With an increased awareness of the impact of climate change, consumers are looking for appliances and products that can help them make a difference.
In fact, a recent study by Deloitte found that 50% of Americans want to use clean energy sources to help protect the environment, second only to the most pressing concern — saving money.
But those two goals don’t have to be mutually exclusive. For instance, installing low-emissivity (or low-e) windows that have an insulated coating to help prevent heat loss can save you 12% to 33% on heating and cooling bills.
Although low-e windows may be a boon for homeowners hoping to save on energy costs, the savings and energy-efficiency can come at a cost to neighbors. Heat reflecting from windows can melt the siding on neighboring homes.
Here are alternative ways to be energy efficient this winter that will keep your neighbors — and your wallet — happy.
7 Innovative Ways to Be Energy Efficient This Winter
1] Seal drafts and windows
Air leaks may cause an unbearable draft and sky-high energy bills during the cold winter months. However, spotting air leaks can be a challenge, especially when the leaks are hiding under insulation. When searching for the source of the draft, make sure to check your basement and attic — they’re often the culprit.
ENERGY STAR, a government program that certifies energy-efficient products and advises consumers on energy-efficient practices, suggests inspecting knee walls, attic hatches, wiring holes, plumbing vents, open soffits, recessed lighting, duct chase ways, basement rim joists and windows. Hire a contractor to locate and seal leaks beneath insulation that you’re unable to reach.
2] Use LED holiday lights
Consider trading inefficient incandescent holiday lights for ENERGY STAR–certified LED decorative light strings. LED light strings use 75% less energy and can last up to ten times longer than traditional incandescent lights.
ENERGY STAR claims a national switch from incandescent holiday lights to LED holiday lights could reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 9.9 billion pounds, which is equivalent to eliminating emissions from 940,000 vehicles.
Energy-efficient holiday lights can be found in a variety of colors and lengths at local retailers, including Home Depot or Walmart. Certified LED light strings come with a manufacturer’s warranty of at least three years and are considered safer than incandescent lights. The National Fire Protection Association estimates fires from holiday decorations cause $12 million in property damage annually — and with homeowners insurance rates increasing 50% over the past 10 years, the last thing you want to do is add “file an insurance claim” to your holiday to-do list.
3] Change filters regularly
The EPA recommends inspecting your HVAC filter at least once per month during cold months when your heating system is working overtime. At a minimum, you should be changing filters once every three months. A dirty or clogged filter overworks your HVAC system, which causes energy waste.
4] Schedule furnace maintenance
Call in a heating professional to perform regular maintenance on your furnace. During the visit, they should check for efficiency, ventilation, corrosion and toxic gas emission. Routine maintenance checks are a preventative measure that can improve energy-efficiency and identify issues before a system failure. If you have a home warranty policy, repair or replacement needs discovered during routine maintenance may be covered.
5] Lower your water heater temperature
Turning your water heater down a few notches has the potential to save you 4% to 22% annually, according to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
Manufacturers often set water heaters to 140 degrees, meanwhile a setting as low as 120 degrees may be sufficient to effectively run systems in your house.
Check the minimum water temperature required for each household appliance before adjusting to ensure each one can do its job properly at a lower temperature setting.
6] Install new technology
Low-emissivity windows are an energy-saving innovation that may still be worth considering if you do proper research and ask the right questions before installation. A professional may be able to recommend window insulation solutions that will not impact neighboring property.
Smart thermostats are another energy-efficient technology homeowners can install for convenience and energy savings. Smart thermostats connect to mobile devices through Wi-Fi, allowing you to adjust the temperature from any location inside or outside of the home.
Product features vary from one thermostat model to another. Many come with a scheduling feature that automatically adjusts the temperature at times of your choosing. A thermostat with geofencing capabilities can even detect your absence — the temperature will lower when you leave the house and increase when you return.
7] Pull the drapes and close the chimney
The goal is to maintain the temperature in the house once the heating system does the work. Closing the drapes at night can reduce heat loss when the temperature drops outside. Consider investing in insulated shades or window quilts to lock in heat. You’ll also want to keep your chimney closed when not in use to prevent warm air from escaping.
The bottom line
Installing low-emissivity windows are just one of several energy-efficient steps homeowners can take to reduce energy consumption. Routine tasks such as changing filters and sealing air leaks can increase the energy efficiency of your house without affecting your neighbors.
Maxime Rieman is Product Manager at ValuePenguin. Educating and assisting shoppers about financial products has been Rieman's focus, which led her to joining ValuePenguin, a consumer research and advice company based in New York. Previously, she was product marketing director at CoverWallet and launched the personal insurance team at NerdWallet.
© 2021 Newsmax Finance. All rights reserved.