Gexa Energy Learning Center

Retrofitting tips for Texas winters

When it comes to winter weather, Texans are pretty fortunate. Temperatures stay mostly pleasant even in the coldest months of the year, and travel is rarely hindered by snow or ice. However, even though residents may spend less on winter heating than on summer air conditioning, that doesn't mean you shouldn't maximize your energy savings throughout the year.

Improving your energy efficiency through home retrofitting could help keep your energy costs down. As Altenergymag reported, a typical low-cost retrofit can cut energy use by as much as 15 percent, while more substantial upgrades can reduce consumption by up to 45 percent. In addition to saving money, retrofitting has a positive environmental impact and makes your home more comfortable.

Easy-to-implement upgrades

There are many misconceptions about energy efficiency. If you rent, you might think retrofitting can only be done by your landlord. Or you may think the process is too expensive for your limited budget. In reality, there are a number of affordable ways to reduce energy consumption. And more importantly, these options are available to everyone.

Get smart with your settings
As the Public Utility Commission of Texas noted, every degree you raise your thermostat increases your energy consumption by 6 to 8 percent. One simple way to curb that energy use is to install a programmable thermostat. This way you can keep your home at an optimal temperature while you're awake and allow the temperature to dip back down when you're asleep or away.

Rethink your lighting
In addition to heating, you can also utilize timers or mobile apps to control your lighting. Digital timers will turn lights off during hours you're away from the home, while making sure the house is brightly lit at times when you normally return. Mobile apps can ensure you never accidentally leave a light on, and allow you to remotely turn lights on or off for security purposes. The U.S. Energy Department also recommended further optimizing your lighting efficiency by switching to LED bulbs, which use 75 percent less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescents.

Take advantage of the sun
One of the world's greatest energy sources, the sun, also happens to be completely free. Opening your curtains or blinds during daylight hours lets more sunlight into your home and reduces the demand on your heating system. Covering windows after the sun sets will help retain heat inside.

Installing new insulation can help your home retain heat during winter.Installing new insulation can help your home retain heat during winter.

Deep retrofitting investments

As the Energy Department noted, homeowners who want to fully optimize their energy performance can undertake deep retrofitting upgrades that can reduce energy consumption by 50 percent or more. While these sorts of improvements require a greater upfront investment, they will also lead to increased savings over time, and in some cases can raise the property value of the home.

Start with doors and windows 
While most of us know not to run our heating system with our windows open, we might not realize the amount of energy that we lose through poorly fitted windows, doors or skylights – even when they're closed. As the Consumer Energy Center found, as much as 30 percent of a home's heat can escape through lose frames and single-pane glass. Upgrading to thicker doors and double-pane windows, as well as replacing the seals around windows and skylights, can keep that energy from getting out.

Don't forget your attic
According to the Energy Department, the largest opportunities for home energy savings can be found in the attic and crawl spaces. If you have access to exposed insulation in your attic, you can install a few additional inches or upgrade to a less porous variety as a DIY weekend project. You may also opt to add more insulation inside the walls, though this may require assistance from a professional. Though a time-consuming project to take on, the perks of a properly insulated attic are felt year round. Increased insulation will cut down on drafts in the winter, but it will also keep your home from getting too warm as the sun beats down on your roof in the summer.

Get a second opinion
For homeowners who want extra guidance on energy improvements, you may consider hiring an energy auditor to conduct a home assessment. An auditor will conduct a room-by-room inspection to target your least efficient areas and help you develop a plan for rolling out home upgrades over time, depending on your budget.

A feel-good effort

You might think there's not enough time in the day to take on these projects with your busy lifestyle. Instead of thinking of retrofitting as one big endeavor to tackle, consider it a gradual investment in your home. Try taking on smaller improvements on the weekends while you save up for bigger upgrades such as increased insulation or new windows. Encourage electricity conservation habits in your family, such as turning down the heat when you go to bed. There are a number of energy saving tips, so no matter your time or budget, you'll be able to find one that suits your home.