With the change of seasons comes changes in weather, routine—and your home’s energy efficiency. Fortunately, a cold winter or hot summer doesn’t have to mean a spike in utility bills. Use our seasonal checklists and energy-saving tips below to help your home run efficiently all year long.
Now is the perfect time to roll up your sleeves and dig into some spring cleaning that can help you cut down energy waste.
Service the AC: With hot weather just around the corner, it’s time to make sure your air conditioner is ready to get to work. Have your system inspected at least once per year and conduct any needed routine maintenance (like changing out filters). This will keep your AC working the way it’s supposed to instead of using extra energy fighting through dirty filters or other buildup.
Clean Appliance Coils, Vents, Ducts, etc.: They don’t call it spring cleaning for nothing. Along with your other seasonal tasks, be sure to dust or vacuum the coils on your refrigerator and other major appliances. In addition, clean out all vents and duct systems. This will keep your appliances from gobbling up electricity in order to combat clogged airways.
Plant Shade Trees: Strategically plant shade trees and bushes to protect your home from the sun’s overheating glare. The EPA recommends planting them on the south and west sides of your home. Trees that lose leaves in the winter will allow sunlight in to help warm your house in the cold season while still providing cooling shade in the summer.
Check for Leaks and Seal Them: Check windows and doors for drafts and add weather stripping or caulk to seal them. This will keep air conditioned air in and hot air out during the upcoming summer months.
You don’t want to spend your summer worrying about high energy bills instead of having fun in the sun. Use these tips to make sure you have a cool, worry-free, and energy-efficient summer.
Raise the Temp: It might seem counter-intuitive, but raising your thermostat a couple degrees above what you think you need can save you money—even if you keep the air on all summer long. Otherwise, one of the best ways to regulate your temperature is to use a smart thermostat.
Smart thermostats can learn your habits and manage temperature according to which rooms are being used and when. This can cut down on energy usually wasted cooling an unoccupied room.
Open the Windows: Let Mother Nature help you keep your house cool this summer. If you live in a climate where the heat lessens at night, open windows after the sun sets and close them just before the heat of the day hits. This will help keep your home cool so the air conditioner doesn’t have to work as hard.
Unplug When You’re Away: There’s no point in sucking up energy when you’re not even home. If you go on a summer vacation or have regular weekend getaways to the lake, unplug appliances, chargers, and computers while you’re away. Anything that’s plugged in is using energy, even if it’s not actively being used.
If going around unplugging everything sounds like a hassle, invest in smart switches and outlets that let you regulate energy use no matter where you are.
Let It All Hang Out: Nothing smells better than laundry dried in the fresh, summer air and sunshine. Give your dryer a break and minimize your power bill by hanging clothes and linens out to dry.
Pull the Shades: Your AC works hard to keep your home comfortable on even the hottest days, so why not give it some help by keeping out the sun’s warming rays? Use thermal shades to block out the sun, especially on west-facing windows that take the brunt of the hottest time of day. You can even use home automation to program shades to close every afternoon and open again after the sun goes down.
Turn Off the Oven: Take advantage of longer days and warm nights by cooking on an outside grill whenever possible. Using the oven or stove heats up your house and makes your air conditioner’s job harder. If you’re short on time, use the microwave. Microwave ovens use just a fraction of the energy regular ovens need.
It’s time to pull out those cozy sweaters and fire up some hot apple cider. Fall is also a great time to get your home ready for the winter, so gear up for an energy-efficient hibernation with these autumn to-dos.
Service the Furnace: Just as you got the AC ready for summer, you need to give the furnace a little love before winter. Conduct seasonal maintenance, change out dirty filters, and have a professional give your system a good once-over to make sure your home heats as efficiently as possible this winter.
Seal Leaks: Make sure your warm air stays inside where it belongs by once again checking for leaks around doors and windows. To find leaks, you can visually inspect for cracks and gaps or use a burning incense stick. Once you detect a leak, take note and promptly repair it with caulking or weather stripping.
Tend to the Fireplace: Fireplaces add ambiance and can help heat your home, but they can also contribute to loss of heat if you don’t pay attention. Always keep the damper closed unless there is a fire. An open damper is like an open window, and hot air will escape while cold air makes its way in. Secure the seal tightly around the flue, and consider adding caulking around the hearth. If you never use the fireplace, go ahead and seal the flue.
Winterize AC and Water Lines: Taking proper care of your AC and water lines will save you pennies over the winter, and it will help make things easier when summer rolls around again. Drain air conditioner pipes and hoses, and check for any pooled water. If you use a swamp cooler or air conditioner with a water shutoff valve, turn it off. Go ahead and turn off exterior faucets and spigots as well, and check for water leaks around seals. If you use a window AC unit, remove it and make sure the window is tightly sealed for the upcoming winter.
Winter is ideal for gathering the family around hearth and home. Check out our tips to help you keep your loved ones warm and toasty without wasting energy.
Turn Down the Heat: Setting your thermostat a few degrees lower than your typical winter settings can save you money. It’s also smart to program the thermostat to lower itself when you’re not at home or during the night when you’re snug under blankets.
One of the best ways to regulate your thermostat and maximize efficiency is to use a smart thermostat. Smart thermostats can be programmed to match your daily routine or controlled remotely while you’re out.
Change Direction: Your ceiling fan can actually help you keep your house warm. All you have to do is set it to run backwards (counterclockwise) during the winter. Because hot air rises, the fan will help recirculate the warm air your heater produces.
Add Thermal Drapes or Blinds: Heat efficiency relies on keeping warm air in and cold air out. Help your furnace by installing thermal drapes or blinds that insulate your windows and keep your house warmer. Try to keep drapes closed at night and during overcast days, but let the sun in when it’s shining to help warm the home. Adding home automation will let you program or remotely control your drapes so you don’t have to worry about when to open and close them.
Make Holiday Lights Smart: You don’t want to spend a fortune to show your holiday spirit, so pick up some smart holiday lights or use smart outlets to manage your holiday light display. This way, your lights will only be on when you want them to be, and if you accidentally leave them on before heading to work, you can even turn them off from the office.
All Year Long
Using seasons as a guide is a great way to manage your home’s energy efficiency, but there are some things you should do all year long to keep those energy bills under control and minimize your carbon footprint.
Get Smart about Lighting: Your mom always told you to turn off the lights when you leave a room, and she was right. The good news is that today you don’t even have to flick a switch. Smart lightbulbs are energy efficient and can be programmed or remotely controlled to only light rooms where people are present. You can even use motion sensors to make your lighting intuitive to your family’s movements.
Turn Down the Water Heater: Lowering the temperature on your water heater can save you money all year long. Heating water can account for up to 30% of your home’s energy use.1 Lowering your water heater’s temperature just a few degrees is more energy efficient and comes with the added bonus of not accidentally scalding yourself.
Mind Water Use: Managing the water use in your home is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Install low flow faucets and showerheads, try to wash laundry one day per week, only run the dishwasher when it’s full, and consider a tankless water heater that only heats water as needed.
Close Off Unused Rooms and Vents: There’s no point heating, cooling, or lighting a room with no one in it. If you have certain rooms or parts of your house that are rarely used, close any vents in those rooms, and consider closing the doors. You don’t need your furnace or AC working to regulate the temperature of empty rooms.
Having an energy efficient home is easier than you may think. Use this seasonal guide to help you minimize waste and increase your home’s overall energy efficiency. You may also want to check our list of other energy-efficient tactics you can get started on right away.
Not only will you see more green in your bank account, but you’ll also be living green as you cut down on your carbon footprint. That’s a win-win situation no matter what season it is.
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past six. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month testing and evaluating security products and strategies. Her safety expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her work and contributions in places like TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, HGTV, MSN, and an ever-growing library of radio and TV clips. Learn more