By Ed Carroll
Making your home energy efficient isn’t just something that’s good for the environment. It also offers a slew of benefits to homeowners and condo-dwellers alike. An energy-efficient home can reduce your heat loss, making it more comfortable and helping save money on utility bills.
There’s a wide range of options available to potentially make a home more energy efficient, some more extensive than others. Industry professionals John Hansen, president at Suntrol in Bedford Heights, Tristan Rader, Ohio program director at Solar United Neighbors, and John Marcus, president at Designer Accents at Home in Bedford Hts., share their thoughts on why energy efficiency is so important and improvements you can make to your home, condo or even apartment.
Hansen says it’s “common sense” to make your home more efficient.
“Basically, it reduces the amount of heat you put into your house from disappearing,” he says. “It also would reduce the air conditioning that you’re paying for to cool the house from escaping. You’re paying for items that are disappearing.”
The options available to apartment renters are likely limited, as most of the issues energy efficiency addresses are handled by the landlord, he says, but there are some fixes. While renters may not be able to replace the old glass in inefficient windows, they may be able to put up window film to keep more of the hot or cold air inside the apartment – though it won’t stop it from escaping completely.
Hansen says some of his customers are initially skeptical that a relatively small piece of film can make a big difference, but it can. If anyone is curious about adding window treatments, Suntrol offers free estimates and they like to help inform people about their options, he adds.
Window treatments can also benefit those living in houses or condos, though sometimes condo associations have rules or limitations on the types of treatments owners can use, Marcus says. He says Designer Accents at Home works with customers to find a window treatment that works for them and fits their interior design. The company sends a designer out to the house to help customers refine their style and select a product to match their needs.
Motorization options that allow you to adjust things from your phone, whether you’re at home or away, are also becoming increasingly popular, he says.
“That helps in your energy efficiency as well, so you can time our PowerView window treatments which allow you to set a time for when your shades go up or go down,” he says. “It also gives you the benefit that (if) you’re going to be away, and you forgot to put your blinds in the down position or in the up position, you can go right on your phone and adjust your blinds.”
Another option for homeowners to make their houses more energy efficient is far more sweeping than adding window treatments: converting your home to use solar energy.
Rader, who is also a Lakewood city councilman, says a solar-powered home isn’t necessarily a winterized home, though it is better for the environment. His organization, Solar United Neighbors, which partners with the Cuyahoga County Department of Sustainability, is a nonprofit that arranges for solar co-ops, or groups of neighbors, to purchase the panels necessary for solar energy. Solar United Neighbors has teams around the country that work with communities and residents.
“For efficiency, you want to ensure the fuels you are burning, or the electricity you’re using to heat your home … (is) not losing that heat,” he says. “The first and foremost thing you can do is home weatherization, making sure you have enough insulation and types of insulation in your walls, (and) the right types of windows to make sure you’re not losing that heat. You lose that heat, you lose money.”
As for solar, there are two main types of options – solar heating, which isn’t as common in Ohio due to the weather and climate, and photovoltaic (PV) solar, which is where the majority of Solar United Neighbors’ work lies. The organization helps people install the panels on their homes to convert the sunlight directly into electricity, replacing what they’d use from a traditional energy grid.
Once financing is in line and everything is ready for homeowners, installation of the panels is quick – typically only two days – and it’s handled completely by solar installers, Rader says. They will also help take care of the necessary permits, much like a contractor would for a more traditional home repair job.
“They actually do all that for you, so it’s not as scary as it sounds,” he says.