Energy Saving Keys to Remodel Your Home Green

March 26, 2009 by  
Filed under Energy Efficiency

The best remodeling projects are the ones that pay for themselves in the long run. If you’re already contemplating a remodeling project in your home, consider including a few changes that can translate into better energy efficiency. Small changes to things such as insulation, lighting, appliances, lighting, or the hot water heater can drive down your utility bills while also helping to make the environment a little cleaner.

The first place to check your home’s energy efficiency is behind your walls. R-value measures the ability of insulation to resist heat transfer. Homes are built to meet local building requirements, which are not calibrated for peak energy efficiency, but only to meet minimal needs for the area’s climate. By upgrading your insulation’s R-value, you will keep warm air in during cold weather, and cool air in during the warmer weather. This means big changes in the amount of energy needed to heat or cool your home. Also, look for gaps in attic space that could use an insulation boost. Even a small area that has little, damaged, or no insulation can contribute to significant energy loss. Fortunately, adding insulation to attic space or finished walls or ceilings is a relatively easy, cost-effective improvement that will pay off in a short amount of time.

The next way to make changes for sustainable living in your home is to replace old appliances with new, more energy efficient ones. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that one older appliance can cost a homeowner as much as $150 more each year than an energy-efficient model. Prepare a budget to replace any outdated appliance, including your washer, dryer, stove, refrigerator, and dishwasher. It is an investment that will pay for itself in the long run, economically and environmentally.

An easy lighting makeover that can translate into energy savings for your home is just replacing all incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient fluorescent bulbs. This can put a noticeable dent in your electrical bill while also ensuring you’ve done your part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. If you’re anticipating the replacement of your roof, consider putting in solar tubes at the same time. Solar tubes enhance natural lighting, and may even eliminate the need for electric lighting for some rooms during daylight hours if the tubes are properly placed.

To save money on your water bills, consider trading in your old hot water heater for an eco-friendly tankless one. The tank of a typical hot water heater keeps 20 – 50 gallons of water heated daily. By contrast, a tankless water heater only works to heat water when it’s needed. If your current hot water heater is run on gas, you will save money on fuel as well as in reduced water usage. If replacing your water heater isn’t in the budget, an insulating jacket for your water heater typically costs less than $20, and outfitting your pipes is even cheaper. Both of these little changes make your water heater more energy efficient.

Even low-cost energy-saving changes to your home can contribute to the go green movement. When remodeling your home, remember that every upgrade in energy efficiency, from insulation to lighting, can make a big difference to the environment and, eventually, your wallet.

Energy-Saving Hot Water Heaters: Your Three Best Options

March 25, 2009 by  
Filed under Energy Efficiency

The second largest expense in home energy, after heating and cooling and accounting for about 14% of the average utility bill, is the hot water heater. The typical hot water heater only lasts about 10 to 15 years, so before you find yourself in the market for a new one it would definitely be prudent to research every option for energy efficiency. Solar, heat pump, and tankless water heaters are all home energy savers that would make excellent choices for sustainable living.

Solar Heaters

The most economical, environmentally friendly source of heat energy is the sun. Thermal solar energy has been used effectively for ages and best of all, is absolutely free. A solar water heating system comprises collectors outside which preheat water before channeling it to the home’s primary hot water heater, a storage tank near the main heater, a connecting pipe, and a controller. During the summer, preheated water from the collectors may be all that’s required to meet usage demands.

The most important consideration when installing a solar heating system is the location of the collectors. Whether placed on a mounted stand on the ground or the roof, the collectors must be facing south and be exposed to direct sunlight all day, all year long. Unfortunately, these considerations rule this option out for anyone living in cloudy or cold climates, or whose home is surrounded by heavy foliage or other buildings. Solar hot water systems can cut yearly water costs by more than 50%.

Heat Pump Heaters

After solar heaters, the next most cost and energy saving alternative is the heat pump heater. These water heaters work by pulling heat from the air outside and transferring it into the water within the tank. They are optimal for moderate climates and very energy efficient. Though the initial cost might be high, the end result is about a 50% reduction in your water heating bills.

In hot climates, an attachment to your heat pump called a desuperheater can be used to heat water via waste heat from the device alone. Though not as powerful as other methods, it is a way of harnessing renewable energy and can meet almost all of a home’s hot water needs during the summer months.

Tankless Heaters

Tankless water heaters may sound like the next new thing in green living, but they’ve actually been used for decades outside the US. Typical hot water heaters heat and store 20 to 50 gallons of water per day, whether anyone actually uses it or not. This seems remarkably wasteful when compared with the energy-saving tankless heater, which only heats water on demand.

Energy efficient tankless heaters can be gas or electric and have two classifications. Whole house tankless heaters totally replace the typical storage hot water heater. Point of use tankless heaters are installed right next to where the hot water will be used, such as under a sink. Though more costly than traditional storage water heaters, this option cost much less to operate, which translates into energy bill savings.

Any one of these three models could greatly improve the energy efficiency of your home. Discover what eco-friendly choices are available to you today and invest in your future.

Energy-Saving Heating and Cooling Ideas for Your Home

March 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Energy Efficiency

Most people would make their home’s heating or cooling system more energy efficient if they knew what it entailed. It’s not as hard as you might think, and doesn’t have to involve buying a whole new air conditioning system or furnace. You can go green at home with just routine maintenance and little changes like installing programmable thermostats, sealing heating ducts, and changing air filters. These aren’t just good ideas but also wise investments that can pay off in energy savings that are evident in lowered utility bills.

The first step in energy-saving routine maintenance for your heating and cooling (HVAC) system is to hire an HVAC specialist to do an annual check-up. Though it might sound like a costly idea, by preventing a problem and extending the lifetime of your existing furnace and/or air conditioner, you can receive a large return on the investment. Make sure that you get a certified technician to check all components of your furnace, including the fuel connections, blower, heat exchanger, and combustion. Confirm that everything is in good working order. A complete check should also include monitoring the air conditioner’s refrigerant and conditioning coils, as well as checking all thermostat settings.

Another great investment into energy savings and reduced heating and cooling costs for your home is a programmable thermostat. This is especially helpful if your house is empty for long periods during the day. A programmable thermostat allows you to keep the heat off when no one is using it, and you can program it so that it comes back on long enough before anyone arrives home to reach a comfortable temperature. That way no energy is wasted to heat or cool a vacant house.

It is well worth the time and effort to seal heating ducts, particularly if there are long lengths that snake through your basement, attic, or storage spaces. Unsealed joints on the sheet metal can unknowingly be leaking vast amounts of cold or hot air. Sealing or wrapping all of the joints is an easy way to make your heating/cooling system more energy efficient.

One of the easiest and often overlooked ways to maintain an energy efficient system is to routinely change your air filter. It is recommended by most manufacturers that you change them every three months or so at a minimum. This easy task keeps dust out of your system and improves the quality of your air flow. Unlike outdoor air, indoor air is recycled over and over. Considering the fact that most people spend around 90% of their time indoors, it is well worth it do everything you can to keep your indoor air healthy and clean. When you change your air filter you not only clean up your air, but improve the energy efficiency of your system, and ultimately save on your energy bills.

All of these going green ideas are easy, inexpensive, and effective. Try all of them and you will be not only contributing to a safer, cleaner environment, but also saving money on significantly lower utility bills. It’s a win-win strategy that results in less wasted energy, more money, and sustainable living for everyone.

Energy Saving at Home: How to Maximize Heating and Cooling Efficiency

March 23, 2009 by  
Filed under Energy Efficiency

Everyone is looking for ways to have a more energy efficient home. Not only does it save costs on energy bills, but it contributes to a greener, cleaner environment. What are the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint at home and join in with the hot trend of eco-friendly home ownership? From minimizing air leaks to upgrading your insulation, there are definite things that you can do to maximize the energy efficiency of heating and cooling your home.

The highest energy costs in your home are the costs to heat and cool it. You want your home to have a tightly sealed thermal envelope, which means the inside is protected from the elements outside. There are many hidden places where hot or cold air can be getting in or out of your home. Fortunately there are ways to protect your home from leaks, reduce unintentional heat transfer, and save on energy bills.

The first thing you need to do is go through the entire house to check for air leaks. Obvious ones are around windows and doors. They can easily be fixed with weather stripping. The harder to find leaks are hidden in attics, basements, and crawl spaces. Take a careful look at the area where the floor or ceiling meets the walls. Check for holes around electrical outlets. Any leaks that you do find can be filled with spray foam or caulking.

Another important area of your home to concentrate on is the insulation. Find out your insulation’s R-value, which is a number given by the manufacturer that measures its ability to resist the transfer of heat. If the R-value of home is no higher than the requirement of your area’s building codes, it can definitely be increased for better energy efficiency. Local building code requirements are only set to meet minimal needs for the regional climate. For peak energy efficiency, your wall insulation should be as close to R-30 as possible, and ceiling insulation as close to R-50 as possible. Though it’s harder to do after construction, it is still possible to add insulation to the foundation and floors, and worth considering for the added energy savings it can provide.

One last consideration for home energy savings is the heating and cooling (HVAC) system itself. If your home has a forced air HVAC system, it is well worth the time to inspect the air ducts for leaks and seal them. The sheet metal joints are particularly vulnerable to leakage, so it’s best to seal them all. This can easily be done with duct sealant which can be found at most hardware stores. For further energy efficiency, use insulation to wrap air ducts. Unfinished areas such as attics, basements or crawl spaces are the best place to do this. The added insulation will prevent unintentional heat transfer.

It’s not as hard as you might think to improve your home’s energy efficiency, and it’s certainly worth the effort. Not only does it contribute to a cleaner environment and cut down on excess pollution, but it will also result in energy cost savings.

Energy Saving Appliances, Are They Really Worth the Investment?

March 22, 2009 by  
Filed under Energy Efficiency

By now you’ve probably heard of energy saving appliances and their benefits. Manufacturers promise that you can cut your energy bills while saving the planet. Appliances are a big cost for the average family. Is it worth the money to shell out more for a high-end energy efficient model? Will you really save anything significant on energy costs? The answer is yes, but over the long term. And there are more returns to this investment than just financial gain.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average home can cut $75 per year off of its energy bills by using appliances that are more energy efficient. It might not seem like enough to justify the cost, but consider that for the lifetime of the appliance you can get back thousands of dollars. Some U.S. cities already offer significant tax breaks for installing energy efficient appliances, and in 2009 it may qualify you for a deduction on your federal tax return.

As much as anyone wants to save money, we all want to do our part to clean up the environment that we live in. As big a concern as water conservation is now, it only stands to become bigger in the future. Many communities in the U.S. already regulate water usage for things like watering lawns or washing cars during dry spells. In drought-prone areas, water saving appliances may someday become invaluable. Consider that energy saving washers and dishwashers use as much as 40% less water compared to standard models. That can translate to up to 7,000 gallons per year.

In addition to water conservation, energy-efficient washers save time and lengthen the life of your wardrobe. Since they function without needing a central agitator, you can run bigger loads each time and run it less. Who doesn’t want to spend less time doing the laundry? An added benefit of the absence of a central agitator is reduced wear and tear for your clothes. Your laundry time is shortened, and the lifetime of your clothes is lengthened. If that weren’t enough, many energy efficient washers have yet another big benefit. Many models are designed with a faster spin cycle. The more water that is removed during the spin cycle, the less time your clothes spend in the dryer. The end result is even more savings on energy bills and time.

In your kitchen, the biggest energy drain is your refrigerator/freezer. Energy efficient refrigerators have similar benefits to other eco-friendly appliances, in that they reduce pollution and save money on utility bills. They offer better temperature regulation, insulation, and defrosting abilities than standard models. Not only does this save electricity, but it preserves food longer that might be spoiled due to fluctuating temperatures or inefficient defrosting. So in addition to lower utility bills, you can save money at the grocery store.

Energy efficient appliances are greatly beneficial in terms of home energy savings and sustainable living for everyone. The returns don’t come all at once, but never stop coming over the appliance’s lifetime. Is the investment worth it? Only if you value savings in taxes, pollution, water usage, energy bills, time, wardrobe durability, and grocery bills. Then it’s a no-brainer.

Energy-Efficient Windows: Tips for an Optimal Investment

March 21, 2009 by  
Filed under Energy Efficiency

Everyone wants to save energy in their home and pay less on their utility bills. One of the best ways to make your home more energy efficient is to replace your windows. Single pane windows have been the standard for years, but they are prone to air leaks. It stands to reason that when hot air escapes in cold weather and cool air escapes in hot weather, it takes more energy to keep your home comfortable. But newer, energy efficient windows can be a big expense. How can you choose the right ones for your home that will maximize your investment? Knowledge is power. Read further to find some facts that will help you know what to look for.

How many panes do you need? When shopping for energy efficient windows, you can find models at the highest end with three panes or more, but it might not be necessary to have more than two panes to save on energy costs significantly. Dual pane windows are designed to trap gas or air between the panes. This alone is enough to provide a barrier for the transfer of heat between the outside of your home and the inside.

Some dual-pane window models are constructed with gases between the panes such as krypton or argon, which are odorless, colorless, and non-toxic. Though it cost more for gas-filled windows, they provide better insulation than dual-pane windows with just air between the panes.

An important feature to look for when shopping for energy efficient windows is the use of warm edge spacers. Warm edge spacers keep the panes apart at an optimal distance to prevent leakage and condensation. Any added expense for this addition might be well worth it.

The best models on the market come with features such as Low-E glass. Low-E glass is coated with a special material to reflect infrared light. When infrared light is reflected, radiant heat transfer is reduced. Your home will be much cooler in warm weather and warmer in cold weather. As an added bonus, Low-E glass protects your carpeting and upholstery from excess fading.

Now that you know what to look for in terms of energy efficient window panes, does the type of frame matter? It actually does. The best frames when it comes to minimizing heat transfer are made of vinyl or wood. The worst type of frame is aluminum, which has the least ability to insulate. Wood frames insulate the best, but are also the costliest and hardest to maintain. A good compromise could be vinyl-wrapped frames. Vinyl-wrapped frames require less maintenance, as they don’t need staining or painting, and have about the same ability as wood to insulate.

Investing in higher end quality energy efficient windows is a great way to save on energy costs for the long term. Though it might be tempting to cut corners to save some money, consider that the best quality in energy efficiency will pay off with energy savings in just a few years. You’ll get a return on your investment that also contributes to green, sustainable living and a cleaner environment.

Energy Efficient Insulation – Elements for Greenest Use

March 20, 2009 by  
Filed under Energy Efficiency

One of the best ways to make your home a place for green, sustainable living is hidden behind your walls. A major factor in the energy efficiency of your home is the quality of your insulation. Not all kinds of insulation are created equal. Three key variables in determining how efficient your insulation is are the R-value, type of insulation used, and where it is located.
The R-value of insulation determines how effectively it keeps heat in during cold temperatures and out during hot temperatures. The higher its R-value, the better insulation is at keeping your home energy efficient. It is also important to consider that without proper installation your insulation may not be reaching the R-value intended by the manufacturer. To get the most energy efficient results, you need to choose the right type of insulation and make every effort to ensure that it is correctly installed. Though it sounds like a great idea, it’s not possible to raise the R-value of your insulation by doubling it up.
Of all the different types of insulation available for residential use, fiberglass and cellulose are most common. Fiberglass comes as loose fill or batting (narrow blankets sold in rolls). Fiberglass batts, commonly used in attics, walls, and floors, are one of the best types of insulation for achieving lasting energy efficiency. They hold their R-value longer than cellulose and won’t settle. One disadvantage is that batting needs to be cut carefully to fit around wires and electrical boxes, and haphazard installation subtracts from the R-value.
Cellulose insulation is sold as loose-fill and requires a blower for installation. It is made from recycled paper, which would seem to make it eco-friendly, but the material is treated with flame retardant and pest repellant chemicals that may not be environmentally safe. It is generally less expensive than fiberglass and easy for the average homeowner to pick up at hardware stores or lumber yards. Disadvantages of cellulose are that it settles as much as 25% over time, which lessens the R-value. Also, it should not be used in humid climates because it absorbs moisture. Accumulated moisture increases the risk of washing out the fire retardant and corroding wiring or siding.
Once you know what type of insulation is best for your home, determining where to install it is also important. Insulation in a home’s foundation and floors increases the energy efficiency far above homes that only have insulation in the walls and ceiling. It is still possible to insulate these areas after your home is built. However, as you would expect, it is easiest to insulate these areas during initial construction.

One last thing. Don’t count on your area’s building code requirements to establish energy efficiency with your insulation. These are often nominal requirements for the region that have not set a bar for sustainable living.

If you want to have an energy efficient home, strive to far exceed the R-values set by your local area requirements, especially in exterior walls and ceilings. Insulate your home’s foundation and floors if possible. Look for the best material for your climate that has the greatest R-value within your budget, and you will be well on your way to green living.

Energy Efficient Design – What to Include in Your House Plans

March 19, 2009 by  
Filed under Energy Efficiency

There’s more to designing an energy-efficient house than just the floor plan. With good planning, homes can be not only comfortable and aesthetically pleasing, but also environmentally friendly at the same time. Beyond the blueprints, green home design involves opting or sustainable building materials, energy-saving heating and cooling systems, and energy efficient hot water systems and appliances.

Ideas for sustainable living that might show up on the floor plans include the incorporation of a “great room,” or open configuration that comprises the living and eating areas together. Nixing a seldom-used formal dining room is an option that many people are choosing to cut down on wasted energy. Without the extra room to heat and cool, energy is saved and utility bills lowered.

During construction , the best way to improve your energy efficiency is to carefully choose the materials that make up your home’s thermal envelope. This includes anything that protects the inside or your home from the outside, such as the foundation, roof, siding, framing, insulation, and windows. For example, choosing to insulate not just the walls and ceilings but also the foundation and floors can make your home much more energy efficient.

When choosing the type of insulation, look for the one with the highest R-value you can afford. R-value is the measurement of how well your insulation resists heat transfer. To save on energy costs, you want to use insulation with an R-value that far exceeds local building codes, which only require the bare minimum for the area’s climate.

Homes that are well insulated require much less energy to keep heated or cooled. They require smaller than average furnaces and air conditioners that use less energy. Some are even heated primarily by the sun. Less energy always translates into lower utility bills. Also, when a home’s foundation and floors are insulated, ‘waste’ heat from energy efficient appliances can contribute to a home’s heating requirements.

When choosing appliances or your home, there are many eco-friendly alternatives. When you purchase an energy-efficient dryer, stove, or refrigerator, you are not only helping the environment, but also making a wise investment that will pay off in reduced utility bills. To go even further and conserve water while saving on your water bill, consider purchasing an energy-efficient washer or dishwasher.

You can also make an investment to help the environment when it comes to the hot water heater. The typical hot water tank in the U.S. is not very efficient, as it holds, heats, and stores 20 – 50 gallons of water. This is much more water than is typically needed for the average family in a day. A better idea is to purchase a tankless water heater, which doesn’t need to hold excess because it only heats water when it’s needed. Tankless systems have been used for decades throughout Europe, and have proven over time to be remarkably energy efficient.

All of these ideas work in tandem to make a house more energy efficient. When designing a home, make sure there are specifications for each of them The result will be living space that is comfortable, eco-friendly, and thanks to reduced energy costs, economical.