Home heating turns out to be a huge impact environmentally, heating a 2000sq foot home in the Seattle area can commonly range from $500-1700/year and 7000-17000lbs of CO2 annually. Needless to say modest improvements in efficiency can have major impacts.
While there’s huge, expensive projects you can undertake to cut these factors, there’s two simple things we did which cut our impact roughly by a quarter.
Below is a picture of our “new” (1980s) home gas use (we’re the blue line). In October things started to cool off here and you’ll notice we were running at the same gas use of an “efficient” neighbor, but since then we did just the two improvements below and now use 26% less natural gas than an “efficient” neighbor.
Ceiling Insulation and Air Sealing
Ceiling insulation and air sealing can significantly cut heating costs while making a home more comfortable by keeping room temperature more consistent, particularly on multi-floor homes. Our home had R9 ceiling insulation, we upgraded it to R49 along with air sealing.
I found an amazing calculator to estimate the cost savings and CO2 reduction of increased insulation. For us the calculator estimates $86/year savings (a fairly conservative estimate) and 1361lbs of CO2 reduced annually.
We had Madrona Home Services do blown-in insulation – in just a few hours they took care of everything. Don’t forget to check your utility for rebates – PSE paid half (almost $700) of our insulation and air sealing improvements.
In December I decided to do a last minute improvement and install a smart thermostat. I had originally planned to delay because of cost, but hadn’t realized how affordable smart thermostats had become.
We got the Honeywell Lyric T6, which has a great mobile app and geo-fencing (it automatically changes modes when you cross a specific distance from home). The Lyric T5+ is a bit more end user friendly for installation if you’re not skilled with thermostat installation. These run $100-120.
Another great option is the Ecobee 3 Lite currently $149 at Costco. This unit has a few tricks with the remote sensors which are pretty cool, but it also runs fewer devices (which you probably don’t have) than a Lyric T6.
Smart thermostats are estimated to save 10-20% on your heating bills and utility rebates abound – PSE currently has a $75 rebate. Say you spend the national average $900/year on heating and cooling now – buy a smart thermostat for $100-150, get $75 back, and save $90-180/year on your utility bill. Pretty no-brainer decision.
According to Energystar if everyone upgraded to Energy Star Smart Thermostats we’d save “$740 million dollars per year, offsetting 13 billion pounds of annual greenhouse gas emissions.”
Ceiling insulation and a smart thermostat are easy and cheap upgrades for a homeowner to implement, have great ROI, improve comfort, and save thousands of pounds of CO2 annually with zero change in lifestyle. There’s no time like the present to start saving with these two easy upgrades.