Low-Cost Efficiency

Small investments in energy efficiency can save you a lot of money over the long term.  Simple steps like installing a smart thermostat, replacing old incandescent bulbs, and using smart power strips can actually cut a home’s energy bills by 5 – 10%.  It’s also an easy way to trim your carbon footprint.

Cost Range

$300 - $800

About the technology

Smarter Heating and Cooling: Installing a smart thermostat is a great way to start saving.  It’ll help optimize your household’s heating and cooling energy usage, which can often be 40-50% of total usage.

Reduce Leakage: Weather stripping around doors and windows also cuts heating and cooling costs by reducing the amount of conditioned air that leaks out of your home.  Plus it’s an easy do-it-yourself project.

Efficient Lighting: LED (light-emitting-diode) bulbs are also an effective way to save.  They are 86% more efficient than old incandescent bulbs and can often pay for themselves in a matter of months.

Cut Standby Losses: Smart power strips help to reduce the energy wasted by computers, televisions, etc. that continually use power while in standby mode.  Standby losses can really add up over the course of a year.

Reduce Water Usage: Low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators help you save water, which is often important in itself.  In addition, they save hot water, helping to cut your water heating bills and carbon footprint.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. What is the key aim of home energy efficiency?

Home energy efficiency is a series of steps and lifestyle changes that allows a household to accomplish needed tasks while using less energy, thereby resulting in a reduced utility bill and lower carbon footprint.

2. What are the main approaches to energy efficiency?

Usually it can be broken down into three basic approaches: 1. Behavioral changes (simple changes to one’s lifestyle, such as taking shorter showers), 2. Low-cost (or “light”) efficiency measures (like installing a smart thermostat for your AC or house heater), and 3. Heavy efficiency measures (such as installing attic insulation). The steps become progressively more costly and complicated, but the resulting energy savings also increase.

1. How much energy is saved by behavioral changes?

This will vary from household to household but typically a 5-10% savings throughout the year is possible.

2. How much money can low-cost efficiency measures save?

Using measures such as LED bulbs, smart power strips, weather stripping, and smart thermostats, a household can sometimes save as much as $30-40 monthly on its utility bills. Since these measures will almost always cost well under $800, the payback is swift and the effort needed is also minor.

3. How much electricity is saved by LED bulbs?

LED bulbs are 86% more efficient than old incandescent bulbs and twice as efficient as CFL bulbs. By switching from incandescent bulbs to LED, a household can often save $70-200 per year. Since the cost of such bulbs are now in the $3-6 range, the payback can be as low as a few months.

4. What cost savings are possible with smart power strips?

A smart power strip makes it easy to reduce the energy wasted by electrical devices that use power while in standby mode.  Without these, devices such as computer and TV peripherals can use small amounts of electricity around the clock, all year long. While standby power losses are small, they can add up over numerous appliances and over time. A typical home can save close to $130 yearly by installing such devices and the payback can be less than a year.

1. What is meant by a behavioral change?

This is a step that anyone can take without spending any money. It represents a different way of doing things that leads to energy savings.  Some examples of measures that conserve energy but do not incur any appreciable costs include: switching off unnecessary lights, unused computers, and appliances; using full loads in dishwashers and washers; setting programmable thermostats to 20 C in winter and 26 C in summer; taking shorter showers; and washing clothes in cold water with high-efficiency detergent.

2. What are low-cost efficiency measures?

These are steps that incur relatively minor costs and effort but generally result in significant energy savings over the course of a year.  Some examples are switching bulbs to LEDs, installing a smart thermostat, using smart power strips, weather stripping and caulking, and installing low-flow faucet aerators and shower heads.

3. What does a smart thermostat do?

A smart thermostat automatically programs itself by sensing the schedule of the home’s occupants and optimizing the heating/cooling energy needed for the household. It is also usually Wi-Fi connected, controllable from a smartphone-based app, and gives the consumer feedback about his/her heating and cooling energy use. Typically, space conditioning consumes 40-50% of a household’s energy, so this is a very big deal.

4. What is a smart power strip?

A smart power strip is an intelligent multi-point electrical outlet that has some extra electronics to create primary and secondary outlets. It monitors the primary outlet continuously and when the appliance connected to it is switched off, it completely cuts off power from the secondary outlets, thus removing the power leaching due to stand-by or idle power losses. For example, in the case of a computer system, the desktop CPU can be connected to the primary outlet and all peripherals and monitors to the secondary outlets.

5. How do low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators save energy?

They are effective because they reduce the use of water — and more importantly, hot water — thus saving energy that would otherwise be consumed by the water heater.  Devices that meet the Australian Government’s water efficiency and performance criteria are provided with a 6-star Water Efficiency Labeling and Standards (WELS)  label.  (This is similar to the 6-star Energy Rating labeling program for energy-consuming devices.)

6. What is weather stripping?

Weather stripping around leaking doors and windows cuts heating and cooling costs by reducing the amount of conditioned air that leaks out of a house.  This can generally be implemented as a do-it-yourself measure, making it especially cost effective.

1. What types of incentives are available?

Various entities (states, counties,  utilities, etc.) sometimes offer incentives of various types for low-cost efficiency items like LED bulbs, smart thermostats, smart power strips, etc. Some of these items are even provided for free at times.