Lower Living Costs

5 Decisions to Lower Your Living Costs

Certain decisions you make today will save you money long-term, which means you’ll enjoy lower living costs year after year. These savings can add up to thousands of dollars. But with all the choices you need to make when building a new home, how do you know which ones can save you the most money? The choices below will put you on the right path.

1. Choose an Energy-Efficient Heating & Air Conditioning System

Like many homeowners, you spend more than 50% of your monthly energy budget on heating and cooling your home, so it’s one of the first places you’ll want to make energy-efficient choices.

In most areas, a high-efficiency natural gas furnace costs up to 40% less to operate than an electric heat pump or electric furnace.

Today’s gas furnaces are up to 98% efficient. They’re also highly durable and last longer than any other type of heating and air conditioning system. On average, a natural gas furnace will last six years longer than an electric heat pump. For added savings, natural gas furnaces do not require expensive back-up or supplemental systems.

Also, look for a system with a variable speed blower motor, which uses less electricity compared to a single speed blower. By gradually and comfortably heating and cooling your home, it often runs at lower levels—making it a smart choice for energy efficiency.

For a personalized, instant report on how much you’ll save with natural gas, visit our Home Heating Savings Calculator.

2. Install an Energy-Efficient Water Heater

A water heater is the second largest user of energy in your home. That’s why it’s important to look at the long-term savings when comparing natural gas water heating vs. electric.

With natural gas water heaters, you can:

  • Heat water at half the operating cost of electric water heaters.
  • Heat water twice as fast as electricity.
Estimated Annual Energy Operating Costs
Family of 2 Family of 4
Electric Water Heater $261 $523
Natural Gas Water Heater $116 $232
Yearly Savings on Operating Costs $145 $291

Estimated Installed Equipment Economics
Family of 2 Family of 4
Electric Water Heater Price $550 $550
Natural Gas Water Heater Price $1,500 $1,500
Premium for Natural Gas Water Heater $950 $950
Monthly Amount Added to Mortgage
(Assumes 30-year mortgage @ 5% interest rate)
$5.10 $5.10
Monthly Savings on Home Utility Bills $12.08 $24.25
Monthly Positive Cash Flow $6.98 $19.15
Natural Gas Investment Payback (in years) 6.6 3.3

For as little as $5 month, you can save year over year on your water heating operating costs!

3. Don’t Skimp on Home Insulation

Inadequate insulation and air leakage are major causes of energy waste. Properly installed insulation is like giving your home a warm overcoat in the winter and a giant awning in summer. Not only does it keep your family more comfortable, the right insulation helps lower your heating and cooling costs.

There are several kinds of insulation used in today’s homes:

  • The most common is fiberglass insulation, the fluffy, pink stuff you often see being placed between studs during new home construction. It can also be blown in place.
  • Sprayed foam insulation is another popular option. It stops air leaks and can be sprayed into tight spaces where other insulation can’t be installed.
  • Cellulose insulation is made of wood fiber, primarily recycled newspapers and cardboard.

Insulation is rated with an R-value. This number measures resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating effectiveness—and the better the insulation material is at reducing energy consumption.

4. Select Windows Meeting ENERGY STAR Guidelines

In the Northeast, with the extremes of cold winters and hot summers, you’ll save a lot on heating and air conditioning bills when you have energy-efficient windows throughout your new home.

Choose ENERGY STAR-rated windows. Windows bearing this emblem meet federal guidelines for energy efficiency, so don’t settle for less. The leading names in window manufacturers all have ENERGY STAR-rated products.

Double-pane insulated windows insulate better than single-pane windows, whether it’s for smaller functional windows, decorative windows, or large sliding glass doors to a patio or deck. Double-panes contain air or gas in the space between the two pieces of glass. For the ultimate in maximum energy efficiency, there are triple-pane windows, an upgrade your builder may offer.

Look for heat-resistant Low-E special coatings. Low-E, which stands for low emissivity, is a reflective coating applied to the glass surface inside the window. It works two ways: In the summer, it reflects the sun on the exterior, keeping the heat out, and in winter it reflects the interior heat back into the house, right where you want it.

Well-made frames help insulate and reduce loss of heat in the winter. The best materials for frames include fiberglass (strong, low maintenance), vinyl (low maintenance, good thermal insulation), and wood (strong, provides good insulation, often clad in aluminum or vinyl to reduce maintenance). There are also combination frames, using different materials separately throughout the frame and sash, and composite frames, made of various materials.

Windows add beauty, light and a feeling of openness to a new home. And when you choose energy-efficient windows, they’ll also increase your home comfort and annual savings for years to come.

5. Plant Shade Trees

Beyond the benefits of their natural beauty, shade trees are a natural way to save energy.

Choosing the proper trees and planting them in the optimum locations will reduce your air conditioning expenses. Large deciduous trees planted on the south and west sides of your home create soothing shade from the hot summer sun and can reduce your summer air conditioning costs by up to 30%. What’s more, choosing plantings that shade your air conditioner will help keep it cooler and running more efficiently.

In winter, when the leaves fall, warming sunlight shines through the trees and bathes the house in sunshine.