How to Have the Most Efficient Home in the Neighborhood

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by Animesh Pattanayak

In this day and age, conserving energy is on everyone’s mind. I know everywhere I go, I see a different advertisement about upgrading to some more efficient model. Prius hybrids, LED lightbulbs, low flush toilets and Energy Star appliances are the face of a greener world. Everyone wants an efficient home.

But how exactly does one get to be the most energy efficient home in the neighborhood?

It’s not a simple task - you have to commit to some changes, but they are changes well worth the energy saved. Here is a list of some the easier switches towards maximum efficiency.

Ceiling fans

Yes, the ceiling fans. Those blades protruding from your ceiling whose only purpose seems to be collecting dust are a quick energy fix. When I’m sitting on the couch on a hot summer day, my first reaction is to reach for the air conditioner. However, this is an energy saving sin! Rather, you should reach for the ceiling fan switch. They are more cost effective, both in capital costs and running costs.

According to HomeAdvisor, the average AC system in the United States costs about $5,000 to install. Compare this to a high efficiency ceiling fan, like Harbor Breeze LP8321/LP8321S(FN798DC), which has an MSRP of $199 - a lot less.

The national average installment cost for a ceiling fan is only $155, says redbeacon, bringing the total cost for a single ceiling fan to $354. Assuming a house has five to six rooms in need of ceiling fans, that means the total house cost for the ceiling fan will run between $1,770 and $2,124. This is still almost $3,000 cheaper than the AC system.

On top of just capital costs, the average AC system draws between 2,000-5,000 watts. Ceiling fan draw only 8 watts - over 250 times more efficient in power. To see the money you’ll save by switching to ceiling fans from AC system, follow these calculations:

  • The average current price per kilowatt-hour in America is $.1255 or just about 13¢.
  • Assume 8 hours usage per day
  • Assume 5 months (30 day period) of usage per year (May - September)

Air Conditioner

2000 W/1000 kW/W = 2 kW → 2 kW x 8 h/day = 16 kWh/day → 16 kWh/day x 150 days/yr = 2,400 kWh/yr → 2,400 kWh/yr x  $.1255 = $301.20/yr

Ceiling Fan

8 W/1000 kW/W = .008 kW → .008 kW x 8 h/day = .064 kWh/day → .064 kWh/day x 150 days/yr = 9.6 kWh/yr → 9.6 kWh/yr x $.1255 = $1.21/yr

This is not chump change! Needless to say, it would be a very smart choice to switch to ceiling fans.

Use your thermostat to save money

Yep, you’re reading that correctly; you can use your thermostat to save yourself money on your electricity bill! I’m sure everyone has heard, “Keep your thermostat at 68 degrees in the winter.”

Well, here’s some info - they’re not wrong!

I know what you’re thinking, easier said than done. It’s true that it does get frigid in the winter, however, usually this severe frigidness lasts for a few weeks. During the months when the temperatures are low but not unbearable, bundle up under a blanket or put on some sweat pants. If words aren’t convincing enough, let me throw some numbers at you. One can reduce their heating bill by up to 1% for each degree you set your thermostat back past 68 for eight hours a day claims; also reported was this can amount to between, approximately, 5% to 15% savings on your annual heating bill.

In addition to keeping your thermostat down during the winter, turning it up a few during the summer doesn’t hurt either; as a matter of fact, it can have equal and greater impact. This is due to the fact that by having a higher temperature indoors, you can slow the rate of heat flow into your home. The slower the rate of heat flow, the more energy you save. Each degree above 78 in the summer saves you 6% on your energy bill says This is especially vital considering that almost half your energy bill comes from heating and air conditioning.

Take a Shower!

Yes, that’s right; I’m telling you to take a shower! No, I’m not saying you smell bad. I’m saying when deciding between a quick shower and a long bath, the shower is more effective. In a research study done by a student while at Stanford University, Tessaly Jen claims, “According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a full bathtub requires about 70 gallons of water, while taking a five-minute shower uses 10 to 25 gallons.” This means, unfortunately for some, that unless your shower exceeds between 14 and 35 minutes, you’re not very justified in that nightly bath. Especially since you have to heat that extra water as well.

A second source, The Sacramento Bee, claims the average bathtub to use only 30 gallons of water, accounting for displacement upon entering the tub. This being said, you will still save water by taking a shower instead of a bath. Depending on whether your shower head is low flow or not, you could save anywhere between 5 to 20 gallons per morning. For those of you with families of four, that’s between 20 and 80 gallons saved per day! The beauty of this is, by going a few days of showering as opposed to taking baths, you can save enough water to take that luxurious bath, and without the stresses of a rising water bill!

Let the Laundry Hang

For those of you who were born before 1950, or just have parents with energy conservation on their minds, you’ve probably seen a clothesline hung up on the balcony or backyard. Air drying laundry is an efficient alternative to using an electric dryer. This isn’t necessarily going to save you thousands of dollars as the cost to operate a dryer isn’t too high, but an article from the Simple Dollar states that you can save about ten dollars for every nine loads you wash, making savings over $100 per year. This adds up over time.

However, running a dryer still uses energy and any energy saved is a step in the right direction. On top of this, you have the cost of dryer sheets, maintaining the dryer, and the initial cost of the dryer to worry about too. Bottom line, this isn’t going to save you a lot of money but it is an alternative to electric dryers. It just takes a little extra planning. If you know you will need a certain shirt for Wednesday’s soccer game, just make sure you don’t wait until Wednesday to do it! Even then however, lightweight shirts and shorts can dry in absolutely no time at all.

Use the right Light bulbs

Seriously, light bulbs have come such a long way since the incandescent light bulb! According to designrecycleinc the incandescent light bulbs only have an average lifespan of 1,200 hours, while compact fluorescent light bulbs last approximately 8,000 hours. Both of these barely touch LED lights which can last up to 50,000 hours.

Lifespan isn’t the only reason to upgrade your light bulbs; the CFL and LED designs both have significantly lower wattage requirements, using 4 to 10 times less watts, respectively, making their annual operating costs per year for a typical home way different -

  • Incandescent: $328.59
  • CFL: $76.65
  • LED: $32.85

The obvious question to ask is, well, how significant is a couple hundred dollars per year, right? It’s not the most significant, but the fact of the matter is, there are more significant factors for those of us not concerned with money. Using incandescent light bulbs in this country cause up to 4,500 pounds of CO2 to be emitted every year. Compare this to the 1,051 and 451 pounds of CO2 that CFL’s and LED’s produce, respectively, and you should consider this an important factor! If decreasing the amount of CO2 emissions by almost a factor of ten is as simple as changing the light bulbs in your house, then we should try to make these changes if possible. Take the time, change your lights bulbs, and make this world a brighter place!


Now that I’ve thown you enough facts to drown in, let me tell you why it’s pertinent. The current per capita electricity use in the United States was approximately 12,000 kWh in 2006. While emerging countries like India were using barely 3000 kWh. If the United States were able to cut back some of our energy and electricity usage, we could make efforts to bring the world to a more even playfield where everyone sits around 6,000 kWh.

By creating this more even playfield, we could significantly slow the growth of poverty and maybe even eradicate poverty worldwide in our lifetime.

Animesh Pattanayak graduated from Hanford High School in 2015 and is now an undergraduate student at the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho. He is majoring in Computer Science and also works at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory studying Reactor Materials for Fusion Reactors.

More links:

Use fans instead of air conditioning

Keep your thermostat down/up during the year

Reduce baths/showers (whichever is more wasteful)

Higher efficiency flush toilets

Air dry laundry in the summer

Reduce time spent on dishes

Unplug unused devices

Use more efficient lightbulbs