The image depicts a decrease in utility bills using a calculator, houses, a bag of money that says Utilites, and an arrow pointing down.

Do you feel that your household pays too much for energy bills? By recent estimates, Californians spend roughly $380 on utilities every month. Annually, that adds up to $4,560 - the equivalent of average monthly rent in San Francisco’s Mission Bay. 

If you’re considering ways of driving this number down, you’re not alone. Like many others, you may also worry that a viable energy retrofit is a money pit that will never pay for itself. The good news is that there are plenty of affordable options to cut your utility costs and reduce your home’s environmental footprint which may surprise you. We’ve compiled some of these simple retrofit ideas below; read on to find out more. 

Upgrade windows and window coverings 

Windows are the weakest part of a home’s envelope system. On hot summer days, they allow solar radiation to enter and heat the building, causing you to waste more energy on air conditioning. Conversely, when it’s cold out, windows allow precious heat a means of escape. To reduce heat transfer and improve your home’s energy efficiency, optimize your windows’ performance and use an adequate shading strategy.

Low emissivity (Low-E) glazing provides an effective line of defense against solar heat. These windows have a coating that limits the amount of infrared and ultraviolet light passing through, while not obstructing visible light. 

If your home’s windows face the South, their solar exposure will be particularly high. To further boost your home’s defense against heat gain, consider using shading devices such as curtains and canopies. If you want to maximize your home’s energy efficiency while protecting your windows from solar radiation, consider mounting solar panels on the canopies - this way the sun’s rays will generate energy instead of contributing to its consumption. 

The U-factor measures how much heat a window can lose. During the cold season, it’s estimated that 12-30% of energy loss occurs through windows and doors. To achieve a lower U-factor, opt for double- or triple-pane glazing; the argon-filled space between panes of glass significantly reduces the rate of heat loss. 

Weatherstripping around doors and windows 

A home’s envelope is its protective “skin” against the elements. It’s a system made up of cladding, sheathing, insulation, as well as air and vapor barriers. Doors and windows penetrate this system and let water, moisture, wind, heat, and cold leak in and out of the building. If you’ve ever felt a draft emanating from a closed window or heard your doors and windows rattle in the wind, chances are these openings are not sealed properly. Even if you can’t feel air movement, your home may be losing precious conditioned air. Weatherstripping your home’s doors and windows is an easy, economical retrofit that can reduce your home’s energy loss. With some advice from your local home hardware store, you can even do the work yourself. 

Insulate the attic 

Most homes are built with an attic. A typical attic is a crawl space just below the roof structure, with no insulation at its floor. During the cooler months, heated interior air rises to the attic and escapes through the roof. Vice versa, in hot weather, the solar radiation absorbed by the roof heats the attic and the living space beneath it. If you have an uninsulated attic, consider installing batt or loose-fill insulation (the latter is typically less expensive). If your home is in the hotter parts of the state, a radiant barrier will help reduce summer heat gain by reflecting radiant heat.  

If you think that this retrofit is right for you, evaluating your roof structure is a good place to start it. Your roof’s rafters may be damaged, and you might have to repair or replace parts of the structure before insulating the space. If you live in colder areas, insulating an attic can increase snow loads on your roof, as its surface will be cooler and the snow will melt slower. A licensed engineer can assess your roof’s condition and recommend necessary upgrades before you proceed with the retrofit. 

Upgrade plumbing fixtures and fittings

If you’d like to improve your home’s water efficiency, look no further than the kitchen and bathroom for retrofit ideas. Faucets, sinks, and toilets are seldom replaced unless broken, and if these devices are as old as the house, they probably lack the energy efficiency of their modern counterparts. 

For a simple, cost-effective retrofit, replace your toilet, sink, and shower faucets with the low-flush and low-flow versions. The pipes may need repairs or replacement too, and it may be a good idea to inspect your plumbing system before starting the upgrade. 

If you want maximum efficiency and budget isn’t a concern, look into a greywater system or a rainwater collection system. The latter lets you collect, treat, store and use rainwater for all your daily needs, even drinking. The former allows the reuse of wastewater from sinks, bathtubs, and appliances as water for toilets, laundry, and irrigation. 

Upgrade lighting fixtures

Outdated lighting is another energy guzzler. While lighting consumes less energy than heat-producing appliances, the long hours lights are left burning can add a good chunk of change to your energy bill. Energy-efficient lightbulbs, such as Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) and Light-Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs use 75-80% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. If you have a large house and your lights are on all the time, upgrading the bulbs to the efficient versions can save you money in the long run. 

Replacing a traditional incandescent bulb with a Light-Emitting Diode (LED) bulb to save energy and money.

Upgrade appliances 

As with older plumbing and lighting, outdated appliances are behind the more modern models when it comes to energy efficiency. Upgrading your stove, fridge, dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, water heater, and HVAC system to the Energy Star-rated versions will boost your energy savings and reduce your home’s environmental footprint. 

How We Can Help 

Whether you’re building a new home, remodeling, or performing an energy retrofit, we can help. More than likely, you will have to submit a Title 24 and CalGreen compliance report along with your permit application. Our team offers a full range of project management services to facilitate your project’s compliance under these codes. Contact us at (877) 892-0292 or info@designeverest.com to discuss your project and receive a quote today.

*Note: The content published above was made in collaboration with members of Design Everest.

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