Energy Conservation for the Homeowner

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According to the U.S. Department of Energy Energy Savers and the  Power Home Remodeling Group, for many American households, a large portion of their monthly budget is spent on energy bills and filling their gas tanks. Unfortunately, a large portion of the energy consumed annually by the home is wasted. And each year, electricity generated by fossil fuels for a single home puts more carbon dioxide into the air than two average cars. And as for the road, transportation accounts for 67% of all U.S. oil consumption. Electricity is most often generated by burning fossil fuels, such as oil, natural gas and coal. The negative effects to the environment at each step of production and use, beginning with the extraction and transportation, followed by refining and distribution, and ending with consumption are devastating. From total destruction of our existing ecosystems, to polluting our freshwater streams and rivers, to releasing harmful pollutants such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury and small particulates. The good news is that there is a lot you can do to help mitigate the burden to the environment by reducing energy and gasoline consumption and at the same time save money.

There are so many ways a family can conserve energy. The first recommendation is to visit the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Savers website for what essentially amounts to one-stop shopping for ideas and products. Here, you will discover a wealth of information and tips on topics such as windows and doors, lighting and daylighting, insulation and air sealing, appliances, heating and cooling, landscaping, vehicles and designing and remodeling. U.S. Department of Energy Energys Savers Tips website. You can start today by making small changes, and then to cut your energy use up to 25%, consider long term strategies. The key to achieving these savings in your home is a whole-house energy efficiency plan. To take a whole-house approach, view your home as an energy system with interdependent parts. For example, your heating system is not just a furnace—it’s a heat-delivery system that starts at the furnace and delivers heat throughout your home using a network of ducts. Even a top-of-the-line, energy-efficient furnace will waste a lot of fuel if the ducts, walls, attic, windows, and doors are not properly sealed and insulated. Taking a whole-house approach to saving energy ensures that dollars you invest to save energy are spent wisely. Energy-efficient improvements not only make your home more comfortable, they can yield long-term financial rewards. Reduced utility bills more than make up for the higher price of energy-efficient appliances and improvements over their lifetimes. In addition, your home could bring in a higher price when you sell.

 

Home Energy Assessments: A home energy assessment, also known as a home energy audit, is the first step to assess how much energy your home consumes and to evaluate what measures you can take to make your home more energy efficient. An assessment will show you problems that may, when corrected, save you significant amounts of money over time.  

Space Heating and Cooling: Heating and cooling account for about 56% 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. 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. When replacing or upgrading an existing heating and cooling system, it’s important to first consider the limitations imposed by your current system and available energy sources. When selecting a heating and cooling system for a new house, your options are generally much wider, although your builder or developer may place limitations on your choices. 

Water Heating: Heating water consumes energy and can account for 14%–25% of the energy consumed in your home. You can reduce your monthly water heating bills by selecting the appropriate water heater for your home and by using energy-efficient water heating strategies. Consider using EPA WaterSense plumbing fixtures.

Lighting: Learn why turning your lights on and off affects the life cycle of the lamp. Did you know that with the standard incandescent lamp, only 10%-15% of the energy consumed provides light? The rest is turned into heat. Consider alternative solutions such as the compact fluorescent lamp, or CFL. Perhaps the installation of a skylight or two can reduce the amount of artificial light needed, while also adding to the comfort of your family.

Appliances and Home Electronics: If you live in a typical U.S. home, your appliances and home electronics are responsible for about 20% of your energy bills. These appliances and electronics include the following: clothes washers and dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators and freezers, water heaters, televisions and dvd players, home audio equipment, computers. Consider using ENERGY STAR rated equipment.

Windows, Doors and Skylights: Energy-efficient windows, doors, and skylights—also known as fenestration—can help lower a home’s heating, cooling, and lighting costs. Learn how these are rated and investigate your options using energy efficient windows, doors and skylights.

Insulation and Air Sealing: You can reduce your home’s heating and cooling costs through proper insulation and air sealing techniques. These techniques will also make your home more comfortable.

Landscaping: A well designed landscape not only can add beauty to your home but it also can reduce your heating and cooling costs using strategies such as shading. Landscaping for energy efficiency provides enough energy savings alone to return an initial investment in less than 8 years.

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