Steps you can take to save energy dollars and make your indoor environment more comfortable and healthy are not mutually exclusive. They are, in fact, complementary. One of the benefits of making your home energy efficient is more consistent indoor temperatures and improved comfort throughout the home. Another plus is greater control over indoor air quality as air leaks from unconditioned zones like the attic and crawl space are sealed and air filtration is improved. When you save energy dollars, you’re actually purchasing an improved living space for your family and helping make the planet a greener place.
Energy use is an all-year issue. During summer, heat energy is trying to infiltrate your home even as air leaks take cool air out and make your air conditioner run longer to meet thermostat settings. In winter, indoor warmth can be lost through window glass and the same cracks and gaps that let heat in during summer. Appliances may be running during hours of high demand at any time of the year, and lighting and other electronics may be outmoded relics from an era of cheaper, more plentiful energy. Since the quest to save energy dollars is a work in progress in most homes, prioritizing these concerns is a good idea so that efforts are most effective and time is allotted to the right issues.
Here’s a guideline for organizing the steps to save energy dollars according to the most immediate, vital daily concerns, then distributing the rest among a weekly, monthly and annual timetable.
- Keep the water heater temperature at 120 degrees, the center position on most household water heater thermostat dials. This not only saves energy – standby heat loss from the tank is greater at higher temps– but it’s safer and reduces scalding risks too.
- If your appliances have energy-saving settings, start utilizing them. Check the owner’s manuals of refrigerators, dishwashers and laundry equipment for manufacturer’s information about energy-saving operation.
- Replace incandescent lights with compact fluorescents. Since incandescents are being phased out, you’ll have to make the switch eventually. For even greater energy savings, consider LED light bulbs.
- Consider replacing outmoded energy-hog appliances like the refrigerator now, rather than waiting until the end of its service life. The sooner you start saving energy with a new, more efficient model, the better.
- Replace air conditioner and furnace filters monthly during the cooling and heating season, respectively.
- Replace the standard showerheads and faucet aerators with low-flow models to reduce water consumption and waste.
- If you’re still using an old-school water heater that’s insulated with cotton candy-like fiberglass rather than up-to-date foam insulation, purchase a water heater blanket and install it according to instructions.
- Caulk any cracks around window frames and close the gaps between moveable surfaces of windows and doors with weatherstripping tape.
- Evaluate the age and likely service life of your HVAC system. Calculate whether the remaining years of low-efficiency operation (and likely repairs) are financially feasible versus the cost of upgrading to newer, high-efficiency equipment now. As a middle road, consider efficiency-enhancing retrofits to the existing system such as a variable speed blower to replace the single speed model.
- Audit your monthly utility bills and separate electricity costs from fuel such as natural gas. This can isolate the biggest energy consumers and aid in targeting efficiency efforts.
- Measure the insulation in the attic. In most homes today, if you’ve got less than 12 inches, you’re under-insulated by current energy conservation standards.
- If HVAC ducts or hot water pipes are routed through unconditioned zones like the attic or crawl space, have them insulated.
- Use caulking and weatherstripping to seal the most conspicuous air leaks in the home. Then consider a home energy evaluation by your HVAC contractor, including a blower door test to determine the extent of air leakage and pinpoint the location of smaller, hard-to-find leaks.
- Install a programmable thermostat to automatically adjust indoor temperatures to accommodate periods of lower activity in the home, such as overnight, or times when the house is unoccupied.
Sometime This Year
- Replace aging, inefficient appliances.
- Upgrade outdated, wasteful single-pane windows with energy-efficient dual-pane models.
- Schedule annual tune-ups for heating and cooling equipment.
- Have ductwork pressure-tested and sealed if necessary.
For more information on how to prioritize steps to save energy dollars in your North Carolina home, please contact us at J & J Mechanical.
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