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  • Writer's picturePacific Sun Technologies

How to save energy in your home with these smart, affordable upgrades

My parents grew up in southern India during the 1960s and ’70s. Water was scarce in their villages and power outages common throughout the state of Karnataka, where they lived. To save water, they showered once a week. When the power went out, they studied by candlelight. Decades later, as I grew up on the outskirts of Chicago, my parents badgered me to shut off the faucets while brushing my teeth and turn off the lights when leaving the house. It was easy to take these things for granted.

Now an adult, I’m reminded of their stories as I take care of my own home and pay my own bills. In my head, I hear my mother’s voice: “Think about people when you use water or electricity,” she would say. “Not everyone has access or money to afford these things.”

In 2009, U.S. households spent an average of $2,024 on energy, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s most recent energy consumption data. (That’s a 6 percent rise from 1993, after adjusting for inflation.) Home appliances, such as refrigerators, water heaters, and heating and cooling systems, constantly guzzle up energy from the power grid. With recent tech innovations, we now have affordable, “smart” options that can help us be more eco-friendly without breaking the bank. Here, five experts provide their recommendations for smart home devices and upgrades that can improve our standard of living — and make our parents proud too.

Before you jump into any home renovation: Do a home energy audit and check your home energy score. Not all recommendations are necessary for everyone, so the U.S. Department of Energy recommends assessing your home’s existing structure, heating, cooling and hot water systems. And if you find these upgrades a bit too pricey, the DOE suggests looking into your state’s financing, incentives and assistance programs, such as the Weatherization Assistance Program. Private financing can also help foot the bill through programs like Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE).

Room-by-Room Upgrades