Whether you’re itching to update your interior design or you’re moving into a new home, you’ll need to make lots of decisions about furniture arrangement, window treatments, wall hangings and more. And while you’re sure to make your space reflect your personal style, you should also give some thought to whether your choices help your home become more energy efficient.
Interior design decisions aren’t generally as important to an energy efficient home as the condition of your HVAC system or whether you have sufficient insulation, but they can make a bigger difference than you might think. Use these tips to avoid costly mistakes and even save yourself a few extra dollars each month.
Leave Room for your HVAC System
Before making any choices about furniture placement, it’s important to locate all of the HVAC vents, cold air returns, radiators and thermostats in the rooms you’re decorating. Your HVAC system is like the respiratory system for your home, and if you push a sofa right up against your cold air return, it’s like trying to breathe with a pillow over your face.
Make sure all of your vents are exposed and able to direct treated air toward the middle of the room. Depending on how close the nearest piece of furniture is to a vent, you may want to adjust the vent fins or purchase a vent deflector to help guide the airflow in the right direction.
You should also avoid placing any sources of artificial heat within a few feet of your thermostat, because this can trick your thermostat into thinking that your home is warmer than it really is. Large appliances, light bulbs and even electronics can make several degrees worth of difference if they’re placed too close.
Insulate With Furniture
Ideally, your home’s walls will be sufficiently insulated and its windows will be tightly sealed to avoid drafts. But all homes have imperfections in these areas, and one way to reduce the impact is to use furniture as an additional thermal barrier.
High-back and overstuffed chairs and sofas are great for this purpose, and skirted furniture can help reduce drafts at the floor level. The furniture doesn’t need to be stuffed or upholstered — anything dense, like a bookcase filled with books, can serve as a significant thermal barrier when placed against an exterior wall. Hanging tapestries or quilts on the wall is another way to decorate and insulate at the same time.
Use Carpeting or Rugs
Many homeowners love the look of a shiny hardwood floor. But depending on what kind of insulation lies beneath, a bare floor can be a major source of thermal loss. In raised homes and those with unheated basements, that hardwood floor may be an especially vulnerable thermal barrier.
Area rugs will make a difference in winter and are a decent compromise if you can’t bear the thought of covering your wood floors with carpeting. But if you’re ready to take the plunge, wool carpeting with a thick carpet pad can stop a drafty floor cold.
Use Your Windows Wisely
Unless you have high-efficiency, multi-paned windows throughout your home, odds are good that your windows are a relative weak spot in your energy efficiency scheme. Windows are a common source of drafts, and the sun’s heat can make your air conditioner work overtime in the summer. But with the right window treatments, you can minimize these effects for a fraction of the cost of window replacements.
When it’s cold out, get as much free heat as possible out of sun-facing windows by letting the sunshine stream in. But when it’s shady or dark, use thick curtains or lightweight cellular shades to help reduce the loss of warm air. During the summer, use blinds or shades with a light-colored or reflective backing to block out unwanted solar heat.
Redesigning your home is a fun and exciting process that can breathe new life into familiar spaces. But when your design updates also complement your energy efficiency strategy, you’ll create rooms that are as comfortable as they are stylish — all while reducing your utility bills.
Want to save even more? Sign up for an electricity plan with Direct Energy and you’ll get the tools you need to track your usage and stay energy efficient.