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Let the summer breeze in rather than run the AC. (Photo Credit: Istock/blair_witch)

Many North Fork homeowners plan to spend the next few weeks getting ready for summer: finishing any gardening projects, opening up their pools (if they have one) and making sure their guest rooms are stocked with the essentials to make friends and family feel at home.

One thing they might also consider? Looking into ways to make their homes more energy-efficient.

The possibilities run the gamut from easy, DIY fixes like swapping out lightbulbs to appliance and landscaping upgrades that can result in significant cost savings now and down the road. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that you can save about 30 percent on your utility bills with a host of efficiency measures like upgrading your HVAC system, correctly air-sealing and insulating your home, and installing a programmable thermostat.

Bridget Elkin, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson, Compass, is a big fan of the programmable thermostat. Many will take note of your usage patterns and automatically adjust the temperature settings to those most efficient for your household. They also allow you to control the A/C remotely, which means on hot and humid days you can get your system running while on your way home from a day on the water or wine-tasting.

“By programming your heating and cooling,” she says, “you can pinpoint temperatures the home should be at while you are sleeping or out of the house. This reduces our reliance on fossil fuels, allows you to save on energy costs and puts less stress on your HVAC system in the long run.” 

A tankless water heater can also work well for those with homes on the North Fork.

“Since some homebuyers are often second homeowners on the North Fork, energy-efficient features in a home can be beneficial when homeowners spend time away,” says Susan Orioli, owner/licensed real estate broker at NOFO Real Estate. “One such feature is the tankless, on-demand hot water heater, which conserves energy and incurs less fuel usage overall. The units are highly efficient and heat hot water only when it’s needed, unlike traditional units that are making hot water all day and night.”  

Elkin estimates installing a tankless water heater can cut energy needed to heat water by half. As a hack, you can also turn a traditional water heater to its lowest setting — or to “vacation mode,” if your heater has done — when you are away from your home in summer.

Many homeowners look to landscaping to drive up curb appeal or to create distinct zones in their backyards. It can also be used to make your home more energy-efficient. Trees, shrubs or other plantings strategically placed near windows to block or diminish direct sunlight can save up to 25 percent of the energy a household uses.

What’s in your kitchen also comes into play. If you plan on renovating and replacing your appliances, you may look into Energy Star-rated refrigerators, which use 15 percent less energy than other models. What’s more, those with top-mounted freezers use ten to 15 percent less energy than fridges with side-by-side or bottom-mount units. Some dishwashers also come with the Energy-Star rating. They use 4.25 gallons of heated water per cycle; those bought before 1994 use 10 gallons.

There are other ways to create a more energy-efficient home without spending a lot: upgrading to LED lightbulbs, having your insulation and windows checked for drafts, and drying your clothes on a line outside.

“We are lucky to be living in an age of innovation,” said Elkin, “when we can make simple improvements to our homes that allow us to live greener and save money in the process.”