Your home’s gas or electricity bill shouldn’t be a source of dread. But if you’re like far too many homeowners, you cringe at the mere thought of opening that monthly envelope or email.
Ready to do something about it? It’s easier than you might think, and less expensive too. Here’s what you can do to make your home more comfortable and efficient today, tomorrow, and beyond.
Understand Your Building Materials’ Embodied Carbon
Every piece of your house has a carbon footprint. Part of that footprint is inherent to the material itself — it represents the carbon intensity of the material inputs and processes used to manufacture the finished product. This is known as embodied carbon.
Calculating embodied carbon is tricky, especially when the analysis includes Scope 3 emissions. Sustainability-focused construction and engineering firms like ABB — founder and CEO Karim Allana is regarded as a top building sustainability expert — can help you calculate new or remedial construction projects’ approximate carbon footprint.
Scoping older homes’ embodied carbon is more challenging, but you can use reputable sources (generally published by state or local governments or university extensions) to generate a rough estimate. While this exercise won’t undo inefficient construction methods or materials, it can help you make more sustainable (and comfortable) decisions when the time comes to repair or upgrade your home’s building envelope, appliances, or mechanical systems.
Swap Your Gas or Oil Heating for a Heat Pump
For most homeowners, swapping out an aging gas boiler or furnace for an electricity-powered heat pump is the easiest and most dramatic way to improve home energy efficiency — and comfort.
Heat pumps are more efficient than older gas-fired or resistance electric (think baseboard or space heat) equipment. Better yet, they offer bidirectional heat transfer, meaning they can cool your house in the summer.
Insulate Your Attic, Crawlspaces, and Rim Joists
Insulating your home’s unconditioned spaces is another high-ROI way to boost home efficiency and comfort. Depending on your project and scope, it might be DIY-able too.
That said, it’s important to choose the best insulation material and make sure it’s properly placed. Use resources like the National Insulation Association to familiarize yourself with each type of insulation. Then roll up your sleeves and get to work!
Seal Your Windows and Doors (Or Replace Them)
New windows and doors take a very long time to pay for themselves through energy savings, so that shouldn’t be a priority if you only care about return on investment. Weatherstripping leaky windows and doors should be because it’s much cheaper and can make a noticeable dent in your energy bills.
Then again, when it comes to comfort, there’s no substitute for well-installed double- or triple-paned windows and doors. If you’re really sick of chilly drafts, that’s your best move.
Upgrade to LED Lighting
Modern LED lights are softer, more versatile, and much more energy-efficient than old-fashioned incandescent bulbs. They last several times as long too, which makes up for their higher initial cost. If you still mostly use incandescents, buy a stash of LEDs and swap them in as the old bulbs burn out.
First Things First — Find Your Home’s Energy Weaknesses
Before you go too deep down the home efficiency rabbit hole, get the lay of the land with a home energy audit. This is a comprehensive assessment, best left to a professional, that identifies what your home does well in terms of efficiency and what it could improve on.
Those opportunities for improvement should land at the top of your home improvement checklist. None offer an immediate return on investment, but some pay for themselves within a matter of a few years (or even months) and others “pay” via a healthier, more comfortable indoor environment.