Over the past eight years or so, I’ve done a number of different things to improve the efficiency of my home. There have been a wide range of results, so I thought I’d share them here.
- Upgraded Incandescent Bulbs to CFLs, and to LED
Over the course of about 6 years (2008-2014), I swapped out all of my incandescents for CFLs. Then as prices lowered on LED bulbs, I swapped the CFLs for those.
I had changed the most widely used incandescents to CFL prior to moving in, so I never really saw an appreciable difference in the power bill.
- Insulated the Attic
Originally, the home inspector I hired had listed in the report that the attic had adequate insulation of about R-30 (if I remember correctly). I didn’t know better at the time, but it was actually around R-8. For a cost of about $300-400 dollars, and help from my Mom, I bought several dozen bails of cellulose blow-in insulation (GreenFiber) and used the free blower-rental to add a ton of insulation to the attic (raising it to somewhere around R-45).
This was, perhaps, the best thing I’ve done so far to improve the efficiency of my home. The next year or so saw savings between 25-60% on the electric bill, comparing the current month to the same month a year prior.
- Tinting the Windows
In the big box stores, you can find window tint that is cut to fit to your windows helps keep the summer heat out, and during the winter, your indoor heat in. You can also look these up for more options.
First, this stuff is a royal pain in the ass to install (especially if you’re trying to install it on an overhead window). However, it also works really damn well. Holding your hands up to a tinted window versus non-tinted and you’ll easily feel the difference on your skin. It reflects a very appreciable amount of heat back outside.
- Installed a Radiant Barrier in the Attic
If you aren’t familiar with radiant barriers, it’s like a heavy-duty aluminum foil that you can staple to the joists/underside of your roof with, within your attic. The idea is that heat that penetrates your roof and enters the attic will be reflected back outside.
Unfortunately, this was the least effective of all the things I’ve done to make my home more energy efficient. If it made a difference, it wasn’t great enough to be noticeable. The attic remained at temperatures of 170+.
- Insulated the Attic Air-Handler
I haven’t seen anything that recommends this (most sites say the A/H should already be insulated well enough), but I found wrapping the A/H that’s in the attic with R-30 batts has resulted in cooler air coming out of the upstairs vents.
Unfortunately, I didn’t note when I wrapped the A/H, but it’s been a few years and haven’t found myself under an unusually warm gust from the vent. So, although this one is subjective, I still think it had a good result.
- Replaced the downstairs A/C
In July of 2015, in GA no less, the downstairs A/C bit the dust after about 15-16years. It was a 10 seer unit, I think, and was replaced with a 13 seer unit.
After replacing the unit, we’ve seen a savings in the power bill of about 10-15%. The A/C installer set our expectations fairly low, so we were pleasantly surprised, but not to the extent we were after properly insulating the attic.
- Installed Nest Thermostats
This is probably the best thermostat on the market right now (imho), and we replaced both of our thermostats with one (since they were both Christmas presents, one is a first generation and the other is a second generation).
I didn’t set them to learn mode until we had two in the house, the following year saw a slightly lower power bill about 58% of the time. I’m not sure that it all can be attributed to the Nest, but for the time period (2014) it was the only substantial change.
We also made some other adjustments to our home that didn’t necessarily lower our power bill, but still had a net positive effect.
- Replaced Propane Water Heater with Electric Tankless
We replaced our aging propane water heater with an electric tankless (specifically the EcoSmart 27). It did raise our electric bill. However, that was offset by no longer having to purchase propane to fuel the old tank (which had really volatile prices that fluctuated greatly with whatever new conflict arose in the Middle East/Russia).
The unit is more than enough for our needs. Those in colder environments will want to pick and one of the higher wattage units.
- Replaced Propane Stove with Electric Stove
As we were wanting to get completely off of propane (primarily because I didn’t want a combustion source in the house that could inadvertently fill it up with carbon monoxide), when the opportunity came up to take in an electric stove and chuck the old one, we jumped at it.
Like the water heater, this too raised the electric bill. However, it too is offset by not needing to spend however many hundreds of dollars each year to refill the propane tank.