Overview: Steps to improve Energy Efficiency

Improving the energy efficiency of your home saves you money, while also helping the environment. That's because your home will require less energy to run, whether it's your heating and cooling system or your appliances.

1. Start with a professional home energy audit

An energy audit is like a physical for your house or condo – get a diagnosis of the disease rather than continue to put bandages on the symptoms. This will also help you identify funding that is available, prioritize your budget, and give you a plan you can implement over time. The Department of Energy has a quick video explaining it – just search for Energy 101 Home Energy Assessment on YouTube. Learn how to set up an energy audit for your home.

 2. Insulate your attic

It’s almost a guarantee that one of the first recommendations of an energy audit will be to add insulation to your attic. Given the age of most homes in Shaker Heights, built when there may not have been any building codes regarding insulation, this is often the most cost-effective place to start – and there are incentives to help pay for it.

 3. Seal the leaks

Ideally done in conjunction with your attic insulation but helpful at any stage, replacing old dried-out caulk, window and door seals, and around any opening in your walls or roof, this is another relatively inexpensive way to see immediate savings.

The best way to identify how best to seal your house is by choosing an energy auditor that uses a “blower door test” – where they will put a big red fan in your front door (usually), close all the windows, and determine where the biggest leaks are. Ideally this is done before and after the work so you can see the results of the work and if there is more to do.

4. More insulation?

Just like there were few guidelines around attic insulation when most Shaker Heights homes were built, the same was often true about walls. In some older homes there may not even be much of a gap between the exterior brick or stone and the interior plaster or drywall, in which case adding wall insulation will not make much of a difference. Even if there is insulation, it can degrade over time so an infrared scan or other tools can help determine where it may have settled or broken down. The newest building codes specify nearly twice the insulation values of the codes just a few years ago, so like with your attic there’s probably room for improvement.

5. All the stuff that makes it warm or cool

Next may be the heating and cooling equipment, appliances, lights, thermostat and the other stuff that keeps you comfortable. While there are likely still a few original boilers around town, often this is updated every 10 to 20 years. There have been considerable technology advances, especially with heat pumps and appliances, that – especially with some of the rebates and incentives – can have a good return to your bottom line. The energy audit should point out these areas for improvement too, and don’t forget to have equipment serviced regularly according to the manufacturer’s instructions, change out lightbulbs with LEDs, and use insulating blinds or heavy curtains to help keep the heat in (or out in the summer).