There are things you can do around the home to make it more efficient. Many of the biggest changes one can make also happen to be the most expensive, unfortunately. However, there are smaller things you can do in your home to reduce your energy consumption and shrink your winter utility bill.
Why does energy efficiency matter? Well, it matters in big and small ways. Energy consumption, whether it’s natural gas to heat our homes or electricity to power our appliances, costs money to transport into our pipelines and circuits. The price of your utilities is contingent on a number of factors including your location, transmission costs, market demands, the frequency and duration of use and the time of day. But all those are just examples of the financial cost.
There is an unseen price we pay for the amount of energy we consume as well, and it matters on a global scale. Our consumption of non-renewable forms of energy releases greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. These emissions contribute to the warming of global temperatures and climate changes, that will make large swathes of our planet less hospitable going forward.
While it can’t be incumbent upon individuals to solve a global problem, taking steps to improve your home’s energy efficiency has immediate benefits on a personal level. Because the most cost-effective and popular improvements one could make around the home, like upgrading large appliances or installing solar panels, can be prohibitively expensive, many people are unaware of the small ways they can have a big impact.
That’s why we’ve prepared a list of five upgrades you can make this winter for under $50. If you find yourself inspired by this list, we also have many more ways you can upgrade your home for energy efficiency.
1. Tactical Ceiling Fan Use
This one is for those of you who leave your ceiling fan to collect dust in winter. You may notice that your ceiling fan has slanted blades; and if you’re really keen, a handy little switch on the motor that changes the direction, as well. That’s by design. It might seem counterintuitive to turn your fan on when it’s cold out, but ceiling fans do more than just cool you down.
When compared to furnaces and A/Cs, ceiling fans use very little energy and can make you feel a temperature difference of roughly 5°C, according to Homeselfe. Keeping in mind that warm air floats and cold air sinks, spinning the fan clockwise (to the right) pushes warm air down from the ceiling and distributes it around the room. This allows you to turn the thermostat down a few degrees, which greatly reduces your utility bills over time. In the summertime, you can reverse the direction to force warm air to the ceiling faster, too. So this tip works year-round.
Using ceiling fans properly is one of the best ways to reduce your home's energy bill.
2. Window Insulation Kits
Winter is not the time to lose heat in the home, especially due to something as fundamental and static to the home as its windows. Changing any architectural features is an expensive and laborious undertaking, which is why discovering a draft from a closed window can be a horrifying experience. When you get down to it, it’s impossible to completely prevent heat loss — it’s just a matter of physics.
But there are ways you can mitigate the speed at which your windows expel heat, thereby decreasing the amount of energy you must consume to maintain the house’s temperature. Having properly insulated windows prevents the warm air of a home’s interior from being cooled by the surface of the window and gradually lowering the ambient temperature in a process called convection. Window insulation kits are typically available at your local hardware stores, in a variety of affordable price ranges and only require a few minutes of DIY installation.
This is one of the many energy-efficient upgrades that will sell your house.
3. Thermal Leak Detector
A thermal leak detector does exactly what the name says: It detects thermal leaks. This is to say it helps you locate and pinpoint areas of the home where you have air currents by way of measuring dramatic temperature differences.
This is a really nifty tool that can let you find cracks in the building’s envelope, where you might have to seal over or spot any rooms in the house where the warmth of the furnace does not reach, signifying a blocked vent. But that’s not all. Spots that are consistently colder than the room temperature can help direct you towards leaks, which can lead to further cracks or mold.
The simpler models are the cheapest, running you under the promised $50, and can do the job just fine. But if you have the coin to spend, more expensive varieties also come with cooler tech like infrared or laser thermometers.
4. Smarter Lights
You’ve probably heard it before: Use LED lights. LED lights only need a tenth of the energy required to power an incandescent bulb and costs nearly $4 less each year to run. There’s a reason this is the go-to hack to cut energy costs: It’s cheap, easy and effective.
Nowadays, you don’t even have the excuse of preferring the warm glow of an incandescent bulb to the harsher white lights of LEDs as modern bulbs come with a variety of tones to suit your preference. There are now also smart bulb kits. These come in a variety of price ranges, depending on how many bulbs come in a kit, but plenty is relatively cheap. The idea is that these bulbs, come with a hub that connects via Wi-Fi to your phone, tablets or home personal assistants (Google Dots, Amazon Echo, etc.), and allow you to remotely control the intensity and color of your lights.
If you’ve already got your lot filled with LED bulbs, there are ways you can upgrade them further to save money. This will be especially useful for those of us that are forgetful, or continually underestimate how long we expect to be out of a room.
Motion-sensor light switches can be found at most hardware stores for less than $30, and some even include dimmers to customize the intensity of the lights. If you’re particularly handy, they’re simple to install within a matter of minutes (please enlist help if you don’t have experience as installing them puts you at risk of deadly electric shock!) and can automatically turn the lights off behind you, meaning you save money not having them constantly burning electricity.
5. Smart Power Strips
For any lamps or space heaters, you have plugged into your wall, you could plug them into a smart power strip instead. Depending on the model you get, you can have a variety of additional features. A baseline smart power strip, however, prevents energy vampires from consuming electricity even when they’re not being used.
Some also allow you to set timers on plugged-in appliances or control your electronics remotely through Wi-Fi, and there are a variety of sizes and configurations to suit your needs, and most come with a variety of outlets so you never mistakenly plug out your modem.
Final Thoughts on Reducing Energy Around The Home
Hopefully, you have enjoyed the tips for saving energy around your home. Being more sustainable will not only help you save energy but put more money in your pocket both in the short and long term.
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About the author: The above article on winter energy-efficient home upgrades for $50 or less was written by Rhea Henry. Rhea is a content writer with EnergyRates.ca, a leading energy rate comparison website that provides unbiased, third-party reviews of electricity and natural gas retailers in Canada. She also writes weekly blog posts on energy-saving tips.