How to Increase Home Efficiency With Hidden Electrical Improvements
Audit Your Home's Energy Use
The first step to increasing your home's energy efficiency is to understand where you are using the most electricity. Here are some tips for auditing your home's energy use:
Look at your monthly electric bills and see when your usage tends to spike. This can help identify major appliances or behaviors that are energy drains. I compared my bills over the course of a year and noticed my usage jumped in the summer when I was running air conditioning more.
Use an energy monitor like Sense or Emporia to track energy use appliance-by-appliance. Seeing real-time data showed me that my electric water heater and HVAC system were responsible for over 50% of my home's energy use.
Conduct an energy audit. My local utility offered a free home energy audit where an auditor used advanced tools like thermal imaging to pinpoint leaks and drafts. The auditor discovered inadequate insulation in my attic which became my top priority to address.
Upgrade Outdated Electrical Systems
Replacing outdated electrical equipment with energy efficient models can significantly reduce your home's energy consumption. Here are some impactful upgrades I made:
Swap incandescent bulbs for LEDs. LED bulbs use at least 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs. I replaced all visible bulbs in high-use fixtures with LEDs for immediate savings.
Install occupancy sensors. I put occupancy sensor switches in closets, bathrooms, and other low traffic areas. The lights automatically turn off after a period of inactivity, preventing energy waste from bulbs left on.
Add daylight sensors. Photosensors and daylight harvesting systems adjust artificial lighting based on the amount of natural light in a room. I put daylight sensors outdoors to prevent exterior lights running during the day.
Upgrade your refrigerator. I replaced my 12 year old refrigerator with a new ENERGY STAR certified model which consumes 40% less power. Look for efficient compressors and heat exchange systems.
Swap dishwashers and washing machines. ENERGY STAR dishwashers use at least 41% less energy than standard models. High-efficiency washing machines use 25-40% less. Look for ENERGY STAR ratings when replacing old appliances.
Unplug unused appliances. I used a smart power strip to completely cut power to electronics in standby mode, eliminating "vampire" loads.
Enhance HVAC Efficiency
Heating and cooling accounts for a huge portion of home energy bills. Some upgrades I did to make my HVAC system run more efficiently include:
Clean and replace filters regularly. Dirty filters make your HVAC system work harder to circulate air. I signed up for automatic filter deliveries so I never forget this easy fix.
Seal ducts. Leaky ducts can lose 20% or more heated and cooled air before reaching vents. I hired professionals to find and seal duct leaks using mastic sealant.
Add smart thermostats. I installed Nest smart thermostats which learn my schedule and preferences. The auto-away mode minimizes energy use when I'm not home.
Tune up your HVAC annually. Technicians maximize performance by cleaning coils, checking refrigerant levels, and calibrating equipment. Tune-ups make units run smoother and last longer.
Upgrade insulation. I had insulation blown into the attic and perimeter walls. Stopping thermal leaks helped my HVAC system maintain temperature more efficiently.
Monitor and Control Usage Remotely
One of the best ways I improved efficiency was installing a home energy management system that connects electrical devices and allows me to monitor and control energy use from my phone. Key features I use include:
- Remote control of lights, thermostats, appliances and more
- Activity notifications when devices exceed set usage
- Real-time energy monitoring by circuit
- Custom usage reports showing trends
- Automation based on schedules and triggers
The energy dashboard and automation routines have helped reduce wasted energy. I can also quickly detect any new devices or habits increasing costs so I can take action.
Shift Usage During Off-Peak Hours
Many electric companies use variable pricing based on energy demand throughout the day. Here are some ways I've shifted high-draw activities to lower-cost off-peak hours:
- Running the dishwasher after 9pm to take advantage of lower nighttime rates
- Scheduling the electric water heater to heat overnight
- Charging electric vehicles overnight when base load is lower
- Using a battery storage system charged at night to power devices during peak rates
- Running the washing machine and dryer in the early morning or late evening
These small changes reduce stress on the electric grid during peak hours and have helped lower my electric bills.
Consider Renewable Energy
While efficiency improvements should be your first focus, on-site renewable energy generation can further reduce your reliance on grid electricity. Some options I considered include:
- Rooftop solar PV system to convert sunlight into electricity
- Solar water heating to reduce electric water heater usage
- Geothermal heat pump to provide HVAC using underground temperatures
- Small residential wind turbine where wind resources are adequate
- Battery storage to capture excess solar generation for nighttime use
Carefully weigh upfront costs against energy savings potential and available incentives when evaluating renewable systems.
By taking advantage of these hidden opportunities to increase my home's efficiency, I've managed to reduce my electric bills by over 20% while also increasing comfort. Let me know if you have any other questions!