Saving energy and lowering utility bills in your home go hand in hand. What helps is knowing where in your home to look to find how your home is wasting energy.
What we've discovered is that the biggest energy wasters in the home fall into three big categories:
- The heating and cooling system
- Water heating
We've gathered a list of questions inspired by our Home Energy Savings Checklist to help you identify opportunities to conserve energy and save money.
How might your home heating and cooling system by wasting energy?
Heating can account for almost half of the average family's winter energy bill. Questions to ask yourself about your HVAC system include:
- How old is your heating and cooling system?
- Do your utility bills exceed $200 on any given month?
- Have you installed a programmable thermostat for adjusting temperatures according to your schedule?
- When is the last time you inspected your air ducts for holes or gaps?
- Do you schedule yearly and professional maintenance for your home HVAC system?
- When is the last time your HVAC home air filter was changed?
On the subject of home air filters, make sure to select the correct filter for your home. Every HVAC filter has a MERV rating, which measures how efficiently the filter captures pollutants that pass through your heating and cooling system. These ratings range from 1 (least efficient) to 16 (extremely efficient). Some studies show that medium-efficiency filters — in the MERV 7 to 12 range — strike the best balance between removing allergens and filter cost. Here's more information on the MERV Ratings scale.
How might your home water heating be wasting energy?
Water heating can account for 14%-25% of the energy consumed in your home. Some questions to ask yourself include:
- Have you installed energy-saving showerheads and/or low-flow toilets?
- Is your home water heater more than 7 years old? (That's when you should begin shopping for a new one.)
- Have you adjusted your home water heater temperature to be no higher 120°F?
How energy-efficient are your home appliances?
Appliances account for about 13% of your household's utility bills. Here are questions to ask yourself about your appliances:
- How energy-efficient are your appliances? The EnergyGuide labels show you the annual energy consumption and operating cost for each appliance for easy comparison.
- Do you dry your dishes using the heat cycle of your dishwasher or do air-dry them
Check out this chart that ranks various appliances’ electrical use.
There are other aspects of your home which may be contributing to higher energy costs. For example:
- What type of light bulbs do you use? Have you switched to new energy-saving bulbs, available since January 2014, which use one-quarter the amount of energy and last ten times longer as older A-19-type lamps?
- Have you noticed whether some rooms in your home are warmer or colder than others? This might be an indication that air (and heat) is either entering or leaving your home, possibly even through gaps along the baseboard.
- Have you checked what type of insulation you have in the attic? Maybe it's time to upgrade your ceiling insulation to R-38 (higher R values mean greater insulation levels and thus more energy savings).
- How old is your home? Did you know that lower insulation standards were in effect prior to 1990, meaning that your home could be losing energy if it was built before then.
If you've been focusing on lowering your utility bills, what would you add to this list? How do you answer the question "is your home wasting energy?"