Simple, Inexpensive, Energy Efficient Home Upgrades

by Sheri Troy on October 1, 2012

If you live in a Shea-built house, you’ve already increased your chances of living in an energy efficient home. That’s because Shea Homes is committed to building energy efficient homes. But we’re not talking about green building right now. What we’re addressing here are the five simplest, cheapest, no-hassle ways to improve energy efficiency and resource efficiency in your home.

Replace Incandescent Bulbs with Energy-Saving CFLs

Cost:  About $27 for 10 bulbs

Savings: $34 per year, for approximately 13 years*.

These savings projections are based on typical figures for an American household (see below).  Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) consume up to 75% less energy and last up to 10 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. Over the life of the CFLs you’d save around $450, which is a great return on investment and a simple decision that helps reduce carbon emissions by lessening energy demands. LED lights are also incredibly energy efficient, even more than CFLs, but right now their costs average $25 to $30 per bulb, and because we’re focused on ‘cheap’ as well as ‘easy,’ they don’t yet qualify for this particular list.You can buy CFLs at your local Home Depot.

Attach Water-Saving Aerators

Cost: $4

Savings: $80 per year

At $4 a pop and with the potential to reduce utility bills by about $80 per year, these water-saving aerators are a minor purchase with a big upside. And it’s not just the $80 per year in heated water you’ll be saving; it’s also about 5,400 gallons every 12 months, a big impact for such a small addition. An aerator transforms a steady stream of water into a diffused flow of tiny droplets. You keep (or improve) your water pressure while greatly reducing the volume of water. They’re easy to install – just screw one on to the end of your kitchen tap or other household faucet. You can find a few good models right here for $3.99.

Install Water-Smart Showerheads

Cost: $20 and up

Savings: $88 per year on water and energy

Water-Saving showerheads can use 1½ gallons of water per minute (gpm) rather than the standard 2½ gpm (the federal upper limit for new showerheads). For a family of four taking one 10 minute shower each day, per person, this one change alone could save about $88 on water and energy costs, according to figures from the Department of Energy. And fortunately, luxury and efficiency are more aligned these days; the technology behind water-saving showers has improved to the point where you won’t feel deprived of water pressure.

Wash Full Loads of Clothes on Cold-Water Cycles

Cost: $0

Savings: up to $110 per year

When you wash your clothes on the ‘hot’ setting, about 90 percent of the energy is used just to heat the water. When you wash on cold, you only use enough electricity to run the machine. By some estimates, the combination of cold water cycles and full loads can save about $110 per year for the average American household washing 392 loads per year. Granted, this equation also assumes that you’re using an Energy-Star rated appliances, like those included in houses built by Shea Homes.

Use a Clothesline to Dry Clothes

Cost: about $7 for a retractable clothesline

Savings: about $85 per year

There’s a warm breeze and the sun is shining. Your clothes have just finished being washed in a cold-water cycle. Now it’s time to hang them on a line in your backyard, using free solar and wind energy – without spending a penny on utilities. If you don’t like the look of a backyard clothesline, just use a retractable line during the drying hours and then hide it when you’re done. Electric clothes dryers consume about 6 percent of residential energy and cost about $1530 to operate during their lifecycles. Clotheslines, on the other hand, don’t use a single watt of electricity.

Return on Investment

So we’ve just spent about $58 on a few energy- and resource-saving items, and in the first year alone we’ve saved $397. What’s more, we’ve reduced the amount of carbon polluting the atmosphere and preserved thousands of gallons of precious water.

Keep an eye out for more resource-saving tips and information about energy efficiency at

*assumes that 60 watt incandescent bulbs with a life of 1500 hours will be replaced with 14 watt CFL bulbs with a life of 10,000 hours. Also assumes the bulbs will be burned 750 hours per year, that the cost of the CFL bulbs is $2.75, and the average cost of electricity is $2.76 per day.

Discover more about energy efficient homes  at

About the author

Josh Englander is a novelist and the founder of DesignLens, an online architectural publication that explores residential design and land planning concepts in America.


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