Make Your Home Energy Efficient for Summer!
May is the perfect month to start getting your home ready for the summer – energy ready that is. Here are some tips to help you get started.
- Change the filters in your HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) system. Dirty filters contribute to indoor air pollution and increase energy costs by making your HVAC work harder.
- If don’t already have a programmable thermostat, now’s a good time to invest in one. A programmable thermostat can save you a significant amount of money over a long, hot summer.
- Test your system by setting your thermostat to cool and turn down the temperature. The air conditioner should start cooling your home; if it doesn’t, that means there’s a problem. Call a certified RESNET HVAC contractor to find out what the problem is.
- If you need to replace your air conditioner, do it now before the hot weather kicks in.
- If you have an outside AC unit, remove any debris that may have accumulated during the winter. Also, consider trimming or removing plants, leaves, or high grass that is located close to the unit. These could have a negative impact on your unit.
- Check your windows and doors for any leaks. Leaky windows and doors let hot outdoor air in while allowing cool indoor air to escape. The result is your HVAC has to work harder and your energy bills go up, so make sure you seal those leaks!
- Check your ductwork for any leaks. Sealing leaky ducts can save you anywhere from 10 to 20% on your heating and cooling bills.
- Examine your home’s exterior for any wear and tear or damage. Harsh winter weather can inflict some serious punishment to a home’s outer walls, exterior doors and roof. Making repairs now will not only lead to a more enjoyable summer, but also give you a head start on preparing for next winter.
To get a comprehensive idea of how to make your home energy efficient for summer, talk to a certified RESNET Home Energy Professional. They’ll be able to pinpoint where and how your home is losing energy, and offer cost-effective solutions to rectify the problems.
Which Appliances Cost the Most Money to Run?
Appliances that are not operating in an energy efficient way can be one of the reasons for your high energy bills. If you’re wondering which appliances cost the most money to run, here’s a list of the top five:
1. Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning
The heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system comes in at number one on the list. Up to 44 percent of the typical American homeowner’s utility bill will go towards their HVAC costs. According to ENERGY STAR, once your HVAC system has hit the 15-year mark, you’ll probably have to look into upgrading to an energy efficient version. If replacing your HVAC system is not feasible, here are some steps you can take to help your system work more efficiently:
- Install a programmable thermostat to regulate temperatures.
- Schedule routine maintenance for your HVAC with a RESNET Qualified EnergySmart HVAC contractor.
- Seal and insulate the ducts in your home.
- Ensure your vents are clear of blockage, i.e., furniture, etc.
2. Water Heater
The water heater is number two on the list. According to the Department of Energy (DOE), water heating can account for about 18 percent of a household’s utility bill. Some tips to reduce your water heating costs include:
- Consider installing low-flow faucets and showerheads.
- Repair leaky faucets ASAP – a leaky faucet results in gallons of wasted water.
- Set the thermostat on your water heater to 120°F (a comfortable hot water temperature for most uses).
- Insulate your electric hot-water storage tank.
3. Refrigerator and Freezer
According to the DOE, refrigerators consume the most energy of all kitchen appliances. If your fridge or freezer is more than 15 years old, your best bet is to replace it with a new energy efficient ENERGY STAR model. If that’s not currently an option, you could also:
- Disable the power-saver switch if your fridge has one. This switch activates indoor heaters to reduce external condensation; if you don’t have external condensation, you don’t need the heaters.
- Set the ideal temperatures:
- Refrigerators: 36˚F – 38˚F
- Freezers: 0˚F – 5˚F
- Defrost regularly – more than 0.25 inch of frost buildup impacts energy efficiency.
- Check the door seals by closing the door on a piece of paper to see if it’s held firmly in place; if not, you need to replace the seal.
4. Clothes Dryer
Clothes dryers rank number four on the list. If your dryer is equipped with a moisture sensor, this can be used to increase its efficiency and reduce energy consumption. The moisture sensor turns your dryer off once the clothes are dry. Some other dryer tips include:
- Dry full loads to maximize electricity usage.
- Dry towels and heavier cottons separately from lighter-weight clothes.
- Clean the lint screen after every drying cycle; it improves air circulation and prevents fire hazards.
The last on the list is the dishwasher, which accounts for around two percent of a typical household’s annual electricity bill. If your model dates from 1994 or earlier, it’s time to replace it with an energy efficient ENERGY STAR qualified dishwasher. Otherwise, here are some tips you can follow to reduce your dishwasher’s energy usage:
- Don’t rinse off your dishes – scrape off large food pieces and bones. Only soak or pre-wash dishes with burned or dried-on food.
- Run your dishwasher only when it’s full (but not overloaded).
- Avoid using the “rinse hold” function for only a few dishes; it uses 3-7 gallons of hot water per use.
To find out which systems in your home are operating inefficiently and costing you money, you should contact a certified RESNET Home Energy Auditor for a home energy audit. This is the best way to learn how to make your home more energy efficient.
Five Common Energy-saving Myths
There are a lot of energy-saving tips out there that claim to help you reduce your energy costs and increase your financial savings. Unfortunately, they’re not all true. Here are five of the most common energy-saving myths.
1. Keeping a Ceiling Fan Running Cools the Room
Rooms don’t feel hot – people do. Therefore, there’s no benefit to running a fan in an empty room; it just wastes electricity and money. The way a fan works is by circulating the air in the room, which when it makes contact with skin, makes us feel cooler. It doesn’t actually change the temperature of the room. A better option is to turn the fan off when you leave the room and save on the energy cost.
2. Setting the Thermostat Higher Heats Your Home Faster
You might think that by walking into a cold room and cranking the thermostat up to 88˚F is going to make the room heat up faster. You would be wrong. It’s like repeatedly pressing the elevator button to make it come faster: it’s not going to make a difference. Thermostats direct a home’s HVAC system to heat or cool to a certain temperature; setting a higher temperature won’t influence the speed at which a home is heated. In fact, you may waste energy by forgetting to reset the temperature once the home has been heated. Instead, simply set the thermostat to your ideal temperature. The same principle applies to cooling a house.
3. Turning Your Computer on and off Wastes Energy
This is a very common energy-saving myth. Today’s computers are more energy efficient than ever before, and by turning them off when not in use, you can save a great deal of energy and money. You can also take advantage of built-in energy-saving features such as the “sleep” function that essentially puts your computer to sleep when not in use and wakes it when you go back to it. Again, this saves what would otherwise be a lot of wasted energy.
4. Closing Vents and Registers in Unused Rooms Saves Energy
HVACs function as balanced systems; by closing off one vent, it places a strain on other areas of the system, forcing it to use more energy rather than less. There’s no point in shutting off vents and registers in an effort to save energy – you’re probably doing the opposite instead. A better way is to set the thermostat a couple of degrees higher in summer or lower in winter.
5. Save Energy by Washing Dishes by Hand Instead of the Dishwasher
What many people may not realize is that hand washing dishes actually uses more hot water per load than using a dishwasher. Many modern dishwashers have energy efficiency settings that use less water and energy to keep costs down. Take advantage of these settings to save money and energy when doing your dishes.
For more energy-saving tips, visit the RESNET Smart Home. The typical American family spends nearly $2,000 a year on energy, and unfortunately a lot of that money goes on wasted energy. To find out more on how to save money and energy, contact your local certified RESNET Home Energy Auditor for an energy audit.
Pay Less in Utility Bills!
High utility bills are a major problem for many American households. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce those costs and pay less in utility bills.
1. Opt for time-based electricity rates:
- Utilities vary price according to time-of-day usage.
- Apply for any available rebates offered by your utility.
2. Invest in energy-saving products:
- A programmable thermostat can save you up to 10% on heating and cooling bills.
- ENERGY STAR qualified appliances reduce your costs by up to 30% through using less energy.
- Use energy efficient lighting like compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) that use one-quarter to one-third of the power of incandescent bulbs.
- Look for low-flow faucets and showerheads to reduce water costs.
3. Reduce energy wastage in your home:
- Turn off lights when leaving a room.
- Unplug electronic devices that are not in use.
- Do your laundry in cold water.
- Match pots and pans with the same size burners on your stove.
4. Check to see if your home is suffering from energy efficiency issues:
- Check the insulation in the attic, exterior and basement walls, ceilings, floors, and crawl spaces. There could be gaps or insufficient insulation that is letting the cold penetrate into your living area.
- Look for air leaks around wall and ceiling joints, windows, doors, light and plumbing fixtures, switches, and electrical outlets.
- If you have a fireplace, check to make sure you don’t have an open damper.
- How energy efficient is your HVAC? Is it being properly maintained?
To fully understand how you can maximize your energy savings and pay less in utility bills, contact a certified RESNET Home Energy Auditor for an energy audit. Energy audits are detailed home examinations that pinpoint areas where a home is losing energy. Certified RESNET Auditors are energy efficiency specialists who can propose cost-effective solutions that make your home more comfortable and reduce costs. Talk to your local RESNET Home Energy Auditor about how they can assist you in reducing your utility costs.
What to Look for in an Energy Efficient Furnace
When you consider that nearly 44% of a homeowner’s energy bill goes towards heating and cooling costs, it’s no surprise that more people are opting for energy efficient furnaces. But how do you know which is the right furnace for you?
- Size Does Matter!
Many home furnaces are actually far too large for the spaces they need to heat. A high efficiency furnace should be sized 30-40% larger than the calculated heating home heating requirements.
- What Counts as Energy Efficient?
Look for a furnace with at least 95% annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE). The AFUE is the percentage of fuel turned into heat – the higher the percentage, the more energy efficient the furnace. Choose a furnace with an ENERGY STAR label; ENERGY STAR requires a minimum 95% AFUE.
- Two-stage or Multi-stage Burners Are Best
Energy efficient furnaces are equipped with either two-stage or multi-stage burners that burn fuel at different rates. What this means is that in most weather, the furnace will utilize the more efficient low-fire settings to warm the home, and automatically switch to a high-fire setting in very cold weather when additional heating capacity is needed. Two-stage and multi-stage furnaces are 5% to 8% more energy efficient than single-stage burner furnaces, which run at full power all the time.
- Get a DC or ECM Fan Motor
Many times the fan motor is overlooked when purchasing a furnace, but it shouldn’t be. An inefficient fan motor will use a lot of electricity, leading to inflated energy costs. For example, using an inefficient AC motor to power your furnace fan is like running an 800-watt light bulb while the furnace is on. By contrast, using a more efficient DC (direct current) or ECM (electronically commutated motor, which is a brushless DC motor) motor is equivalent to running a 200-watt light bulb instead. That’s a significant difference in the amount of energy used!
- What Role Does the Thermostat Play?
To maximize efficiencies, get a programmable thermostat that can perform a temperature setback overnight or when the house is unoccupied. There’s no point in heating an empty home!
Cut Energy Costs with Time-based Electricity Rates
There’s a lot of great information out there on what you can do to reduce your home energy costs. Some of the more common tips include turning off lights in unused rooms, unplugging electronics not in use, and so on. But what a lot of people don’t know is that many utility companies are trying to help their customers cut energy costs by offering them time-based electricity rates.
How Do Time-based Electricity Rates Work?
Time-based electricity pricing is a strategy where utilities vary the price depending on the time-of-day usage.
There are a number of options that many utilities offer their customers who choose to go the time-based electricity rate route.
- Time-of-use pricing (TOU pricing): Electricity rates are set for a specific time period, on an advance basis. The prices will typically not change more than twice a year. Consumers only pay for energy used during these periods at pre-established prices, allowing them to control usage and costs accordingly.
- Critical peak pricing: TOU pricing is in effect except for certain peak days, when prices may reflect the costs of generating or purchasing electricity at wholesale prices.
- Real-time pricing (also known as dynamic pricing): Electricity prices could change on an hourly basis, and sometimes even more often than that. The price is provided to the user on an advanced basis that reflects the utility’s cost of generating or purchasing electricity at wholesale prices.
- Peak load reduction credits: These are geared towards customers who need large loads and enter into pre-established peak load reduction agreements that reduce a utility’s planned capacity obligations.
According to many surveys, demand for this type of electricity pricing is on the rise with consumers. Time-based electricity rates provide an opportunity to cut energy costs through control of how electricity is consumed. Consumers can save money, energy and help the environment. No wonder more people are asking for them.
Energy-Saving Tips for Schools
Autumn heralds the return of many things, like the wearing of sweaters, raking of leaves and for kids – going back to school. And while saving energy at home is important, schools also can benefit from energy-saving tips and programs. The great thing about saving energy in schools is that students can really get involved in the process and make it a learning experience for everyone! So, for all the returning students out there, here are some energy-saving tips for your school that you can practice (and share):
- Turn off lights when not in use – lighting accounts for nearly 50% of the electric bill in most schools. This applies to energy-efficient fluorescent lights too.
- Form a student energy patrol to ensure lights are out when rooms are empty (check classrooms, the cafeteria, the auditorium, etc.).
- Have students make signs and stickers to remind people to turn off the lights when they leave a room.
- Have students conduct an experiment in classrooms by turning off selected banks of lights and measuring comfort at different lighting levels (many people prefer working under natural light).
- Have students calculate the energy savings achieved by:
- Replacing incandescent light bulbs with CFLs
- Changing incandescent lights in Exit Signs to light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs
Heating & Cooling
- Heating and cooling school buildings can be expensive, but indoor temperatures must be comfortable so teachers can concentrate on teaching and kids can concentrate on learning. Consider setting thermostats at 68 degrees for heating and 78 degrees for cooling.
- Don’t block the airflow around vents. Keep bookcases and other bulky items away from the heating and cooling units so they don’t block and/or absorb the warm (or cool) air that should be coming into the room.
- Install programmable thermostats in areas like the cafeteria to minimize operating hours of the heating and cooling systems during low occupancy periods.
- Turn down heat in the hallways; keep classroom doors closed.
- Clean furnace filters regularly.
- Stop leaks! Look for simple draft-beating strategies.
- Have students determine areas of energy loss by using “draft-meters” made from plastic wrap and pencils to study where drafts are entering.
- Have students help replace insulation and stuff energy loss “holes” with innovative measures, such as making translucent window quilts to hang in classrooms and “insulation snakes” to put at the bottom of doors and windows.
- Work with facility staff to install permanent weather-stripping, caulking, and insulation.
- If your school computers have power-management features, make sure controls are set so they will go into the “sleep” mode when not in active use. (Screen savers don’t save energy – only the sleep mode does.)
- Students should turn off monitors that will not be used for the next class period. All computer equipment should be turned off at the end of the day and on weekends, unless your network technicians specifically instruct otherwise.
- Form a student energy patrol to make sure monitors are off when computers are not in use and to turn computers off at the end of the day.
- Save 50% on energy costs by using ENERGY STAR computers, monitors, printers, fax machines, copiers and other equipment. Calculate potential savings from the use of ENERGY STAR equipment and present the results to school administrators.
- Have students use a wattmeter to study how much electricity a device uses. This helps to determine which appliances are out-dated and less efficient.
- Have students conduct a survey of the number of appliances in each classroom and encourage teachers to take away unneeded ones.
- Clean refrigerator coils regularly.
Involve the Whole School
- Energy savings add up when the entire school joins together in conservation efforts. Schools with effective conservation programs have reported reductions of as much as 25% in utility bills.
- Publicize energy costs and savings. When people know how much it costs to power their school, they can see why it’s worth some extra effort to avoid waste.
A Programmable Thermostat Makes Your Home More Energy Efficient
Having a programmable thermostat is a great way to stay in control of how much energy you use to regulate your home’s temperature, as well as keeping it comfortable inside.
By pre-programming temperatures, you can make sure that energy isn’t being wasted unnecessarily. For example, during the summer, if you know your home’s going to be empty during the day, set the temperature so that the house only begins to start cooling shortly before family members come home. There’s no point in using up energy to cool an empty house! And the same principle applies in winter too; set the temperature back during the daytime when the family is out of the house at work and school, and then warm it up again before they start arriving home.
Following are the some programmable thermostat settings to make your home more energy efficient:
- In summer, you’ll want to set your thermostat to 78˚F when you’re home and raise it to 88˚F when no one’s home.
- If you’re going away on summer vacation, turn the temperature up even higher for the time you’re gone – cooling the house when you return costs less and can save you 10% or more on your cooling costs.
- In winter, set your thermostat to 68˚F when you’re home and lower it to 58˚F when you’re away.
- During the colder seasons, when going to bed, set the temperature back to 56˚F – warm blankets and bedcovers will keep you warm enough!
- If you’re planning a winter getaway, set your temperature back to 50˚F for the duration of your trip – it’s just warm enough that you won’t have to worry about your pipes freezing and will save a lot of money.
With a programmable thermostat, you’ll only have to think about setting up a temperature schedule, and after that, it’ll take care of itself!
Want to learn more? Read about the savings you can enjoy with a programmable thermostat.
Keep Your Home Warm and Energy Efficient
When you feel chilly you can put on a sweater, but when your home is chilly…that’s a really big sweater! How do you keep your home warm? The same way you keep a person warm.
Think of that big woolly sweater as proper insulation. No matter what part of the country you live in, having the right R-value of insulation is important. Insulation is the protective layer between your home and the elements. Every exterior wall of your home should be insulated. If you have a room over your garage or in your attic, those are two places very commonly overlooked for insulation.
They say the majority of your heat is lost through your head, so don’t forget your hat, or in your home’s case, your roof! Your roof doesn’t just keep rain off, it also keeps rising warm air inside your home from escaping. More heat stays inside, and your furnace doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature.
You wouldn’t be warm if you wore a sweater full of holes, and your home can’t stay warm if there are tiny gaps around windows and doors letting warm air out and cold air in.
- Hold your hand around the edges of windows and doors to see if you have air leaks.
- Foggy, frosty windows are a sign that outside cold air is leaking in through tiny gaps around your windows.
- Add a rubber gasket behind light switches and electrical outlet cover plates on exterior walls to reduce or eliminate warm air loss.
A programmable thermostat can be your best ally in extreme winter cold. Simply program it to the temperature you want at the time you want it, and your thermostat will do all the work. Set your thermostat to your ideal temperature when you’re at home and awake, then set it back when you’re away or asleep.
- Override your settings when you have guests over—especially if you’re making a big dinner in your oven.
- Take turns hosting potluck dinners or games nights with friends for a great way to reduce the power usage at your home, even for a night.
There are lots of things you can do to pinpoint those sources of cold invading your home and to keep your home warm this winter. See our infographic for more helpful tips. Find a RESNET certified home energy rater in your area to have a professional help you keep your home warm!
Stay Cool This Summer! 7 Energy Efficient Tips for your Home
When the mercury spikes your first instinct might be to crank up the A/C, but that’s a burn you’ll feel later. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite ways to stay cool this summer while being easy on your energy bill and kind to the planet: Stay Cool This Summer! 7 Energy Efficient Tips for your Home.
One of the simplest things you can do to keep you and your family cool is to make sure your air conditioner is in perfect working order. We recommend you change your filters every 1-3 months.
Have a certified technician perform maintenance on your air conditioner to improve the performance and life of your unit. We do not recommend that any homeowner ever perform their own maintenance, this should always been done by a professional. Find a RESNET certified professional near you.
When new filters and maintenance just don’t cut it, it might be time to invest in a new unit. Remember, not all air conditioners were made equal! It’s important to choose the right air conditioner for your home.
Raise the temperature of your air conditioning unit by 1 or 2 degrees, up to 78 degrees. You could save 3-5% off your energy bill just by raising the temperature a bit. Plus, your air conditioner won’t have to struggle to get the house to a comfortable coolness, reducing overall wear and tear on your unit.
A ceiling fan is a great way of working with your air conditioner, especially if you’ve raised the temperature slightly. For optimum performance, ensure the blades are spinning counter-clockwise. The air-flow from this creates a wind-chill effect that makes you feel cooler.
Already have vertical blinds? Angle them slightly so the concave part of the blind reflects sunlight up and away from your house. This works great whether you’re using your air conditioning or not, and can block up to 65% of the heat that would otherwise enter your home through the windows.
If you’re not already using a programmable thermostat, have one installed. You can preset a program that will raise the temperature during the day when no one is at home and in the cooler nighttime hours, or if you go on vacation for a few days, then lower it again just before you get home. Some thermostats can even be controlled from your smartphone!
Stay cool this summer with more energy saving tips!