Finishing a Basement on a Budget
There are many reasons to remodel your home: to update the style, create a more usable layout, and improve your home’s value. But one of the biggest benefits is also one of the most overlooked: improving your home’s energy efficiency. When it comes to home remodels in Fort Collins, creating an energy-efficient home can lower your energy costs and reduce your home’s impact on the environment while also creating a more comfortable place to live.
Here are six tips for an energy-efficient home remodel:
Perform an Energy Audit
Before jumping into a home remodel, you need to know your current energy usage and areas for improvement in your home.
The goal of an energy audit is to determine how much energy your home uses and identify any problem areas that can lower your energy costs, improve your environmental impact, and make your home more comfortable.
Many utility companies offer free or discounted utility audits, or there are a number of professional home energy auditors who can perform the service for a fee.
Professional services typically include diagnostic tests with moisture meters and infrared cameras with numbers of energy usage and loss throughout the home, as well as specific steps to make your home more energy efficient.
Another option that can still provide strong results is to do your own energy audit. DIY energy assessments may not have the same in-depth results as a professional audit, but they can provide valuable insights to guide your energy-efficient home in Colorado.
When performing your energy audit, move through each room of the house and do the following tasks:
Locate air leaks. Check for cracks or gaps along windows, doors, baseboards, flooring, and other junctures where outside air is getting inside.
Check insulation. Check the attic, basement, and crawlspace of your home to see the state of the insulation. Over time, insulation can fall down and become ineffective. Or your old home’s insulation may not meet current standards. If possible, check the insulation in exterior walls to ensure it is protecting against outside air.
Inspect the HVAC system. Check your heating and cooling system to make sure everything is working properly and that there isn’t any damage to your ductwork. Over time, regular use can wear down an HVAC system and require replacement parts to help the system run efficiently. Also check the air filters to ensure they are clean and that air is flowing properly.
Examine your energy bills. Look at your historic energy bills for any trends or abnormalities. If your energy costs suddenly spiked, it could be because there is damage or an issue that can be fixed. Likewise, if your energy bill is significantly higher than the local average, there may be a large issue that needs to be fixed.
Update Your Appliances
Old appliances can be a significant draw on your energy. According to Consumer Reports, appliances use around 9% of your home’s total power, meaning that if you can update your appliance to more energy-efficient versions, you can make a big dent in your energy costs.
As you update your space with modern appliances, look for the Energy Star rating for the most energy-efficient options. These models often have a slightly higher upfront cost but can lead to major savings over time by reducing energy costs and the demand on your home.
Instead of only comparing the initial cost, look at annual operating costs to see the total price over time.
One often overlooked but important appliance is your water heater. Up to 20% of a home’s energy bill goes to heating water.
It may not be a glamorous upgrade, but a new water heater can make your home much more energy efficient. Tankless or solar water heaters can help you save energy in the long term over traditional models.
If you can’t afford to update all of your appliances, focus on areas that have the biggest energy return. Refrigerators tend to be the single biggest power user because they need to regulate temperature and keep food cool constantly.
This is the place to start if you can only upgrade one appliance. Switching to an Energy Star fridge can save up to $65 a year in energy costs. Other impactful appliance switches include upgrading the dishwasher and clothes washer.
Replacing one of these appliances that are more than 10 years old with an energy-efficient model can quickly cut energy usage (and your bill) in half.
Invest in Quality Insulation
Insulation has a huge impact on your home’s energy efficiency. After all, insulation keeps cold air out in the summer and warm air in the winter. Without quality insulation, you can be paying to heat or cool your home, only for the good air to be escaping through the ceiling and walls.
High-quality insulation makes your home more comfortable and means you likely won’t have to run your HVAC system as much.
Energy Star ratings for insulation provide R-values based on how well the insulation resists heat flow. As you look into an energy-efficient home remodel, you’ll find R-values applied to many different areas of the home, including walls, floors, and roofs.
The larger the number, the less heat is lost through the insulation. Higher R-values lead to more energy efficiency and lower energy costs.
The ideal R-value insulation varies depending on your home’s climate and location, meaning homes in warmer temperatures need lower R-value insulation than homes in colder climates. In general, increasing your current insulation by an R-value of around 5 will be effective at significantly impacting your home’s energy efficiency.
Your home is full of insulation, but the most impactful area for improving energy efficiency is in the attic and exterior walls. Prioritize putting the best insulation in the attic, crawlspace, basement, and exterior walls to block the elements outside from affecting your home.
Upgrade the Windows and Doors
Every time you open your doors or windows, it exposes your home to the outside elements and temperature. But with leaky doors and windows, you can still be exposing your home when the windows are closed.
Like appliances, windows also have Energy Star ratings to point you towards the best options. Look for windows that use heat-reducing coatings to reflect infrared light. For additional insulation, find windows that contain warm edge spaces and use two or three panes of glass. Adding skylights to your home can also increase the energy efficiency because it allows natural light instead of having to use electricity to light up a space. If you want to install skylights, start with the most commonly used daytime areas, such as the kitchen, bathroom, or living room.
Similar to windows, exterior doors can also be a major culprit for leaking air and decreased energy efficiency. Adding a properly installed door with a higher R-value can prevent and reduce leaks. Sliding glass doors are notorious for not being energy efficient because so much heat is lost through the glass. If you have an older glass door, replacing it with a newer model can lead to a significant energy reduction.
If new windows and doors aren’t in your remodel budget, use caulk or weather stripping to seal gaps and ensure your windows and doors don’t leak. Window film can also add an extra layer of protection and block light from heating your home more than necessary.
Add Solar Panels to Your Home
If you live in a relatively sunny climate like Colorado, one of the best things you can do in an energy-efficient home renovation is to add solar panels. These panels likely don’t directly impact the interior remodel but can make a big impact on your overall energy costs.
Solar panels use the sun’s rays to power your home and have the potential to completely erase your electricity bills. However, solar panels can require a large upfront investment. Many factors contribute to their efficiency, including the location and direction of your home, your energy consumption, and the strength of the panels. Be sure to get quotes from multiple solar providers before deciding.
Switch Light Bulbs
As you remodel your home, even small changes can make a big difference. One example is switching out your lightbulbs. Traditional incandescent bulbs use large amounts of energy, especially when multiplied by using the bulbs in every room in your house.
The better option is LED bulbs, which use up to 85% less electricity and last 50 times longer than traditional bulbs. Like with appliances, there will likely be a higher upfront cost for LED bulbs, but the energy savings combined with the long lifespan make these bulbs a solid investment.
These six ways to create an energy-efficient home renovation can help update your home’s style and function, as well as its energy efficiency. Taking intentional steps can lower your home’s energy cost and environmental impact.