8 Secret Sources of Wasted Energy In Your Home
Turning off the lights in an unoccupied room or cutting back on water usage are ways you can save money on your household bills and positively impact the environment. However, there may be secret sources of wasted energy in your home of which you’re unaware.
Inflation and the rising cost of electricity left 20% of Americans struggling to pay their utility bills in 2021. Another 28% skipped out on the essentials, such as food or medicine, just to keep the lights on.
As long as you overlook the updates needed for optimum energy efficiency, whatever energy-saving habits you’ve started won’t make a big difference. Ultimately, you’ll pay just as much, if not more, than you always have.
To see real change in terms of savings and improved indoor air quality, you’ll have to tick a few extra boxes on your energy-saving checklist. Of course, this may mean spending money on upgrades, as well. Here are eight energy wasters in your home you may have missed.
1. Energy Vampires
Electronics make our lives much simpler. We can stay in touch with friends and family on the go, look up a recipe in a pinch and entertain ourselves with a good movie.
With so many people working remotely since the pandemic, our at-home workspaces are fully connected with phones, laptops, computers, printers, answering machines and tablets.
Unfortunately, our devices zap energy even when we’re not using them. As long as a device is plugged in — including inactive phone and laptop chargers — it can account for 10% of your household’s total energy consumption.
However, this is a quick fix. Simply turn off or unplug your devices when you’re not using them and use advanced power strips to save on electricity.
2. Dirty Air Filters
Aside from polluting your home’s air quality, a dirty air filter will slow down airflow in your HVAC system, forcing it to work even hard to maintain the temperature throughout your house.
Consider nearly half of your household energy consumption comes from heating and cooling. Dirty air filters can significantly impact your utility bills, forcing you to pay even more.
For optimal airflow, check your air filter monthly, especially in the winter and summer months when you tend to run your unit the most. Generally, you should change your filter every three months, if not sooner.
A clean filter doesn’t just ensure air quality and better energy efficiency; it also prevents the buildup of dirt, which can cause your unit to malfunction or break.
3. Poor Insulation
Unless you need to store something away in the attic, it’s usually one of those spaces you don’t spend much time thinking about. However, your attic is probably a major culprit for wasted energy.
Heating your home in the winter is expensive. In 2021, homeowners saw a 40% increase for heating oil, 30% for natural gas and 54% for propane.
Your attic should be well insulated to keep the heat trapped inside your home. According to EnergyStar.gov, most attics require about 11 to 14 inches of insulation.
While attics may be the most well-known source of wasted energy, make sure to check other potential trouble spots, such as windows, flooring, and even your garage. An insulated garage door locks cold out with a polyurethane foam board, preventing it from seeping into your house through tiny cracks.
4. Leaky Windows and Doors
Households can lose 30% of heating and cooling due to air leaks. In older homes, especially, even the slightest nooks and crannies can leak indoor air. Of course, it’s essential to check your windows, doors, vents and air ducts to ensure they’re tight and secure.
You can look for air leaks by lighting a candle and holding it up to the windows, doors and walls throughout your house. If you happen to come across trouble areas, you can seal them with caulk or new weatherstripping.
In some instances, you may need to consider upgrading to newer windows and doors for better protection. Replacing your home’s windows can be pricey — costing homeowners an average of $300 to $2,100 — depending on the size and number of windows needed. However, you can rest assured you won’t have any more air seeping out or coming in.
5. Incandescent Light Bulbs
Nearly everyone has heard of light-emitting diode (LED) light bulbs — but if you’ve ever questioned whether they’re worth the hype, they certainly are.
Light bulbs may seem somewhat unimportant to many people, but they’re actually a tremendous source of wasted energy.
Upgrading to Energy Star-certified LEDs uses 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs and last 15 times longer. Additionally, they produce 70% to 90% less heat, reducing the amount of energy consumption from running your home cooling system.
You might also purchase LED lights to string around your house and tree during the holidays or look for LEDs to enhance your nighttime landscaping.
6. Older Appliances
Appliances account for 9% of your utility spending — particularly your refrigerator and washer and dryer units, which cost the most to operate annually.
If your household appliances are on their last leg, you may have just found the source of your increasing energy costs.
Older appliances are incredibly wasteful when it comes to energy consumption. For example, new energy-efficient refrigerators are 9% more efficient than older models and can save you $220 over 12 years.
Washing machines with Energy Star certification are also much better at conserving water. Washer units built before 1999 usually used 30 to 35 gallons of water for every load of laundry. However, newer models only use 10 to 20 gallons of water.
7. Heating and Cooling an Empty House
What’s the point in running the air conditioner if nobody is in the house to enjoy it? Using a smart thermostat can save you ample amounts of energy and money.
Smart thermostats come with automated features which enable them to learn your household’s preferred temperature and adjust accordingly. Many smart thermostats also run your HVAC unit only if there are occupants in the home and allow you to designate specific zones for heating and cooling.
You can even control your smart thermostat remotely through your phone.
On average, Energy Star smart thermostats can help you save 8% on your energy bills, equating to $50 annually.
8. Less Exterior Shading
You may not have realized it before, but your landscaping can significantly affect your indoor energy consumption.
During the summer, sunlight increases the temperature inside your home, causing your air conditioner to kick on frequently. Protect your indoor air from excessive heat rays by planting shade trees around your house.
While the benefits of tree shade are evident in the warmer seasons, trees and shrubbery can block cold and windy drafts in the winter — reducing your heat expenses.
Flowering trees, such as maples, oaks and poplars, are most conducive to blocking out heat in the summer and letting in natural sunlight to warm your house in the fall.
Lower Your Energy Bills With These Energy Fixes
You can do everything right in making energy-conscious lifestyle choices — but unless you address these secret sources of wasted energy, you’ll miss out on some substantial savings. Recheck your home to improve energy efficiency wherever you can, and you’ll reap the rewards on your future energy bills.