What Makes a Home Energy Efficient?
by Jane Marsh
Your home is one of your most important investments. Since every house consists of several systems, from heating and cooling to water, electricity, and more, you have a lot to manage — including costs.
Energy efficiency is when a house uses less energy while maintaining the same level of safety and comfort you expect and it’s a crucial goal for many homeowners. Two primary motivations for creating a more energy-efficient home are eco-friendliness and the reduced costs that come with such a home.
Several factors affect a home’s efficiency and how much you pay per month. Explore nine of the most influential factors and how they shape your household energy consumption below.
1. The Size of Your Home
By nature, smaller homes tend to use less energy than larger houses. From the start, they require fewer materials to build. Once complete, they don’t need massive amounts of energy to maintain the desired room temperature.
On the other hand, more extensive properties require more raw materials for construction and consume more energy to cool or heat those spacious rooms. That means larger houses will likely have to consider other factors to make up for lost energy efficiency.
2. Windows and Doors
While windows and doors welcome natural light and friendly guests into your home, they can also let out a lot of energy. According to the United States Department of Energy, 25%–30% of heating and cooling is lost through these drafty openings.
Check around your windows and doors for air leaks — installing the proper insulation around these openings can cut back on this energy loss. You can even replace existing fixtures with ENERGY STAR-qualified windows for maximum comfort and efficiency.
3. Construction Materials
When it comes to building, it’s not just about how many materials are used — the type of materials used in construction will impact a home’s energy efficiency potential, such as the insulation or roofing. Every product is different and some are more eco-friendly than others. The most energy-efficient materials include:
- Recycled steel
- Insulated concrete
- Bamboo wood alternatives
- Rammed earth
Electrical appliances are a major component of a home’s efficiency. From kitchen appliances like refrigerators, stoves, microwaves and dishwashers to other household devices like vacuums, washing machines, and dryers, there are environmentally friendly options that use less energy and save money.
5. Smart Technology
If ENERGY STAR-qualified devices aren’t enough, you can take your dedication to sustainability a step further with appliances that incorporate smart technology. Smart technologies utilize automation and user input to maximize energy efficiency.
For example, homeowners can use smart devices to program their window shades to maintain a desired temperature. If the sensor detects too much heat or light, the shades will close automatically, whether the homeowner is present or not. These features allow homeowners to monitor their energy usage closely and set preferences based on location, time of day, temperature, or other factors and demands.
6. HVAC System
A home’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system presents a huge opportunity for improved energy efficiency. These systems keep your home comfortable, but they can lose strength with age or malfunctions, quickly leading to less efficient operation. Thankfully, taking care of your HVAC system with regular preventive maintenance can keep it in top shape, ensuring you’re getting the most for your money.
Don’t forget about your home’s exterior when thinking about what makes it an energy-efficient space. It turns out the rest of your property has an impact on your house’s sustainability.
Proper landscaping — including healthy trees and shrubs — provides shade and blocks excessive sunlight from entering your home during hotter months. When the tree’s leaves have fallen in the winter, the much-needed sun can shine through the bare branches to warm your interior.
While you might think lighting plays an insignificant role in your home’s overall energy consumption, even the smallest figures add up. Making the switch to LED lightbulbs in your fixtures can make a difference in more ways than one — they use 90% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and last up to 25 times longer.
9. Alternative Energy Sources
Another step environmentally-conscious homeowners can take is to seek out alternative energy sources. Electricity and natural gas are the most common sources of energy in most homes, but continual scientific developments have made alternative energy more accessible than ever. Various forms of solar, wind, and hydropower are available for domestic use, such as solar panels on the roof.
Hybrid systems are a viable option for homeowners who aren’t ready to become fully energy independent. These systems help you find a balance between renewable energy sources and existing electric or natural gas systems.
Exploring Energy Efficiency at Home
Homeowners interested in making their homes more energy efficient have more options than ever. Exploring alternative materials, appliances, and energy sources can boost a home’s sustainability while saving money in the long run.
Article by Jane Marsh
Jane works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of