YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Saving Energy at Home
The average household spends $1,500 each year on utility bills. This cost could be reduced considerably by investments in energy-efficient technologies.
When buying a new home, a smart consumer should demand energy efficiency. Although a more energy-efficient house might cost more, depending on the technologies employed, the improvements usually pay for themselves in two or three years. Any time spent in the home after the payback period means substantial energy savings. Energy efficiency has become an essential element of design codes nationwide and will almost certainly be an important part of future home designs.
Some energy-saving improvements, such as thicker wall insulation, are easier to install while the home is being built. Other improvements can be made in older homes to enhance energy efficiency and, as a result, reduce the cost of heating the homes. Examples include installing thicker attic insulation, installing storm windows and doors, replacing inefficient furnaces and refrigerators, and adding heat pumps.
Many of the same improvements also provide energy savings when a home is air-conditioned. Additional cooling efficiency is achieved by insulating the air conditioner ducts, especially in the attic; buying an energy-efficient air conditioner; and shading the south and west sides of a house with deciduous trees. Window shades and awnings on south- and west-facing windows can help reduce the heat a building gains from its environments. Ceiling fans can supplement air conditioners by making a room feel comfortable at a higher thermostat setting. Make sure, however, that your ceiling fan is set to draw warm air toward the ceiling in the summer, and reverse this setting in the winter.
Other energy savings in he home include replacing incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient compact fluorescent lightbulbs; installing a programmable thermostat, which can cut heating and air-conditioning costs up to 33%; lowering the temperature setting on water heaters to 140F (with a dishwasher) or 120F (without); and installing low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators to reduce the amount of hot water used.
How does a homeowner learn which improvements will result in the most substantial energy savings? In addition to reading the many articles on energy efficiency that appear in newspapers and magazines, a good way to learn about your home is to have a comprehensive energy audit done. Most local utility companies can send an energy expert to your home to perform an audit for little or no charge. The audit will determine the total energy consumed and where the thermal losses are occurring (through the ceiling, floors, walls, or windows). On the basis of this assessment, the energy expert will then make recommendations about how you can reduce your heating and cooling bills.
Go Green Room-by-Room
- Do not block vents.
- Caulk and weather-strip windows and doors.
- Install water-saving faucets and shower heads. Take shorter showers.
- Use a microwave rather than a stove to heat/cook small portions of food.
- Keep coils clean of refrigerator. Also, keep refrigerator full.
- Unplug televisions and other appliances when away for an extended period.
- Close damper when fireplace is not in use. Install tempered glass fireplace doors.
- Use compact fluorescent bulbs. Turn off lights when leaving a room.
- Set winter thermostat to 68F or lower and summer thermostat at 78F or higher
- Clean or replace air filters in heating/cooling systems. Check ducts for leakage.
- Wash full loads only in washer, dryer, and dishwasher. Wash clothes in cold water.