Dream Farm
Efficiency Measures
Efficiency Measures
Solar Hot Water
Solar Electricity
Wood Burning Stove
Solar Linear Evaporator
Waste Vegetable Oil Car
Generator Bike
West Bloomfield Initiative for Renewable Energy
Net Metering
Educational Services
Contact Us
Mel Barclay Energy Education Fund

Take advantage on your Federal taxes: energysavers.gov

Find state and federal incentives at dsireusa.org

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!

Take advantage on your 2009 and 2010 Federal taxes: energysavers.gov

Find state and federal incentives at dsireusa.org

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
  1. 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 dollars.

  2. 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?

  3. 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!

  4. 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 do.

  5. 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.

According to the  
Energy Information Administration, in 2008 the average household in the U.S. used over  30 kWh per day of electrical energy. We use only 9 kWh/day

Thus, 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).

The hotter 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
high reflectivity roof.jpg

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.

12.32 kWh
13.57 kWh
After Efficiency
10.15 kWh
10.83 kWh

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.

We hope to reduce our electricity use even further, by replacing the CFL's with Light Emitting Diodes, or LED's (also called Solid State Lighting or SSL) very soon when the prices come down and efficiencies go up. LED prices are decreasing by a factor of 10 per decade while LED efficiencies are increasing by a factor of 10 per decade, and LED's have a much longer service life than CFLs.

Outlet Strip
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.