The Energy Efficient Home

How much energy do you use?
On average, an American home’s energy bills total $2000 per year – that’s almost $170 per month.The breakdown is typically as follows:

  • 45% Heating and cooling
  • 15% Appliances
  • 14% Water heating
  • 12% Lighting
  • 14% Other

How much energy can you save?
According to the EPA by utilizing Energy Star qualified products and best practices, a household can potentially reduce their energy cost by 1/3, or about $700 annually. Six key areas to save money:

Home Sealingair seal

Sealing and insulating the “envelope” or “shell” of your home — its outer walls, ceiling, windows, doors, and floors — is often the most cost-effective way to improve energy efficiency and comfort. Leak sites in the home are typically broken down as follows:

  • 31% Floors, walls, ceilings
  • 15% Ducts
  • 14% Fireplace
  • 13% Plumbing
  • 11% Doors
  • 10% Windows
  • 4% Fans and vents
  • 2% Electrical outlets

Air leakage occurs when outside air enters a house uncontrollably through cracks and openings. Properly air sealing such cracks and openings in your home can significantly reduce heating and cooling costs, improve building durability, and create a healthier indoor environment.

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Insulation
Insulatioin
To make a home as energy efficient as possible, insulation should be present in the attic, crawl space, floors, walls, and even the basement. Properly insulating your home will not only help reduce your heating and cooling costs, but it will also make your home more comfortable.For insulation to work, it must stay in place, and it needs to be installed without gaps, voids, compression, and low spots. It’s crucial for it to stay dry, and to touch the air barriers.

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Lighting
Artificial lighting consumes almost 15% of a household’s electricity use. An incandescent light bulb converts 90% of its electrical usage to heat – and only 10% of its usage to light. In contrast, a CFL uses 75% less energy and lasts 10% longer. When translating this to dollars and cents, consider this: a 100 Watt incandescent left on for 24 hours/day for 30 days will cost approximately $7.20. However, an equivalent 25 Watt CFL left on with the same use over the same time period would cost only $1.80. Now, multiply that by how many light bulbs are used in the household, and you can get a good idea of energy savings!
You can reduce lighting energy use by selecting lighting and sources that use energy more efficiently, and by installing lighting controls.

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Water Heating
Water heating can account for 14% of the energy bill in your home. You can reduce your monthly water heating bills by selecting the appropriate water heater for your home or pool and by using some energy-efficient water heating strategies:

  • Water temperature should be set between 110 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Tanks should be drained every six months to remove sediment
  • Water pipes should be insulated
  • Heat traps should be installed
  • Tank should be insulated

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Appliances and Phantom Loads
If you live in a typical U.S. home, your appliances and home electronics are responsible for about 15% of your energy bills. These appliances and electronics include the following:

  • Clothes washers and dryers
  • Computers
  • Dishwashers
  • Home audio equipment
  • Refrigerator and freezers
  • Room air conditioners
  • Televisions, DVD players, and VCRs
  • Ceiling fans

There are ways to minimize the pull from your existing appliances, even if they’re not Energy Star. For example, ceiling fans help to reduce your cooling cost; however, they must be used properly! An easy fix: Remember to turn off a fan when you’re not in the room – fans cool the person, not the room! Also, run washing machines and dishwashers only when they’re full; in washing the clothes, use cool water only… studies have shown that there is no significant difference between washing with warm or hot water and washing with cold. Save the heating! Also, use the clothes dryer on automatics sensor dry cycles only (if your dryer offers this option).
When shopping for new appliances, look for Energy Star labels, which appear on appliances and home electronics that meet strict energy efficiency criteria established by the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Energy Star labeling program includes most home electronics and appliances (including clothes washers, dehumidifiers, dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers, HVAC, air cleaners, and fans). Stove ranges and ovens are currently not labeled by Energy Star.
“Phantom loads” (sometimes also called “Vampire Loads) are appliances that draw electricity even when they are off. This includes the TV, microwave, VCR/DVD, computer monitors, cell phone chargers, and video games. Solutions: install power strips, so you can turn several items off at once (while also making it easy to turn the appliance(s) off and on); cut off power to your appliances when they’re not in use; unplug items that aren’t needed, and install power control systems.

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Heating and Cooling
Heating and cooling account for about 45% of the energy use in a typical U.S. home, making it the largest energy expense for most homes. A wide variety of technologies are available for heating and cooling your home, and they achieve a wide range of efficiencies in converting their energy sources into useful heat or cool air for your home. In addition, many heating and cooling systems have certain supporting equipment in common, such as thermostats and ducts, which provide opportunities for saving energy.
For example, for optimum efficiency, it is important to have a programmable thermostat. In considering your set temperature, remember that each degree in temperature change can save approximately 3% in cost (good energy saving settings would be 68 degrees Fahrenheit in winter, and 78 degrees Fahrenheit in summer). Set it to automatically go up higher in the summer or lower in the winter when people are typically not home or sleeping. Keep your fan set to auto, because manually turning it on and off makes it work harder for longer.
When looking for ways to save energy in your home, be sure to think about not only improving your existing heating and cooling system, but also consider the energy efficiency of the supporting equipment and the possibility of either adding supplementary sources of heating or cooling or simply replacing your system altogether.

The efficiency of a homes HVAC goes beyond just the use of it.  It is critical that a system be designed correctly in the first place.  Each home should have a Manual J and Manual D performed on the home prior to installing the new system.  These calculations determine the proper sizing of the system and duct work to ensure the system operates at the optimal efficiency.  A highly efficient system with a poorly designed duct system can actually perform worse than a lower efficiency system with properly designed ducts.

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Habits!
In addition to making sure all of your equipment and installations are at optimum efficiency, also look at your habits. Little things that can add up to a lot:

  • Reduce your shower times
  • Cut off the water while brushing your teeth
  • Cut off lights when you are leaving the room for more than 15 minutes
  • Cut off appliances when they’re not in use, and use power strips
  • Use natural conditioning when possible – not the HVAC
  • Cut off ceiling fans when you aren’t in the room
  • Remain energy conscious!

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