How to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient

Unless you live in a brand new, specially designed home built for maximum energy efficiency, there are things you can do to make your home more energy efficient. Sure, there’s big stuff like adding insulation or new windows, but there are a few simple, and surprisingly inexpensive, ways to cut down the amount of energy your home consumes.

The biggest way to save energy, and money, is to put insulation into the wall cavities of your home and also the floor of your attic or crawlspace.

The attic/crawlspace is relatively easy: you simply roll out rolls of fiber glass insulation between the attic floor joists after removing any existing flooring material. This will keep heat from escaping through the ceiling of your house.

Installing insulation in the actual walls is a little more complex, but you have a couple more options.

Remove the drywall. This method works best if you are remodeling or rehabbing. Since most, if not all, of the drywall or plaster will be removed as part of your overall remodeling plan, it’s easy to add bats of fiberglass insulation when the plumbers and electricians are done with their part.

Keep the drywall in place. Customarily installed from the exterior of the house, foam or cellulose insulation are both installed by inserting a large hose into a hole in the wall and filling the cavities with the insulating material.

A hole is drilled in every cavity between the structural studs that make up the exterior walls. The foam or cellulose is then “blown” into the cavity using the power of an air compressor, water, or both. When all cavities are filled, the holes are filled in.

Cellulose insulation can be a do-it-yourself project if you use the dry method. Machines are available to rent at many stores that sell insulation.

Of course the other big-ticket change you can make is to install new, energy-efficient windows in your house. New windows are almost all double-glazed, meaning there are two layers of glass in each pane, with either just air or a chemical in the gap, which increases the window’s insulating power.

Double glazed windows use glass that is called Low E, or low-emissivity glass. Its transparent metallic coating both reflects heat back into the room and allows heat and light from the sun to pass right through the glass. This process is known as passive solar heat gain, which means that you are receiving heat from the sun right through your window glass, while also preventing heat loss from the inside to the outside. Best of both worlds.

If you can’t afford to replace your existing windows, you can cut down on drafts and heat loss considerably by covering your windows with specially designed sheets of plastic for the winter months.

You can install this type of plastic on either the interior or the exterior of your windows. Just be sure to get the material designed for indoors or outdoors.

For the exterior, double-sided tape is mounted around the edge of the window trim, taking care to cover the gap between the storm window and the wooden frame. Then remove the cover on the second side of the tape and attach the plastic. The downside of this method is the aesthetics. It’s hard to get the plastic tight enough to blend in, and the edges that go beyond the tape seem to flap in the wind a lot, no matter how carefully or close you trim the excess.

Interior plastic covering for windows is a little more unobtrusive. You apply the same way using double-sided tape and of course you extend the plastic to the woodwork to cover the gap between window and frame. But the cool part comes after that. You use a regular household hair dryer, held rather close to the plastic. It makes the plastic shrink and practically disappear. Not to mention you don’t have to climb around on a ladder outside your house to install this type of plastic.

Another relatively inexpensive way to increase energy efficiency in your home is to caulk the cracks around window and door openings—the part where the woodwork meets the wall. This alone will cut down on drafts and make your home feel more cozy while reducing your energy consumption.

Other relatively inexpensive ways to save energy include insulating your water heater with an insulating blanket, wrapping your hot water pipes with pipe insulation, switching to more energy-efficient light bulbs and finally, simply turning your thermostat down in the winter and up in the summer.

Of course if you want to go full-out energy efficient, you can always build or move into a zero net home. These houses are specifically designed to consume the smallest amount of energy possible for every type of application. From solar panels to passive solar heat to heat sinks and super-insulated shells, net zero homes are the epitome of energy-efficiency.