An Energy Savings Plan for Your Home and Family

Posted on: September 9, 2014

home-energy-savings-300x200-300x200If you’re serious about saving energy, you need a good plan. A comprehensive energy savings plan involves incorporating energy conservation practices and practical energy efficiency upgrades for immediate and long-term savings. Following are energy-saving tips outlined for conservation and efficiency efforts of primary energy guzzlers in the home. Read on to see which tips best serve your home’s efficiency shortcomings, enhance home comfort and can ease the strain on your pocketbook.

Serious About Savings: Conservation and Efficiency

The home is made up of many systems that sum up the energy bill each month through energy usage, energy losses or both. If one system is underperforming, such as a home’s envelope with substantial air leaks, another system must pick up the slack, such as altering the thermostat during the cooling and heating months. Incorporating conservation and efficiency energy-saving tips across all systems provides best long-term results.

  • Energy conservation: Energy conservation is the practice of modifying energy usage habits to save energy, but at a cost of loss in comfort, convenience and/or performance. For example, turning up the thermostat a few extra degrees during the cooling months reduces cooling costs and saves energy, but your comfort suffers with higher indoor temperatures.
  • Energy efficiency: Energy efficiency measures and upgrades reduce energy consumption without a loss of comfort, convenience and performance. In fact, efficiency upgrades often result in better performance for less energy dollars. For example, installing Energy Star-qualified ceiling fans in the living room and bedrooms of your Raleigh home can make it feel 4 to 7 degrees cooler. You may increase the thermostat temperature accordingly, and reduce cooling costs without a loss of comfort.

Watts in Your Energy-Savings Plan

One of the simplest ways to save energy is to replace and upgrade outdated lighting.

  • Energy conservation: Remember to turn off lights when leaving a room. Use strategic conservation efforts for lowering lighting costs, such as decreasing wattage from the norm in all fixtures.
  • Energy efficiency: CFL and LED lighting (compact fluorescent and light-emitting diode) use 25 to 75 percent less energy for the same or better illumination. CFLs and LEDs cost more than traditional incandescent light bulbs, but they also last 10 to 25 times longer.
  • Projects: Inventory your home’s lighting. Upgrade to CFLs and LEDs where needed. Consider using dimmer switches, spotlight accents, motion detection lighting and timers to boost efficiency, convenience and home safety.

Air Sealing

Air leaks through the home’s envelope substantially increase the load for the A/C and heating systems, which account for the lion’s share of the energy budget in the typical home.

  • Energy conservation: When the air conditioning and heating systems are on, make sure all windows and doors are closed.
  • Energy efficiency: Air sealing materials, such as weatherstripping, expanding spray foam, caulk and seals for wall outlet and switch plates, are excellent defenses against air leaks that don’t cost a bundle, but they sure save a bundle of energy.
  • Projects: A comprehensive energy audit is the best method for locating air leaks in the home’s envelope. You’ll receive a comprehensive list of conservation and efficiency measures for every system listed in this energy-saving tips article. For instance, leaks found around windows may be sealed with weatherstripping V-strips and caulk. The attic hatch is a critical area for air leaks between the unconditioned attic and living spaces. Foam weatherstripping works very well around the perimeter, and rigid foam board applied to the back of the hatch or door also works well.

Attic: Insulation and Ventilation

The attic really needs special attention due to extreme temperatures, the collection of moisture, maintaining a healthful roofing system and the number of protrusions through the attic barrier, such as recessed lighting, piping and flue.

  • Energy conservation: Make sure vents don’t become obstructed by insulation, leaves, nesting animals or other objects. Keep the attic hatch shut tight when not in use and be mindful of insulation levels. Plywood flooring across the joists, other than a walkway, is generally not a good idea if it hinders insulation R-value by compressing the insulation.
  • Energy efficiency: Measure the insulation in the attic. The Energy Star program suggests up to R-60 for our region. R-60 is about 15 inches of insulation, whether fiberglass or cellulose.
  • Projects: Air seal the attic, too, using the same materials for sealing around windows and doors. Check for gaps around piping and lighting. If wall cavities are accessible, check for insulation. Loose-fill insulation is excellent for filling gaps inside wall cavities and across the attic. The attic should be sealed from the living spaces and maintain the same temperature as the air outside the home. Mechanical ventilation can help maintain temperature equilibrium with outside conditions, which helps protect roofing materials and timber and prevents moisture pockets that invite mold and mildew.

Clear Savings: Window Treatments

Windows are generally very poor insulators, and they account for a large portion of a home’s heat gain/loss, depending on window size, efficiency and orientation to the sun. Use these energy-saving tips to help lower your energy bills.

  • Energy conservation: During the cooling months, close sun-facing window treatments (e.g. drapes, shades and blinds) to block solar heat gain and heat conduction. Open windows and window treatments on cool summer nights to allow fresh air into the home. During the heating months, open window treatments during the day time, and close them at night.
  • Energy efficiency: Consider your options for window treatments that save energy and enhance the beauty of your home. There are a plethora of treatments available, such as layered draperies, two-sided shades and blinds, awnings, mesh screens and shutters.
  • Projects: If you’re undertaking new home construction or remodeling, consider the advantages Energy Star-qualified windows for offering better energy efficiency than drafty single-paned windows.

Hot Way to Save: Water Heater

Water heating costs may reach as much as 25 percent of the energy budget. Use these energy-saving tips so you don’t get steamed by high energy bills.

  • Energy conservation: Try shortening the length of showers. Use your dishwasher. Dishwashing machines are generally more efficient than washing dishes by hand.
  • Energy efficiency: Install low-flow shower heads and aerators. Wrap all hot water pipes with fiberglass insulation. Check the temperature of hot water at the outlet furthest from the storage water heater. If it’s higher than 120 degrees, turn down the thermostat on the water heater.
  • Projects: Flush a gallon of water from the water heater each month to help remove deposits and sediment from the tank. The drain valve is located at the bottom of the tank. If your water heater is more than 10 years old, consider replacing it with a more efficient water heater. In the least, shop around so that you know which system you would like to install in the event your water heater fails.

Home Comfort Systems

Home comfort systems and devices, such as a heat pump, furnace, programmable thermostats, and whole-house humidifier and dehumidifier, account for about half of the energy budget. Fortunately, there are plenty of energy-saving tips to ease high heating and cooling bills.

  • Energy conservation: Turn back/up the thermostat 4 to 12 degrees during sleeping hours and when at work. Use ceiling fans and window treatments to your advantage to cut cooling and heating costs.
  • Energy efficiency: If you’re still using a manual thermostat, consider upgrading to a programmable thermostat for automatic comfort and savings. Use humidifiers and dehumidifiers as part of your energy savings plan to substantially boost comfort and save heating and cooling costs energy. Check the air filter each month during peak usage and change or clean as necessary.
  • Projects: Schedule HVAC maintenance in the fall and spring seasons to keep your heating and cooling systems running efficiently. Ask your HVAC contractor for a ductwork inspection. Dirty and poor duct design affects comfort and energy bills.

Appliances, Electronics and Energy Vampires

Appliances and electronics use a lot of energy, which is understandable when you consider how much these systems and devices are used daily (e.g. refrigerator, computers, TVs, cell phone chargers, microwave, coffee maker, clothes and dish washing machines and more). Moreover, a substantial amount of electricity is used when devices aren’t being used but are in standby mode — these are energy vampires.

  • Energy conservation: Incorporate your own “brown-out” period in your home. Set schedules for using electronics, such as the TV, computer and video consoles. This saves energy and broadens awareness of energy-saving tips and efforts in your home.
  • Energy efficiency: Set up a cell phone charging station (and any other electronics that use rechargeable batteries) with a single power strip. When no devices are being charged, turn off the power strip. Use another power strip for the microwave, toaster oven and coffee maker. And, yet another for home electronics.
  • Projects: The next time you’re upgrading appliances and electronics, look for Energy Star-qualified systems. This is especially important for TVs, computers, refrigerators, washing machines and the clothes dryer.

For more information about these energy-saving tips for your home, please contact us at Air Experts today. We’ve served Raleigh, Durham and surrounding areas for nearly 30 years.

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