Ask an Expert: How can you make your home more energy efficient?

Tao Yong

By Leslie Wimmer

Dr. Yong Tao, professor and chair of the Department of Mechanical and Energy Engineering, researches alternative energy and energy building conservation. He believes homeowners on any budget can make changes to conserve energy.

“First, know what types of retrofits are necessary for your house,” Tao says. “It is worthwhile to hire a technician and an energy auditor to look over your house and cooling system and tell you which energy conservation opportunities can be applied for your house within your budget.”

He says the following conservation tips can help you lower your utility bills and save money.

On a budget

  • Minor improvements such as changing old light bulbs to more energy-efficient bulbs and upgrading electric appliances can save you money. 
  • Applying caulking and weather stripping can save energy too.

 Energy conservation

  • Install a programmable thermostat to control indoor temperatures. Set it about 10 degrees higher when you’re not home and program it to come back on an hour before you plan to return.
  • Reduce air leakage. In the summer, when the temperatures are the highest, the air conditioning system has to work harder if air leaks through cracks either into or out of the house. Adding shrubs or trees around the home can reduce wind effects and air infiltration.
  • Install high-performance windows, window films and coatings; invest in a more energy-efficient air conditioning system; or re-insulate poorly insulated areas of your home such as the attic.

New versus old

  • The major difference is labor cost. An older home often requires major improvements that are labor intensive such as adding thermal insulation or replacing windows.
  • There is little or no difference in the cost for an older home and a new home when installing energy-efficient walls, windows or roof.