Download Green America's
fantastic guide to maximizing your home's efficiency:Efficiency First!
or just view our
videos below based on the guide.
Part I-Low or No Cost Measures To Do Today!
Part 2-Slightly Bigger Investments, WAY Bigger Savings
If you don't have time to watch the videos, here are the fundamentals:
Five Steps to Energy Efficiency
Get an energy audit. Though there are certainly a great deal of improvements you
can do on your own (see the link for "Efficiency First" above), a professional energy auditor will use a blower door, infra-red
thermography, and other observations data from your home to determine how you can most effectively spend your energy efficiency
Plug the leaks in your home's envelope, and insulate your attic and walls. The
EPA estimates that properly insulating and sealing the outer envelope of your home can save 5-50% of your energy bill. Sealing
air leaks with foam or caulk, or even just stuffing plastic bags from the grocery store in gaps and around utility entrances
and other openings can save you big buck$! Why not do it now?
Upgrade and/or eliminate large energy wasting appliances. Most people
assume behaviors like turning off the lights make the biggest difference in energy savings, but the truth is, getting more
efficient appliances, heating and air conditioning beats any efficient behaviors hands down.
Our old refrigerator
was using 2.75 kWh per day. Our new fridge uses less than 1 kWh per day, saving us over $70 yearly. Save even more by unplugging
or recycling a second fridge or freezer!
Change out incandescent lights to CFL's or LED's. Making this switch will save you
$50 in electrical costs (over the life of the bulb) for each bulb you buy! Light Emitting Diode bulbs, while are at the moment
more expensive, are getting cheaper, are even more efficient than CFL's, are often dimmable, and contain no mercury like CFLs
Strive for Energy Consciousness.
There are plenty of other fun things you can do to save energy and money. Here's some that we've done,
which of course include the above.
Efficiency at the Dream Farm
In many ways, our home is a very typical American home. We
have all the modern conveniences including washer/dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator, toaster, microwave, three computers, vacuum
cleaner, water softener, well pump, electric space heaters, lighting in all ten rooms, a radon exhaust fan that's constantly
running, and lots more.
efficiency saves us 21
kWh/day compared to the national
average, whereas our photovoltaic array only generates 15 kWh/day. So in this way, we have saved more from efficiency measures than we have generated using renewables.
Efficiency is the cheapest, easiest, and
most important way to reduce your emissions. Efficiency is generally better for the environment than buying renewable energy
systems (which take energy to manufacture and install!)
A kWh saved is truly
a kWh earned.
Our Sunrise Windows, compare extremely favorably to other windows in terms of their R-value, U-value, air infiltration rating, and price, and
are manufactured nearby in Ohio.
Because our old windows were extremely leaky (and not to mention ugly) these new
windows were especially helpful in reducing air infiltration.
Packed Full Refrigerator
Filling up your refrigerator with a lot of food is not only appetizing, it saves energy.
Wrapping your hot water heater in a heater blanket can reduce your hot water bills
by 25% to 45%
We turn off our propane powered hot water heater when we are not using it. In the summer we don't need it, because of our
solar hot water system. In the middle of winter our solar hot water isn't up to bath temperature, we just turn on the propane hot water heater
about 40 minutes beforehand, and then turn it off after the bath is filled. We also keep it as cold as we can stand it (though
it is possible for some forms of bacteria to grow at temperatures below 122 F, we haven't had any problems).
your water heater is kept, the faster it loses heat, and hence the more often it activates the burners. Our solar system
keeps the water temperature up around 80 or 90 degrees in the winter, and our laundry doesn't seem to mind.
Compact Fluorescent Light
CFL's use about a third of the energy that incandescents use
Switched power outlets are especially important on devices like TV's, stereos,
and computers. Our computer printer was drawing 20 watts when it wasn't even turned on! That added up to about $20.00 per
year before we installed the outlet strip. Many televisions draw just as much power when they are off as when they are on!
Your extra TV in the basement may be costing you $100 a year to not watch it! Of course, you must turn the outlet strip off
when done with the appliance, or it doesn't help at all.
Installing High Reflectivity Roof Shingles
Wind Up Radio
This radio has a built in PV cell and a wind up generator
Some of the more fun aspects of efficiency are the cool ways you can
arrive at zero emmissions. This freeplay radio uses a crank and a small PV cell on the top (leave it in a sunny window) to
charge a battery. It also has an LED flashlight built in. You can get something similar at freeplayenergy.com
Sunrise Low U/High R/Low Air Infiltration Windows
Your refrigerator is the biggest user of electricity in your house (except for air conditioning), so its
extremely important to have a highly efficient one. Top freezer models generally have the best efficiency. Even if you have
a highly efficient fridge, by keeping it as full as possible, you prevent air from entering and surrounding all the food.
If you don't have enough food, just put full jugs of water in your fridge. Cold water is great at absorbing heat. Another
excellent idea posted on Mr. Electricity's web site was to freeze jugs of water outside in the winter, and put them in your refrigerator. As they melt, they absorb heat from
your refrigerator so the compressor doesn't go on as often.
We also took the light out of ours-its like having a heater in your refrigerator! We used a fridge with an interior
light in this picture so you could see all the food inside.
By replacing almost all of our inefficient incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL's), and taking
other efficiency measures, we saw a dramatic (approximately 19%) reduction in our electric bills. Here's our electric use
data from 2002-2005.
Comparing our 2002-2003 average usage to our 2004-2005 averge usage (after efficiency measures) shows a 19% reduction
in electricity use, or about $70 savings per year.
Use an outlet strip and turn it off when not in use.
A reflective roof will not only keep your house cooler in the summer, but will reflect
sunlight back into space, for extra global warming prevention! You can get reflective shingles in many colors, but the
cheapest and best option is to get white shingles, which I think fit nicely into any color scheme.
Magnetic Vent Covers
We use vent covers to make our forced air heating and cooling more efficient.
There's no reason to heat a room if you are not going to use it for several hours. We use these magnetic vent covers
for ALL of our vents, and remove them when we are in the room. If there are any dampers closer to the furnace, closing those
(by turning the handle perpendicular to the duct) is more efficient than just blocking the vent. For most houses, heating
uses both natural gas (or propane or fuel oil) and electricity.