With growing awareness of the cost of energy and environmental concerns, energy-efficient homes are in high demand. When home buyers inquire about smart home technology, 26.7 percent express interest in energy management features, with 78.8 percent saying they’d be willing to pay more for a smart home premium, according to a survey by T3 Sixty for Coldwell Banker. Making green upgrades to your home can add $10,343 to $53,000 to the value of your property, an average increase of 3.46 percent, according to an Institute for Market Transformation study funded by the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment. For some properties, premiums increased as much as 6 to 7.7 percent, particularly for homes that had solar paneling installed.
If you’re looking to sell or buy an energy-efficient home, it’s important to know what features are most valuable and most worth your investment. Here are four of today’s most important technology upgrades for increasing your home’s energy efficiency.
1. Use solar heating and smart thermostats to cut climate control usage
Heating and cooling are the biggest source of energy consumption for homes. Space heating accounts for 42 percent of home energy usage, while air conditioning accounts for another 6 percent, for a combined total of almost half of energy consumption, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Solar heating is one major way to cut heating and cooling costs. There are two main approaches to solar heating: passive and active. Passive solar systems generally rely on south-facing windows and heat-absorbent materials to collect and retain energy. Active systems pump solar-heated air or fluids through a home. Passive systems are less expensive and more cost-efficient than active ones, so active systems are generally used to supplement passive systems rather than serving as standalone solutions. A passive solar system can cut your heating bills by 30 to 70 percent, depending on where you live, according to the American Solar Energy Society. If you’re building a new home and considering installing a passive system, you should discuss it with an experienced designer so they can evaluate your options and design your home accordingly. If you’re modifying an existing home, begin by having a professional do a home energy audit so you can identify which improvements would be most effective.
Another high-tech approach to saving on heating and cooling costs is using a smart thermostat. A smart thermostat uses a smartphone app to let you program your heating and cooling system. Higher-end smart thermostats use artificial intelligence to analyze and optimize your energy use patterns, for instance by automatically lowering the heat when no one is home or closing the curtains when the sun is high. Studies show that using a smart thermostat can cut your heating costs by 10 to 23 percent, says thesmartcave.com.
2. Cut water heating usage with solar heating systems
Water heating is the next biggest consumer of home energy, accounting for 18 percent of energy usage. Here again, solar power can significantly reduce your costs. Using a solar water heater can cut your water-heating bill in half, says the National Association of Realtors.
Like solar heating, solar water heaters come in passive and active varieties. The least expensive passive alternative is an Integral Collector Storage (ICS) system, which uses a water storage area heated by solar energy to warm cold water flowing through it. A more expensive passive option is a thermosyphon system, where warm water that has been collected rises through an elevated storage tank while cool water sinks. Active solar water heaters use pumps and other controls to circulate water. Which of these alternatives best meets your needs depends on what type of solar heating you’re using, where you live and your budget.
3. Reduce appliance energy usage with energy-efficient models
Home appliances are the next largest source of energy consumption in homes. Clothes washers and dryers are far and away the most energy-consuming appliances, accounting for 13 percent of home energy usage. Refrigerators, ovens, TVs and dishwashers each consume between 2 and 4 percent of home energy.
The best way to cut energy usage from appliances is to replace units older than 10 years old with newer, energy-efficient models certified by the EPA’s Energy Star program. An Energy Star-approved clothes washer consumes 25 percent less energy and 45 percent less water than traditional machines. Energy Star doesn’t rate dryers because their efficiency has remained relatively stable for years.
4. Cut lighting use with energy-efficient bulbs and smart apps
Lighting is the next biggest drain on home energy. Lighting can account for as much as 12 percent of home energy consumption, depending on what types of lights you use. Energy-efficient alternatives to traditional light bulbs such as light emitting diodes (LEDs), compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and halogen incandescents can cut your energy usage by 25 to 80 percent, according to the Department of Energy. Remember other light sources as well as light bulbs. For instance, Lorex wireless home security monitoring systems use infrared LED lights, along with an LED-backlit LCD security monitor for security camera DVR viewing.
Another strategy for cutting lighting costs is using smart lighting. Smart lighting systems use sensors, analytics and smartphone connectivity to automatically detect when lights are needed in your home and turn them off when they’re not required. Combining smart lighting with energy-efficient light bulbs can cut lighting costs by up to 90 percent, Gartner estimates.
Solar heating and water heating, smart thermostats and appliances, energy-efficient bulbs and smart lighting are four key ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency. Implementing these measures can help cut your energy costs while you’re living in your home and raise the value of your property when it’s time to sell your house.