Improve Your Home’s Energy Efficiency with these 8 Small Changes

Man holding a lit light bulb: Improve Your Home's Energy Efficiency with These 8 Small Changes

Recent data shows that LEED-certified green homes are on the rise. And with the savings they offer, it’s no wonder why. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED-certified homes save owners anywhere from 20 to 30% on their energy costs annually. In some places, those savings are as high as 60%.

But you don’t have to go out and get your home fully certified to enjoy big savings. In fact, just a few green features here and there can actually have a big impact on your home’s energy expenditures.

Want to start saving on your energy bills? Just want to do your part and reduce your environmental footprint? Here are a few high-impact changes you can make at your house:

1. Seal up any air leaks.

According to, the average homeowner wastes anywhere from $200 to $400 annually due to drafts, air leaks around openings, and other forms of air loss. To keep your waste to a minimum, use weather stripping to block up gaps under doors, and put caulk in drafty areas around windows, doors, fireplaces, and other outside-facing features. predicts these minor changes can save you anywhere from 5% to 30% in energy costs per year.

2. Swap out your manual thermostat for a programmable one (or better yet, a smart thermostat).

Implementing a set schedule for your home’s temperature (as well as reducing your heating and cooling use while you’re at work or sleeping) can have a serious impact on your home’s energy output. estimates it can save you as much as 10% annually on your HVAC costs. If you opt for a smart thermostat like Nest or Ecobee, the products claim they can save you up to 23% on your yearly heating and cooling costs, depending on which model you choose.

3. Choose Energy Star appliances, HVAC systems, lighting, and other equipment.

Energy Star appliances are certified to both use less energy and cost less money. In fact, Energy Star heat pumps and water heaters have been shown to save users nearly $4,000 over the products’ lifetimes. You can also get Energy Star washers, dryers, refrigerators, fans, light bulbs, sealants, and more — just about any home appliance you can think of. A great bonus? Many Energy Star appliances qualify for rebates — either from the city or your electric company, which can save you big on your annual electric costs

4. Reinforce your attic and ducting.

Increase the insulation in your attic, and reinforce your ducting with caulk to ensure no air can leak out. You may also want to use spray foam or other insulation in your crawl space or basement if you have one. As reports, “You can lose up to 60% of your heated air before it reaches the register if your ducts are not insulated and they travel through unheated spaces such as an attic or crawlspace.” In layman’s terms: Insulate the areas where your ductwork is located. It has a trickle-down effect on your energy use.

5. Install a low-flow showerhead.

Data from the Environmental Protection Agency shows that showers account for nearly a fifth of all indoor water use. Opting for a low-flow showerhead can help you reduce the water usage (and what it costs you) significantly. According to Waterpik, if your household takes two showers per day, it can save you over $100 annually. If you take four? It saves you nearly $230 a year.

6. Swap out your traditional light switches for dimmers.

Using a dimmer switch can significantly lower your lighting use — especially if you have halogen bulbs. If you use CFLs or LEDs, make sure you purchase dimmer compatible bulbs to prevent any fire hazard. You might also consider an occupancy sensor, which shuts your lights off after someone leaves the room.

7. Upgrade to a tankless water heater.

Tankless water heaters are significantly more energy efficient than traditional models, and they usually last at least two decades, too. According to the Department of Energy, they can save you around $100 per year if they’re gas-fired or $44 per year if they’re electric. It doesn’t sound like much up front, but across 20 years? That’s thousands in savings. If you really want to up your savings, run more washer loads on cold, and avoid the heat-dry function on your dishwasher. The less heating you do, the better.

8. Add storm windows.

Replacing your old windows with newer, more energy-efficient models can certainly help, but that can be costly. For a lower-cost option, consider just adding storm windows on the outside. Storm windows can reduce heat loss by up to 50%. They’re usually less than $100 each, too.

Paying for Your Upgrades

Do you need help paying for your energy-efficient upgrades? Want to make some bigger improvements around the house? A cash-out refinance might be able to help. Contact an Embrace Home Loans team member today to learn more about your options.

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Aly Yale

Aly J. Yale is a freelance writer focusing on real estate, mortgage, and the housing market. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Bankrate, The Motley Fool, Business Insider, The Balance, and more. Prior to freelancing, she served as an editor and reporter for The Dallas Morning News. She graduated from Texas Christian University's Bob Schieffer College of Communication with a major in radio-TV-film and news-editorial journalism. Connect with her at or on Twitter at @AlyJwriter.