Owning a home takes a lot of work and money. On top of the mortgage, property taxes, and maintenance costs, Bay Area homeowners can be in for a rude awakening when they open that first summer electric bill. Here’s the good news: there are actually quite a few ways for homeowners to make their home more efficient and lower their energy bills. In this article, we’ll review some DIY energy upgrades you can make in your home this summer for greater comfort and savings.
Start with a home energy audit from our team
Before you can start upgrading your home, you need to know where to start. That’s why we recommend that you call our team to schedule your 26-point home energy assessment. Our certified energy experts run through a professional energy audit, finding the places where your home is both saving and wasting energy. We then translate the data from our tests into easy-to-implement recommendations for improvements.
While some of our recommendations—such as upgrading to a new, more efficient air conditioner or adding attic insulation—require the assistance of a professional HVAC technician, there are many projects that homeowners can tackle immediately to put their home on the road to future savings. If you do have ABC Cooling, Heating & Plumbing work in your home after an energy audit, we’ll perform another set of measurements after the upgrades have been completed so that you can measure the positive change in your energy efficiency.
Tackle these DIY energy upgrades and start saving!
A majority of the energy used in the home typically goes to the air conditioner and furnace. That means homeowners here in the Bay Area spend a lot of their utility bill cooling and heating their home, depending on the season. Anything you can do to retain more of that cooled or heated air is going to have a positive impact on your energy use and costs.
Here’s a low-cost, easy way to prevent the loss of cooled and heated air: add weatherstripping around your doors and windows. You’d be surprised how much energy is wasted by drafty exterior entryways. Efficiency-boosting weatherstripping can be found at any hardware store, and the minor investment is typically well worth the results.
Lower your water temperature
Without knowing it, many homeowners keep their water heater at a much higher temperature than it needs to be. This is especially true since many manufacturers set the default temperature at 140 degrees, while the minimum temperature recommended by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is actually 120 degrees. Why the difference? For one, higher temperatures in the tank kill off harmful bacteria faster, although the DOE notes that 120 degrees works just as well in that regard for most households.
Too high of water temperature actually has a number of negative effects. First, it can pose a serious scald risk, especially to children. Second, any additional heat in the water heater tank means additional pressure on the tank itself. Finally—and most relevant to this article—continually keeping water hotter than it needs to be for household use wastes money.
Your water heater should have a temperature dial where you can adjust the temperature setting. By lowering the tank temperature from 140 degrees to 120 degrees, you can save between 6-10% on your home’s energy costs. Not sure how to do this? Be sure to talk to the plumbers on our team for water heater service.
Put your lights on a timer
In addition to upgrading any older light bulbs to LED or CFL bulbs, you should also watch your household lighting use. Policing yourself or kids when it comes to turning off the lights can get, well, old for everyone in the house. We recommend that homeowners add timers to control when lights turn on and off for the night.
If you want to take things a step further, use smart switches or bulbs that allow you to control the lights from your smartphone. That way, if you forget to turn off the lights when you leave, you can always do it on the go. This upgrade is convenient and will help you cut down on your home’s energy use.
Upgrade to a smart thermostat
Just like your lights, there’s a lot of energy waste that occurs because humans just aren’t good at remembering to do small, repetitive tasks on a daily basis. For many homeowners, adjusting the thermostat back up when they leave is easy to forget, yet—as a mistake repeated day after day—can really lead to a spike in unnecessary energy use and higher electric bills.
A smart thermostat solves this problem by allowing you to put your home on a schedule that accounts for when you’re regularly away from home, such as days you’re at work for 8 hours. With this control, you can have the air conditioner take a break while you’re gone, and then set your home to cool back down 30 minutes before you walk through the door.
Not all smart thermostats are the same! Look for ones with other helpful features, such as learning technology that allows the thermostat to program the most-efficient schedule on its own. If you have questions about smart thermostats and which models are compatible with your HVAC systems, call our team.
For more energy-saving advice and projects, call your friends at ABC!
As it turns out, there are quite a few projects that Bay Area homeowners can take on themselves to improve their home’s energy efficiency. Many of these upgrades have twin benefits: they both make your home more comfortable and lower your energy bills. Just remember: some of the most impactful energy upgrades—from upgrading to a new air conditioner to having new insulation installed—will need to be handled by a professional. Don’t forget to plan and budget for those changes if you really want to start saving.
If you’re ready to get started using less energy and saving money, our home energy audit is a great place to start. With a checklist from our team, you’ll be able to start knocking out items and watch your electric bill decrease every month.