8 Surprising Ways to Save Energy in Your Home
Throughout the years, homeowners have grown accustomed to energy efficiency involving green design, upgraded appliances, solar panel systems and eco-centric behavioral changes. For example, you may be more apt to turn off lights when you’re not occupying a room, use automated heating and cooling systems, and have become proficient in taking shorter showers. Each of these help to save energy.
Many states even offer incentives for reducing energy consumption in residential and commercial spaces. The research, programs and initiatives are evident when saving energy in obvious ways.
However, you may be surprised to learn there are several unique ways you might want to use to save energy in your home. Here are eight energy-conserving methods you may not have considered before.
1. Install a Microhydropower Generator
Microhydropower, or water generators, have untapped potential for saving energy. They’ve been around for a long time, but their utilization in households isn’t as common.
Microhydropower systems can produce up to 100 kilowatts (kW) of electricity, but residential properties only need about 10 kW to generate enough power.
Your property should be situated near a stream or other body of water to use microhydropower. Hydropower installation is relatively cost-effective, depending on the type you choose and your home’s location.
2. Consider Residential Wind Turbines
The higher cost of natural gas has driven a 10.7% spike in electricity expenses since January 2021. As such, homeowners are looking for other renewable energy sources to power their homes.
Residential wind turbines may be a surprising alternative to save energy and money on utility bills long term, mainly if you live in a rural area. However, their installation comes at a hefty price. Homeowners can expect to spend between $4,000 and $8,000 per kilowatt — meaning it may cost nearly $50,000 to offset 10,000 kW annually before incentives kick in.
Regardless, a domestic turbine may be ideal for your home if your area gets a lot of wind, you have plenty of space on your property, you know how much energy you require and you’re interested in off-grid power.
3. Build With Energy-Efficient Siding
Believe it or not, some exterior siding and color combinations have better energy performance than others. Replacing siding also has a 78% ROI, so it’s well worth the upgrade. When you build or purchase a home, you might be interested in utilizing insulating materials, such as vinyl, brick, cement, stucco or steel. Each one is best suited for different climates and weather conditions.
If you’re looking for the best insulation, vinyl could help you save about 20% on energy bills each year. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), darker colors from paint to roofing shingles can absorb 70%-90% of the sun’s energy. At the same time, cooler, lighter shades reflect heat and keep your interiors cooler during hotter months.
4. Plant Shade Landscaping
Planting trees in your yard is an excellent way to improve the environment. However, it can also significantly impact energy savings.
If your home receives a lot of direct sunlight, shade landscaping may offer some relief and reduce your household energy consumption. Depending on its location, a 6-foot to 8-foot tree can deliver shade within one year. Studies have shown shade landscaping can decrease your home’s temperature by 3 F if it covers an outdoor air conditioning unit.
Groundcover plants, such as bushes and shrubs, can also decrease heat energy before reaching exterior walls and windows.
5. Convert to Smart Switches and Plugs
Did you know heating and cooling accounts for 14.2% and 15.7% of energy consumption, respectively, in your home? Household energy use also comes from lighting, water heating, computers, televisions and refrigerators.
You can reduce your energy consumption by investing in smart plugs, switches, bulbs and other smart devices. For example, apps and home devices like Amazon Echo or Google Nest allow you to control electrical outputs remotely.
In action, a smart plug linked to your mobile device enables you to turn a lamp on or off from anywhere, while smart switches may have dimming effects or other special features.
6. Use Indoor Motion Sensors
Have you ever flipped the light on in your pantry, closet, or hallways and forgot to turn it off? While floodlights with sensors are popular on the exterior of homes, you could also install motion sensors inside your home.
Additionally, occupancy sensors are similar to motion sensors but can detect movement in a particular room. It would be best to place them wherever they can easily sense you or someone else in every part of a living area.
One disadvantage of occupancy and motion sensors is they typically will turn the lights off if they don’t detect activity, even if a person is in the room.
7. Paint Your Interiors White
The color you paint your interior walls can help you reflect more sunlight and better insulate your house.
A room with darker shades will hold more heat than white or lighter colors, making your house hotter in the summer months and causing you to run your air conditioner more.
Lighter walls also make the room more luminous, so you may not need to keep lamps lit until nighttime.
You may want to consider using an infrared reflective wall paint or coating to reduce energy costs, as well. Interestingly, studies have demonstrated how infrared reflective paint can improve insulation by 18%-22% for optimized interior comfort.
8. Harvest Rainwater
Rainwater harvesting has many benefits if you’re trying to save more energy and money on water bills. There are a couple of ways you can do this.
The first option is to cut a downspout above the ground and insert it into a rain barrel or storage tank. Water will then accumulate in the container and can be used for landscape irrigation, washing the car, filling backyard ponds, garden fountains or other uses. A rain barrel can save upwards of 1,300 gallons of water during the rainiest summer months.
You could also install a water system with advanced filtering and purification technology. This may be a bit more expensive, but it can deliver a potable water supply for bathing, drinking, cooking and flushing.
The average installation cost is about $1,000 to $3,500, but it ultimately depends on the size and type of rainwater collection system you choose for your home. It may be a worthwhile investment for further long-term utility savings if you reside in a rainy climate.
Small Changes Quantify Big Savings
Some of these energy-saving tricks are a bit more complex than others, but making small changes can reduce energy consumption and lower energy bills. Even methods requiring you to invest a bit of money in generators, landscaping or other upgrades have a significant return on investment and provide a more energy-efficient, environmentally-friendly home.