At the beginning of the summer, we replaced our heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) unit in our home. During the summer months, we noticed a difference in how quickly our house cooled down, as well as our energy bill, was much cheaper. The new HVAC unit was much more efficient than our old one.
Since the weather has gotten colder, it’s been the same effect on warming up our house and energy bill. Now that’s it’s officially winter, and the weather will be colder for the next couple of months, it got me thinking, is my house energy efficient?
Well, it depends on a few factors. Just having a new HVAC unit doesn’t necessarily mean my home is energy efficient. Energy efficiency in homes can range from building materials (insulation, windows, doors, lighting) to the type of appliances and the water and HVAC units and devices used. Another factor is the age of your home.
No matter the age of your home, your home, and your wallet can benefit from energy efficiency. But before we get into the factors of energy efficiency in your home, let’s cover what an energy-efficient home is.
What Does It Mean to Have an Energy-Efficient Home?
Energy-efficient homes aim to reduce and control the amount of energy used in a home. These energy sources usually refer to electricity and/ or gas, water, heating, and air conditioning. Nowadays many energy-efficient homes use technology and smart devices to reduce energy consumption.
Energy-efficient homes also don’t give up comfort to reduce energy consumption. This means the house will contain all the necessary devices and appliances that all standard homes have.
Although the standard for many newer homes is energy efficiency, older homes can also be improved and made to be energy efficient.
If you’re not sure if your home is energy efficient, there are some things you can check today to find out.
How Do I Know If My House Is Energy-Efficient?
No matter if your house is old or new or you have just moved in or have been living there a while, there are two ways to quickly identify if your home is energy efficient or on its way to energy efficiency.
The ENERGY STAR® certification means that the house product meets strict energy-efficiency requirements set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They are certified by a third party and subject to ongoing testing.
Products with the ENERGY STAR label help you save energy and money without sacrificing performance. These products also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change.
The ENERGY STAR label is found on more than 65 different kinds of products in homes in addition to buildings.
Start checking to see if the products in your home have the ENERGY STAR label. The label is below.
The larger appliances in your home can use a lot of energy. ENERGY STAR certified appliances can help reduce the energy that is used. ENERGY STAR certified appliances include:
- Refrigerators and freezers
- Clothes washers
- Room air cleaners and purifiers
ENERGY STAR certified lighting will help reduce the energy and money spent lighting your home. ENERGY STAR certified lighting include:
- Light bulbs
- Light fixtures
- Decorative light strings
- Ceiling fans
Heating & Cooling
More than likely, every home will need a heating and cooling unit. The type of heating and cooling units and devices in your home will depend on where you live and the climate you live in. No matter where you live if you want to get the most energy efficiency, check to see if it has the ENERGY STAR label.
ENERGY STAR certified heating and cooling devices include:
- Ventilation Fans
- Air-Source Heat Pumps
- Central Air Conditioners
- Smart Thermostats
- Ductless Heating & Cooling
- Geothermal Heat Pumps
- Room Air Conditioner
Most homeowners enjoy a relaxing hot shower or bath after a long day. To enjoy either of these, you need a hot water heater. Check your hot water heater to see if it has the ENERGY STAR label and relax even more knowing you are saving energy and money.
ENERGY STAR certified water heaters include:
- Whole-Home Tankless Gas Water Heaters
- High-Efficiency Gas Storage Water Heaters
- Solar Water Heaters
- Heat Pump Water Heaters
Although it may not be as easy to tell if your home was built using ENERGY STAR certified building products, houses constructed with them save you money over time and may add value to your home.
ENERGY STAR certified building products include:
- Storm Windows
- Residential Windows, Doors, and Skylights
- Seal and Insulate
- Roof Products
Another quick way to determine if your house is energy efficient is by how much you are paying monthly for your energy bills. If your energy bills have been going up over the years, your home may be less than energy efficient and costing you money.
Since installing my new HVAC unit, I have noticed quite a drop in the amount of money I pay monthly for electricity, especially in the hottest part of summer and the coldest of winter.
Now that you know two quick ways to check your home for energy efficiency; let’s look at two more.
How Can I Test My House for Heat Loss?
Common areas to lose heat in a home are doors and door frames and windows and window frames. Find out if you are losing heat through these areas in your home with the tests below.
Doors and Windows
- On a cold day, put your hand up to the closed doors that go in and out of your house. If you feel the cold air on your hand, you are losing heat and money. You can also test your closed windows this way. This is called the hand test for obvious reasons.
- You can also light a candle and put it up to a closed window or door during the winter. If the candlelight flickers, you know you are losing heat and have an energy efficiency problem. This is called the candle test, again for obvious reasons.
Door Frames and Window Frames
To find out if you are losing heat through your door and window frames try visually and manually inspecting them. Look for gaps where light may be coming in through your shut windows and doors. To manually inspect try moving the door frame or window frame by rattling it with your hands.
If you want to get a thorough examination of the energy efficiency of your entire house, you will need a home energy audit.
Why Is My House Not Energy-Efficient?
If you really want to know why your house is not energy-efficient, you need to get a home energy audit.
What Is a Home Energy Audit?
A home energy audit or home energy assessment is a comprehensive, thorough examination of your home’s energy usage. It may also include areas where safety and comfort can be improved. A home energy audit may help you calculate your home’s energy usage, its inefficiencies and losses, and areas that need fixing right away, and those that may pose problems in the future. There are two types of home energy audits.
DIY Home Energy Audit
A do-it-yourself home energy audit is something you can perform in your house. It contains a checklist of areas to inspect. Some are below:
- Insulation Levels
- Appliances and Electronics
- Air Leaks
- Heating and Cooling Equipment
For a complete checklist of the DIY home energy audit, visit here.
Professional Home Energy Audit
The DIY home energy audit can give you a sufficient idea of your home’s energy inefficiencies. A professional home energy audit goes into much greater detail and analysis of those energy efficiencies. Experienced energy assessors conduct professional home energy audits and provide you with solutions to your home energy problems.
To learn more about professional home energy audits, visit here.
Why Is My House Not Energy-Efficient?
It could be several reasons, and the best way to find out why your house is not energy efficient is to get a professional home energy audit. If you aren’t ready for a professional one do the DIY home energy audit. But don’t wait around hoping your home will somehow get more energy efficient because it won’t. More than likely your home will keep getting more inefficient.
How to Make My House Energy-Efficient?
There are several ways to make your house energy efficient. And the ways can range from inexpensive repairs such as changing your dirty HVAC filter to more expensive things such as installing solar panels.
Below are some more ways you can do to make your home energy efficient:
- Having the proper type and amount of insulation
- Switching the lights in your house to LED lights
- Using only ENERGY STAR home products
- Using smartphone technology to set and control your thermostat, lights, and other electronics
- Getting your HVAC unit serviced regularly
- Unplugging unused electronics and turning off lights and televisions in rooms that are not in use
Are New Homes Energy-Efficient?
Yes, new homes are energy efficient or at least more energy efficient than older ones. Many modern building materials and designs aim to be energy efficient. And technology like smart devices and appliances help new homes be more efficient.
As we have discussed, determining if your home is energy efficient is easy to do, and there are various ways of doing it. There are also quick, inexpensive, and easy things you can do today to make your house more energy-efficient. The most thorough and comprehensive way to find all the energy inefficiencies and solutions to fix them in your home is to have a professional home energy audit done.
If you don’t want to deal with your older home’s energy inefficiencies, purchase a new home since they are already energy efficient.
Not only can your house lose you money in the winter, but it can also be dangerous. To learn the dangers in your house during the winter, check out our article How to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your home this winter.
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