Let’s face it: owning a home isn’t cheap. You’re on the hook for mortgage payments and property taxes, of course, as well as maintenance and repair expenses. Under typical circumstances, cost-cutting options are frustratingly few, but there’s one crucial exception—utilities. You don’t pay a fixed price for things like electricity, water, and natural gas. Rather, from one month to the next, the size of your bill depends on the extent of your usage. That means it’s at least possible to reduce ongoing operating costs. For many families, however, it’s just not practical to cut back significantly on these key essentials of daily living. The answer? “Change your home, not your habits,” says Daniel O’Brian, a technical specialist with us at SupplyHouse.com. Indeed, with smart upgrades to hardworking household fixtures and appliances, boosting efficiency and reducing waste can be easier than you think.
There’s more than one way to save on your water bill. For instance, you can always bathe less often or take shorter showers. But in practice, many homeowners who try to conserve water ultimately fail to do so. That’s why, O’Brian says, “your best bet is to install a shower head that conserves water for you.” In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that installing a low-flow shower head saves the average family up to 2,900 gallons per year. Plus, because the water heater won’t have to work as hard, you’ll save not only water, but energy as well. For maximum savings, O’Brian specifies, “be sure to choose a shower head with a flow rate of no more than two gallons per minute.”
Your father was right to guard the thermostat like a watchdog. In the average home, more than half of all energy dollars go toward cooling and heating, so it pays to moderate indoor temperatures whenever possible. That said, it’s a pain to adjust the thermostat over and over, day after day. True, a programmable thermostat helps solve the problem by automatically adjusting the temperature settings on a preset schedule. But as O’Brian puts it, “Most people don’t live on a fixed timetable.” Enter the Wi-Fi thermostat. By enabling you to adjust the temperature setting of your thermostat from anywhere—via your computer, tablet, or smartphone—a Wi-Fi thermostat gives you the power to capitalize on every opportunity for trimming HVAC costs, no matter where you happen to be.
It takes no small amount of energy (and more than a few energy dollars) for standard, storage-tank water heaters to keep a large volume of water always at the ready. That’s right: even in the middle of the night, when there’s little chance that anyone wants to take a long, hot shower, traditional units chug along at full tilt. Fortunately, homeowners today enjoy an alternative—tankless water heaters. Because they operate on demand, only when a point-of-use fixture or appliance calls for hot water, tankless units slash energy consumption by a quarter or more, saving the average family approximately $1,700 over the lifetime of the water heater. “Tankless units do cost more up front,” O’Brian points out, “but the homeowner comes out ahead in the end.”
The air filter in your HVAC system performs two pivotal roles simultaneously. For one, it defends the air you breathe from the harmful effects of dust, pollen, and other impurities. As well, it protects the HVAC system itself, helping to ensure its continued performance and longevity. Here’s the catch: as the filter removes more particles from the air, it gradually becomes clogged. At that point, if you don’t replace the filter (or at the very least clean it), “you can say goodbye to energy efficiency,” O’Brian says. “Whenever cooling or heating costs spike suddenly, the most likely explanation is a dirty air filter.” Is it time to swap in a new, clean filter? Consult the experts at SupplyHouse.com for help choosing among the many replacement options available.
When you turn on the shower or sink faucet, does it take a while for the hot water to arrive? If so, you’re definitely not alone. The Department of Energy estimates that simply in waiting for the water to get hot, the average household wastes as much as 12,000 gallons per year. The issue is that as hot water flows through plumbing, it gradually cools down, and that cool water must come out first. To speed things up—for convenience as much as for savings—many homeowners opt to install a hot-water recirculation system. O’Brian explains, “Recirculation sends cooled water back to the water heater to be reheated and reused, while the system pump compresses the travel time from the water heater to the fixture.” No, it’s not a glamorous home upgrade, but it’s certainly an effective one.
If your home heating system depends on a boiler—if it’s a radiator, radiant floor, or hydronic baseboard system—listen up: you can increase energy efficiency by 15 percent with a simple accessory called an outdoor reset control. Affordable and easy to install, this add-on works by monitoring the outdoor temperature, calculating the indoor heating demand, and modulating boiler performance accordingly. That way, the boiler never runs longer or harder than necessary. There are a number of outdoor reset controls on the market, with varying features, but no matter which model you choose, the installation benefits are clear and compelling. “Outdoor reset controls save money and increase household comfort. It’s as simple as that,” O’Brian says.
Nowadays, faucets usually come with built-in aerators—disc-like doodads that limit the flow rate and inject air into the water as it leaves the pipe. That said, if you live in an older home with correspondingly old kitchen and bath fixtures, retrofitting each faucet with an aerator may be the quickest, cheapest, and easiest way to put a dent in your water bill. In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, homes with faucet aerators save an average of 700 gallons of water per year, for a savings of about $50 each month. Bear in mind that actual savings depend on a range of factors, including the gallons-per-minute flow rate of your chosen aerator. It’s worth taking the time to choose wisely. Remember: SupplyHouse.com is here to help.
This post was written in collaboration with BobVila.com