RSS Feed

Energy (and money) Saving Ways – from Mother Earth News.

Posted on

Energy (and money) Saving Ways – from Mother Earth News.
Link to original article.Reducing your home energy use is the best of win-win deals — not only does it reduce your carbon footprint, it also saves you big bucks on your energy bills. That’s especially exciting when you consider that many home energy improvements are fast, easy and inexpensive. Often, the savings from an individual project are small, but when you start putting them together they add up quickly.

Read more:

Here are the details: We cut our total energy use from 93,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) per year to 38,000 kWh per year. This is saving us $4,500 per year in energy costs, and has reduced our carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 17 tons! Our rate of return on the money we invested in this program is more than 50 percent — tax free.

Read more:

The Top Eight Projects Initial
per Year
per Year
CO2 Reduction
per Year
Personal Computer Power Management $20 $178 1,780 kWh 3,560 lbs
Install Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs $50 $117 1,170 kWh 2,340 lbs
Seal and Insulate Heating Ducts $20 $75 940 kWh 480 lbs
Reduce Infiltration Losses From House (Seal Leaks) $50 $156 1,980 kWh 1,010 lbs
Vent Dryer to Inside During Winter $5 $63 630 kWh 286 lbs
Insulate Windows With Bubble Wrap $38 $75 960 kWh 490 lbs
Eliminate Phantom Electrical Loads $70 $57 570 kWh 1,140 lbs
Use an Electric Mattress Pad $125 $186 2,320 kWh 1,150 lbs
Totals $378 $907 10,350 kWh 10,456 lbs

Another bonus is that some of our energy improvements qualified for rebates or tax credits that further increased the money we saved.

1. Personal Computer Power Management

Computers and all their related equipment, such as printers and wireless routers, consume a lot of power. Together, our two computers and related equipment used 270 watts whenever they were switched on, but we found there was an easy way to reduce this amount. We put all the computer junk on a power strip, so that at night we could turn off everything with one flip of the power strip switch. We also started using the energy saving settings on our computers. During the day, we have the computers set to hibernate if they are inactive for 15 minutes so that the computer stops consuming power. This saves a total of 1,780 kWh per year, 3,560 pounds of greenhouse gas, and $178 per year!

2. Install Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs Throughout the House

We decided to replace all of our existing incandescent lights with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). There is a much larger variety of CFLs out there now than there were just a few years ago. You can find them for most situations, including for lights with dimmer switches and decorative bulbs.

2. Install Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs Throughout the House

We decided to replace all of our existing incandescent lights with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). There is a much larger variety of CFLs out there now than there were just a few years ago. You can find them for most situations, including for lights with dimmer switches and decorative bulbs.

3. Seal and Insulate Heating Ducts

Good sources say that duct losses are typically high — 15 percent to 30 percent on average of your heated air from the furnace is lost through cracks and openings at the duct joints. But in general, you can’t get at a lot of the ducting that runs through walls on an existing house. I focused my efforts on the ones I could get to in the attic, crawl space and basement.

4. Reduce Infiltration Losses (Seal Your Home’s Air Leaks)

Most homes have many places where air leaks in and out, including around doors and windows, but especially around plumbing, wiring and light fixtures that penetrate into the attic or crawl space. We decided to caulk around all the windows, and seal wiring and plumbing penetrations from the living space to the attic. For this project, I bought a few tubes of caulking and some polyurethane foam in cans, which cost a total of about $50.

You can find the obvious air leaks yourself because you’ll feel the drafts, but you might be surprised at some of the places your home is losing heat. The best way to find these spots is through a professional inspection, including a blower door test. Then take every opportunity during the test to identify infiltration locations, so you can fix them later.

5. Vent Dryer Inside During Winter.

We have started to route the clothes dryer heat vent to the inside of the house in the winter. We live in a very dry climate, so the added moisture is a benefit, not a problem. There are two major advantages of venting inside. First, you recover the heat that was added to dry the clothes (about 2.2 kWh per load). Second, you avoid bringing in cold outside air to make up for the air that the dryer is pushing outside. To vent to the inside, you need to have a dry climate, an electric (not gas) dryer, and a way to catch the lint in the dryer exit stream. The cost of this project was $20 for some tubing and a lint filter. For obvious reasons this is a non-runner for Irish/British homes. However a condenser dryer though not as effective as a ‘vented’ dryer at least keeps the inside the house.

6. Insulate Windows with Bubble Wrap

This is a neat idea that comes from the greenhouse crowd. You can insulate windows using bubble wrap packing material by spraying a water mist on the window, and then applying bubble wrap. The bubble wrap will usually stay in place for the full season with one spray. The bubble wrap distorts the view, but does allow good daylight to come through. It’s a good option for windows that you don’t need a view out of.

This is very cost effective — payback is usually less than one heating season. At the end of winter, you can just pull the bubble wrap off, roll it up and save it for next year.

7. Eliminate Phantom Electrical Loads.

The easiest way to find out how much power your appliances and gadgets consume even when they’re “off” is with an inexpensive meter, such as Lidl sometimes sell. However one can take it that the average ‘stand-by’ usage is around 50% of the unit. The easiest thing to do is buy some multi-plug extensions with an on/off switch and TURN IT OFF going to bed – leaving the house etc. We found that by turning the SKY box off at night saved more than €1,- per day.

8. Use Electric Mattress Pads

Unlike electric blankets, the power consumption for mattress pad heaters is very low (about 0.15 kWh per night). By using these electric mattress pads to heat the bed, we’re able to keep the temperature of the rest of the house much lower and still be comfortable. We have two furnaces in the house, but since putting in the electric mattress pad heaters, we have been able to turn off the furnace that heats the bedrooms. The savings in propane is considerable, and the comfort is outstanding.

The Next Eight Home Energy Projects

Ready to tackle more home improvement projects? The eight projects featured in this article are those that yield big savings the fastest, but the eight projects listed below also yield large savings over time. Here are the costs and savings that Gary Reysa found when trying them in his home. You can read more about them on his Web site.

per Year
per Year
CO2 Reduction
per Year
Add More Attic Insulation $256 $126 1,593 kWh 812 lbs
Add More Crawl Space Insulation $210 $86 1,094 kWh 558 lbs
Buy a New, Efficient Clothes Washer $400 $35 350 kWh 700 lbs
Buy a New, Efficient Refrigerator $800 $72 720 kWh 1,440 lbs
Install Storm Windows $450 $220 2,700 kWh 1,100 lbs
Install a Storm Door $200 $17 216 kWh 100 lbs
Install Thermal Shades $1,086 $258 3,159 kWh 1,525 lbs
Remember to Turn Off Everything! $0 $44 438 kWh 876 lbs
Totals $3,402 $858 10,270 kWh 7,111 lbs


Plan Your Own Projects

When we started our series of energy improvement projects, our goal was to cut our power usage and greenhouse gas emissions in half. We’re amazed at how easy it was and how much money we saved. But houses and living situations differ, so if you’d like to tackle your own half plan, you may need to choose a different list of projects. Here are some tips for getting started.

1. Make a full list of projects to reduce your energy use.

Build a big list of candidates to choose from. You can find the list of all the projects we did at here. These are some other helpful resources:

2. Don’t do projects that aren’t feasible for your residence or situation.

Some projects will be impossible for your home or situation — throw these out. You might want to put some projects that look like a big stretch on a separate list to be looked at later.

3. Evaluate each project — estimate the cost, energy savings and greenhouse gas reduction.

For each project on your list, see if you can come up with at least a rough idea of what it would cost and what kind of energy savings it would achieve. In the project descriptions for everything we did, I’ve included how we estimated the cost, energy savings and greenhouse gas reduction — these may be helpful for similar projects.

4. Make a master list of projects that you intend to do over time.

Using the results of your evaluations from Step 3, weed out the projects that don’t seem worth it. This should leave you with a good list of projects that make sense for your situation, economics and the planet.

5. Sequence the projects. Put them in the order you want to do them.

All things being equal, you might as well do the projects that save the most first. But there are other factors to consider, such as the fact that some projects may interfere with others if done too early. For example, it’s hard to seal up the electrical and plumbing penetrations from the living space into the attic if you have to wade through the 18 inches of loose fill insulation that you just added. Also, your budget may require putting off some of the pricey projects until later, or you might just be more interested in some projects than others.

6. Do them! Have fun and keep track of your progress. Be proud of the results.

Keep your utility bills so you can see what progress you are making. The bills will also be helpful if you sell the house to show its improved energy efficiency.

Here are a few other resources to keep in mind. If you are doing the insulating and weatherizing projects yourself, then Insulate and Weatherize by Bruce Harley is well worth the price. There are also some helpful how-to guides and plans mixed into these pages here and here.

Gary Reysa is an accomplished do-it-yourselfer who has tackled dozens of home energy projects, large and small. This article is adapted from material on his Web site, where you can find many more projects

Read more:




About pfiddle

Fiddle teacher - mostly Irish trad. Fiddle, mandolin and concertina. Eco-warrior, won E.U. Green Flower Award for Eco Accommodation. Also Irish (Gold) GHA. Green Hospitality Award. Mad keen on self-build - especially straw-bale and cob. 55 with a full head of (slightly) graying hair. No tattoos or piercings. Fond of animals - but legally so. Fond of food - I eat nothing else. Vegetarian by choice, Irish by the grace of birth, Munster by force of (rugby) arms.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: