Using the "How You Waste Energy in Your Home" as your guide. These are some of the ways you can reduce your energy demand at home. Some of these energy-saving actions require certified professional help and can be expensive to perform, while other actions can easily be done by you for under $100, and depending on where you live some of these actions can be completed for free or put money back in your pocket instantly.
High-Performance Building Envelope: The envelope of our home is the largest building system with the most impact on how much energy is used. When the envelope is properly designed and tightly constructed it prevents outside air from getting in and slows conditioned air leaking out, allowing occupants to better control indoor temperature. It also prevents moisture from getting in, preventing damage from water vapor.
There are many ways to assess the tightness of your home’s envelope. Two popular methods are Infrared photography and performing a blower door test. Infrared photography allows you to see how much heat is being lost on a cold day. Colder spots show up as blue in the photo and hotter spots show up red and yellow. The bluer the home the better the insulation, the lower the energy demand. A blower door test measures the amount of airflow through the cracks of a home to determine how leaky the envelope is, by using a powerful to suck the air out of a building. Both tests are important for determining envelope performance and are becoming more widespread.
Obviously, it is easier to create a high-performing building envelope during new construction, but it is also possible to retrofit existing buildings to improve. These retrofits are also referred to as weatherization.
Some common weatherization practices include:
- Sealing of cracks and holes in exterior walls.
- Adding insulation to the roof and exterior walls.
- Repairing or replacing drafty windows.
- Sealing air ducts to deliver conditioned air only where it is supposed to go.
Retrofitting existing structures can be a difficult process. Although some tasks you may be able to accomplish yourself, we recommend that you reach out to a home energy specialist for help. Many offer free energy assessments and you can find many of the products you need to make these upgrades here at WeWentGreen.com.
Efficient Lighting Design and Daylighting: Efficient lighting design is probably the easiest way for you to save energy and money at home and daylighting reduces our need for artificial light during daylight hours. Combining these two methods will save you significant amounts of energy and money.
- LED Lighting- LED lighting requires less energy to use than non LED lighting. They also emit less heat than standard bulbs, reducing the demand for cooling in summer. LED lighting with electronic ballasts use one-fourth the amount of energy as an incandescent.
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Passive Design: Passive design takes advantage of the local climate to reduce heating and cooling loads and reduces the need for mechanical equipment to provide a comfortable temperature in your home. Passive design is easier to accomplish during new construction or heavy renovations, but some techniques can be applied to existing homes as well.
- Insulating and air sealing your home beyond common practice to minimize heat gain in the summer and heat loss in the winter.
- This is more suitable for new construction or heavy renovations. South-facing windows are a great way to warm a home during the winter, and properly positioned overhangs providing shade can reduce cooling costs in the summer.
- You should take advantage of natural ventilation when possible and use heat recovery ventilation during the heating and cooling seasons. Heat recovery ventilation systems or HRVs, allow outgoing warm air to preheat incoming fresh, cold air during the winter. During the summer incoming fresh air is precooled by the cooler outgoing air.
Proper Equipment Operations: Believe it or not you should read the operator’s manual for all the equipment in your home that has one. There is actually a lot of good information in them and when it comes to increasing the longevity and efficiency of our HVAC system, not reading it will cost you thousands. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a great maintenance checklist for you to follow that will help you prevent unwanted problems and costly repairs (HVAC Maintenance Checklist).
Your HVAC system components aren’t the only pieces of equipment that need to be maintained and operated correctly. Automatic lighting systems need to be set correctly to ensure lights don’t stay on unnecessarily. Even irrigation controllers being run improperly could lead to unnecessary waste of water and energy.
Monitor Plug Load: Simply put, anything you plug into an outlet draws electricity, even when they are turned off. The biggest offenders of causing unnecessary plug load are our mobile phone chargers, most chargers actually. A good practice to start is if it doesn’t need to be plugged in, unplug it.
There are also several energy load monitors you can add to your home that will monitor every appliance, electronic, light, etc. that uses electricity in your home. You can also have your outlets connected to a switch that will allow you to turn them on and off, helping you to prevent non-essential electronics from drawing energy when not in use.
Increase Efficiency: The easiest way to reduce your energy demand is to ensure that your building systems and appliances are energy efficient. One way to do this is to look for the energy star logo on the equipment or appliance.
- High-efficiency boilers can reduce the amount of fuel need to heat hot water or space heating by 15%. They accomplish this by capturing heat from water vapor condensing in the exhaust flue.
- Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHPs) are one of the most efficient ways to heat and cool a building, passive design being the most efficient. GSHPs extract heat from the Earth in winter to warm a building, and dumps the heat into the Earth in the summer for cooling.
- Better controls and dedicated sensors maintain correct temperatures and turn off equipment serving unused spaces. Variable speed drives allow fans and pumps to run at the right speed, instead of all the way on or off. Take advantage of all of these features will greatly reduce energy waste and increase efficiency.
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