Energy (and $$) Savings in Your Home

Our friends at InterNACHI provide us with research and know-how to advise our customers on a range of best practices for retaining and improving the value of your home investment. I’d like to pass along some great ideas for energy cost savings in your home. Here’s five ways:

  1. Use more energy-efficient ways to heat and cool your house. As much as half of the energy used in homes goes toward heating and cooling. The following are a few ways that energy bills can be reduced through adjustments to the heating and cooling systems:
    • Install a ceiling fan. Ceiling fans can be used in place of air conditioners, which require a large amount of energy.
    • Periodically replace air filters in air conditioners / heaters.
    • Set thermostats to an appropriate temperature. Specifically, they should be adjusted at night and when no one is home.
    • Install a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat saves money by allowing heating and cooling appliances to be automatically turned down during times that no one is home and at night. Programmable thermostats contain no mercury and, in some climate zones, can save up to $150 per year in energy costs.
    • At night, curtains drawn over windows will better insulate the room.
  2. Install a tankless water heater. Demand-type water heaters (tankless or instantaneous) provide hot water only as it is needed. They don’t produce the standby energy losses associated with traditional storage water heaters, which will save on energy costs. Tankless water heaters heat water directly without the use of a storage tank. When a hot water tap is turned on, cold water travels through a pipe into the unit. A gas burner or an electric element heats the water. As a result, demand water heaters deliver a constant supply of hot water. You don’t need to wait for a storage tank to fill up with enough hot water.
  3. Replace incandescent lights. The average household dedicates 11% of its energy budget to lighting. Traditional incandescent lights convert approximately only 10% of the energy they consume into light, while the rest becomes heat. The use of new lighting technologies, such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), can reduce the energy use required by lighting by 50% to 75%. Advances in lighting controls offer further energy savings by reducing the amount of time that lights are on but not being used. Here are some facts about CFLs and LEDs:
    • CFLs use 75% less energy and last about 10 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs.
    • LEDs last even longer than CFLs and consume less energy.
    • LEDs have no moving parts and, unlike CFLs, they contain no mercury.
  4. Seal and insulate your home. Sealing and insulating your home is one of the most cost-effective ways to make a home more comfortable and energy-efficient, and you can do it yourself. A tightly sealed home can improve comfort and indoor air quality while reducing utility bills. An InterNACHI energy auditor can assess leakage in the building envelope and recommend fixes that will dramatically increase comfort and energy savings. The following are some common places where leakage may occur:
    • electrical receptacles/outlets;
    • mail slots;
    • around pipes and wires;
    • wall- or window-mounted air conditioners;
    • attic hatches;
    • fireplace dampers;
    • inadequate weatherstripping around doors;
    • baseboards;
    • window frames; and
    • switch plates. Because hot air rises, air leaks are most likely to occur in the attic. Homeowners can perform a variety of repairs and maintenance to their attics that save them money on cooling and heating, such as:
    • Plug the large holes. Locations in the attic where leakage is most likely to be the greatest are where walls meet the attic floor, behind and under attic knee walls, and in dropped-ceiling areas.
    • Seal the small holes. You can easily do this by looking for areas where the insulation is darkened. Darkened insulation is a result of dusty interior air being filtered by insulation before leaking through small holes in the building envelope. In cold weather, you may see frosty areas in the insulation caused by warm, moist air condensing and then freezing as it hits the cold attic air. In warmer weather, you’ll find water staining in these same areas. Use expanding foam or caulk to seal the openings around plumbing vent pipes and electrical wires. Cover the areas with insulation after the caulk is dry.
    • Seal up the attic access panel with weatherstripping. You can cut a piece of fiberglass or rigid foamboard insulation in the same size as the attic hatch and glue it to the back of the attic access panel. If you have pull-down attic stairs or an attic door, these should be sealed in a similar manner.
  5. Install efficient showerheads and toilets. The following systems can be installed to conserve water usage in homes:
    • low-flow showerheads. They are available in different flow rates, and some have a pause button which shuts off the water while the bather lathers up;
    • low-flow toilets. Toilets consume 30% to 40% of the total water used in homes, making them the biggest water users. Replacing an older 3.5-gallon toilet with a modern, low-flow 1.6-gallon toilet can reduce usage an average of 2 gallons-per-flush (GPF), saving 12,000 gallons of water per year. Low-flow toilets usually have “1.6 GPF” marked on the bowl behind the seat or inside the tank;
    • vacuum-assist toilets. This type of toilet has a vacuum chamber that uses a siphon action to suck air from the trap beneath the bowl, allowing it to quickly fill with water to clear waste. Vacuum-assist toilets are relatively quiet; and
    • dual-flush toilets. Dual-flush toilets have been used in Europe and Australia for years and are now gaining in popularity in the U.S. Dual-flush toilets let you choose between a 1-gallon (or less) flush for liquid waste, and a 1.6-gallon flush for solid waste. Dual-flush 1.6-GPF toilets reduce water consumption by an additional 30%.

We hope you get some good ideas from this list, and watch for a few more pointers in our next posting. This information was provided by InterNACHI, our professional home inspectors association.