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.
- Sealing air leaks in your walls, windows, and duct work. $400 possible savings
- Adding attic insulation. $200 possible savings
- Adjusting your thermostat 5 – 10 degrees lower at night with a low programmable thermostat. $200 possible savings
- Turning off electronics and other items that suck power constantly. $120 possible annual savings
- Switching to a modern Energy Star dryer. $40 annual savings
- 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.
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 Turbines – GeoThermal Heat Pump – Solar 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.
Light up for the holidays with Eco Friendly Holiday Lighting – LED Holiday Lights
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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
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?