Your house is losing your hard-earned money through energy waste—and here’s what to do about it.
Personal finances are important, and who wouldn’t like to have a little bit extra in their savings account by keeping money unspent?
We all know that bad interest rates, grocery store splurges, and streaming services left unwatched can waste money in your budget.
But you might be surprised that one of the biggest undetected money-wasters in your home isn’t what you might think.
In this article, you’ll:
- Discover how your house is wasting money year-round through energy waste
- Find out the right fixes for a too wasteful house
- Learn how to stop wasting money on high energy bills and make your home feel better
How your house is wasting money every day
Have you ever heard someone say “We’re not paying to cool the outdoors!” or “Close the window—I’m not paying to heat the neighborhood!”?
Well, we have some bad news: Most homes are already wasting money this way, whether you left your front door open or not.
Unfortunately, the air you pay to heat and cool is escaping out of your home 24/7, 365 days a year.
It’s one of the biggest unexpected ways to waste money in the day to day, and it’s actually the biggest way to waste energy in your home, too.
The good news is that this can be fixed.
And you’ll dig into what to do about this money-wasting problem in this article.
How exactly is your house wasting energy?
It’s not your windows, and it’s not your light bulbs—it’s not even your fridge and freezer running all the time that’s causing those high energy bills.
It’s not something you can see—or even hear.
It’s the invisible money-waster that lives in the majority of American homes, and it leaves people across the U.S. every month staring at their energy bills in wide-eyed frustration…
Ready to know what it is?
Air leaks and insufficient insulation.
Basically, houses all over the U.S. are wasting money on energy because they have an airflow problem.
Don’t believe us? Let’s take a closer look.
Your house is filled with hundreds of tiny little open gaps, seams, and holes called air leaks. And your hard-earned money that you use to heat and cool your home is practically blowing right out through the cracks.
Check out this quick explainer video below for a visual. Or learn how to find air leaks in your home here.
Plus, when you have insufficient insulation, it adds insult to injury.
- In the winter, the heat you pay for is lost through air leaks and poor insulation—or underinsulated areas, like hidden attics—throughout your home. This causes your heating system to be overworked and your energy bills to skyrocket, no matter what type of energy or fuel you use to stay warm in the winter.
- In the summer, heat radiates into your home through your attic and other under-insulated or uninsulated spaces (like exterior walls), while hot, humid outside air is taken into your home through those same air leaks. Yuck. No wonder your upstairs feels so uncomfortable in July.
Air leaks and insufficient insulation cause a variety of money-wasting issues in your house, including:
- Overworking your HVAC system and shortening its lifespan
- Always adjusting the thermostat to cope with uneven temperatures
- A stuffy, muggy house with humidity and moisture intrusion problems
- Energy bills that reflect big energy waste
- Ice dams on the roof in winter (that can cause unseen long-term damage and shorten the lifespan of your roof)
- Drafty windows that require you to buy extra layers of window insulation or thermal curtains to stay cozy
And the science behind the stack effect is all to blame.
The stack effect—and how it’s causing your house to lose money
There’s a concept called the stack effect, and it’s how air moves throughout your home and back outside.
If you go back to your high school science class, you’ll likely remember that “heat rises” …and that’s exactly what happens in your home.
All year long, you try to keep yourself comfortable in your home by paying for cool air in summer or heated air in winter.
But if you have insufficient insulation and air leaks, the stack effect causes the indoor air to move outside of your house at a higher rate than normal. This creates a vacuum, and so outdoor air is sucked back in.
So, yes—unless you do something to stop this from happening—you’re basically paying to heat and cool the outdoors.
(And in the majority of American homes, conditioned indoor air is being lost… all while using inefficient heating and cooling systems, too.)
You’re house is losing money due to energy waste—but it isn’t an outlier
Through a bit of our own analysis, Sealed discovered that about 85% of houses in the U.S. were built before energy efficiency codes were in place (1).*
This means 8 out of 10 American homes are uncomfortable and wasting energy due to air leaks and poor insulation. Learn more about why your heating bills are so high in this guide.
And you can have comfort problems and uneven temperatures even if you have a newly built house. Some new homes are lacking the full amount of insulation needed from the get-go.
So even if you have a newly built home and one room just seems unreasonably hotter in the summertime (or freezing cold in the winter), you’ve got a problem.
Houses—no matter what year they were built—aren’t supposed to be this way!
The right fixes for a too wasteful house
Here are the essential, long-term improvements to stopping energy waste in your home:
- Seal up the air leaks in your house’s structure
- Fix your house’s insulation issues
- Switch to energy-efficient heat pump HVAC
These energy efficient home improvements can fix the problem long-term.
When you pair these core improvements with the standard LED light bulb switch-around, smart home tech upgrades, and new energy-efficient appliances, you’ll really make an impact.
Next, we’re going to dig into how these three upgrades work together to stop your house from wasting energy.
But if you’re ready to make your house more energy efficient ASAP, you could get these upgrades at ZERO upfront cost if your house qualifies to work with Sealed. Take our quick and fun quiz to find out if you’re eligible!
Home air leaks cause up to 40% of the energy load you use for heating and cooling. That’s a LOT of waste.Energystar.gov
A closer look at how air leaks are wasting money in your house
Heating and cooling your home—by far—uses the most amount of energy. Over 51% of your home’s energy use is for heating and cooling alone (2).
Meanwhile, air leaks in your home cause up to 40% of the energy load you use for heating and cooling (3).
And in our work with thousands of homes, we’ve discovered that many houses exchange air at 3–4 times the rate that is necessary; it’s like having an extra window wide open in your house 365 days a year.
That “open window” is not only wasting energy, it’s also inviting allergens and moisture into your house—all while overworking your heater, causing AC problems, and keeping you from feeling comfortable in your own home.
Most people actually believe it’s their windows that are causing a drafty or stuffy house, when it’s really the air leaks around windows that are causing outdoor air to move inside. These window air leaks are the cause of cold drafts or stuffy, humid air—not the windows themselves.
(Truth: You can have brand-new windows installed and still have a drafty house with uneven temperatures and high energy bills!)
It’s true: You can have brand-new windows installed and still have a drafty house with uneven temperatures and high energy bills!
Air sealing is the act of finding and sealing up all the open seams, cracks, and gaps throughout your house’s structure so it no longer allows paid-for heated and conditioned air to escape.
And air sealing is where you need to start to begin fixing the problem.
Home performance contractors use their expertise to find and seal up air leaks that are often found in and around:
- Recessed lighting
- Doors and windows
- Basements and crawl spaces
- Fans and vents, like kitchen or bathroom fans
- Plumbing and electrical fixtures
How insufficient insulation causes you to pay through the roof in energy costs
If you have under-insulated areas in your house, it directly contributes to the heat loss in winter and cool-air escaping in summer.
Your house has a building envelope, or a barrier that separates the indoor air from the outdoor air.
And when that building envelope is littered with open holes (air leaks) and crumbling, old insulation, it doesn’t do much to separate the conditioned indoor air from the temperatures outside.
To stop wasting energy (and money!) due to a swiss-cheese-style building envelope, you have to repair the envelope itself and create an effective thermal boundary.
Common areas that need insulation upgrades include:
- Attics (this is the big one!)
- Crawl spaces and basements
- Your home’s foundation
- Walls or ceilings of attached garages
- Exterior walls (although we don’t recommend this too often—most homeowners often see the most bang for their buck by upgrading attic insulation, along with crawl space, basement, or foundation insulation and air sealing)
Think of your home’s insulation as the down filler in a great winter coat that traps the comfort inside your home.
Repairing your house’s thermal boundary (or cozy coat, so to speak) can keep you more comfortable all year long—no matter what the weather brings.
And sufficient insulation also prevents other money-wasting problems that houses experience, like ice dams. They can cause damage to your roof and house… and insulation and air sealing is the right fix. Truly, high-performance insulation is the hidden-superpower every home should have.
How inefficient HVAC systems cause big waste
If your home hasn’t had insulation or air sealing upgrades since it was built, it’s likely caused your heating and cooling systems to not only waste energy, but also be completely exhausted and overworked.
And this decreases the lifespan of your HVAC system—even if you’ve recently upgraded to a newer energy-efficient boiler or air conditioner in the last few years.
And you probably guessed this, but HVAC overwork (or an old system hanging on via duct tape and a prayer) is usually a sign your house is wasting money on energy, too.
In fact, over 51% of your home’s energy use is for heating and cooling alone (4). So it’s pretty important to give some TLC to your HVAC system!
Over 51% of your home’s energy use is for heating and cooling alone.U.S. Energy Information Administration
But here’s the real kicker: If you aren’t heating and cooling your home with a modern heat pump, it’s likely your home is wasting energy that it doesn’t even have to… on top of dealing with air leaks and insulation issues, too.
The heat pump is the most efficient way to heat and cool your home—heat pumps are up to 3 times more efficient than traditional HVAC systems (5).
Heat pumps are the way of the future, and that’s why we affectionately call them the Tesla of HVAC.
What if you want to give your energy-efficient heat pump upgrade extra super powers?
Stop wasting money on energy loss and make your home feel better with Sealed
When your home is losing money to energy waste, there’s no time to, well, waste—especially with natural gas prices and electricity costs increasing.
Not to mention, the signs of energy waste in your home are the exact same symptoms of an uncomfortable, drafty house. You deserve to feel amazing in your own home.
So we invented a way where you can reinvest the money you’re losing on energy waste into improvements that make your house feel better. Learn how.
*The year 2000 was when residential energy-efficiency standards became prevalent in building codes. And 85% of American housing stock was built before 2000.