Ah, good ol' Summer. We Houstonians both love and despise the hottest months of the year. Swimming, barbecues, and longer days are great, naturally, but the heat and higher electric bills, not so much.
Last week, we discussed the importance of an annual A/C inspection. But your A/C's effectiveness is only part of your home's overall energy-efficiency, and there are numerous other elements of your home that contribute to how hard your A/C must work to keep you cool.
Let's look at some of the top strategies for conducting a DIY home energy audit:
- Energy Vampires: All of those appliances and electronics that are plugged in but aren't in use still leech power and amount for as much as 8% of your annual energy spend. Unplug video game consoles, cell phone chargers, kitchen appliances, and other devices when not in use.
- Lighting: The latest and greatest energy-efficient light bulbs use as much as 75% less energy than traditional incandescents. Because lighting accounts for around 10-15% of a typical home's energy consumption, those savings will be noticeable.
- Air Leaks: Air leaks can account for as much as 1/3 of your monthly energy bills. Yep, 1/3. As your home settles, gaps can form around windows, doors, even light switches and electrical outlets. All of these seemingly innocuous gaps cause your A/C to have to work harder to compensate for all the warm air coming in through all those spaces. Filling them in with caulking or installing fresh weatherstripping can help keep your room temperature more comfortable and your A/C calmer.
- Appliances: Energy-efficient appliances nowadays are quite impressive. An energy-efficient washer and dryer set, for example, can save from 75-90% on energy consumption compared to older non-efficient models. Because of this, many energy-efficient appliances actually pay for themselves in their combined energy savings, meaning you're pocking potentially hundreds of dollars every year. Even if you're not ready to replace your older appliances, make sure they're in tip-top shape. Clean out vents, keep the area around your appliances dust and debris-free, and lower the temperature settings on your fridge and freezer. And remember to keep that fridge / freezer door closed!
- Insulation: Few things can cause more stress and strain on your air conditioner than poor insulation throughout your home. Not sure if your home is lacking insulation? A professional insulation assessment can help you identify opportunities to boost your home's ability to block out heat, greatly reducing your energy bills. For example, radiant barrier can limit the amount of heat transfer from your roof to your attic and, therefore, to the rest of your home.
- Monitor your results: Comparing one month to the next won't tell you much, but lining up the numbers from one year to the next can be telling. Create a spreadsheet or keep a notebook nearby, and record your costs and your consumption. You'll be amazed at how even the smallest changes can add up over time!
If you've exhausted all your DIY efforts and are still paying more than you think you should, schedule a professional Houston energy audit today, and start saving.