Energy Efficient Interior Design

A room with drapes, a chair, and a lamp.

Creating an energy-efficient home utilizing interior design ideas can be a great way to reduce costs on your utility bills. While architects can find ways to utilize thermal mass by deciding on window placement or the best materials for insulation, planning space is just the beginning. The items used to furnish and decorate your home provide the finishing touches of energy-efficient design, which is something any savvy DIYer can do.

Choose Colors Wisely

Believe it or not, the paint color in your home can affect your energy bill. Light colors like white, gray, and beige will reflect heat from surfaces like furniture and walls that tend to absorb it. Dark shades like red, blue, or brown will absorb heat, making your home warmer without you having to touch the thermostat. You don’t have to choose one palette for your whole house, but instead, think about where natural light comes in from windows and what rooms in your home are naturally cooler than others.

Convert to New Light Bulbs

A woman holding two different light bulbs.

Many homeowners don’t realize that a simple upgrade to their light bulbs can have a huge impact on energy savings. LED lights are the most energy-efficient product, but can be costly to change in every room. They make sense in the long-run, however, saving you 75% on energy costs in just one year compared to a traditional incandescent. Compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs will give you similar savings—but they will not last as long. Most LEDs last up to 25,000 hours compared to the CFL life expectancy of 10,000 hours. Either choice is better than newer incandescent bulbs that boast themselves as energy savers; while it may be true to an extent, savings top out at 25% and only last 1,000-3,000 hours.

Update Through Renovation

Most homeowners will tackle a medium-scale renovation at some point, and this can be one of the best times to update the look and energy-efficiency of that space. If you are thinking of redoing a bathroom, look at buying a water-conserving toilet, installing in-floor heating under the tile, or insulating any walls that may not have been prior to the reno. Buying new kitchen appliances can save on energy costs if they are replacing outdated models. Also, consider changing the layout of any space to add more windows on the south end of the home, or open up walls to allow for more light and better air circulation.

Arrange Furniture With Circulation in Mind

A nursery with a rug and wood crib.

The layout of a room should enhance air circulation, so place furnishings away from heating and cooling vents, returns, and radiators. If you can’t get around this, then close off any vent that gets covered. Always leave at least six inches of space between any furniture and a radiator. Also, consider placing an area rug over hardwood floors and underneath beds. Not only will it keep feet warm, but any dense fabric will absorb heat in the room rather than letting it escape. If your home is drafty, consider purchasing high-back chairs and skirted furnishings, and remember to run a ceiling fan counterclockwise to circulate warm air down.

Don't Forget Window Treatments

Different curtains, blinds, and window shades will affect a room’s temperature. In winter months, consider thermal curtains that will thwart cold drafts, and change it up with sheer, airy drapes when warm weather comes that will let in sunshine and breezes. Traditional blinds aren’t great at reducing heat loss but are efficient at keeping hot light from drenching a room. Window shades will block out light and unwanted UV rays in warmer seasons and can reduce heat loss on cold nights, but not all products are made the same. Check out specifically designed options that reduce energy costs like shades with a reflective white side and a darker, heat-grabbing side that can be flipped depending on the season.

Utilize Zone Heating

A fireplace with wood stacked up next to it.

Many homeowners will add a gas fireplace or a decorative space heater to a room, allowing them to utilize “zone heating,” which essentially works by focusing heat in one room and turning down the thermostat to the rest of the house. The purchase and installation costs are anywhere from $100-$2,000, depending on the size and quality of the heat source. But remember that lower utility bills are not guaranteed. Make sure to look for an energy-saving model, and keep in mind that a secondary source is only going to reduce the cost of running your furnace, so the size of the room and how much time is spent there is going to make a difference in any savings. Fireplaces and heaters can add beauty, comfort, and warmth to space, but how and where they are used is essential in saving on the cost of heating.

You don’t have to plan a full-house renovation to benefit from effective design choices. Putting aside some money every so often to invest in smart décor can have a huge impact on your heating and cooling bill. Your budget is going to dictate what you can do, but anyone can make changes to their space with energy-efficient interior design ideas.