Energy-Saving, Smart Home Ideas For Your Wallet And The World

02 August 2019, 19:12

By Syd Ulrich-Dogonniuck, Sustainability Content Writer for Realty Sage



Sustainability is a hot topic right now and converting to renewable energy sources is front and center! As a nation, the US used 4.18 trillion kilowatthours (kWh) of electricity in just 2018, with a majority of that coming from fossil fuels. I recently took a good look at what it means to use that much electricity and was amazed at the truth. As a result, I truly think solar energy will definitely be a game-changer for homeowners (check out why! The Forecast Looks Sunny! ) but I also understand that many of us need other options that allow us to work towards a more sustainable, environmentally friendly future, but also keep our wallets happy!

Thankfully, super-cool, new-age technology has not been the only tech field to change and innovate exponentially over the past decade; super-practical, ultra-efficient home technology has as well! Hopefully this article will leave you with more than a few ways that you can economically transition to a home with a smaller environmental footprint!

High Efficiency (HE) vs. Energy Star Appliances—Which One Do I Want?

Since appliances, like refrigerators, TVs, washers and dryers, use up over 20% of the electricity used in the typical home, I think it’s important to talk about them! Many brands frequently state that their products is “High Efficiency” or “Energy Star Certified” but what does this actually mean?

Energy Star is a program that was established in 1992 by the US Environmental Protection Agency that helps businesses and homeowners “save money and protect our climate through superior energy efficiency.” They have strict guidelines and requirements that are specific to over 75 product categories—meaning that the energy performance and cost savings of any product with the Energy Start label have been tested and certified to meet a higher standard. Energy Star certified refrigerators, for example, are approximately 9% more energy efficient than models that meet the federal minimum requirements for energy efficiency. And don't forget your Energy Star rebates for your refrigerator.

Thus, if you are looking to upgrade any appliances in your home, definitely consider ones that have the Energy Star label as they will help you reduce your environmental impact substantially!

Also, I think it can be confusing to understand how appliances that run constantly, such as refrigerators, actually use less energy. A lot of this comes down to better, smarter components: better insulators that lead to less heat transfer, more efficient pumps that require less energy to do the same amount of work, and smarter programming that means “non-critical tasks” (like making ice) happen at off-peak hours, meaning there is less strain on the grid.

High Efficiency (HE) appliances are, unfortunately, a little less straightforward. There is no over-arching policy or organization that states what makes something an HE appliance or doesn’t, it’s all relative.

While many brands have appliances that state they perform better than their base model equivalent, there isn’t a guarantee that it will perform any specific percentage better than the federal minimums. Typically, HE models are much better than their base counterparts (and products that are both Energy Star certified and boast a HE label can be save crazy amounts on energy and water!), but it really is up to the consumer to double check all the facts and make sure that the product will perform as expected.

Make sure you look for the Federal Trade Commission’s Energy Guide labels to help you compare products!

Energy-Saving Tech For The Whole House

While efficient appliances will truly help you save both energy and water, the largest single portion of your energy bill is due to space cooling and heating (29%) so targeting how you heat and cool your home can do wonders for your wallet and the environment!

Switch On A Fan Before You Touch Your Thermostat!

Ceiling fans are really the unsung heroes of the summer. Why? Research shows that how comfortable you are is not so much about the actual temperature, but how the air feels on your skin. This means that when you turn on a fan, it can make a room feel 10 degrees cooler simply because there is a breeze! Additionally, ceiling fans use only about 10% of the energy that would be required by your AC to reach the same level of comfort, so next time it starts to get toasty, try turning on your fan!

…And By Thermostat, I Meant Smart Thermostat

We live in a digital age, so even something like a thermostat can get a digital facelift! Smart Thermostats are, in my humble opinion, one of the most useful byproducts of people being online or on their phones constantly. As most smart thermostats link to your phone (through an app) and most phones have a GPS, your house will know when you are at home and when you aren’t. This means that instead of having a few pre-programable settings (such as one for when you are at work and one for when you get home), your house will learn your patterns and adjust the temperature based on real time.

Some Smart Thermostats will even send you an energy report and guide you to a more energy-efficient heating and cooling routine—which will also save you lots on energy bills over the lifetime of your house!

Many people have really taken to the Nest Learning Thermostat since it does everything you could possibly ask of a thermostat (and pays for itself in under two years!!), however there are a myriad of other products on the market depending on special features and price point.

For more ideas and inspiration on how to reduce your home’s energy usage, here are a few more ideas for energy-saving appliances, smart home technology, and other efficient heating and cooling devices!


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