25 Ways to Turn Your House into An Energy-Smart Home


Want to make an energy-smart home? Learn how to conserve energy and cut costs in your home (without losing comfort) with these tips and tricks for “green” living.

According to the Department of Energy, the average household spends $183 a month on home energy. With rising energy costs, many homeowners are starting to examine the energy-efficiency of their own homes. They want to know where energy comes from, how much it costs and how to save it.

From choosing new, energy-efficient appliances to exploring your renewable energy options, check out this smart guide with ideas for energy-efficient appliances, home design, and embrace a ‘greener,’ more sustainable home.

1. Find the Energy Hogs

Not sure which appliances are the biggest energy hogs? Monitor the power with a Watts-Up or Kill-a-Watt meter.

2. Invest in New, Energy-Efficient Appliances

Look for the Energy Star label when you’re shopping for home appliances and light fixtures. Energy-efficient appliances may cost more up front, but they will pay for themselves over time.

3. Don’t Forget Your Tax Credits

Get a tax credit while you’re saving energy dollars. You can receive up to $500 for using Energy Star windows, skylights, or storm doors, or adding home insulation, weather stripping, or caulk.

4. Save Green with Your Greenery

Save energy through your landscaping by planting deciduous trees on the south and west sides of your house. In summer, the leaves will shade your house; in winter, the bare branches will allow the sun through for added warmth.

5. Spin the Blades

Conserve electricity year-round with ceiling fans. Economical and efficient, they use close to the same amount of energy as a 100-watt light bulb. In the summer months, set your blades to spin counterclockwise and then set your thermostat a few degrees higher and you could save as much as 40 percent on your cooling bills. In the winter months, switch the fan blades to spin clockwise and you could save up to 10 percent on heating bills.

6. Light the CFL Way

Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are four times more efficient and last up to 10 times longer than incandescent light bulbs.

7. Downgrade Low Traffic Rooms

You probably don’t need that 100-watt bulb in your closet or the guest bedroom. Downgrade the lights in low traffic rooms to 60-watt or even 40-watt bulbs to conserve energy.

8. Set the Mood

Switch out your light switch for a dimmer and you’ll save energy in the home and set the mood at the same time. A dimmer allows you reduce lighting when you don’t need it, and if you add an occupancy sensor, you can even set it to turn lights off when you leave a room.

9. Let the (Natural) Light Shine

Use daylighting whenever possible. The easy way: open up the blinds! The more complicated way: install a skylight. During the day, you might not need to turn on a light.

10. Use Your Smarts Outside

Don’t forget about exterior lighting when conserving home energy. Motion sensors will save energy, and you give you affordable security at the same time.

11. Paint a Room

Did you know: light-colored paints on walls and ceilings reflect more light. This makes rooms brighter and reduces the need for high-wattage light bulbs.

12. Chill Out

Use cold water with a cold-water detergent, and you could save loads. Sorry, but that laundry rule: “hot water for whites,” is nonsense. You may just want to experiment with different laundry detergents to find one that works well with the cooler water.

13. Fill it Up

Run only full laundry and dishwasher loads to maximize your run-time and water usage. Washing one large load will take less energy than washing two loads on a low or medium setting.

14. Turn it Down

Turn down the thermostat on your water heater to 120 F, which is adequate for most home needs, and you’ll save energy on hot and warm wash cycles.

15. Drip Dry

When possible, hang dry your clothes or you’ll end up blowing a lot of hot air — and your cash — out the vent. Also opt not to use the heat-dry setting on your dishwasher and you could save even more.

16. Play the Match Game

Here’s something we bet you didn’t realize: a 6-inch pot on an 8-inch stove burner can waste more than 40 percent of the burner’s heat. Match it up to optimize your energy use.

17. Set the Schedule

Optimize your schedule with a programmable thermostat and you could save upwards of $100 a year in energy costs. Simply set it to reduce your HVAC needs when you’re away or sleeping (higher temps in the summer and lower temps in the winter).

18. Set Your Stopwatch in the Shower

Time how long your shower takes…then cut it by a few minutes. Aim for seven-minutes or less with a low-flow shower head.

19. Shop Local

Choose local, Earth-friendly products that use the minimum amount of energy to transport. Also, shop local produce. ‘Food miles’ is the distance food has to travel to get to your plate. Focus on eating locally and seasonally to reduce the amount of energy that has been used in its transport.

20. Seal it Up

Heating and cooling costs account for almost 50 percent of the average home’s energy tab. To save on energy at home, seal up the gaps and cracks in your attic, basement and around the windows and doors too. Use caulking, sealing or weather-stripping to plug up smaller leaks. If you’re finding leaks in your doors and windows, it’s probably a good time for more efficient replacement windows.

21. Get your Ducts in Line

Seal up air-ducts properly to prevent all the cooled (or heated) air from escaping before it even gets to you. Yes, that means you need to remove the duct tape.

22. Insulate Like a Pro

Insulation reduces the exchange of heat through walls, attics, ducts or through the roof. In a well-insulated home, less warm air will escape during the winter, and less cool air will escape during the summer, reducing the amount of energy needed for heating and cooling. Just make sure your home insulation levels meet or exceed your local codes.

23. Schedule Your Annual

Like your body, your appliances need an annual check-up. Call in a licensed expert to inspect your heating and cooling systems each year. If they’re not functioning properly, you’ll end up spending more on energy bills and repair costs.

24. Breathe Easy and Save Easy

A dirty air filter causes your HVAC to run longer in order to keep temperatures constant. The Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that once an air filter gets clogged, the heating and cooling system could use up to 15% more energy than when the air filter was new.

25. Unplug Appliances and Devices When Not in Use

Cell phone chargers, coffee makers and other devices will continue to use electricity when plugged in, even when they’re not in use. Unplug them until it’s time to use them…how many clocks do you really need in the kitchen, anyway?

Inspired to go green? No need to wait, start today. Take control of your personal energy use and costs so you can save money, live comfortably and help the environment at the same time.