Decorating your home to save energy

Let’s talk about a way to make saving energy at home fun and stylish! Often we are busy stressing home energy upgrades that can’t be seen like sealing ducts, adding insulation, or upgrading your HVAC system (which will save you a ton!).  But at a time when a lot of televisions (ENERGY STAR® I hope) are defaulting to HGTV and you can spend hours a day pinning your dream home decor, I wanted to show how you can design and decorate your home to save energy. Whether you’re going through a major home renovation, or want to take things one room at a time, these tips can help!


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Whether you’re redecorating or not,  there’s no better time to switch to LED bulbs. They are getting more and more affordable by the day, and they are the most efficient bulbs on the market. A home lighting store can help you find the most stylish and efficient fixtures there are! Bonus: If you don’t already have them, install dimmers which are now compatible with (most) LED bulbs. A dimmer, less harsh light can be more aesthetically pleasing, and help keep utility costs down.

If you’re replacing outdoor lighting look into solar and/or motion sensor lighting so you’re not using more light than you need.

Use this interactive lighting guide opens in a new window by ENERGY STAR® to help choose the right bulb for every room in the house.


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As you know, darker colors absorb heat while lighter colors reflect it. When painting rooms keep in mind the direction the room is facing, and therefore the amount of heat gain it can take in from the windows.  Rooms facing the north, which generally get no direct sun light, are perfect for deeper, warmer colors like reds, oranges, and yellows. Rooms facing the south or west, which generally get the most heat gain from the sun, are great for cooler colors like greens, blues, and purples.

There have been tests done that show how the color of a room affects people’s perception of temperature. According to opens in a new window, people estimate the temperature of a room painted with cool colors, to be 6-10 degrees cooler than the actual temperature. Warm colors result in a 6-10 degrees warmer estimate. 

Here’s a tip: Most major paint manufacturers tell you the Light Reflectance Value (LRV) of any color paint chip. White reflects 80% of the light, black 5%. Therefore, the higher the LRV number of the paint color, the less artificial light you will need.

Be careful not to go overboard. Lots of lights combined with a very light and cool wall color can be too bright, creating a glare. This can cause eye irritation, headaches, and a general sense of discomfort.

Drapes & Curtains

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Just like color can help manage the temperature of a room, so can drapes and curtains. In the winter, drapes and curtains can help keep the cold out, when they are closed. Therefore, in winter, you should close all draperies at night, as well as draperies that don’t receive sunlight during the day. In the summer, keep the curtains closed during the day to keep the warm air out, but open them at night once the sun has set and the temperature drops. According to the US Department of Energy opens in a new window, studies show that medium-colored draperies with white-plastic backings can reduce heat gain by 33% in warm summer months. When drawn during cold weather, most conventional draperies can reduce heat loss from a warm room up to 10%.


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Did you know you can set your thermostat 3 degrees warmer and use a ceiling fan to feel just as cool? Just remember one thing: fans cool people, not rooms—make sure you turn the fan off when you leave the room. Also, make sure the bulbs in your ceiling fan are LEDs so it’s as efficient as possible.

Cool opens in a new window/Green Roofs

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If it’s the often dreaded time on your homeowner timeline and you need to replace your roof, there are many options to consider. Sunlight beats directly on your roof for a majority of the day, so why not choose roofing that could save you money on both heating and cooling costs? Options such as cool roofs and green roofs opens in a new window are becoming more and more popular because of their environmental, health, and budget benefits. Do your research before defaulting to the standard roofing options—you never know, you may become the “coolest home” on the block!


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A skylight can provide your home with daylighting and ventilation. When properly selected and installed, an energy-efficient skylight can help minimize your heating, cooling, and lighting costs. Here’s a good tip: as a rule of thumb, the skylight size should never be more than 5% of the floor area in rooms with many windows and no more than 15% of the room’s total floor area for spaces with few window opens in a new windows. To prevent unwanted heat gain from the sun, install the skylight in the shade of deciduous tree or add a window covering on the inside or outside of the skylight. Some units have special glazing that help control solar heat gain.


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Be sure not to place wall hangings or lamps near a thermostat. A thermostat measures the air directly around it to indicate the temperature of the room. If a light is placed near the thermostat, it could indicate the room is warmer than it really is, causing your system to run more frequently. 

Having a throw blanket on the couch can add dimension and a nice pop of color. Plus, to keep heating costs down it’s good to have a blanket around to wrap up with. 

Just when you thought saving energy couldn’t be fun, or stylish, we give you this! Remember, to save even more energy at home, consider getting a home energy audit. Find a certified contractor through your electric utility who will test your home to see if you’re losing large amounts of energy. Often they’ll recommend upgrades like adding attic insulation, or sealing air leaks around windows and doors. They can take care of that, while you decorate to save energy!

Before you know it you’ll be more comfortable and stylish in your home–and with all of the money you could save on utility bills, it may even pay you!

Posted by: Brenna Reed. Brenna is the Sustainability Educator for the City of Columbia and is coordinating the City’s competitive efforts in the Georgetown University Energy Prize opens in a new window.