Almost any home remodeling project offers opportunity to make your home more energy efficient, whether you’re finishing the basement or replacing a light bulb. Today’s homeowners are increasingly eco-conscious — which is good for news for you as manufacturers are responding with some great products. Reducing your home’s energy use reduces your carbon footprint (and, coincidentally, reduces those pesky utility costs).
Many of the suggestions below aren’t remodeling projects in and of themselves. Instead, they can be included in other home improvement projects. After all, if you’ve had to knock through a wall anyway, you might as well check what’s in there before you seal it back up!
Air leaks are a major source of household energy loss. Doors, windows, attics, chimneys, electric outlets and recessed lighting fixtures may all allow air to escape, increasing your heating and cooling costs. Check your insulation levels as well; most homes need insulation with a minimum resistance value of R-30.
Appliances and Light Bulbs
Switching from older appliances to ENERGY STAR® appliances will reduce your electric bill, but you don’t need to replace every appliance in the house at once. In fact, one of the simplest ways to reduce home energy use is to replace incandescent light bulbs with CFL or LED bulbs. A CFL build uses 75 percent less energy than an incandescent, and it can last ten times as long.
You don’t need to replace all your incandescent bulbs immediately, just switch to more energy-effective bulbs when the old bulbs wear out. It’s a simple, cost-effective solution that hardly feels like remodeling.
Upgrade Your Plumbing
You may need to open up walls during a remodeling project, revealing plumbing pipes. This is an excellent opportunity to insulate pipes, reducing heat loss (check pipes for leaks at the same time). If you’re remodeling a bathroom, replace faucets, shower heads and toilets with water-conserving alternatives.
A new water heater with an ENERGY STAR energy factor of .62 reduces the power needed to heat water. Or, if you’re really serious about reducing energy, consider adding solar water heating panels to your existing plumbing system.
Stake Your Energy Vampires with Toggle Switches
Some electric outlets see more use than others. For instance, a den outlet may provide electricity for a television, game console, DVD player, surround sound system and other electronics, all of which are plugged in through a power bar.
All these electronics are energy vampires, consuming small amounts of electricity even when plugged in. Connecting a toggle switch to the outlet allows you to turn off everything completely with a single flip of the switch. It’s a small energy-saving remodeling project if you’re comfortable working with electricity (if not hire an electrician — in this case, it’s best to leave it to the professionals!).
Seal up Ductwork
Installing a new HVAC system will reduce energy costs. Aging air conditioning and heating systems need to work harder than newer models to produce the same effect, so they expend more energy.
Even if you have a relatively new HVAC system, pay attention to any air ducts you access during remodeling. Make sure all ducts are properly sealed and insulated, and you’ll see your energy bills drop.