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15 Energy-Saving Tips for Homeowners in the US & Canada

October 15, 2021
Renewable energy, sustainability, ecology concept

Whether you're working, going to school online or just spending more time at home than usual, you may have noticed a substantial increase in your home energy usage. Greater connectivity and reliance on technology can also come at a cost.

An energy-efficient home can lessen your energy usage and lower energy resources bills. Now is a good time to review and learn some new home energy-saving tips to help lower your costs.

1. Make Some Shade

Family planting tree in yard concept

Saving energy is cost-effective and environmentally friendly. You can conserve energy by planting the right tree in the right place around your home, according to the Utah State University Forestry Extension. Some trees and bushes offer wind protection and shade, lowering energy usage.

Here are a few recommendations from Utah State Forestry Extension:

  • Shade air conditioning units
  • Plant deciduous trees (those that shed their leaves in the autumn); summer leaves provide shade, and leaves drop in cooler months.
  • Plant evergreen trees upwind for wind protection.
  • Carefully consider the mature height and branch spread of plantings.
  • Consider wildfire hazards when planting trees and bushes near your home.

Contact your local extension agency for advice tailored to your area.

2. Manage Standby Power Electronics

Many media and tech choices in homes today concept

Most electronics don’t need to be plugged in 24/7. Consider unplugging them when they’re not in use. Standby power mode – electronics that draw power even when they’re not being used – can add 5% to 10% to your electrical bill, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) reports.

A few of the many examples of common electrical standby power appliances, include:

  • Gaming consoles
  • Recharging laptops
  • Cell phone chargers
  • Some wireless devices

You can also use power management settings on devices that have them to minimize the energy drain. You can also use advanced power bars – “smart power bars” – which can cut power to devices when they’re not in use.

3. Use Fans and Ventilation

French Bulldog resting next to a mini electric fan concept

Using your ceiling fan to supplement air conditioning (or going without A/C altogether) is a simple way to save energy. Using your ceiling fan enables you to raise the thermostat setting about 4 degrees with no reduction in comfort, according to energy.gov. For safety reasons, only install ceiling fans in rooms that have a minimum 8-foot ceiling height.

Don’t overlook using tabletop fans or box-shaped fans that are intended to fit within a window frame, either. Any fan that keeps you more comfortable can help conserve energy. When it’s cooler outside than inside, throw open the windows and turn off the A/C.

4. Replace Incandescent Bulbs

Energy saving and incandescent light bulb in perpetual motion concept

Time to replace those last few traditional light bulbs you have with compact fluorescent or LED bulbs. Today, there are low energy-use bulbs for every lighting need and mood in your home. They last longer and use less energy. Refer to individual bulb packaging for specifics. Selecting bulbs with lower wattages can also help you conserve.

5. Use Drapes or Blinds to Cool Your Home

Saving energy can be as easy as closing blinds or drapes during warmer months. Keeping drapes closed on the sunny side of your home can help keep your home's temperature cool and reduce the work for your AC.

In the cooler months, open the shades to let the natural solar light warm your home. Using natural light when it’s practical can also reduce your electrical light use.

6. Check Your Water Usage

Child gleefully washing toothbrush under running water concept

Small changes to your water usage can help reduce your water usage and energy bills.

  • Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth
  • Shorten your shower time or bathe less
  • Do larger single loads of laundry
  • Check that outdoor hoses are turned off
  • Replace water-leaking faucets, hoses and fixtures

7. Conduct a Home Energy Audit

An energy audit can help pinpoint problem areas in your home that may be losing energy. You can do it yourself or hire a certified energy professional for a more thorough audit.

The U.S. Department of Energy suggests inspecting your home for energy suckers, including:

  • Air leakage
  • Duct leakage
  • Insulation
  • Heating, cooling equipment and appliances
  • Lighting fixtures energy efficiency

8. Seal Home Air Leaks

Caulk sealant application on a windowsill by a man concept

Air leaks are among the greatest sources of energy loss in a home. Fixing leaks is one of the most-efficient ways to improve energy efficiency. To identify air leaks, focus on your:

  • Walls and ceilings
  • Windows and doors
  • Lighting and plumbing fixtures
  • Electrical switches and outlets

Caulk, seal or weatherstrip all seams, cracks and openings, paying particular attention to leaks on outside walls. Sealing uncontrolled air leaks can save 10% to 20% on your heating and cooling bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

9. Operate Your Thermostat Efficiently

As more of us work from home, maintaining a comfortable temperature without busting the bank account has become more of a priority.

Changing your temperature setting for only eight hours a day could save you up to 10% on your annual heating and cooling costs, the U.S. DOE says. You could save even more if you live in an area that doesn’t have very high or very low temperatures throughout the year.

The DOE recommends that you live with a heating temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit/20 Celsius in cold months and 78 degrees Fahrenheit/26 degrees Celsius in hot months during an eight-hour period of your choice each day. Turning your air conditioner off while you’re away and blasting it way down when you get home won’t save energy and won’t cool your home quicker, the DOE notes. Instead, try adjusting your air conditioner or heating unit up or down three to five degrees, depending on the season.

10. Install a Programmable Thermostat

Consider installing a programmable thermostat that automatically adjusts the temperature to your schedule. Most models feature a mobile app that allows you to adjust the temperature remotely.

In addition, programmable thermostats can help prevent carbon emissions. NRCan reports that these devices help Canadians save on heating bill costs too, by maximizing energy efficiency, especially during off-peak usage hours.

Tighten Your Ductwork

Empty attic that could have air duct leaks concept

Hot and cold air from heating/cooling units is dispersed throughout your home by a network of ducts. Improperly sealed and insulated ducts can waste energy and cost you a lot of money each year.

Be sure to check ducts in the attic and vented crawl spaces for potential leaks. This is where the most hot/cold air can be lost, and you may not notice for quite a while. Closing vents or radiators in unoccupied rooms (think guestrooms) can also help save on heating and cooling.

Improve Your Insulation

Save energy by insulating your walls, attic, roof and foundation. This can reduce the amount of hot/cold air escaping your home. It can help you use less energy and maintain a constant, comfortable temperature in your home.

Having poor insulation can negate the home energy savings you could get from new thermal insulated doors and windows. NRCan recommends retrofitting your home with improved insulation before such installations.

Use Large Appliances Efficiently

Large brightly colored clothes washers and dryers concept

The bigger the appliance, the more energy it’s probably using. Those that clean your clothes, dry your dishes, and cook, heat and chill/freeze your food are big culprits.

Think about replacing these larger appliances with more energy-efficient models that feature the Energy Star symbol (both Canada and the U.S. use this symbol to identify appliances that met or exceed their goal to reduce energy usage and the output of greenhouse gases). If replacement doesn’t fit with your current plans or budget, try these energy-saving tips:

  • Keep your refrigerator/freezer stocked with food and drink. A mostly empty one uses more energy.
  • Operate large appliances during off-peak energy hours.

Upgrade Windows and Exterior Doors

Exterior image of old window and shutters covered in snow concept

Inadequate windows and doors can drain up to 25% of the heat from your home, according to NRCan. Replacing drafty windows and doors keeps heat (or A/C) in and cold/hot temps out. The initial money layout for new windows and doors can be eye widening, but it should result in energy savings over the coming years.

The most energy-efficient windows on the market are insulated with argon gas between the two panes, says NARCAN. Also look for low-E glass, insulated frames and sashes and double to quadruple glazing.

Grab a Paintbrush

Light paint colors on walls and ceilings reflect more light, making rooms brighter, helping eliminate the need for higher-wattage light bulbs. Light-colored roofing, if you happen to be in the market, and light exterior paint colors can help naturally cool your home, according to colormatters.com.

Green eco house concept with an environmental background

US Homeowner Energy Efficiency Rebates and Incentives

Some utility companies and federal and state government agencies offer tax credits, rebates and other incentives to encourage home energy-efficiency improvements and the use of renewable energy sources.

The IRS offers the Nonbusiness Energy Property Credit that allows you to take tax credits to help you pay for some energy efficiency improvements you make to your home.

Federal Equipment Tax Credits

Equipment tax credits for primary residences only are retroactively extended from Dec. 31, 2017 through Dec. 31, 2021, according to Energystar.gov.

Energy Equipment

Tax credits of $50, $150 or $300 are available for specific Energy Star-certified equipment, including heat pumps, water heaters and air-circulating fans.

Qualified Energy Efficiency Improvements

Tax credits of 10% of the cost not to exceed $500 (excluding installation) may be available for some energy efficiency improvements, including insulation, roofs, and windows, doors and skylights.

Renewable Energy Tax Credits

Tax credits of 22%, 26%, or 30% are available for renewable energy products that meet specific requirements through Dec. 3, 2023, according to Energystar.gov. These include credits for items including solar energy systems, geothermal heat pumps, and biomass fuel stoves.

These tax credits apply to new construction and existing homes, principal residences and second homes, but not to rental properties.

Canadian Homeowner Energy Efficiency Rebates and Incentives

Tax credits and rebates are available for Canadian homeowners who make energy efficient home improvements and purchases for their existing and new homes.

For example, home evaluations and retrofit funds from the Canada Greener Homes Grant can provide up to $5,600 to homeowners:

  • $600 maximum for pre- and post-retrofit EnergyGuide evaluations
  • $5,000 maximum for implementing eligible retrofitted items, including insulation, windows, doors, and more.

Availability for several programs often depends on the province or territory in which you live. You can learn more about available programs for your area here:

Brookfield Residential: Committed to Building Energy-Efficient Homes

Saving money on energy doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Making changes to your daily routine can dramatically affect your energy usage.

Want to learn more about how to build an energy efficient home in Canada and the U.S? Brookfield Residential is committed to building energy-efficient homes. Read more about our sustainability efforts, and if you are looking for a new home, reach out to us today

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