Efficiency upgrades to help you save this summer

by Abby Berry, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA)

This is an opportune time of the year for home upgrades and DIY projects.

If you’re planning to make improvements to your home, consider upgrades that promote better efficiency.
Here are a few projects that can help you save energy and money—and increase the comfort of your home.
Installing a smart thermostat is one of the simplest ways to manage home energy use and keep summer bills in check. Smart thermostats are easy to install and allow you to control your heating and cooling from your phone.

You can purchase an Energy Star®-certified smart thermostat for as low as $100, which can save you 8% on annual heating and cooling costs, about $50 per year. This upgrade will quickly pay for itself, and you’ll gain insight into better ways to heat and cool your home.

Speaking of smart, additional devices like smart LED bulbs also offer convenient control and help boost energy savings at home.

With smart lighting, you can set a schedule for when and how your lights should be turned on or off. And the next time you head out to run errands and realize you left the lights on, all you have to do is turn them off through your phone.

Smart lights come in a variety of shapes, colors and brightness levels—and you can purchase bulbs for indoor or outdoor use. Schedule outdoor smart lights to illuminate your home at night and when you’re out of town for better security.
While it’s not as trendy as incorporating smart technologies, sealing air leaks around your home is a simple, effective way to save energy and lower your bills.

Applying new (or replacing old) weather stripping around doors and windows can instantly make your home more comfortable and reduce energy waste.

Applying caulk to fill gaps can also improve the seal of your home. Caulk can be applied to a variety of areas including windows, doors, bathtubs and sinks.

If your home feels too warm during summer (and too chilly during winter) even after you’ve sealed with weather stripping and caulk, your home may need additional insulation.

Insulation is considered a more expensive efficiency upgrade; however, if your home is under-insulated, additional insulation can make a big impact on reducing energy use and costs. The cost of new insulation depends on a variety of factors like materials, size of the home and whether you use a contractor. Typically, the project costs can be recouped in a few years and your home will immediately feel more comfortable.

Of course, there are additional efficiency upgrades that can make a big impact on energy use, like replacing old appliances with Energy Star models or replacing old, leaky windows with new, energy efficient windows. But these upgrades can be a bit pricey.
If you’re wanting to make your home more energy efficient but you’re not sure where to start, your best bet is to enlist the help of an expert to conduct an energy audit of your home. An energy audit can easily identify areas to boost efficiency, and then you can determine the projects you want to tackle first based on your budget and needs.