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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Energy Saving Guide

Make these simple improvements now, start slashing your energy bills for years to come.

Projects With Immediate Payback (0 to 6 months)

Wrap the Water Heater
Until you’re ready to upgrade to a super-efficient, on-demand water heater (which costs about 25 percent less to operate than that big tank in your basement because it heats only the water you need), get the most from your existing one by covering it with a water heater blanket. This insulated jacket fits over the tank to help reduce the gas, oil, or electricity that’s required to keep water hot and at the ready. You can install it in just a few minutes. And while you’re at it, insulate the first five feet of hot-water pipe after it exits the tank and the last five feet of cold-water supply before it enters the tank. Together, these fixes will yield an immediate 15 percent reduction in the heater’s operating costs.
COST: $30
PAYBACK: up to $50 per year

Install a Programmable Thermostat
Turning down the thermostat 7 degrees at bedtime will knock 10 percent off your heating costs, but who wants to wake up to a frigid house? A programmable thermostat automatically drops the heat at night and cranks it up in the morning, so the house is warm before your alarm clock rings. Program it to lower the heat again while you’re at work and the kids are in school all day and you’ll reap additional savings. Best of all, many of these battery-operated units are easy to install yourself.
COST: $30 to $80
PAYBACK: $100 to $250 per year

Seal Gaps and Cracks
Check the attic floor and basement ceiling for gaps around pipe and wire penetrations and fill them with insulating foam, such as Great Stuff, which expands to fill any void you find. Check doors and windows for air leaks and seal with self-adhesive weatherstripping. “Sealing the building envelope generates immediate energy savings for little upfront cost,” says Nate Kredich, a vice president at the United States Green Building Council.
COST: $50 for all the Great Stuff and weatherstripping you’ll need.
PAYBACK: $100 to $250 per year

Use Compact Fluorescent Bulbs
If you replace conventional incandescent light bulbs with CFLs, you can slash as much as 15 percent off your household electricity bills. “The first CFLs had a greenish cast to them,” says Mark Loeffler, director of New Haven, CT based environmental design firm Atelier Ten, “but a high-quality bulb you buy today works well for general ‘ambient’ lighting.” Still, stick to incandescents for task lighting (because they’re less diffuse) and in bathrooms, where CFLs can be unflattering. Look for bulbs with the highest Color Rendering Index you can find—generally in the low- to mid-80s, compared with early CFLs, which scored about 70, and incandescents, which have a CRI of 100.
COST: about $3 each; $60 to replace 20 bulbs, two-thirds of the bulbs in a typical house.
PAYBACK: As much as $10 a year for one high-use bulb; $150 to $170 a year for 20 CFLs

Projects With Short-Term Payback (1 to 3 years)

Install Ceiling Fans
Thanks to the wind-chill factor, a ceiling fan makes you feel cooler by evaporating the moisture from your skin. So if you install one over your bed, for example, you should be able to raise the thermostat setting on the air conditioner by a couple of degrees and still feel just as comfortable. And because the fan uses no more energy than a 100-watt bulb, that’s a far more economical way to keep cool. You can reverse the fan’s direction in the winter and it will help push down heated air that gets trapped at the ceiling, reducing the amount of work your heating system has to do.
COST: $60 to $700
PAYBACK: $120 a year in electricity bills for air conditioning and $100 to $250 in heating fuel savings

Beef Up Attic Insulation
“Heat rises, so adding insulation to the attic floor is one of the best energy retrofits you can do,” says physicist Max Sherman, who leads the Energy Performance of Buildings group at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. If the insulation on (or in) your attic floor is less than 10 inches thick, bring it to at least that depth by rolling out additional batts over what’s there, and you’ll shave 15 to 30 percent off your heating bills.
COST: $300 (to add 3 inches of fiberglass insulation to a 1,000-square-foot attic floor) * some insulation products are eligible for 30 percent tax credit under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (link)
PAYBACK: $150 to $300 a year for the average home heated with natural gas; $350 to $700 for oil heat.
TIP: If your wall cavities are uninsulated, you can cut another 20 percent off your heating bills by blowing cellulose insulation into them ($1,000 to $2,000, plus the cost of minor repairs to siding where the contractor drills his access holes).

Projects with Long-Term Payback (5 or more years)

Plant a Tree
Putting a deciduous tree (or several) on the south or west side of your house will shade the building in the summer, reducing the strain on your air conditioning system and cutting costs by about 25 percent. And when the tree drops its leaves in the winter, the sun’s warming rays will penetrate, helping to keep heating bills in check.
COST: shade trees start as low as $50 each.
PAYBACK: $100 to $200 a year, once the tree is mature.

Upgrade to Energy-Efficient Appliances
Energy Star appliances consume 10 to 50 percent less electricity than standard appliances sold today, and if you’re replacing equipment that is older than 10 years, the energy savings will be even greater. Refrigerators and clothes washers are two of the biggest household energy guzzlers. A new Energy Star fridge uses half the energy of a machine made a decade ago; a front-load washer uses 35 percent less electricity than an old top-mount, plus it consumes less hot water and spins the clothes so effectively that you save money on dryer operating costs, too.
COST: $600 to $1,400 for a front-load clothes washer; $1,000 to $3,000 for an Energy Star refrigerator
PAYBACK: $145 a year in electricity savings for the washer, plus gallons of water saved on every load; $60 a year for the refrigerator

Replace Your Aging Heating or Cooling System
The life expectancy of a furnace is 15 to 20 years, and for air conditioning equipment, it’s only 10 to 15. Even if your old system is still chugging along, you can reap dramatic benefits by upgrading to newer, more efficient technology. If you live in the frost belt, replacing a 20-year-old furnace or boiler with a new one will pay for itself in 7 years, then start putting money in your pocket. In the sun belt, replacing central air conditioners that are just a decade old can have an even bigger return.
COST: $3,000 to $8,000 for an efficient furnace, boiler, or air conditioning unit *super-efficient equipment may be eligible for 30 percent tax credit under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (link)
PAYBACK: $500 to $1,800 per year
TIP: To determine what energy retrofits will yield the biggest payback in your house, fill out the Home Energy Calculator worksheet at

And Don’t Forget These Freebies
Not every energy upgrade costs money or requires making an alteration to your house. Take these three, for example.

  • Turn down the temperature on your water heater by 10 degrees, and you’ll save 3 to 5 percent on operating costs. Many heaters are set at 140 degrees, but in most cases, 120 or even 115 degrees is plenty. Your shower won’t feel any different, because you’ll just mix in less cold water. And today’s dishwashers have their own heating units that boost the water temperature to sanitizing levels.
    COST: free
    PAYBACK: $15 or more per year
  • Adjust your normal day and night-time thermostat temperatures slightly higher in the summer and slightly lower in the winter. For each degree of change, you’ll save 3 to 5 percent on operating costs.
    COST: free
    PAYBACK: $150 to $300 per year for every 2-degree drop in the winter and increase in the summer.
  • Shorten your family’s normal shower lengths by 5 minutes. You can do this by using a kitchen timer or watch alarm to get everyone out of the habit of lingering endlessly under the spray.
    COST: free
    PAYBACK: $100 per year for each family member who shaves 5 minutes off their average shower time.

Thanks to:

Josh Garskof for these great ideas!

Posted By Amy Preister At 4:12 PM • Comments (0) Trackbacks (0)
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