While you might think that making your home more energy efficient requires big investments of time and money, there are simple steps you can take now to amp up the savings in your utility bill.
Light Up with Less Energy
These days, we all know that the swirly “compact fluorescent” light bulbs (CFLs) use considerably less energy than the “old-timey” incandescent bulbs. But thanks to fast-paced advances in technology, homeowners can now upgrade to new-fangled LED (light-emitting diode) light bulbs.
Just a few years ago, an LED bulb cost upwards of $50 – for one! Now, you can find them at various retailers for around $5 each. Or less. LEDs are significantly cooler than CFLs, reach full brightness instantly, and don’t contain the unhealthy, eco-unfriendly mercury found in CFLs.
What’s truly amazing about the LED, however, is how long it can last. For instance, put one LED 10-watt bulb in a fixture turned on approximately three hours a day, and it could keep shining brightly for more than 20 years. And that’s just one bulb. Change out all the bulbs in your home, and the savings could really stack up.
Not ready to switch out every bulb in the house yet? Understandable. Replace the CFLs with LEDs one room at a time. Or put an LED in a hard-to-reach fixture – like a cathedral ceiling chandeliers. This way, you may not have to worry about replacing it for many years to come.
Actually Understand Your Energy Charges
You receive a mysterious bill every month with a bar graph that shows whether your energy usage went up or down. But what does that really even mean? If you want to know what days you used the most energy and what that cost you, whether it was your washer and dryer or fridge using all the energy, and how your Texas home’s energy costs compare to those homes similar to yours, turn to Direct Energy. Their tool for Texas customers, Direct Your Energy, allows you transparency into all your energy usage and costs so you can make informed decisions to help you save. It’s a major perk from an energy provider.
Electric Heat Pump Water Heaters
First introduced to the consumer market in 2006, this product – part heat pump and part conventional water heater – has become an increasingly popular way to save water and energy costs – by some estimation as much as $300 a year.
An electric heat pump water heater (HPWH) works by only heating the amount of water you need, and only when you need it. And it can be put into “sleep” mode when you’re on vacation.
Other water heater innovations in the pipeline include:
- Solid-State – Thin-film, thermo-electronic technology reduces the energy consumed in water heating. It also can be used in a variety of other appliances and HVAC systems.
- Electrochemical Compressors – Without getting too technical, this method uses the natural thermodynamics of hydrogen to heat the water, instead of refrigerants harmful to the environment.
Trade the Sun for Shade
This may not be a new idea, but since warmer months outnumber cooler ones in Texas, it bears repeating.
For energy savings inside your home, start on the outside. Creative landscaping can help you save big on air conditioning, reduce water use, lower maintenance, and even reduce noise pollution.
To keep your home temperate throughout the year, plant deciduous trees — like oaks or maples — near southern-facing windows. The leafy branches will shade windows from the hot summer sun, which can reduce A/C costs by up to 50%. In winter, when the leaves fall, the sun can shine through, helping to heat your home naturally.
In Texas, it’s a good idea to shade your outside A/C condenser unit as well. Trees, shrubs, and bushes can keep the air around the unit cooler, so it doesn’t have to work as hard to cool the air before it circulates through your house. Just be sure your plantings don’t block the air circulation.
As for watering your landscape, keep a few easy tips in mind.
- Group plants needing less water away from those that require more. It can help you regulate the amount of water used.
- Replace grass with gravel paths or rock gardens to reduce watering needs. Or check out one of the drought-resistant turfs indigenous to Texas, like Buffalo grass, that need less water and less maintenance!
- During warmer months, water in the morning so more of it soaks in and less evaporates.
- Mulch! A good layer keeps plants cool, holds water in, and reduces weed growth.