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9 Signs your home is wasting energy (and what to do)

You can’t always see energy waste in your house. But you sure can feel it.

You can’t always see energy waste in your house. But you sure can feel it.

How can you tell if your house is wasting energy? It’s not always easy to see, but wasted energy and heat escape can be a big comfort problem. 

Home energy efficiency is more than just a hot topic among the eco-conscious—and it’s about more than just saving electricity. It’s the key to a comfortable, healthy home that feels great every day of the year.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • The 9 major signs your house is wasting energy
  • How to know your home isn’t energy-efficient (and what to do about it)
  • The one home issue that’s responsible for up to 30% of your energy bill spend
  • How an energy-efficient home can keep you comfortable and healthy

Here’s how to know your house is wasting energy

How do you know you need home energy efficiency updates? Let’s start with 9 tell-tale signs.

1. Ice dams in the winter

Ice dams are large sheets of ice on your roof (that usually hang off the sides as they melt). And they’re a major sign of energy waste in homes.

Ice dams form because a portion of your attic is improperly air sealed and insulated. Heated air from your home (that should be keeping you comfortable!) escapes into the attic and melts snow on the roof too quickly. This snow refreezes and ice expands underneath the shingles, causing damage to your home. Not good!

How to permanently fix ice dams: 

Sealing all the air leaks in your home and using the right attic insulation can make ice dams a thing of the past. 

2. Uneven temperatures between rooms

Uneven temperatures in your home mean your heating system or air conditioner is overcompensating as it tries to reach the correct temperature. If the air leaks in your house aren’t sealed and your house isn’t properly insulated, your heater or AC will just keep running without hitting its set temperature. 

How to permanently fix uneven temperatures in your home:

If an older HVAC system turns out to be part of the problem, installing an energy-efficient HVAC system that runs on electricity, such as an air source heat pump, can help resolve this issue. Mini-split heat pumps also allow you to control the temperature in each room separately—you can heat or cool each zone according to your preferences.

3. High energy usage

High energy use isn’t good for your home, your wallet, or the environment. An average-size home shouldn’t require more than 250 therms of gas per month in winter. If you’re going way over that number, your heating system may be wasting energy due to heat escape.

 How to solve the problem of high energy use:
Remember: The majority of the energy used in your house goes to heating and cooling —and a good portion of that conditioned air is lost through air leaks. That means solving your energy usage issues will likely require a whole-house solution—including a combination of air sealing, insulation, and HVAC upgrades. 

(Don’t worry, though. In some parts of the country, you may be able to get these upgrades done for no upfront cost—you’ll pay little by little, based on the energy you save after the work is done.)

Learn more about why your energy bills are so high in this guide.

4. Cold or hot air drafts at windows and doors

Drafts can seem like a normal, everyday discomfort you signed up to deal with when you became a homeowner, especially if you live in an older home. But a drafty old house doesn’t have to be your norm, and drafts are fixable.

In fact, drafts are a sign that you don’t have an energy-efficient home. And they’re a definite sign of heat loss.

How to fix a drafty house:
Your first thought might be to install new windows, but windows probably aren’t your problem! Instead, it’s usually the gaps around windows and doors (and even in your foundation and attic) that cause airflow problems and drafts throughout your home. 

Your first thought might be to install new windows, but windows probably aren’t your problem! Instead, it’s usually the gaps around windows and doors (and even in your foundation and attic) that cause airflow problems and drafts throughout your home. 

Houses move and settle over time, and gaps can form around any window—even newer and more energy-efficient windows. Sealing your home and upgrading your insulation are the best bets to solve cold or hot air drafts.

5. You’re using a lot of hot water.

Generating hot water makes up about 14% of your home’s energy usage (1). And if you have a lot of people in your household, you’re most likely using a lot of hot water for bathing, dishes, and laundry.

How to make your hot water use more energy-efficient:
Make sure your hot water heater is set at 120 degrees or lower for the optimum temperature. If it’s set higher than that, it’s likely you’re wasting energy by heating your water hotter than it needs to be. You can also install faucets and showerheads that are designed to conserve water and insulate your hot water pipes.

6. Summer moisture issues

Humidity is a natural part of summer. But if your AC system is kicking on and off frequently, it may mean that your system is not the right size for your home or is unable to remove moisture from the air. 

How to solve summer moisture issues:
Along with proper air sealing and insulation to keep conditioned air in and moisture out, efficient home cooling is the best solution here. Air source heat pumps can remove heat and humidity from your house in the summer (and make your home super comfy in the winter).

7. You have outdated home appliances

Appliance design has come a long way in the last ten years. And if your house still has old, inefficient appliances, you’ll definitely see that reflected in your energy usage. 

Why new appliances can be a great choice:
Upgrading your old appliances comes with an upfront cost, but the switch could lower your energy consumption and significantly increase your home’s resale value. It can also improve your quality of life. Trading in that noisy, 30-year-old washer and dryer set for something modern can make laundry day more peaceful for everyone.

 8. Hot or cold air pockets at your ceiling or near attics

If you hold your hand up to your ceiling in the summer, does it feel hot? This is often a symptom of energy waste, and it happens because heat is radiating from your attic into your house via insufficient insulation. 

Or perhaps you feel a burst of cold air near side attics in the winter? That’s usually due to heat escape—when heated air escapes your home (because of air gaps or insufficient insulation), it creates a vacuum for cold air to be sucked in.  

How to solve hot and cold air pockets in your house:
Making sure your ceilings and attics are insulated correctly can solve pockets of hot and cold air. Check out our guide to attic insulation to learn more. (You’ll also want to be sure your house is professionally air-sealed!)

9. Your HVAC is running all the time—in the winter or the summer

An efficient and properly-sized HVAC system shouldn’t operate constantly! If your heater or air conditioner is running all day long, you’re still wasting energy—and probably a lot of energy—even if your home feels comfortable. 

How to stop an HVAC system from running all the time:
The problem might not be your heater or air conditioner. It might be your house. Use insulation and whole-home air sealing together to help solve the problem and reduce the workload of your HVAC system.

How much energy is wasted in homes? 

We need to set the record straight. The unfortunate truth is your home is probably wasting a lot of energy—and in ways you might not necessarily expect.

In fact, studies show that 35% of home energy consumption in the U.S. is wasted energy (4)—that’s energy you’re paying for, but isn’t doing you any good. And where is most of that energy waste happening? The data is clear: If you’re like the majority of U.S. homeowners, half of your home energy use is put toward heating and cooling your home (2)—which means that’s where most of the energy waste is happening, too. 

 Why heat escape and air leaks are wasting your money

Here’s why we keep talking about heat escape: The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that air leaks alone cause about 25–30% of the heating and cooling load for a typical home (3). That means if you haven’t air sealed your home’s structure, a significant chunk of your energy usage is going out through the roof. Yikes.

The moral of the story? While it’s wonderful to adopt energy-saving behaviors and switch to LED bulbs, it’s important to look at the broader picture: The biggest energy wasters in your house  are likely inefficient heating and cooling systems, insufficient insulation, and the lack of proper air sealing.

While these issues may not be “quick fixes,” they’re all fixable—and it may not even cost you anything upfront to get them fixed.

Here’s why you should address energy waste in your home ASAP.

Why is an energy-efficient home important?

We all know that energy waste in homes is bad for the environment. After all, 68% of all energy generated is wasted through inefficiency—and home energy consumption is the third largest use of energy in the States (4, 5). 

But making sure your home is energy-efficient is about more than the planet—it’s about your health and comfort, too. That’s because the signs that your home is wasting energy are also signs of other problems.

In short, if your home isn’t energy efficient, you’ll feel the effects. It’ll be too hot in summer or too cold in winter. It’ll have moisture issues. It’ll lose heat in the winter through heat escape. It’ll have air that makes you sneeze. It’ll have ice issues that’ll be expensive to fix. It might even be harder to sell.

So, yes, if your house is wasting energy, it’s a problem for both you and the planet—a problem you don’t have to keep living with.

How to make your house energy-efficient and comfortable—at little or no upfront cost

If you don’t have an energy-efficient house—or if it just feels plain uncomfortable!—Sealed can help you turn the situation around. 

In fact, making your home unbelievably comfortable (and way more energy-efficient) is what we do. We’ll analyze your home, create a custom plan, and then call the right people to make it happen for you. (We stand by our work 100% too. If your energy bills don’t go down, you won’t have to pay.)

There’s even better news: With Sealed, you can get the upgrades you need for no (or very little) upfront cost. You’ll pay for the work we do little by little, at a rate based on your energy savings. 

Sound interesting? Call us at 914-826-8873 to talk about your house. We’ll tell you if we can help (and if we can’t, we’re happy to give you advice or a lead elsewhere).

October 14, 2021