Energy-Efficient Home Improvements & Green Retrofit Ideas

Looking for green home energy solutions that go beyond replacing energy-draining appliances? Well, you probably know installing power-saving smart devices is just one of many energy-saving home improvements, but we’re sharing a lot more. Check out how to make your home more energy efficient with these green remodeling ideas and start saving more on your electricity bill.

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How to Improve Your Home’s Energy Efficiency 

When it comes to green home design and remodeling, there are several quick and easy ways to make your home more sustainable: 

Creating an energy-efficient home obviously comes with some costs. Luckily, there are energy-saving tax credits for energy efficient windows in 2022, solar panels, geothermal heat pumps, and more. Energy efficient tax credits from 2021 have been extended, and according to the IRS, you can claim credit for 10% of the cost of the following products: 

  • Energy-efficient exterior windows, doors and skylights 
  • Roofs (and roof products) 
  • Insulation

Plus, you can get back the amount of residential energy property expenditures paid on the following:  

  • Energy-efficient heating and A/C systems 
  • Water heaters 
  • Biomass stoves

The federal energy efficiency tax credits can definitely help alleviate some of the costs associated with a green remodel, however, it can still add up to be quite expensive. If your goal is to save money on your energy bill, don’t forget you can rely on Energy Ogre to find you the best electricity rates.

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Weatherizing: Insulation, Caulking, and Assistance Programs 

What does weatherization include? How do you weatherize windows? Are there weatherization assistance programs? These are just a few of the common questions associated with weatherization and we’re here to answer them all. 

What is Weatherization? 

Unlike winterizing, weatherizing involves permanent fixes to your home’s comfort and efficiency. We’re talking about weatherizing windows by adding caulk and foam tape to the perimeter of windows. Installing insulated vinyl house siding. Checking the condition of your roof’s flashing (metal stripping between chimney, skylights, vents and roof). 

How to Weatherize My Home 

Now that you know what weatherizing is, we’ve got ways to help pay for it. In the state of Texas, you may qualify for a free weatherization audit where a residential energy expert will conduct a thorough in-person inspection of your home. They’ll point out where you can make improvements that will save you the most money. Plus, some Texans can qualify for free weatherization assistance programs and services from this government program.  

Spend Less on A/C by Improving Your Home’s Insulation 

The quickest way to lower your A/C bill is by updating your insulation—and you’ve got a few choices: foam, fiberglass, or cellulose. If your primary objective is to save money and make your home more energy efficient, spray foam is the way to go. Unfortunately, this is not a DIY job, and you’ll need an experienced contractor to properly install. But there is good news! This type of foam can be added to existing walls without removing your existing drywall. While this is the most expensive type of insulation to install, the energy savings you’ll experience will pay you back in dividends.  

Caulk Cracks, Holes, and Seams to Prevent Air Leaks 

Even small holes and cracks can lead to extreme energy loss throughout your home. From electrical outlets to seams along window and doorframes, there are several areas in your home that lead to air leaks. According to the Department of Energy, they recommend caulking and weatherstripping openings around your doors and windows. Be sure to check areas around your plumbing, ducting, and electrical wiring, too to prevent lost air or moisture problems. 

Control Moisture and Ventilation 

Speaking of moisture control, there are so many energy-saving benefits to having proper ventilation. First, it improves the air you breathe every day (goodbye mold!), and secondly, it can help cool your home more efficiently. The three ventilation strategies laid out by the Department of Energy are: spot ventilation, whole-house ventilation, and natural ventilation.  

Energy-Efficient Roofing and Siding Provide Better Climate Control 

By switching to energy-saving siding and upgrading to an energy-saving roof, you can expect substantial financial savings—plus, the materials often require less maintenance. Talk about a win-win! See what your options are if you’re ready to go green. 

Energy-Efficient Roofing Options 

Creating a more energy-efficient roof is easier than you think, and we recommend choosing a material based on how long it will last, how much it costs, and the shape (sunlight exposure) of your roof. Here are just a few of your options:

  • Tile roofs - offer natural ventilation 
  • Metal roofs - can be installed over your existing roof 
  • Solar shingles - can produce a return on investment of up to 70% or more 

You’ve got plenty of materials to help lower your energy costs and create a greener home—it's about personal preference from here.

Energy-Efficient Siding Options 

Here are just some of the best energy-saving siding options: 

  • Wood – it's a natural insulator, but requires a ton of maintenance  
  • Stucco – it's as expensive (if not more!) than wood, but homeowners often love the look 
  • Steel – not a great insulator, but its seamless look helps combat leaks and pests 
  • Composite – if you like the look of wood but hate the costly repairs, this engineered option may be for you 

But our favorite siding option is insulated vinyl. It’s cheaper than wood, recyclable, and extremely low maintenance. Not to mention, it is naturally very thermal resistant—so you can get the benefit of airtight insulation.

Lighting Efficient Design Can Lower Your Electric Bill (And Keep You Cool!) 

Interior lighting design is a feat in and of itself, but when you add the extra element of lighting efficiency, you’ll want to consider some key points.  

Choosing the Right Light Bulbs 

According to the Department of Energy, you should be using Energy Star labeled lighting fixtures and lamps. Plus, all frequently used wall and ceiling fixtures should have LED lightbulbs. Try to avoid fluorescent bulbs in any existing incandescent fixtures—instead, replace with Energy Star rated LED bulbs.

Energy-Efficient Light Placement 

Your whole house lighting plan is going to require both an interior lighting design and an exterior lighting design. And now that you know which bulbs to use, placement should be easy.  

Energy-efficient interior lighting: 

First, you can select light fixtures that use energy more efficiently (LED bulbs) and install controls and dimmers to reduce the amount of time the light is on. Next, you can opt for task lighting as opposed to always relying on ambient lighting. And lastly, you could choose a lighter wall color to minimize the need for artificial lighting. 

Energy-efficient exterior lighting: 

Consider what the purpose of your light is: aesthetics, security, or utility. First, you could combine LED flood lights with motion sensors to keep it energy efficient. Next, your outdoor light fixtures should have some type of reflectors or deflectors to make the most of its light source. And lastly, consider using solar lighting where possible. 

Take Advantage of Natural Lighting 

The easiest (and cheapest!) way to go green with your lighting design is simply relying on sunlight. Take advantage of this natural resource by opening the blinds or installing skylights. If you’re building a home from the ground up, you have the opportunity to place your windows in accordance with the cardinal directions to get the most out of your daylight hours. 

Energy-Efficient Doors and Windows: Vital for Climate Control 

Investing in energy-efficient windows and doors might be one of the best home improvements you can make. The right doors and windows can help eradicate any air leakage (which we’ve discussed wastes a ton of energy) and provides proper insulation. There are a few criteria you should look for when choosing energy-efficient windows and doors:

  • Choose energy efficient windows based on your location. Is the primary objective to stay warm or keep cool? The frame’s material can make a huge difference too, so do your research on which material suits your needs best. And be sure to use windows with at least two panes of glass. You’ll immediately notice the benefit of the double insulation.  
  • Performance criteria for doors are slightly different because they have a lower glass-to-frame ratio. Even energy efficient sliding glass doors have bigger frames than windows, so you’ll want to focus more on the core material (fiberglass, wood cladding, steel) and proper weatherstripping. 

Optimize Your Landscaping & Outdoors to Keep Your Home Cool 

A well-designed landscape is both beautiful and useful. The right-placed tree or vine can help reduce your heating and cooling costs by providing natural shade or acting as a windbreaker. According to the Department of Energy, well-positioned trees can save up to 25% of the energy a typical household uses. Different climates require different landscaping tactics, so we’re breaking down the top priority per region:

  • Temperate: Maximize warming effects of the sun in the winter months 
  • Hot-arid: Provide enough shade to cool your roofs, windows, and walls 
  • Hot-humid: Create breezeways toward the home for better ventilation 
  • Cool: Use windbreaks to protect your home from cold, harsh winds 

Use this resource to learn more on climate-appropriate landscape design. 

Stop Wasting Energy by Upgrading Your Appliances 

Always upgrading to the latest and greatest appliance doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better from an energy-saving perspective. In fact, there are several appliances that actually raise your electric bill if you aren’t cognizant of their energy use. Extend the life of pricey appliances like central air, refrigerator, electric water heater, space heater, and dishwasher with our energy-saving tips. And remember, even smaller, less expensive appliances like microwaves, hairdryers, and toasters aren’t worth the constant upgrade, either. 

Only Upgrade Large Appliances to Optimize Energy Savings 

Sometimes the option to upgrade your big appliances is nonnegotiable, so when it comes time to choose a new appliance, we highly recommend choosing Energy Star appliances. Consider these the gold standard as far as energy efficiency goes—as an Energy Star rating offers simple, credible and unbiased information about efficiency performance and savings. Refer to our tips on ways to combat high energy use if you can’t spring for a brand-new tankless water heater or energy-efficient refrigerator.   

At Energy Ogre, we’re all about energy efficiency and by doing just one of the suggestions we’ve laid out, you’ll notice a lower electricity bill. For more ways to save, rely on us to find you the lowest kWh rate, so you’ll never be surprised by your bill again.

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