When we talk about energy, it seems that the conversation is mostly about finding cheap and reliable alternatives to fossil fuels. We often forget that there is already an easy way to significantly reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. We’ve all heard about energy efficiency, but do we know why we should make it a priority? If you’re planning to age in place, energy efficiency should be key to your plan. Unlike energy conservation, which is doing less with less, energy efficiency allows you to do more or the same with less. With energy efficiency, you don’t have to sacrifice comfort or convenience. Plus you save money, get tax credits and increase your home’s value — important considerations for seniors who rely on a fixed income.
Ways to Improve Your Home’s Energy Efficiency
The U.S. Department of Energy has outlined a number of important energy efficient measures you can take now to not only save money, but increase indoor air quality, regulate temperatures and reduce noise.
- Thermostats – Save approximately 10% a year on your heating and cooling costs simply by replacing your old thermostats with programmable ones. Reset thermostats when you’re away or asleep for more savings.
- Windows – In cooler months, reduce your need for indoor lighting and allow the sun to naturally heat your home with window treatments that allow full sun exposure. When the weather is warmer, use shades to reflect sunlight and keep your house cool. Installing energy efficient replacement windows will help cut down on heating/cooling costs, as well as reduce noise and improve your home’s value.
- Energy Star – Purchasing and installing appliances, fans and electronics with the Energy Star label could save you up to $900 in energy costs over the lifetime of the products. For example, energy efficient clothes washers use 40% less energy than older washers, and also use less water and detergent. Plus, if you purchase Energy Star products between now and December 31, 2013, you’ll qualify for tax credits.
- Lighting – Replacing just 15 regular lightbulbs with energy efficient bulbs will save you $50 per year and $600 over the course of the lifetime of the bulbs. Compact fluorescent bulbs use 75% less energy and last 6 times longer than regular bulbs.
- Vampire Electronics – Many electronic devices drain unnecessary power even when they are not in use. Keeping these devices plugged into a power cord that you turn off at night stops the bleeding. Also, keep an eye out for plugged-in chargers which use energy even when not connected to a device.
- Water – Lower the temperature on your water heater (it should no higher than 120 degrees), install low-flow shower heads, and consider a rollin-in tub to reduce energy for water heating and use less water overall. Plus, a roll-in tub has the added benefits of being cheaper and quicker than other bathroom remodeling options for mobility issues. Newer water heaters have more insulation and are more energy efficient. If your water heater was purchased before 2009, wrap a heater jacket around it to increase efficiency.
- Heating and Cooling – It’s important to check and replace air filters regularly and consider replacing old systems with new highly energy-efficient models to save even more money on energy costs.
- Insulation – Insulation helps your heating and cooling system work even more efficiently. Make sure your home is properly insulated. Also, look for air leaks and seal them where possible.
- Home Audit – Consult a home performance contractor if you’re serious about saving the most money possible. You’ll get a comprehensive audit of your entire home to measure energy efficiency, and recommendations on all the ways to increase your home’s energy efficiency.
Make sure your home is as comfortable as possible and save money by incorporating energy efficiency into your aging in place plan. By making upgrades, you can expect to save 15-30 percent or more in energy costs, while also improving your home’s comfort and air quality.