Cut Energy Costs When Buying a New Home

August 5, 2015 air leakscut energy costsenergy saving tipsenergy starenergy star applianceshome energy audithome energy auditshome energy efficiencyInsulationlower energy billssave energyWindows & Doors

Buying a new home means more than just paying the mortgage; it also means paying the energy bill. That’s why it’s important to take energy efficiency into account when looking at properties. Here are some factors to consider that will help you cut energy costs when buying a new home.

1. APPLIANCES

If the home you’re buying is equipped with older appliances, consider replacing them with newer ENERGY STAR qualified ones. For example:

  • ENERGY STAR refrigerators use 20% less energy than their standard counterparts
  • ENERGY STAR qualified dishwashers use 10% less energy and 18% less water than non ENERGY STAR qualified ones.

2. WINDOWS

Inefficient windows can cost you a lot of money.  In fact, they can account for anywhere between 10-25% of your heating and cooling bills. Leaky windows (air leakage) make your HVAC work harder to cool your home in summer, and warm it in winter. Avoid this by air sealing them, or better still replacing older windows with new energy efficient versions.

3. INSULATION

Properly installed insulation is key to keeping your home comfortable and energy bills down. It’s important to know what the right amount of insulation your home would need based on location. Talk to a RESNET certified Home Energy Professional to get expert advice about how much insulation you might need, and also what is the most effective sort to use for your environment.

4. ENERGY AUDIT

An energy audit is an examination of a home’s energy performance, and will tell you where and how a home is losing energy. A RESNET certified Home Energy Auditor is able to pinpoint problem areas, and provide you with cost-effective energy efficiency solutions to help rectify these problems.

However, before you buy that new home, talk to a RESNET certified Home Energy Professional first. They can help you better understand how energy efficient the home is, and what steps you can take to improve its energy performance.

6 Ways to Save Energy in the Kitchen

July 3, 2015 energy efficiencyenergy efficient led lightshome energy efficiencyLEDLED lightingLED lightssave energysave energy and moneysave energy kitchen

The kitchen is the heart of every home, but also one of its main energy consumers. However, reducing energy usage in the kitchen can be easier than you think, and it doesn’t always mean replacing all your appliances with ENERGY STAR ones! Here are 6 ways you can save energy in the kitchen.

1.    Switch to LED Lighting

LED lights are the most energy efficient available. Not only will they save you money, but also keep your kitchen cooler during those hot summer months as they don’t generate large amounts of heat.

  • Incandescent bulbs can cost up to $7.80 annually to run compared to $1.50 for LEDs.
  • An average incandescent bulb will last one year, while an average LED can last up to 23.

2.    Change the Way You Cook

Bad cooking habits are a major source of wasted energy. These include:

  • Opening and closing heated oven doors frequently
  • Not putting lids on pots while boiling water
  • Using incorrectly sized pans on burners (i.e., using a 6-inch diameter pan on an 8-inch burner wastes over 40% of the heat produced)

Use a convection oven instead of a conventional one; it’s 25% more energy efficient due to shorter cooking times. For smaller meals, consider using your microwave; according to ENERGY STAR, you could experience savings of up to 80% when you do.

3.    Use Your Refrigerator Wisely

Keep your fridge door shut as much as possible to retain the cool air. Every time you open and shut your refrigerator, it has to work extra hard to cool the inside space and maintain the set temperature. Also, keep the shelves full to reduce the amount of warm air and moisture in the space.

4.    Use Your Appliance’s Energy Saver Settings

Most appliances have energy saver or economy settings that reduce the amount of energy used. Enable these settings to benefit from energy savings.

  • Disable the “heated dry” function on your dishwasher; it’s responsible for a lot of the energy used. Air-dry your dishes instead.

5.    Unplug Your Gadgets

You would be surprised by how much energy small appliances like toasters and coffeemakers use when sitting idle but still plugged into a wall socket. Cut down on your energy costs by unplugging unused gadgets and small appliances.

6.    Keep Your Range Hood Clean

A dirty range hood has a harder time ventilating, which results in a hotter kitchen and your HVAC having to work harder. And that, of course, means higher energy costs. Your hood should vent to the outside but once you’re finished cooking, turn it off. Otherwise, in summer you’ll be sucking in cool indoor air and sending it outside, and the opposite in winter. Again, that results in your HVAC having to work harder and therefore use more energy.

To learn more ways to save energy, and how to make your home more energy efficient, contact a certified RESNET home energy professional.

Fight Allergies with Energy Efficiency!

April 10, 2015 energy efficientHeating & Coolingheating and coolinghome energy efficiencylower energy billssave energy

So what does home energy efficiency have to do with allergies? Nothing, right? After all, one is all about making your home more comfortable and saving money and energy, while the other makes you sneeze, causes itchy eyes and a general feeling of misery. The two don’t seem to be related in any way whatsoever.

But there is a connection and it’s through your heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) unit. A HVAC unit draws air from a room, pulls it over coils to either heat or cool it, and then distributes the tempered air through the house via ductwork. An air filter traps and removes microscopic particles like dust, pollen, pet dander, bacteria, plant and mold spores, and prevents them from contaminating your indoor air. However, when a filter becomes clogged and dirty, instead of removing these particles from your air, it actually contributes to the pollution. The result is higher energy bills and increased allergy symptoms.

Fortunately, the solution is a simple one. All you need to do is change your air filter. Ideally, you should check it on a monthly basis, and if your air filter already looks dirty then don’t wait – change it! Otherwise, do it at least once every three months.

  • An air filter needs changing when it’s covered by a gray, ashy-looking material.
  • Have your HVAC checked annually by a certified RESNET HVAC contractor to keep it running properly.

A clean air filter enables your HVAC to run more efficiently, which means it doesn’t have to work as hard to heat or cool your home. That leads to energy savings and more money in your pocket – energy efficiency at work. It also leads to cleaner indoor air and a healthier home environment, which helps alleviate allergy symptoms.

So there it is, the connection between energy efficiency and allergies. To understand more about the role your HVAC unit plays in maintaining a healthy and energy efficient home, talk to your local certified RESNET HVAC contractor.

Don’t Let A High Energy Bill Haunt Your Halloween!

October 29, 2014 air leakageair leaksAir SealingCFL lightbulbsCFLsenergy auditenergy auditsenergy efficiencyenergy efficient lightingenergy saving tipssave energysolar lightingsolar power

It’s that time of year again when ghosts, ghouls and goblins emerge from their dark recesses to stalk the earth, but they can’t hold a candle to the fear that a sky-high energy bill inspires.

While it’s true that there are few things in this world (and also not of this world) that can send a cold shiver down your spine the way the dreaded energy bill does, there is action you can take that doesn’t involve eating raw garlic, wooden stakes or magic spells. This year, don’t let a high energy bill haunt your Halloween by following our tips below:

    1. Banish Cold Chills from Your Home
      • Stop cold air from infiltrating your home by air sealing it properly. The easiest way to look for leaks is to check doors and windows by hand. You’ll be able to feel the cold air seeping in through unsealed spots. Also, step outside and close the door behind you when handing out treats on All Hallows’ Eve. This will prevent heat from escaping and cold air from getting in.
    2. Keep Energy Vampires at Bay
      • Vampires really do exist! Energy vampires are electronics that continue to draw power when on standby mode. Some examples include: TVs, DVD players, gaming consoles, battery chargers and stereos. This usage costs the average American household $100 a year. Don’t let energy vampires get the better of you this Halloween – use a power strip or unplug devices when not using them.
    3. Engage the Power of Energy Efficient Light
      • Nothing fights darkness better than energy efficient light bulbs! One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to lower energy bills is by replacing traditional incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). Most of the energy used by incandescent bulbs results in heat generation rather than light. CFLs use far less energy, emit less heat and generate the same amount of light.
    4. Reach for the Sun
      • Scare off any creatures of the night that may be lurking around your outdoor space by tapping into the awesome power of the sun’s energy. Outdoor solar lighting is easy to install, affordable and virtually maintenance-free. You can choose from a wide range of pathway lighting, wall-mounted lights, freestanding lampposts and security lights.
    5. Water – Your Secret Weapon
      • Efficient water use can prove to be deadly to both witches and water bills. Installing low-flow showerheads and faucets can help you achieve water savings of up to anywhere from 25-60%. Leaky faucets could be costing you more money than you realize, so make sure to fix them ASAP!
        • Hot water leaking at 1 drip per second adds up to 1,661 gallons of water wasted in a year.
        • 1,661 gallons of water works out to approximately $35 in wasted energy costs.

The best way to learn how to make your home energy efficient is through a home energy audit. Contact a certified RESNET Home Energy Auditor to find out more.

Phantom Energy Is Sucking Money out of Your Pocket

October 9, 2014 electricity used by electronicsenergy vampiresphantom energypower stripssave energysave energy and moneyvampire power

Bet you didn’t know there’s such a thing called phantom energy. But there is and before we tell you what phantom energy is, let us explain what it’s NOT:

  • It is not the name of the new Star Wars movie
  • It has nothing to do with haunted houses or ghosts
  • It isn’t a new luxury sports car or sports drink

Phantom energy, also referred to as “vampire power”, is electricity that is drawn from outlets by equipment that’s been switched off but still plugged in. And believe it or not, this is costing you more money than you might think. In fact, phantom energy can account for up to 15% or more of the total electricity used by electronics.

So, what electronics are we talking about, and how much phantom energy are they consuming? Well, the Energy Center of Wisconsin did a study and put together a list of some office equipment and the average watts-per-hour they use when turned off. Take a look:

  • Treadmill – 5.6 watts
  • Fax machine – 5.2 watts
  • Printer – 4.3 watts
  • Compact stereo – 4.3 watts
  • Tool charger – 4.2 watts
  • Battery charger – 2.6 watts
  • TV, CRT monitor (26 – 31 inches) – 1.3 watts
  • Desktop computer – 2.4 watts
  • Modem – 1.5 watts
  • Scanner – 1.5 watts
  • Monitor – 1.2 watts
  • Laptop computers – 0.7 watts
  • DVD player – 0.4 watts

The phantom energy draw may seem quite small in some cases but the truth is that over time, it can add up and contribute to a higher energy bill. Now we know what you’re thinking: what on earth can one do to avoid this phantom menace? Sorry – couldn’t resist! The good news is that this is a pretty easy problem to solve:

  • Simply unplug gadgets that aren’t being used
  • Use a power strip to cut power to multiple electronic devices
  • Completely turn off any electronics using stand-by power
  • Live in a cave and rely on candle power and the kindness of strangers (okay, maybe not this one)

Energy wastage can end up costing you a significant amount of money, which is no joke. To learn more about how you can save energy and money by making your home energy efficient, talk to a RESNET Home Energy Professional.

Back to School Energy Saving Tips

September 2, 2014 back to schoolcut energy costsenergy saving tipssave energysave moneyschool energy saving tips

It’s that time of year again when kids are heading back to school and all of a sudden the house feels emptier. Now’s your chance to save money by cutting back on energy usage! Here are some tips to help get you started:

  • Increase Your Temperature Setting

With fewer people at home during the day, raise your thermostat by a few degrees during those hours. Lower it to start cooling about half an hour before your family gets home. You can save anywhere from 4-8 percent on your cooling costs with every degree you increase the temperature by. As the weather starts to get colder, reverse the process so your home is cooler during the day and warmer at night.

  • Make Smart Use of Your Fridge

When preparing lunch for your kids, take out all the food you need in order to prep first and then close the fridge door. Keeping the door open, or constantly opening and closing it to take out and put things back, forces your fridge to work harder to keep a consistent temperature. This results in higher energy costs.

  • Unplug Unused Devices

When not being used, make it a habit to unplug all those gadgets like iPods, laptops and video game consoles! Even when turned off, these devices will still consume power when they’re plugged in. These “energy vampires” can account for 5-10 percent of your total household electricity bill.

  • Close or Open Curtains, Blinds or Drapes

Depending on which region of the country you live in, proper use of window coverings can shave significant costs off your energy bill. If the temperature is still warm, close those curtains, blinds or drapes to keep your house cooler. Otherwise, your air conditioning has to work up to 30 percent harder to cool your home. As temperatures drop, open up the curtains to take advantage of the sun’s heat to warm up your home.

  • Get Your HVAC Checked

Contact a RESNET qualified HVAC contractor to make sure your heating unit is running smoothly and is ready to face the cooler autumn weather. Having to make repairs in the dead of winter is both horribly uncomfortable and extremely expensive!

  • Use Your Dishwasher Efficiently

Load up your dishwasher completely before starting a wash cycle. Also use the air-dry setting instead of the heat dry setting in order to reduce energy usage by up to 7 percent.

  • Get a Home Energy Audit

Contact a certified RESNET Home Energy Auditor for an energy audit. Home energy audits are detailed home examinations to check where and how energy is being lost, and which systems are operating inefficiently. Based on the results, the auditor will recommend cost-effective solutions that will make your home more comfortable, affordable and energy efficient.

Five Things You Didn’t Know About Energy Audits

May 30, 2014 energy efficiencyenergy efficientenergy efficient homeenergy efficient homesHome Energy Assessmenthome energy audithome energy auditshome energy efficiencysave energy

As a homeowner, you may already know that home energy audits help lower your utility bills and improve home comfort, but they provide even more benefits than you might think. Here are five things you probably didn’t know about energy audits:

1. There are two types energy audits:

  •  Home Energy Survey
    • A visual inspection not including the use of diagnostic testing equipment.
    • Assesses the general energy performance of an existing home including:
      • Building envelope features (windows, doors, insulation, ducts) and ages.
      • Heating, cooling and ventilation equipment types, characteristics and ages.
      • Appliance and lighting characteristics.
      • Comfort complaints.
      • Visible moisture issues.
      • Visible health and safety issues.
    • A report of the complete audit is provided, including basic recommendations for improving the home’s energy efficiency, as well as low-cost, do-it-yourself tasks.
    • Takes approximately one hour to complete.
  • General Energy Audit
    • Collects more detailed information about the home’s energy usage, as well as a more thorough financial analysis of its energy costs.
    • Includes diagnostic testing using specialized equipment to determine:
      • The location and number of air leaks in the building envelope.
      • How much leakage is occurring from HVAC distribution ducts.
      • The effectiveness of the insulation inside walls and ceilings.
      • If there are any existing or potential combustion safety issues.
      • Includes a detailed report providing suitable retrofit recommendations and specifications.
    • Takes 3-4 hours to complete, depending on the size of your home.

2. Depending on the type of home energy audit you get, you can expect to pay $300 to $800 for one.

3. A home energy audit can help increase your home’s resale value and marketability.

  • A home’s market value increases by $20 for every $1 decrease in annual energy costs.
  • Decreasing your energy costs by $300 per year increases the value of your home by $6,000.

4. You can defray the costs of many energy improvements recommended by an energy audit through government energy tax credits and incentives.

5. You can expect a good return on investment when you opt for energy-saving improvements to your home, around 16% after taking into account the money spent making those improvements. And your ROI continues to increase as energy prices rise, which means the value of your investment grows accordingly.

To schedule a home energy audit, contact your local certified RESNET Home Energy Auditor and enjoy the peace of mind of knowing you’re working with a recognized industry professional.

Do Energy Efficient Light Bulbs Really Save You Money?

May 28, 2014 CFL lightbulbsCFLsenergy auditsenergy efficient bulbsenergy efficient light bulbsenergy efficient lightingenergy starsave energy

One of easiest and most cost-effective ways to cut your energy bills is by replacing your traditional incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient versions, and there are a couple of different options you can choose from:

But do energy efficient light bulbs really save you money? In general, these alternatives use 25 – 80% less energy and last up to 10 times longer than the traditional incandescent bulb. While the initial cost for energy efficient bulbs is higher, you save money over the course of the life of the bulb, which lasts significantly longer than its conventional equivalent.

To demonstrate how much you can save by switching to energy efficient light bulbs, the table below compares a 60-watt traditional incandescent light bulb against energy efficient ones that provide similar levels of light. The statistics regarding cost are based on the following conditions:

  • 2 hours a day of usage
  • Electricity rate of 11 cents per kilowatt-hour

light-bulb-energy-table

Source: www.energy.gov

To learn more about the advantages of energy efficient lighting fixtures and bulbs, talk to a certified RESNET Home Energy Professional.

How Energy Efficient Are ENERGY STAR® Appliances?

May 23, 2014 cut energy costsenergy efficiencyenergy efficient appliancesenergy efficient homeenergy starenergy star applianceshome energy efficiencysave energy

In a typical American household, appliances account for 21 – 25% of the utility bill. One way to reduce this cost is by replacing older appliances with energy efficient ENERGY STAR models. How energy efficient are ENERGY STAR appliances? Here are some examples:

1. ENERGY STAR Qualified Dishwasher

  • Costs less than $35 a year to run.
  • 5% more energy efficient than a non-qualified model.
  • Saves 15% more water than a non-qualified model.

2. ENERGY STAR Qualified Refrigerator

  • 20% more energy efficient than a model that meets the minimum federal energy efficiency standard.
  • Can potentially cut energy bills by more than $125 over the lifetime of the fridge.

3. ENERGY STAR Qualified Freezer

  • 10% more energy efficient than a model that meets the minimum federal energy efficiency standard.

4. ENERGY STAR Qualified Clothes Washer

  • On average uses 270 KWh of electricity and costs $85 a year to run (compared to $225 for a 10+ year-old washer).
  • Uses 35% less water and 20% less energy than a non-qualified model.
  • Can save up to 27,000 gallons of water over the lifetime of the machine.

5. ENERGY STAR Qualified Dehumidifier

  • Uses 15% less energy to remove the same amount of moisture as a similarly sized conventional unit.
  • Saves consumers more than $150 over the course of its lifetime.
  • Amount of energy saved by an ENERGY STAR qualified dehumidifier could power an ENERGY STAR qualified refrigerator for 4 months.

6. ENERGY STAR Air Purifiers

  • 40% more energy efficient than a non-qualified model.
  • Saves consumers around 230 kWh and $25 annually on utility bills.
  • Could save consumers up to $200 over the lifetime of the machine.

If for a period of one year all the appliances bought in the U.S. were ENERGY STAR qualified, it would prevent annual greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to that of 420,000 vehicles, conserve 25 billion gallons of water, and save nearly $580 million in energy costs. To learn more about energy efficient appliances, talk to a RESNET Qualified EnergySmart Contractor.

Choosing the Right Power Strip

May 16, 2014 choosing the right power stripenergy star devicesenergy star electronicsenergy vampirespower barsave energy

The modern home is packed with electronics. From TVs to DVD players and gaming consoles, these gadgets, which are so much a part of our lives, also cost us money in terms of energy consumption. In fact, they can add up to nearly 10% of a home’s monthly electricity bill. One of the reasons for this is that many of these products aren’t actually turned off when not in use; instead, they’re on standby, which means they’re still drawing power. They become what are known as “energy vampires”. An advanced power strip can solve this problem, but choosing the right power strip is key to maximizing energy savings.

Similar to conventional power strips, APS are designed primarily to deal with home entertainment areas and home offices. They prevent electronics from drawing power when not being used. APS come in a variety of types to suit different requirements.

1. Timer Power Strip

  • Automatically turns off outlets based on a pre-set schedule.
  • Look for a digital or dial timer.

2. Activity Monitor Power Strip

  • Scans for movement in the room and turns off outlets if there is none.
  • Look for a motion sensor or infrared eye.

3. Remote Switch Power Strip

  • Can be turned off with a remote switch.
  • Look for a tethered or remote switch.

4. Master Controlled Power Strip

  • When the user turns off the primary device (i.e., TV), the power strip automatically shuts down connected devices (i.e., game console, DVD player, etc.).
  • Look for one outlet labeled as “master”.

5. Masterless Power Strip

  • Will cut power to all outlets where plugged in devices have been turned off, thereby eliminating vampire loads.
  • Shouldn’t have a “master” outlet; may have “automatic switching” or “power detection” label.

In addition to using an APS to control your electronics, look for ENERGY STAR qualified devices when buying. ENERGY STAR qualified devices are designed to save energy without sacrificing features or functionality. For a range of energy-saving tips and advice, visit the RESNET Smart Home.