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How to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient: Part 1 - Windows & Lighting

According to a U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) study, the average U.S. home consumes over 11,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) annually. This number can fluctuate depending on your geographical location (specifically regarding the weather), the size of the home, the number of household members, and energy consumption habits. The study explains that heating and cooling systems, lighting, home electronics, appliances, and plumbing systems are some of the biggest contributors to energy consumption. There are numerous reasons to try and save energy. Reducing energy in a home can help:

  • Protect the environment.

  • Reduce the pollution created by energy usage.

  • Improve our energy security.

  • Save the homeowner money.

While many automatically assume this only consists of renewable energy systems, there are numerous simple ways to cut energy costs and work towards creating an energy-efficient home. The information below is meant to provide insight into different home energy efficiency maintenance, upgrades, renovations, and general energy consumption considerations and best practices.

Energy-Efficient Windows and Doors

As your windows and doors age, they become less effective. They often let in drafts, and the hot and cold air from your heating and air systems can get let out. There are two primary ways to get more energy-efficient windows and doors:

  1. Updating your windows and doors.

  2. Replacing your windows and doors.

You don’t always need to jump straight into replacing your windows — especially if you have a tight budget. There are several updates that you can do to make your windows and doors more energy-efficient:

  • Seal windows and doors: Locate any drafts coming through windows or doors and seal them. You can seal windows and doors with weather stripping foam, door/window sweeps, or caulk.

  • Install thermal curtains when it gets cold: Thermal curtains are made of an insulating material that helps keep heat in — which lowers utility bills, decreases window condensation, and provides privacy.

  • Insulate and clean sliding glass doors: Sliding glass doors are a great way to let in natural light, but more energy escapes in the wintertime, so insulate your sliding glass doors during the cold season. You can do this by using weather stripping, caulking, or window film. You should also always clean your sliding glass door tracks because when debris gets in, it can cause the door not to seal properly.

  • Utilize tint: Sun comes through windows and glass doors, and this can raise temperatures (requiring more heat) and increase exposure to UV rays. You can tint your windows to help reduce energy costs and protect you from UV ray exposure.

  • Install storm windows or doors: If you are in an area that is prone to storms or severe weather, you may want to look into storm windows or storm doors. They help reinforce your doors and windows to protect your glass from storms. They also reduce energy usage.

In some cases, it may be time to look into replacing your windows or doors — like if you have single-pane glass instead of double-pane or if your door has too much wear. There are tests you can do on your own to determine if you need new windows or doors. You can also call a professional to come to help you decide if door or window replacements are worth the cost. Consider the following while shopping around for energy-efficient windows and doors:

  • Do your research on the weather/climate in your area and choose windows and doors with appropriate energy performance ratings.

  • Look for vinyl or fiberglass materials instead of wood. They have lower levels of conductivity, and this allows less heat/cool air to travel through the window or door frame.

  • Choose windows or doors with low-emissivity glass. The glass is treated with an invisible metal oxide that reflects heat away from the glass. This saves energy by maintaining temperature better.

Natural light is a great way to cut back on electricity. If you don’t have much natural light in your home and rely solely on lightbulbs, you may want to consider installing additional windows or skylights.

Energy-Efficient Lighting

Take a second to think about all of the lights you use in your home. Between overhead lighting in every room, lamps, exterior lights, lighting in appliances, and various aesthetic ambiance — the lights in your home can create a lot of energy usage. According to an EIA study, U.S. households average around 1,105 kWh of electricity for lighting annually. This comes out to around 10% of the electricity consumed in U.S. households. Here are some changes you can make to your lighting to improve energy efficiency.

  • Switching to energy-efficient bulbs: The Department of Energy explains how halogen incandescents, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), and light-emitting diodes are the most energy-efficient lighting choices. Be conscious of the bulbs you choose to use around your house.

  • Utilizing lighting controls: Homeowners can use lighting controls to control all lighting from one specific area. You can set light timers, install motion sensors, and take advantage of dimmers.

  • Upgrading your light fixtures: Old and outdated lighting features are often less energy-efficient than newer options. Consider upgrading them to more energy-efficient options.

  • Install a skylight: As mentioned above, a great way to light an area without using electricity is to take advantage of natural light. During the day, skylights could potentially eliminate the need for any non-natural lights.

  • Clean your light bulbs: When your bulbs are covered in dust and cobwebs, they aren’t performing as effectively as they should be. You can get the most out of your lighting by cleaning or dusting them.

You can upgrade your lighting fixtures and bulbs to more efficient options, but you also need to create good lighting habits — be sure to turn off lights when no one is in the room, open up shades/blinds, and take advantage of natural light whenever you can.


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