When you are moving into a new home, it’s difficult to guess what your new energy bills are going to be. This is also noticeable when you go from season to season, so before be proactive with your energy-saving efforts. The most effective strategy for improving household energy efficiency is to first target your home’s current insulation - walls, attic, windows and doors. Also check the energy efficiency of your heating & cooling systems, as well as your appliances. Older appliances my need replacement and we always recommend Energy Star-rated appliances – as for style and color…that’s your call! Finally, consider clean energy generation like solar – questions about solar?
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EFFICIENT INSULATION: This slows the rate that heat flows out of the house in winter or into the house in summer, so less energy is required to heat or cool the house. If your house has no wall insulation, and it has more-or-less continuous wall cavities (such as conventional stud walls), blown-in insulation can greatly improve your comfort and save enough energy to be very cost-effective. (It rarely pays to blow additional insulation into already insulated walls.) If your attic is unfinished, it often pays to upgrade its insulation.
WINDOW UPGRADES: If your windows are old and leaky, it may be time to replace them with energy-efficient models or to boost their efficiency with weather-stripping and storm windows. It is almost never cost-effective to replace windows just to save energy. Replacing your windows can result in cost savings, but the larger savings would be associated with replacing single-glazed windows. However, if you are replacing windows for other reasons anyway, in many areas the additional cost of Energy Star-rated replacement windows is very modest, perhaps $15 per window. This upgrade would be cost-effective—and increase your comfort to boot.
FURNACE UPGRADE: If your furnace was built before 1992 and has a standing pilot, it probably wastes 35 percent of the fuel it uses, and it is probably near the end of its service life. In this case, in all but the warmest climates, we recommend early replacement with a condensing furnace with annual efficiency of at least 90%. This type of furnace wastes no more than 10% of the natural gas you buy, and may save you as much as 27% on your heating bill.
If your furnace was installed after 1991, it probably has an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating of 80% , so the savings from replacement is smaller, but would be at least 11% if the unit is working perfectly. Your heating service technician or energy auditor may be able to help you determine the AFUE of your present system.
For houses with boilers and hot-water heat distribution (radiators, baseboard), the savings from a modern condensing boiler with outdoor reset or equivalent feedback controls can be substantially larger, since the condensing boilers allow reducing the circulating loop temperature almost all the time.
HOT WATER HEATER UPGRADE: First, turn down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120°F). Second, insulate your hot water lines so they don’t cool off as quickly between uses. Third, use low-flow fixtures for showers and baths. Although storage water heater standards were raised in 2001, it was probably not enough to justify throwing out an existing water heater that is working well.
Advanced contractors are now installing “on demand” hot water circulating loops that use a small pump to accelerate delivery of hot water to remote fixtures, which works great with low-flow fixtures. These are activated when users turn on a bathroom or kitchen tap, and turn off when hot water reaches the fixture.
REPLACE OLD BLUBS WITH LED’s or CFL’s: CFLs can save three-quarters of the electricity used by incandescent bulbs. Most people don’t think about the fact that the electricity to run a lightbulb costs much more than the bulb itself. One of the new CFLs costs about two or three dollars, but it lasts 10,000 hours and uses only about 27 watts to generate as much light as a 100-watt incandescent bulb. During its life, it uses about $22 in electricity, so the total cost is about $25. A 100-watt incandescent bulb costs 50 cents, but lasts 1,000 hours, so you need 10 of them ($5 to buy) to last 10,000 hours. In those 10,000 hours, you will use 1,000 kilowatts of electricity, which will cost more than $80 at a national average price. So the lighting cost of the CFL is less than one-third of the cost for the incandescent. The best targets for replacement are 60- to 100-watt bulbs used several hours a day, because usage affects how long it takes to recover the investment.
APPLIANCES: Avoid the temptation to use the old fridge as a backup for party supplies and liquid refreshment. The extra storage space will cost you: figure an extra $50–150 per year in electricity to keep that older fridge running. In contrast, the new fridge, particularly if Energy Star-rated, may cost only $30–60 per year to run because refrigerator efficiency has improved so much in the past three decades.
Some large families require more storage than most and that secondary refrigeration unit can seem like a good idea. In most cases, it’s actually more cost effective to have only one refrigerator that is large enough (or small enough) to meet your needs.
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