Energy costs are on the rise, and the slope seems to be getting steeper. As reported by the New York Times, the national average residential electricity rate increased 8 percent in January of 2022, which marked the biggest annual increase in over a decade.

Learn about the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index, the factors that contribute to the rating, and how your home compares to homes that are of similar size, shape, and type.

How is the HERS Index Calculated?

A certified Home Energy Rater assesses the energy efficiency of a home, assigning it a relative performance score. The lower the number, the more energy efficient the home.

The U.S. Department of Energy has determined that a typical resale home scores 130 on the HERS® Index while a standard new home is awarded a rating of 100. So, a home with a HERS® Index Score of 70 is 30% more energy efficient than a standard new home.

Some of the variables included in an energy rating:

Shea Homes has adopted top of the line technology to increase energy efficiency in our homes. Below are just some of the variables included in the energy rating that Shea Homes uses:

Effective Insulation Systems — High performance insulation helps maintain the desired temperature of the inside of the home. At Shea Homes, many of our plans are built using blown cellulose insulation which offers superior performance and has the added bonus of being made from recycled materials.

High–Performance Windows and Doors — In order for our windows and doors to be effective in the heat, not only does Shea seal them tightly, we also use dual pane, low-e windows with vinyl frames.

Tight Construction and Ducts — Tight construction and ductwork means taking great care to seal every corner and build every room and every wall exactly how it was designed to be. From our framing all the way to our high-quality finishing touches, we’re committed to building homes that keep the inside in and the outside out. In many of our homes, we also use a structural technique called cathedralized insulation which even keeps the attic free from the heat.

ENERGY STAR Qualified Lighting and Appliances — Lastly, Energy Star Homes are furnished with lighting and appliances that meet their own individual Energy Star qualifications.

To see how a lower HERS® Index score could mean savings for you, check out the Interactive HERS® Index model!

Finding ways to save energy and reduce electricity costs can be challenging, but it starts with identifying the source. Explore which appliances use the most energy and offer energy-saving tips that may help you reduce your monthly energy bill.

What Appliances & Items Use the Most Energy in Your Home?

#1. Heating and Cooling  

Your HVAC system (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) takes the cake for the most energy used by a single appliance or system, at 46% of the average US home’s total energy consumption. While the actual wattage may vary depending on the age and efficiency of your system, the average HVAC unit uses a higher number of watts (3000-4500) and runs more frequently compared to your other appliances. Here are some tips to reduce the workload of your HVAC system.

HVAC energy-saving tips:
  • Be aware of peak hours. Peak hours usually occur during the hottest time of day, which coincidentally is the most expensive time of day to run your AC. These vary between states but typically fall between 12 p.m.-6 p.m. Check with your local gas and electric providers to see if they supply peak times for your area.  
  • Avoid setting your AC too low or your heater too high. As a rule of thumb, try to keep your heat settings around 68 degrees in the winter, and your AC settings around 78 degrees in summer. During the summer, we all know to turn the thermostat up when we leave for work during the day, but it’s important not to try to turn your house into an ice box as soon as you get back. 78 degrees is the sweet-spot for keeping your house comfortable without draining the bank. Try cooling things down further with either standing or ceiling fans – they’re much more efficient than turning down the air even a few degrees.
  • Turn the fan on. Running your ceiling fan counterclockwise helps pull up hot air in the summer, and clockwise helps push it down in the winter.
  • Replace air filters as needed to improve energy efficiency.
  • Vacuum or dust vents to prevent clogs and improve airflow.
  • Fix insulation issues to prevent hot or cold air from escaping.
  • Use blankets in the winter to keep warm. All those times your parents nagged you to grab a blanket when you complained about the cold are starting to make sense now!
  • Turn off your HVAC when you’re not home. Or, if you have a smart thermostat, remember to put it on eco to limit energy usage. Some smart thermostats allow you to control your settings from your phone, saving you energy while you're out and keeping you comfortable while you're home. Explore SheaConnect™ smart home features.
​#2. Water Heater

Your water heater is the second-largest energy-hog in the home, using about 14% of the average US home’s total energy consumption. While water heaters are a necessity year-round, there are ways to help them run more efficiently.

Energy-saving tips for your water heater:
  • Set your water heater’s temp to be 120F or lower. Setting it too high can start to run up your electricity bill.
  • Insulate hot water pipes and older water heaters. This can help retain heat, so your water heater doesn’t have to work as hard.
  • Upgrade to a tankless water heater. These are more efficient because they only heat water when needed.
  • Take a shower instead of a bath. On average, running a bath uses about 30 gallons of water or more, while a 10-minute shower uses about 25 gallons. Though this may be a small difference, it can add up over time.
  • Spend less time in the shower. Consider adding a timer in your shower or even just keeping a timer on your phone. This will help you become more aware of how long you’re spending in the shower; and remind you when it is time to step out.
  • Switch to a water-efficient showerhead. Though it may be a higher upfront cost, modern showerheads are designed to flow at a slower rate to conserve water and energy over time.
#3. Lighting  

Lighting accounts for a significant amount of total energy consumption, averaging about 9%. On the bright side, there is no shortage of ways to save.

Energy-saving tips for lighting:
  • Turn off the lights when you leave the room.
  • Use energy-efficient light bulbs, like LED lights. On average, LED bulbs use about 90% less energy than their incandescent counterparts and last up to 25% longer.
  • Use natural light during the day.
  • Install motion detectors on outdoor lights to automatically turn on when you need them and turn off when you don’t.
  • Invest in timer and dimmer switches.
  • Make the switch to a smart switch! Modern smart light switches allow you to turn your lights on and off from anywhere using your phone. With SheaConnect™ you can control your wall switches through voice commands or a connected smart device.
#4. Washer and Dryer 

Your washer and dryer come in fourth, at an average of 5% of total energy consumption. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to save when it comes to your laundry, so keep these tips in mind next time you throw in a load.

Energy-saving tips for your washer and dryer:
  • Wash and dry full loads of laundry, but don’t overfill the machine. This will limit the loads you’re running and help you get the most water for your dollar.
  • Wash with cold water to avoid the use of your water heater. According to some sustainability articles, 90% of the energy used by your washer is actually to heat the water, and only 10% is to actually run the machine. You can see how using cold water to wash your clothes would save quite a bit of energy. Not only will it save you energy, but cold water can be less damaging to clothes, so they may not wear out as fast.
  • Air dry when possible.
  • Clean lint after every load. This helps your dryer run more efficiently and reduces drying time.
  • Use dryer balls. Dryer balls help separate your clothes for optimal airflow. They also help absorb any residual moisture to dry your clothes faster.
  • Use an ENERGY STAR certified washer and dryer. ENERGY STAR certified washers use about 25% less energy and 33% less water than regular washers. Some models also have a moisture sensor feature that will alert the dryer to turn off once the clothes are dry, saving you more time and energy in the long run. Since ENERGY STAR appliances work harder and smarter, we offer them at some of our Shea Home communities.
#5. Refrigerator

Your fridge uses an average of 4% of your home's total energy consumption. While you can’t necessarily use your refrigerator any less, there are still ways to conserve energy.  

Energy-saving tips for your refrigerator:
  • Set your fridge to the manufacturer’s temperature. This is usually indicated somewhere on the panel where you can access the settings.
  • Don’t keep the door open for too long. This helps prevent the cool air from escaping, so your refrigerator doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain the temperature.
  • Clean under your fridge regularly to maintain optimal airflow.
  • Organize your fridge with convenience in mind. Store frequently eaten food in a section of the fridge that is easily accessible to limit the time open.
  • Use an ENERGY STAR certified refrigerator. ENERGY STAR certified refrigerators are about 9% more efficient than their standard counterparts. They also have features like high-efficiency compressors and improved insulation to help your food stay cooler while using less energy.
#6. Electric Oven/Stove

If you cook with an electric oven and stove, they take up about 3% of your home’s total energy usage. Although they don't make a big dent in your electricity bill, it’s still a good idea to save where you can!

Energy-saving tips for your electric oven/stove:
  • Use a smaller appliance such as a toaster oven or air fryer instead of your regular oven. Depending on the size, a toaster oven or air fryer can use up to a third as much energy as a full-sized oven.
  • Try not to cook during peak hours. Instead, use your appliances during cooler hours of the day (hours outside of 12-4 p.m.).
  • Keep your appliances clean. A clean surface will reflect the heat better and can help reduce cook time. If your oven has a self-cleaning feature, use it wisely! Try and only use this after cooking a meal so you can utilize the existing heat.
  • No peeking. Like your refrigerator, keeping your oven door open too long allows the hot air to escape and requires more energy to maintain the temperature. Try to use the oven light to get a sneak peek instead.
  • Take advantage of residual heat. Turn off your stove burner or your oven a few minutes before your dish is done cooking, and let the residual heat do the rest of the work.
  • Match the size of your pan to the size of your burner. If you use a 6-inch pan on an 8-inch burner, you are wasting about 40% of the heat being produced.
 #7. TV/ Media Box Equipment

Your TV and media equipment use close to 3% of the average home’s total energy usage. These might not be quite as crucial to have as some of your other appliances, but they can certainly make life a little more fun, so here are some ways to save.

Energy-saving tips for your TV/Media box equipment:
  • Reduce screen brightness on your TV and monitors.
  • Deactivate standby mode and quick start settings.
  • Adjust the contrast of the tv to standard instead of vivid.
  • Turn off your TV when you aren’t watching. If you like to fall asleep with the TV on, consider investing in a smart TV. Some smart TVs have a timer option to turn off after you’ve fallen asleep.
  • Use ENERGY STAR certified media devices. On average, an ENERGY STAR certified television is 25% more energy efficient than conventional models.
#8. Dishwasher

The average dishwasher uses about 2% of your home’s total energy. However, it can also heat up your home, causing your AC to need to work harder. Although it uses less energy than your other appliances, there are still many ways to save on your dishwasher’s energy usage.

Energy-saving tips for your dishwasher:
  • Wash full loads. Try and avoid running the dishwasher until it is full. This can help reduce the number of times you need to run the dishwasher.
  • Turn off heated dry. Let dishes air dry by propping open the door after dishes are washed.
  • Wash during cooler hours of the day,
  • Scrape, don’t rinse. Most dishwashers built in the last 10 years can get stubborn stains out, so there’s really no need to thoroughly rinse your dishes with any water prior to loading them into the dishwasher. Instead, scrape off any residual food into the trash or disposal. Scraping your dishes before placing them in the dishwasher also helps prevent the need for a second cycle.
  • Use an ENERGY STAR certified dishwasher. A standard-sized ENERGY STAR certified dishwasher only costs about $35 per year to run. They can save you an average of 3,870 gallons of water over your dishwasher's lifetime, a win for your electricity bill and the environment!
#9. Computers and Gaming Devices

Last, and coincidentally also the least, are your computers and gaming devices at 1%. Here are some ways to save.

Energy-saving tips for your computers and gaming devices:
  • Power down your computer or gaming console completely when not in use.
  • Unplug your charger when your device has reached a full charge.
  • Disconnect external devices such as printers or webcams when you aren’t using them. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average charger consumes 0.26 watts of energy when not in use and 2.24 watts when connected to your phone. That number may surprise some, as nothing is actually connected to the charger, but there is a reason unused chargers have been given the nickname “energy vampires”. One charger may not affect your bill so much, but with most households having at least a handful of chargers left plugged in, the cost can grow quickly.
  • Use a smart strip! A smart strip is a great way to unplug multiple devices at once and maximize energy efficiency If you have more than a couple of external devices.

‘Vampire Appliances’ that Are Costing You: What Should You Unplug to Save Energy?

Vampire appliances, also referred to as phantom appliances, are products that siphon energy even when they are turned off. In a recent study done by The Natural Resources Defense Council, it was estimated that these appliances may cost a single household up to $165 per year on average. Unplugging these devices when you aren’t using them can help you save energy and may reduce your electricity bills in the long run.

Common vampire appliances & devices include:

  • Computer
  • ​Printer
  • Central heating furnace
  • Router & Modem
  • Cable box / DVD player
  • Gaming Console
  • Heat styling tools
  • Microwave
  • Air fryer
  • Coffee maker

Investing in an Energy Efficient Future with Shea

Purchasing a new home is a big investment, so it’s important to know that your home is built to last. Shea homes are built to include value-adding energy efficiency features and a combination of materials and equipment that deliver better performance. View our SheaConnect™products.

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