What Is Energy Efficiency and How to Improve It in Your Home?

Who hasn’t heard the term “energy efficiency” being used these days? You’ll see it everywhere from buying large appliances to skimming hashtags on social media. It’s definitely a big buzzword, but what is it? 

Energy efficiency is ultimately doing more with less. An energy-efficient fridge will cool just as well as a non-energy efficient competitor, but cost less money to run. Not only will energy efficiency save money, but it will also reduce waste. 

Annually, the UK wastes about  £9.5bn worth of its electrical energy, which breaks down to roughly £592 per household. That’s a lot of wasted energy. With newer technology, it’s easier than ever to save money on new appliances, but there are ways to save energy while spending minimal money. 

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Why Home Energy Efficiency Is Important

Consider the basic light bulb: a traditional light bulb isn’t expensive and does the job effectively. Compared with energy-efficient light bulbs, it’s practically a bargain when you buy 3 in a box. 

But LED bulbs use around 95% of their energy for light, whereas traditional bulbs use around 5% of their energy for light and 95% of their energy as heat. Additionally, LED bulbs last longer and supply a better glow. For what may come out to double the cost, an LED light bulb will supply better light for longer periods of time and use less energy, making them a better choice in the long run. 

Reduced savings and a better product are just two of the benefits of energy efficiency. Ultimately, energy savings reduces operating costs and reduces a family’s carbon footprint, leading to improved environmental performance. 

Energy Efficiency Is Good for the Environment Too

Fossil fuel and solar energy are just two examples of energy sources, but certain groups are ranking energy efficiency as a top energy source as well. 

When a house uses less energy, it saves on greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, it reduces fossil fuel energy, which means less overall air and water pollution from fossil fuel plants. 

How Can I Make My Home More Energy Efficient? 

When talking about things you can do to make your house energy-efficient, there’s a host of options at a wide range of costs. Here’s a few suggestions: 

Simple Tips 

When talking about energy wasters, most people consider appliances and electronics to be the top of the list. This leaves homeowners with two choices: they can either swap out devices and opt for more energy-efficient ones, or tweak what they already have. 

Stop Draining Power

Standby power costs are the power your appliances drain when they’re turned off but plugged in. They may be the silent killer of your budget.

Annually, standby power costs can easily add up, especially if most of your appliances aren’t energy-efficient ones. A simple way to save money is to use power strips with on-and-off switches. You can plug all the appliances of a particular room in one of these, then switch the whole thing off when not in use, thereby blocking any opportunity for drainage all at once.

Equally efficient, but more of a hassle, would be to simply unplug or turn off each outlet when the appliance is not in use. Certain appliances, such as fridges, should always stay plugged in, so this option might not be the most helpful for larger kitchen appliances, but it could benefit living rooms and bedrooms. 

Choose Your Devices Wisely 

This tip mainly applies to cooling and heating devices. Buying an air conditioner? You may feel that buying bigger may seem like the more effective purchase. Yet, an oversized device may be noisier and might also cost you more money for maintenance and power consumption. Bigger isn’t always better. 

Chat with a professional about the size of your home and the area you need to either heat or cool to get a better idea of what size appliance you need to run efficiently. 

What about your garage? 

If you have a garage attached to your house, the doors to the garage are probably not well-sealed and that may require you to run more heat during the winter months as cool air seeps into the house through the garage entrance. Feeling drafty when you walk by the door to the garage? A simple solution to drafts is to purchase a door sweep. This is a spongy piece of material you can place under your door that will prevent air leaks, and hopefully, help reduce heat loss. 

Checking the sealant around your outside doors can also lead to saving money on heating. If you can feel a cool breeze when you’re standing in front of your door, you are losing valuable heat during the winter months. 

Smart Thermostats 

Ever get home only to realize it’s freezing inside because you forgot to turn the heat on? Having a smart thermostat could have helped you. A smart thermostat can be programmed to turn on at a set time and keep a set temperature. Other advantages of smart thermostats are: 

  • Advanced models can learn your favorite temperature 
  • Help detect a draft or an open window, thereby alerting you to potential heat loss 
  • Set up a detailed schedule for heating and cooling, which will help reduce your overall energy bills. Additionally, you can set up zoned heating, so certain areas in your house stay warmer than others. 
  • Better control of your heating. You’ll be able to see a better breakdown of your heating costs, as well as preventing wasted energy. Additionally, you’ll be able to control all of your heating with your phone, so you can ensure that your house is heated exactly as needed, no matter where you are. 

Replace Your Light Bulbs

Consider your outdoor lights and make the switch to long-lasting LED bulbs. Additionally, you can opt for lights with motion sensors that’ll only light up when there’s a detected motion or when it’s dark out. Though less energy efficient than LED bulbs, you can get compact fluorescent light bulbs that will easily fit in a pre-existing light fixture. 

Keep Your Oven Door Closed

When in the kitchen, keep that oven door shut to reduce heat loss. Instead, use a digital timer and the oven light to check on your baked goods. For meat, you can use an oven-proof meat thermometer to ensure that your meat is cooking evenly. Every time you open the oven door, you lose a huge amount of the heat your oven has produced. Save that heat and the energy it took to create it, by keeping the door shut.

What About the Refrigerator?

Covering your food is one simple step you can take to make your kitchen more energy efficient. This keeps moisture from evaporating, so the compressor of your refrigerator will have to work less. An added bonus will be fewer stinky odors. 

Regular maintenance of your refrigerator goes a long way. Cleaning any dust build-up on the coils fixed to your refrigerator’s back will help the compressor take less time to cool, ensuring your fridge lasts longer. 

These are all small tips that can go a long way in saving money and energy in your home. Most of these tips cost little to nothing, and because of that, the savings can really add up. 

Energy Efficiency Tips That Require Medium Effort  

If you’re looking for bigger, possibly pricier changes, this list may pertain to you. Though the following tips might be a bit more demanding, they’ll yield better results in the long run. With most houses in the country being under-insulated, it makes the most sense that the majority of the following, medium effort tips center around home insulation.

Home Insulation: What Is It and Why Should You Consider It?

Windows, doors, attics, and floors are all referred to as the outer shell of your house. This outer shell is where you’ll typically find the openings through which air leaks.

Minimizing air leaks through the outer shell will improve your heat during the winter and your cooling efforts during the summer. It’ll also save you money; as it’s been estimated that you can cut your cooling and heating costs by 15% through home insulation and air-sealing. 

Insulation as a DIY Project

Basic insulation installation can be a medium-sized DIY project.  Probably the most accessible and easy-to-insulate area of your house is your attic. Today, there are many different types of insulation, from the traditional pink fluff blanket insulation to foam board insulation, to sprays. Determine which insulation is best for your home and will work most effectively. 

Things to Keep in Mind for Insulation

The most important thing to keep in mind while insulating is the even distribution of the insulating material. The entire area being insulated needs to have a perfectly even amount of insulation layered on to prevent leaks. 

Additionally, the joists of your attic shouldn’t be visible through the insulation layer. So, how much insulation-material should be added to your space? The answer lies in the R-value, which means resistance to airflow. It’s essentially how powerful your insulation is or how resistant it is to heat flow. For most attics, the recommended R-value is R-38, which can translate into 10 to 14 inches according to the used material.

Easy Air-Sealing Maneuvers

Another relatively easy fix is caulking around windows and doors. Caulk is an elastic, paint-like material used to seal cracks from kitchens to bathrooms to windows. Caulk is relatively easy to and cheap to use, but it is time-consuming and can take up to 24 hours to fully dry. 

Professional Home Insulation: The Advanced Way That Pays Dividends

While hiring a professional is more expensive than DIYing, it is a guaranteed way to ensure that your home is air-tight and energy-efficient. Depending on your house, there is probably a limit to how much energy you can save with simple or moderate tips. Here a few that will require professional assistance:

  • If you’re trying to insulate around lights fixtures
  • If your attic is poorly ventilated
  • Tube wiring in older houses, which can be a fire risk
  • Installation of certain appliances, such as a boiler

Replacing Your Boiler

If your boiler is 20 years old or older, it’s probably not running very efficiently. Easy ways to tell how efficiently your boiler is running is to see how long your radiators take to heat up and if there are any cold spots on them. If you’re noticing a decrease in your heating, but high energy bills, your boiler may be the culprit. 

If routine servicing and maintenance don’t help, investing in a high-efficiency boiler may be the next step. Condensing boilers are more efficient than a combination boiler, but a combination boiler will provide hot water on demand, so it’s important to research options to determine the best for each house. Green boilers go one step further in cutting down on household emissions by using less fuel to run more efficiently. 

Replacing a boiler is a job for a professional, but it can dramatically save money in heating costs. 

Internal Insulation For Conservatories

Like attics, poorly insulated conservatories require attention. If one’s conservatory is poorly insulated, it’s not only wasted space during part of the year, but continuous heat loss will really hurt a household’s energy bill. 

Benefits of a professionally insulated conservatory include: 

  • Better control over temperature
  • A reduction in heating and air conditioning bills 
  • Year-round useable space
  • Less if any condensation

If the roof is relatively new, professionally insulating it should be relatively straightforward. If the roof is older, it may need to be replaced with something more efficient. Here at All Seasons Roof, we use CosyPanels which are designed specifically for conservatory roofs. Made of high-density foam and guaranteed to last for up to 15 years, these are truly a worthwhile investment. 

Final Words 

Energy efficiency works towards reducing both utility bills and carbon emissions, making it a natural first step if you’re looking to save money and help the environment. It doesn’t have to be expensive fixes necessarily; simply reducing the amount of electricity being used can go a long way in improving the energy efficiency in one’s home. These basic tips should get you started towards saving energy and money this winter.