaters typically use energy around the clock to provide hot water needed for mere minutes per day. State of the art heat-pump water heaters or tankless water heaters, while more expensive than storage-tank water heaters, typically save their additional cost in a fraction of their working lives by lowered energy bills. Adding outer insulation to an existing water heater may be possible and beneficial if it is not ready for replacement. .
#4) Upgrade your home lighting – LED light bulbs typically use one-fifth of the energy of traditional incandescent, offer a range of lighting tone, don’t shed excess heat, contain no mercury or other toxics, and are likely to last 10 times longer, after saving any incremental cost in a matter of weeks. This is the ultimate no-brainer. See for yourself. https://www.takecontrolandsave.coop/calculators/lighting-calculator/
#5) Upgrading to Energy-Star Appliances and Electronics – Take advantage of the research available on the Environmental Protection Agency website (www.energystar.gov) to learn about the energy performance of most appliances (refrigerators, dishwashers, and clothes washers and dryers are major energy users) and electronics (which typically use 12% of a home’s energy). But don’t settle for any model with the blue Energy-Star label. The best of the 715 or so Energy-Star dishwashers uses one-third the energy of the worst; do your own research among the appliances, TVs and other electronics before you buy.
Good luck with your home energy efficiency project!