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Tips: Saving More Energy in My Home

by EarthTalk
E Magazine, December 6, 2004

I'd like to start saving more energy in my home. Do you have any tips?

-- Mitch Rochelle, Carson City, NV

A University of Michigan study estimates that the average American household could reduce its energy bills by 65 percent and, over the home's lifetime, save $52,000 if it maximized energy efficiency.

One place to start is household appliances. Washers and dryers generate lots of heat, so in a warm climate they should be in sealed-off rooms so as not to exacerbate air conditioning needs. Likewise, dishwashers and ovens should be run in the morning or evening to minimize heat buildup. On older refrigerators, vacuum the coils at the back of the unit regularly to keep them clean and free of dirt and dust. When they become covered in dust their efficiency is dramatically reduced.

While repairing old appliances can improve energy efficiency somewhat, replacing them with new models that comply with the federal government's Energy Star standards can reduce household energy costs by 20 percent. Consumers should remember that getting the right size unit installed professionally is essential to getting the most from new appliances.

Air-conditioning and heating need not take such a huge bite out of America's energy dollar. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, if your air conditioner is more than eight years old, it's a good candidate for replacement. If your furnace or boiler is old or simply inefficient, the best solution is to replace it with a modern high-efficiency model. And to keep heating bills to a minimum, install a programmable thermostat and schedule it to trigger heat only during the hours you are home.

Many older homes are poorly sealed and lack insulation, sending energy bills skyrocketing. Also, it is common to find gaps between duct joints, whether a home is new or old. Seal and insulate ducts that are exposed in areas such as your attic or crawlspace to improve your system's efficiency. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, by properly sealing air leaks and adding insulation, you can improve comfort and cut your energy bills by up to 10 percent.

For a do-it-yourself assessment of your home's potential energy efficiency, check out the Home Energy Saver website run by the U.S. Department of Energy. Special software enables users to input information about their homes, and then learn how much energy (and money) could be saved by insulating the attic or installing double-glazed windows. Indeed, with winter bearing down upon us, there's no time like the present to save energy in your home.

Related Sites:
RECOMMENDING -> Home Energy Saver website
The federal Energy Star guide to home appliances
Energy Federation Incorporated
Emess Designs lamps: (724) 758-0707
Zero Waste Alliance
Sun Tunnel Skylight
Solar garden lights

Report: Which New Building Technologies Save Energy, Money?
by, December 7, 2004

WASHINGTON -- The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has published a new report, "Emerging Energy-Saving Technologies and Practices in the Buildings Sector as of 2004". This analysis reviewed 200 technologies and practices (T&Ps) in order to select those that promise to save at least 0.25% of national electricity use; avoid "lost opportunities" in new construction, rehab, or equipment replacement; or capture important regional opportunities. The report features short summaries of 66 T&Ps complement text that describes their collective impact. Appendices offer a California-specific analysis and California climate sensitivity studies for national measures.

Of the 66 measures described in the report, the most attractive candidates include two distribution system improvements (leakproof ducts and duct sealing) and two practices (design of high-performance commercial buildings and retrocommissioning). These show particularly high energy savings potential and are also very cost-effective.

"Not surprisingly, many technologies from earlier editions of this report have spread through the marketplace," stated Dr. Harvey Sachs, lead author of the study and ACEEE's buildings program director. "Fortunately, innovators continue to introduce new T&Ps that enable the careful building owner to measure and manage energy consumption, and to ratchet down energy bills in the face of rising fuel prices."

Steven Nadel, ACEEE's executive director, observed: "The most promising of these technologies and practices can save this nation hundreds of billions of kilowatt-hours, and all at a cost per saved kilowatt-hour that is far lower than the cost of generating that power. The buildings sector is one of the largest in our energy economy, so for our nation, the potential monetary savings are huge, even before taking into account the productivity, energy security, and environmental benefits that will accrue."

The report can be downloaded for free in part or in whole or can be ordered in hard copy for $75. The presentations from the first Emerging Technologies Summit, which explored the potential and pitfalls for the fledgling technologies and practices, are available online.

EarthTalk Tips: Saving More Energy in My Home, December 6, 2004

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