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What to Know About Home Energy Efficiency

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019 by Starcom Intern


Homebuyers today have become more environmentally conscience and even more aware when it comes to finding energy efficient ways to power their homes. Along with saving on energy, homeowners look to save on money while choosing methods that have proven to be effective. 2019 Trends in Home Energy Efficiency - Image 1

A 2019 report by Fixr collected responses from 25 home remodel industry professionals to see the trends among homeowners looking to save on energy costs. Between home electronics, insulation, sealing, lighting, heating, cooling and choosing renewable sources of energy, there has been a consensus in homeowner decisions in 2019 when it comes to pursuing energy savings. We will break down Fixr’s 2019 report and look at some trends and developments in seven different areas concerning energy efficiency within the home.

Home Appliances

Home appliances and electronics can be immense sources for increasing energy efficiency but at the same time they are major reasons for increased utility bills if you are not using the most efficient options. Refrigerators and dryers that are Energy Star rated have been proven to generate the most savings for consumers. With the implementation of smart features like led displays, see through fridge doors and time-adjusting sensors for dryers, these newer appliances have the greatest capacity for saving energy as they have historically been the highest home energy users behind A.C. systems.

For smaller appliances, both space heaters and window A.C. units have been determined by experts to be the biggest energy wasters when used in combination with an entire house system.

Home Insulation and Sealing

Fiberglass insulation is a very traditional form of insulation but it still remains highly popular with 72% of home experts deeming it the most popular for preserving home temperature. Fiberglass works as a mat or blanket that traps cold or hot air that may come in through the exterior structures. It is very inexpensive and can even be done as a DIY project for home owners.

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The second most popular option by experts is spray foam (20%). This newer method of insulation is polyurethane foam that gives the home a tighter seal than fiberglass can and it manages to squeeze into harder to reach areas within your attic or crawlspace. It is also environmentally safe, class one open fire rated and does not retain water (Amanda Ringler, Retro Foam of Michigan). Some downsides to spray foam are that it can be costly and it needs to be done by an installer. The contents of the spray can also cause problems and irritation if a person comes in contact with it or ingests it before it sets.

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When it comes to sealing the home, weather-stripping for windows and doors and sealing for HVAC ducts are the most commonly used alternatives. Homeowners have become more concerned with achieving a complete seal on their home to eliminate the transfer of air which has lead experts to predict that structurally insulated panels (SIPs) will become an increasingly popular design feature over the next handful of years. Like the name implies, SIPs will provide structure to your home the same way that exterior walls would except that there is an insulated foam layer between the exterior and interior sides of the panel (32% of experts say SIPs will be the most popular energy savers over the next few years).

Windows and Doors

Industry experts have noted that many homeowners are replacing older single-paned windows. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, less efficient windows like these can be responsible for 25-30% of residential heating and cooling loss. When updating your windows keep in mind frame types, glazing types and gas fills which all influence energy efficiency in the window. Also look for windows that have the Energy Star label so you can get reliable information and ratings on their energy effectiveness.

Lighting

Most homeowners have heard the ongoing conversations about the emergence of LED lighting, however, around 70% of homes still have not switched over to this new trend. Experts expect more homeowners to embrace the trend as the price of bulbs drop in the future and more information is provided about their money saving impacts. The kitchen and living spaces are most likely to impact savings from an LED switch because they are traditionally rooms that require the most artificial lighting in a home.

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Heating & Cooling

Heating and cooling systems shoulder a large amount of responsibility for a home’s energy use. Heat pumps are the most installed system in energy-efficient homes and are nearly 50% more efficient than furnaces and baseboard heaters found in older homes. The heat pump is decidedly the most popular among industry experts (48%) followed by ductless heat pumps (32%).

Not only are these systems more energy efficient than older alternatives but they are both green and renewable. Ducted heat pumps have an exterior unit that extracts heat from the air that is processed through an interior unit and then dispersed throughout the home. They are also capable of cooling your home through the same process but in reverse

Ductless, or mini-split pumps, also have an outdoor compressor and an indoor unit. Most models have as many as four indoor units that all connect to the outdoor unit but they don’t have a seamless and concealed look that many homeowners desire out of their system. However, these units are actually more energy efficient than regular ducted heat pumps because there is no risk of energy loss that comes with ductwork which can account for 30% of energy consumption for conditioning.  

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Water Heating

For water heating, the majority of experts say to go with a tankless, gas heater (48%). These tanks only heat water when it’s needed so you are not expending energy while it waits on standby. When a hot water faucet is turned on, a gas-powered heat exchanger activates and heats cold water and the exhaust from the process is then vented out of the home. Another alternative from tankless heaters are hybrid heaters, however they are most suitable in hot climates with lower demands for hot water. Conversely, tankless gas or electric heaters are most useful for cold weather or when hot water is highly demanded in the home. Tankless gas or electric powered heaters are the go-to choice for their ability to perform in harsher conditions and for the fact that hybrids can still lose the same amount of energy as standard heaters.

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Renewable Alternatives

Renewable energy is becoming more popular by the day. Many residences have turned to solar panels in the last decade which is evident from the observations of industry experts. Solar panels were the most popular use of renewable energy for homes in 75% of the expert responses from the report. In those responses, the homeowners who are implementing these sources of renewable energy are mostly millennials (50%) and Gen X (38%). Solar panels provide a cheap and renewable source of energy while also dramatically lowering utility bills for the home. They can also open the homeowner up to tax incentives depending upon the state they live in. Some industry experts expect future homes to start adapting newer forms of renewable energy that go beyond solar like wind and geothermal energy that will create net-zero energy homes.

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