Living Green: Energy Conservation

Home Energy Audits

Is your power bill getting you down? Conduct a home energy audit. A home energy audit shows you what you can do to make your home more energy efficient. By correcting problems revealed in an energy audit, you may be able to save significant amounts of money and reduce your home’s energy consumption. You can start by tackling the easiest or least expensive projects first. Caulking air leaks around window and door frames and using more efficient lighting can make a world of difference.

You can learn more about energy audits and how to conduct your own by visiting the U. S. Department of Energy website.

Additional information is available on the Energy Star website. Energy Star is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. The goal of this program is to help everyone save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices.

Staying Cool

Saving Energy during Air Conditioning Season

If you have to get cool this summer with the help of an air conditioner, keep these tips in mind to help the environment and lighten your electric bill at the same time:

  1. For every degree you raise your thermostat, you can cut energy use by about 3%. By increasing the temperature by 3 degrees, you can save about 378 pounds of CO2 per year.
  2. Ceiling fans can help supplement air conditioning, allowing you to set the thermostat at a higher temperature without reducing comfort. For every degree you raise your thermostat, you can save 7-10% on cooling costs. In summer, ceiling fan blades should turn in a counter-clockwise direction. If a room is unoccupied, turn off the fan to save energy. For the most efficient ceiling fan, purchase an Energy Star model. For more, visit Energy Star’s website.
  3. Boost the efficiency of your AC by using a programmable thermostat. Then, you can set the time the air conditioner turns on, and turn the temperature up 4° and use fans to help move the cold air through your home.
  4. Make sure heating and cooling ducts in your home are properly sealed.
  5. Change the air filter regularly on your unit.
  6. Keep lamps, TV’s, and other heat-emitting appliances away from the thermostat, so your AC doesn’t turn on more frequently than necessary.
  7. Keep blinds and drapes closed during the day to reduce solar heat in your home. If possible, install white window shades, drapes, or blinds to reflect heat away from the house.
  8. If you’re investing in a new AC unit, consider buying an Energy Star model which can save 20% more energy than a standard model.

Need a New Central Air Conditioning Unit?

Most homes have a central air conditioning unit with a 10 SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating). By choosing a new Energy Star qualified unit with a SEER of 14, you can reduce CO2 emissions by about 1,540 pounds annually, assuming it’s on for 1,320 cooling hours, or 8 hours a day for 5-6 months. And make sure your contractor does correct sizing calculations, so you don’t install a unit that’s bigger than you need. It will cost more and require larger ducts to handle its higher airflow. The unit also may fail to provide the expected comfort.

Plant Trees!

You could save over 20 of dwellings with air-conditioning, the energy savings would be enough to shut down three coal-fired power plants. (From The Green Book by Elizabeth Rogers and Thomas M. Kostigen.)

Keeping Warm

Here are a few ways to keep warm and go green this winter:

  1. Let in the sun. The sun provides natural light and warmth. Open your curtains to take advantage. Close them in the evening for insulation.
  2. Install a programmable thermostat. Set the temperature lower when you aren’t in the house. Save some green and you won’t even notice the temperature difference. Heating a cold building uses less energy than constantly maintaining a warm temperature. A rule of thumb is a 1. This does not apply to complex systems which involve simultaneous use of heating and cooling.
  3. Stop the drafts. For about $30 you can stop drafts near windows and doors by sealing them with caulk or weather stripping. You’ll save that much in a month.

Each small action on the part of an individual, when combined with the actions of others, makes great strides toward improving our environment, and sustaining our way of life.

Source: Smart Energy Design Assistance Center

Appliances & Electronics

Replace Your Appliances

Even though energy efficient appliances and electronics can be pricey, they are well worth the investment. They use as much as half the energy it requires to run a standard model, which makes them less expensive in the long run, and better for the environment, as they lessen the amount of greenhouse gases emitted.

Save Energy with Your Water Heater

For every 10 degrees you reduce your hot water heater’s temperature, CO2 emissions are reduced by about 3-5%, or 733 pounds annually. Setting the thermostat at about 120 degrees, or between low and medium, is a reasonable temperature.

Source: U.S. Department of Energy

Ghosts & Phantoms in Electronics

True or False?  When an appliance is off, it does not use energy.

False. This is a myth. Many devices actually consume energy even when off. Televisions, chargers, clocks, and other devices may have “vampire” or “phantom” loads, requiring standby power even when the device is “off.”

Though the standby power for many individual devices can be small, it adds up to about 5% of electricity usage. Plugging devices into power strips, and actually turning them off, will reduce your energy consumption. Some power strips are enabled with occupancy sensors, so they turn off when there’s no activity in the area.

Source: Smart Energy Design Assistance Center

Computers & Florescent Lights

True or False: Computers and florescent lights should remain on to save energy?

False! The small spike in initial energy consumption is greatly outweighed by the energy required to operate either of them for even a short amount of time.

Though there is a surge of energy use when a fluorescent lamp is first turned on, it only lasts for about 1/10 of a second and is equivalent to about 5 seconds of normal operation. The amount of energy consumed by leaving a light on is far greater than the initial spike in energy consumption required to power a fluorescent lamp.

To save energy, turn your lights off if you’ll be out of the room. Installing occupancy sensors can automatically turn off the lights in a room that has been unoccupied for a specified amount of time. For computers, take advantage of power management options, like hibernate or stand-by.

Source: Steve Selkowitz, Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, Smart Energy Design Assistance Center