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10 Easy Ways to Save Energy in Your Home


by Nick Gromicko, Ben Gromicko, and Kenton Shepard

Most people don’t know how easy it is to make their homes run on less energy,
and here at InterNACHI, we want to change that. Drastic reductions in heating,
cooling and electricity costs can be accomplished through very simple changes,
most of which homeowners can do themselves. Of course, for homeowners who
want to take advantage of the most up-to-date knowledge and systems in home
energy efficiency, InterNACHI energy auditors can perform in-depth testing to
find the best energy solutions for your particular home.
Why make your home more energy efficient? Here are a few good reasons:
Federal, state, utility and local jurisdictions' financial incentives, such as tax
breaks, are very advantageous for homeowners in most parts of the U.S.


It saves money. It costs less to power a home that has been converted to be
more energy-efficient.
It increases the comfort level indoors.
It reduces our impact on climate change. Many scientists now believe that
excessive energy consumption contributes significantly to global warming.
It reduces pollution. Conventional power production introduces pollutants
that find their way into the air, soil and water supplies.


1. Find better 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 and heaters.
Set thermostats to an appropriate temperature. Specifically, they should be
turned down at night and when no one is home. In most homes, about 2% of
the heating bill will be saved for each degree that the thermostat is lowered
for at least eight hours each day. Turning down the thermostat from 75° F to
70° F, for example, saves about 10% on heating costs.
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.
Install a wood stove or a pellet stove. These are more efficient sources of heat
than furnaces.
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%.


6. Use appliances and electronics responsibly.
Appliances and electronics account for about 20% of household energy bills in a
typical U.S. home. The following are tips that will reduce the required energy of
electronics and appliances:
Refrigerators and freezers should not be located near the stove, dishwasher or
heat vents, or exposed to direct sunlight. Exposure to warm areas will force
them to use more energy to remain cool.
Computers should be shut off when not in use. If unattended computers must
be left on, their monitors should be shut off. According to some studies,
computers account for approximately 3% of all energy consumption in the
United States.
Use efficient ENERGY STAR-rated appliances and electronics. These devices,
approved by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection
Agency’s ENERGY STAR Program, include TVs, home theater systems, DVD
players, CD players, receivers, speakers, and more. According to the EPA, if
just 10% of homes used energy-efficient appliances, it would reduce carbon
emissions by the equivalent of 1.7 million acres of trees.
Chargers, such as those used for laptops and cell phones, consume energy
when they are plugged in. When they are not connected to electronics,
chargers should be unplugged.
Laptop computers consume considerably less electricity than desktop
computers.


7. Install daylighting as an alternative to electrical lighting.
Daylighting is the practice of using natural light to illuminate the home's
interior. It can be achieved using the following approaches:
skylights. It’s important that they be double-pane or they may not be
cost-effective. Flashing skylights correctly is key to avoiding leaks;
light shelves. Light shelves are passive devices designed to bounce light deep
into a building. They may be interior or exterior. Light shelves can introduce
light into a space up to 2½ times the distance from the floor to the top of the
window, and advanced light shelves may introduce four times that amount;
clerestory windows. Clerestory windows are short, wide windows set high on
the wall. Protected from the summer sun by the roof overhang, they allow
winter sun to shine through for natural lighting and warmth; and
light tubes. Light tubes use a special lens designed to amplify low-level light
and reduce light intensity from the midday sun. Sunlight is channeled
through a tube coated with a highly reflective material, and then enters the
living space through a diffuser designed to distribute light evenly.


8. Insulate windows and doors.

About one-third of the home's total heat loss usually occurs through windows and
doors. The following are ways to reduce energy lost through windows and doors:
Seal all window edges and cracks with rope caulk. This is the cheapest and
simplest option.
Windows can be weatherstripped with a special lining that is inserted between
the window and the frame. For doors, apply weatherstripping around the
whole perimeter to ensure a tight seal when they're closed. Install quality
door sweeps on the bottom of the doors, if they aren't already in place.
Install storm windows at windows with only single panes. A removable glass
frame can be installed over an existing window.
If existing windows have rotted or damaged wood, cracked glass, missing
putty, poorly fitting sashes, or locks that don't work, they should be repaired
or replaced.


9. Cook smart.
An enormous amount of energy is wasted while cooking. The following
recommendations and statistics illustrate less wasteful ways of cooking:
Convection ovens are more efficient that conventional ovens. They use fans to
force hot air to circulate more evenly, thereby allowing food to be cooked at a
lower temperature. Convection ovens use approximately 20% less electricity
than conventional ovens.
Microwave ovens consume approximately 80% less energy than conventional
ovens.
Pans should be placed on the matching size heating element or flame.
Using lids on pots and pans will heat food more quickly than cooking in
uncovered pots and pans.
Pressure cookers reduce cooking time dramatically.
When using conventional ovens, food should be placed on the top rack. The
top rack is hotter and will cook food faster.


10. Change the way you do laundry.
Do not use the medium setting on your washer. Wait until you have a full load
of clothes, as the medium setting saves less than half of the water and energy
used for a full load.
Avoid using high-temperature settings when clothes are not very soiled.
Water that is 140° F uses far more energy than 103° F for the warm-water
setting, but 140° F isn’t that much more effective for getting clothes clean.
Clean the lint trap every time before you use the dryer. Not only is excess lint
a fire hazard, but it will prolong the amount of time required for your clothes
to dry.
If possible, air-dry your clothes on lines and racks.
Spin-dry or wring clothes out before putting them into a dryer.
Homeowners who take the initiative to make these changes usually discover that
the energy savings are more than worth the effort. InterNACHI home inspectors
can make this process much easier because they can perform a more
comprehensive assessment of energy-savings potential than the average
homeowner can.