Apologies for the book, but I love going into details about this stuff.
The minute I moved into my house, I replaced every single incandescent and CFL with the LED equivalent (honestly, in summer incandescent recessed can lights throw a lot of wasted heat). I was picky even about which LEDs I used. For example, in fixtures that had a lot of bulbs, I chose 4.5watt (40 watt equivalents) rather than 8-9watt (60 watt equivalents). My wife thought I was crazy and makes fun of me to this day for this, but we had access to the previous family’s usage via the smart meter and they used an insane amount. We’re much more efficient than the previous owners, but there’s a lot of room for improvement.
Some background info: Where I live, it’s usually in the mid 80s all summer (60s-70s at night), but we can get heat waves into the low 90s for a few days at a time. My AC is a 16 SEER 3.5 ton single stage unit from 2014, so nothing super efficient, but not terrible. My house is ~15 years old and all the window seals failed, so there’s a lot of thermal loss there. Where possible, we have blinds and dark thick curtains to keep the heat out since new windows are not in the budget at the moment and I heard replacing the seals isn’t really worth it. One bedroom upstairs gets really hot and I’ll just keep that door shut.
Regarding thermostat habits… I have a Nest, but can’t really use its smart schedule or even really set a daily schedule because someone is always home. As mentioned above, being away for a day or so is the best way to conserve! In the name of energy efficiency and if it were up to me, I’d keep my temperatures and 75 in the day, and 73 at night and use ceiling fans (since I’d really prefer it colder). It’s not up to me though (wifey likes it colder), and to avoid WWIII, my inefficient schedule is set to 72 during the day, 71 in the evening (when the sun’s not beating strong and it starts cooling down) and 70 for bedtime.
If it cools into the mid 60s or lower, if the air quality is good, I’ll use window fans and try to freeze the place out with cross ventilation and opening everything up. Doing this in spring and fall helps reduce HVAC by holding in the cold for longer into the day.
Potential improvements (ignore cost - all of this is pretty pricey):
- Better Insulation
- New Windows
- More efficient HVAC (21+ SEER variable compressor or Geothermal)
- Solar + Storage to offset grid usage
- *Reevaluate natural gas usage
*At the time of this post it’s cheaper to use natural gas than the equivalent in electric, even with my $30 month service fee and assuming the improvements listed above are not feasible. Sadly, this is less green but keeps the sum of both bills more manageable… But if the price of natural gas significantly increases it would probably be more cost effective to go all electric and try to do as many improvements as possible…
Ultimately, we’re more efficient than average (lower usage than 53% of similar homes). The bills could be better but are manageable, and we’re comfortable.
My dream is to downsize when I retire and live net zero.