22 May
2012

Ways to Save Energy, Money on your Energy Bill

Posted by Norman Fong

green home save energy energy efficiency

Housing accounts for 20% of total US energy use with heating and cooling consuming a whopping 44% of residential energy use. US Energy Information Administration predicts heating oil, electricity, and natural gas will cost 2% to 10% more this winter.

Brought about by high fuel costs, single-family homes built with environmentally friendly features surged to 16% last year from 2% in 2006 according to McGraw-Hill Construction, a market research firm in New York. The cost of green homes are approximately 2% to 10% higher than a typical home.

Roadmap to lowering home’s energy cost

The following areas are the best bets for lowering your energy bill. The list is sorted in order of the best methods first.

  1. Sealing air leaks in your walls, windows, and duct work. $400 possible savings
  2. Adding attic insulation. $200 possible savings
  3. Adjusting your thermostat 5 – 10 degrees lower at night with a low programmable thermostat. $200 possible savings
  4. Turning off electronics and other items that suck power constantly. $120 possible annual savings
  5. Switching to a modern Energy Star dryer. $40 annual savings
  6. Switching your windows to double glazed units with low emissivity (low-E) coatings. 20 year payback time

Working with your local Utility Company

Your Energy Bill arrived and it is way to high. You can start by asking your energy provider to check your meters accuracy, but you will have to do detective work to really save money. Our local utility, PG&E, just announced another energy rate increase for 2010. You can go green and save money by following our energy saving tips.  This is an overview of the many energy saving tips we have covered over the years along with links to detailed articles.

In the San Francisco Bay Area most PG&E customers have tiered energy pricing (E1 Residential Pricing plan) that starts at 12 cents, but jumps to 14, 29.4 cents, 40.4 cents and 40.4 cents as you use more power. An average home in PG&E’s territory ends up paying 29-40.4 cents/KWHr for more than half of their electricity usage. This type of pricing encourages energy conservation. Baseline quantities are set within a range specified by state law and approved by California Public Utilities Commission. This figure can vary by geographic location.  Over the last 25 years, PG&E rates have increased by 4% a year. This makes saving energy much more important to reducing your energy bill.

Energy Monitoring

killawatt, measure electric usage, electric meter

The Kill a watt or Killawatt is a low cost (sub $20) Electricity Usage Monitor that allows you to measure the actual power usage of your electrical items.  This this tool, you will save money on all your power bills.

You can then determine what items are wasting energy and need to be replaced or turned off.

We were able to find out that a hot water pot drew tons of power.  We now unplug it at night or when we are out.

We consolidated multiple hard drives into a higher capacity WD Green hard drive, switched to a 80PLUS certified power supply to reduce the power draw on a desktop computer.

Our Sony LCD HDTV was Energy Star Certified and supposed to draw 0.3 watts on standby, but really consumed far more. Do not trust the spec sheets.  Measure it for yourself.

We put power ‘bricks’ on common power strips and turn them off when not needed. The Kill a Watt showed how much phantom power these bricks drew so we now turn off the power strip at night.

We own the very nice Sonos music system that streams music wirelessly all over the home.  It has no “OFF” button.  The manual states: “the system uses minimal electricity when it is not playing music”.  We measured a 7 watt power consumption for the Sonos S5 unit during standby.  That is not exactly minimal especially when you multiply it times several units in each house.  We put this unit on a digital timer so it would not be on 24/7.

For serious energy savers, the TED 5000 Energy monitor also helps to measure energy use. It is very advanced, featuring connectivity to an iPhone app. Power company Wireless Smart Meters have extended some of these power measuring capability to more folks.

PowerCost Monitor WiFi Gateway is another power gadget for the technology savvy geek. This WiFi unit wirelessly relays information about your electrical usage to your computers.

See how much energy you are using and optimize your usage to save money.

Federal Energy Efficiency Tax Credit

Be sure to also take advantage of the Federal Energy Efficiency Tax Credit. This Federal tax credit can save you money in addition to your utility companies’ promotions. It applies to many items including: Wind TurbinesGeoThermal Heat PumpSolar panels.

Heating & Cooling

Weatherize your home, Caulking, weather striping, thermostats, fixing any air duct leaks are easy to do. Window treatments and Window UV Films help prevent heat loss and buildup. Set your thermostat to come on before you get home and before you wake up. Set heat to off when you are gone. Be careful when using your fireplace because they can be polluting.

Keep your furnace maintained and replace any dirty filters. Heating and cooling systems work less efficiently when air filters are dirty. Save Energy by replacing air filters with new ones.  Filters costs about $10 and should be replaced serveral times a year.  We’ve seen figures of less than a year for  payback.

If you have allergies, be sure to get more expensive filters that capture dust and pollen.

Closing off more than 10% of vents in unused areas wastes energy because it causes your furnace to run inefficiently. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that most U.S. homes have over-sized HVAC systems, so make sure you buy the right size unit.

Seal up your light switches and outlets to prevent drafts.

Get a home energy audit to help find your problems. They use blowers that will detect areas causing heat loss.

Lighting

Switch to Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs or CFLs to save a bundle. Even more efficient LED Lighting is coming on strong.

Light up for the holidays with Eco Friendly Holiday Lighting – LED Holiday Lights

Appliances

Refrigerators and washing machines / clothes dryers use the most power in most homes. Reduce Refrigerator Energy Use by setting them correctly.

Wash Clothes in Cold Water to save energy.  Optimize your Energy Efficient Dishwasher. Avoid pre-rinsing dishes. Energy rates are lowest between midnight and 7 AM in most areas, try to use your appliances during those early hours.

Computers

Set your Mac – PC to sleep or hibernate after of inactivity. There are tutorials on how to do this and free software. Use a smart power strip as wall warts draw power even when nothing is on. No need to buy a new PC or operating system to save power. Also consider installing a Digital Timer to control the smart power strip. These work well with your Cable/DSL modem, router, and wireless networking equipment.

For Notebooks and Cell phones: Extend Battery Life, Laptop Battery Life, iPhone Battery Life

TVs

People are realizing their TVs eat a ton of power. California’s CEC is proposing new power rules for TVs. When purchasing, try to buy a green LCD TV. You can optimize your TV set’s power use by making sure all energy saving options are on and that the picture is not set to the energy draining “Torch mode” setting used in stores to show off the brightest of pictures. Also use a smart power strip as wall warts draw power even when nothing is on.

Water

Water rates are sky rocketing.  Save water in your bathroom and kitchen. Check your sprinkler system for leaks. Buy an advanced sprinkler controller that uses weather or soil information to adjust watering times. Switch to native drought tolerant plants.

Solar

It is a great time to go solar.  The Federal 30% Tax Credit is now uncapped. Panels are more efficient than ever.  A solar system can pay itself back in 7-10 years.  There are no money down leasing options that drop your monthly bill and require no large initial outlay. Solar Panels require a little Maintenance and cleaning.

Swimming Pools

Pool and spa pumps and heaters use the most energy in homes, making them a critical area for saving energy. Cover your pool with a vinyl cover, not a solar blanket. You’ll reduce the water evaporation, chemical usage, and lower the time you need to run the pool pump.  Newer variable speed pumps run longer but at slower speeds, reducing power use. Upgrade to one when your current one fails. Install a solar pool heater system, they work great.

Ways to Save Money and be green

Save Money

WSJ.com had an article with 10 ways to save money in these tough times. Having the amount of money saved made it more interesting. Most tips will save you green while making you more green. We have covered many in the past, but it always good to review. Some, like re-doing your own lawn will take more effort. Lawns use 50-80% of a household’s water. Flowers use less water, gravel and pathways use zero water.

Making your own lunch instead of buying out, $1460 – $3650 savings is pretty big. Probably better health wise too. Just cook a little extra the night before. You are cooking right?

Posted on May 22nd, 2012
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26 Responses to “Ways to Save Energy, Money on your Energy Bill”

  1. Jasper Says:

    On the subject of solar, solar hot water is looking particularly cost effective as fossil fuel prices continue to rise. Here in the UK companies such as SolarUK have seen plenty of enquiries from potential customers, despite difficult economic conditions, who are aware that in the long run a well-designed system (such as the LaZer2) will save them money, providing 50% to 70% of a household’s hot water needs, often rising to 100% during the warmest months of the year.

    The Government recently expressed its intention for every home in the UK to have a ‘Smart Meter’ by the end of 2020. It will enable suppliers to remotely record customers’ gas and electricity use, while householders will be able to see how much energy they are consuming.

    Homeowners who have had SolarUK solar thermal systems installed have reported electricity savings too – because at the same time they have bought electricity monitors, which makes them more aware that they sometimes use energy unnecessarily, or because they have changed their lightbulbs to energy saving ones.

  2. Amy Says:

    Thanks for highlighting different ways to save energy at home! Our homes use a lot of energy and there are a lot of ways to reduce our usage and become more efficient.

    Since tax credits and other energy efficiency rebates are being updated all the time, we created a site for homeowners to easily find the latest applicable incentives

  3. paul Says:

    good tips. in addition, unplug the monitor, computer, printer and other gagdets with a standby mode because these will still consume electricity when plugged. it’s called phantom load and depending on the number of gadgets consuming phantom load, it can make up about 10% of your total monthly bill.

    switching to CFLs and LED lights can also make significant decrease in energy consumption. and yes, LED TV may be pricier, but they save a lot of energy, too.

  4. Glass Bottles Says:

    Thanks for sharing. Sometimes, people thing it is too complicated or won’t make that big of difference to live a little greener, but this post shows us that we don’t necessarily need to overhaul our whole lives to make changes. Thanks for the easy to follow tips.

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  21. abdul Says:

    Hello,
    Savings is the most important things of life because if we can save the money then we can secure our future.
    Thanks

  22. Steve Says:

    The easiest way to make your home more energy efficient is to seal any air leaks, and one that is often overlooked is the bathroom ventilation fan and exhaust vent. The back-draft flap these units come with do a very poor job of stopping leaks. To address this issue, I use a replacement insert fan from Company (online). Their fans has a true damper built in, that does a great job in keeping warm air in during the winter and hot, humid air out in the summer. This product has reduced my annual energy bills by over ten percent. It saves the most when air conditioning is being used.

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