6 Fresh Ideas for an Energy-Efficient Fall
Being eco-conscious can be challenging as the days get shorter and the holidays approach. However, you can change your environment to make your cozy nights and holiday celebrations better for the planet.
These six fresh ideas can keep your carbon footprint small for an energy-efficient fall.
- Update Your Appliances
Whether you’re preparing a holiday meal or need to wash thick jackets, your appliances can do a lot of work once autumn hits. An old refrigerator, oven, microwave and other devices can drain energy, increasing your home’s carbon footprint.
Black Friday deals now begin in early November, so you can often find some of the best appliance deals. Give your kitchen or laundry room a makeover with the latest eco-friendly options. Newer dishwashers and laundry machines have features that conserve more water than previous models.
Consider upgrading to Energy Star appliances. The United States Environmental Protection Agency rates them to provide electricity as efficiently as possible.
When should you replace your appliances? Many last around 10–20 years. Still, it might be time if your oven or refrigerator struggles to maintain the correct temperature, your microwave takes longer to heat items, or you find dirt and stains on your cleaned clothes. These are signs your appliances are breaking down and likely pulling in more energy than they should.
Whether you keep small appliances like toasters and air fryers or purchase new ones, unplug them when not in use. Even devices turned off can generate energy when plugged into a wall socket.
- Improve Your Insulation
Your home’s insulation is essential in temperature regulation. The seals on your windows and doors can let in excess air that forces your heating and cooling system to work harder.
A door or window’s R-value measures how well it prevents air from breaching them. Newer options tend to have a higher value thanks to tighter seals and steel barriers. The fit and thickness of the item also contribute. Multi-pane windows provide better insulation than thinner options and double as a natural light source.
Reduce the energy consumption of your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system by filling in insulation gaps in your walls. You can choose from mineral wool, fiberglass, spray foam or other materials that can hold in warm and cool air. Seal any cracks or holes in your walls or doors with caulk, and reinforce your door and window seals with weather stripping to stop any unwelcome airflow.
- Maintain Your HVAC
While you can do things to take the strain off of your HVAC, the type of system and your maintenance can contribute to your home’s energy efficiency. The average home in the U.S. dedicates about half of its energy use for heating or cooling. Standard systems produce around 441 million tons of carbon emissions annually. The system is a matter of safety and comfort, and manufacturers are working to make newer systems more environmentally friendly.
While a decades-old system uses multiple kilowatts of energy per hour, current units often use less than one. Changing your furnace filter on time is also essential to saving energy. A clogged filter can cause your system to use 15% more power than with a clean one.
Smart thermostats also help cut down your energy. You can control building temperature from a mobile device. Depending on the model, you can also set it to detect when someone is in a room and focus its attention there.
- Upgrade Your Lighting
The lighting you choose for your home can significantly affect your energy use. Natural light is the no-frills method, but that’s not always possible when the sun goes down in the early evening. The type of bulbs you choose makes a positive difference.
If you have any incandescent light bulbs in your home fixtures or holiday decorations, consider replacing them with one of the following:
- Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs): CFLs use 70% less energy than traditional incandescent lights. They also stay cool, removing the chances of burning yourself or the light overheating. Many modern versions are Energy Star certified.
- Light emitting diode (LED): Electrons run through LEDs to produce long-lasting bulbs. They use 90% less energy than incandescents.
For safety and decorative purposes, illuminate your exterior. Light up the night without using nonrenewable energy by choosing solar lights. Modern solar options can often get power even if the sky is overcast.
Like with your appliances, unplug lamps and other small fixtures during the day to keep them from taking in unnecessary electricity. Consider investing in a smart lighting system so you can turn them on and off during different times of the day. That way, you can see when you get home in the evening without keeping the lamps or string lights on. You can also use the system to turn off any lights you forgot before you left the house.
Some systems can detect interior and exterior motion, and turn on when someone enters the room. They often tell you how much energy different lights use so you can adjust accordingly.
- Install Water-Saving Features
Everyone needs water, but there are greener ways to use it. Install automatic taps on your sinks to prevent accidental drips that waste hundreds of dollars in energy. You can also place stylized decor near your sinks, reminding people to turn the faucet off when they scrub their hands or brush their teeth.
Your water temperature also impacts your energy efficiency. You can lower your energy use by up to 22% by reducing your water heater temperature to less than 140° Fahrenheit. Anything over 120° F can prevent mineral buildup while still cleaning you, your dishes and your clothes efficiently.
Like the Energy Star system, the WaterSense program rates eco-friendly water fixtures. By investing in these products, you could start saving 700 gallons of water annually.
To conserve more water, consider installing a greywater system. It can be especially useful when you have a large household or many holiday guests.
- Get a New Car
Gas-powered vehicles release 4.6 metric tons of carbon per year. Petroleum gas isn’t just expensive this time of year — it pollutes the atmosphere and accelerates climate change. Consider an electric or hybrid option if you’re in the market for a new car this fall.
Electric cars produce zero tailpipe emissions, while hybrids naturally release less than gas-powered vehicles. Companies are working to reduce carbon in battery production, but researchers at the Michigan Institute of Technology found that the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.
You could also save money on your taxes. The 2022 US Inflation Reduction Act updated tax incentives for owning certain EVs.
Enjoying an Energy-Efficient Fall
As you spend more time indoors with family and friends, it’s important to remember your environmental impact. These changes can help you maximize your energy efficiency this fall and beyond.