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Updated June 15, 2023

Interested in how to save energy at home, increase your energy efficiency and lower your energy bills each month? Making that happen might be easier than you think. And thanks to rebates included in the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), together with energy efficiency home improvement tax credits, it now comes with significantly lower upfront costs, too.

From no-cost measures that will yield short-term benefits to moderately priced solutions capable of lowering your energy bills permanently, here are four ways to conserve energy at home, with insights from Casey Murphy, Pearl’s senior vice president of business incubation and a home performance expert.

No-Cost, Immediate Step: Conserve Energy and Water at Home

“Conserving energy and water means lowering your energy or water use by altering everyday actions,” Murphy says. “It’s an easy way to see lower energy bills, but the degree of savings will depend on your home and how much room for improvement there is in your current routine.”

Conservation begins with greater awareness of your habits. “Ideally, it doesn’t require any sacrifice in terms of comfort or convenience,” Murphy says. “For example, if your shower takes 30 seconds or a minute to get hot water, do you first turn on the shower, then brush and floss your teeth — and then, before you know it, the shower has been on for 2-5 minutes? If so, change your routine so you get in the shower as soon as the water is hot enough.”

Two other big energy-wasters to bear in mind: leaving the fridge open for minutes at a time, and keeping your front door open as people come and go.

And, Murphy adds, you should also be aware of the numerous “miscellaneous energy loads” in your household, like game consoles and appliances, some of which draw power 24/7 even if they aren’t actively in use. The best workaround? Smart strips — a topic we’ll turn to next — which can power off devices when they aren’t being used.

Low-Cost, Mid-Term Step: Get a Home Energy Audit & Install Smart Home Devices

While conservation implies a reduction in resource usage, achieving true energy efficiency at home means something else entirely. “Efficiency means the devices themselves use less energy or water to perform the same function,” Murphy explains. “You still want to turn the lights off, but if you have LED bulbs instead of incandescents, they’re using a fraction of the energy when they’re on.”

As a first step, Murphy advises conducting a low-cost energy audit.

“The most helpful energy audit is one done by a certified energy assessor and includes what’s called a ‘blower door test,’” Murphy says. A blower door test is a diagnostic tool for learning how much outside air sneaks into your home, and how much conditioned air leaks out. Assessors typically review your past utility bills, examine each room of your home, and use infrared photography to pinpoint leaks. But, Murphy cautions, some utility programs don’t include a blower door test, so read the details carefully before you sign up. You can find qualified energy assessors and Pearl Network Contractors in Pearl’s Green Door app.

Next, start installing smart home devices. “These devices, like energy consumption monitors, give you better visibility into where you’re using energy every day,” Murphy says. “You’ll be able to see if your energy conservation and efficiency measures make a difference before getting the bill.”

Other relatively low-cost smart home devices, like smart thermostats, smart LED lighting, and smart plugs, will also help you save energy at home in the near term— and lower your energy and electricity bills over the long run, too.

Moderate-Cost, Mid-Term Step: Seal Your Building Shell

“About 50% of your energy costs are related to heating and cooling,” Murphy says. “At Pearl, we consider how all the systems in your house affect one another. That’s why, instead of telling you to replace your HVAC system first, we say make sure your building shell — the barrier between conditioned indoor air and hot or cold outside air — is as tight as it can be.”

An energy audit (see above) can show you where there are gaps in your building shell. For many people, it starts with the attic — it’s estimated that about 25% of your home’s heat can escape through the roof. Depending on size and structure, insulating and air sealing your home is typically a moderate-cost improvement, according to Murphy.

Next comes insulating wherever your ductwork runs — for your home, that might be the attic, the crawlspace, the basement, and/or the walls. Murphy stresses how important it is for a qualified contractor to make these improvements in order to truly impact your energy efficiency and lower your energy bills.

Moderate-Cost, Long-Term Step: Install High-Efficiency Equipment

After evaluating your building’s shell, it’s time to tackle your home’s heating system. “If your system is still operating but nearing 10 years old,” Murphy says, “consider early replacement. As soon as you install a new, high-efficiency system, you’ll start saving money and seeing lower energy and electricity bills.”

Your best bet? Highly efficient heat pumps, which the Department of Energy estimates can reduce your home’s electricity use for heating by as much as 50%.

While heat pump costs may be a concern for some homeowners, you’ll probably find that the financial outlay is smaller as you think. After all, IRA heat pump rebates and tax credits are already available through the federal and state governments, as well as utility companies, for high-efficiency equipment. Below is a quick breakdown of how IRA heat pump rebates work:

  • If you earn up to 80% of the median household income in your area, you’re eligible to receive up to 100% of the cost of your heat pump purchase, up to $8,000.
  • If you earn more than 80% but less than 150% of the median household income in your area, you’re eligible to receive 50% of the cost of your heat pump purchase, up to $8,000.
  • If you earn more than 150% of the median household income in your area, you aren’t eligible for a rebate, unfortunately.

What’s more, if you’re worried about the cost of heat pump installation[3] , don’t be: In addition to the IRA rebates, you can also claim an energy efficiency home improvement tax credit[4] of up to 30% of the cost of purchasing and installing your heat pump, up to $2,000. Check out ENERGY STAR’s guide to see what products qualify.

Just note that the IRA rebates aren’t expected to become available until the end of 2023 or early 2024, depending on how each state rolls out its program. (States have until August 2024 to start handing out the rebates or else forfeit the funding.) In the interim, Murphy recommends getting started now with an energy audit. From there, you can explore heat pumps and other equipment that make sense for your house, plan your investment, identify energy efficiency home improvement tax credits[5] and other savings, and be ready to take advantage when the rebates are finalized and rolled out.

Ready to Permanently Lower Your Utility Bills?

Lowering your utility bills now and in the future is possible — and Pearl is here to help you every step of the way. Murphy’s advice: “Among the most important things is to work with a qualified contractor who can help you see the big picture and take advantage of your opportunities.”

Finding those qualified contractors starts inside our Green Door app. There, you can create a custom Home Investment Plan, receive personalized efficiency recommendations, and connect with local, vetted, professional experts.

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