Seasons of Life

Changes in life mean changes in energy use, and opportunities to use that energy more efficiently.

Looking for a rental: Just because you don't own a home doesn't mean you can't expect it to be efficient. Ask your prospective landlord what the energy costs are, and find out which forms of energy you pay for. Ask if any energy-efficiency upgrades are planned. A "free" appliance provided by your landlord may not be such a good deal if energy use is high. Use the appliances wisely: Manage your thermostat well Pay attention to dishwasher, clothes washer, and water heater settings.Meanwhile, lights, computers, televisions, and other devices you own and bring into the home are important energy users — shop wisely when you buy them.

Home purchase: For most of us, buying a home is our greatest investment, and our greatest ongoing costs (not the least of which is energy). Put energy-efficiency on the list of things you consider when hunting for a new home. Find a real estate professional who knows how to help you. Find a home inspector who will evaluate the home's efficiency. Ask for the existing owner's energy bills. Does the house have solar electric or water heating, and if not is there good southern exposure in case you want to add it later? Many people improve their home after purchasing. Look for an energy-efficient mortgage to help finance energy-saving upgrades.

Home remodel: When replacing those old windows, converting that garage to a home office, or building that addition ... this is a golden opportunity to make things efficient (or a time to unwittingly bump up your energy bills). It will be much harder — if even possible — to backfit energy efficiency features later. No-regrets remodeling is the way to go.

Full nest: Having children usually means keeping the heat or air conditioning more than usual, doing more loads of laundry and loads of dishes, taking more baths, or buying a bigger fridge. This increased use of energy means there is even more to save. An energy-saving upgrade once viewed as marginally cost-effective, might be a much better deal now that use is higher. There may be new reasons to upgrade your home or appliances (comfort, safety, services).

Empty next: During times of life when fewer people are living at home, think about that extra fridge in the garage that may no longer need to be left on. Consider retrofitting your heating and cooling system so that certain areas can be isolated. Moving to a smaller home can mean downsizing your energy bill too.

Home sale: More and more, homebuyers are picky about energy use. A super-efficient home is worth more in the eyes of many buyers. Give you home an energy tune-up before putting it on the market. Get a home energy rating and ask your realtor to show off its high performance.