Class #3 – How to Make Your Home Energy-Efficient

Energy-Efficient-House

Hello to my readers! It’s Colin back again, this time with my third class where I’ll be discussing tips for making your home an energy-efficient home.

You might have heard about how making your home energy-efficient is important for the environment. They’re not wrong. Energy-efficient homes means that less fossil fuels need to be pulled out of the ground, transported and used to produce energy in ways that destroy ecosystems and pour toxins into the environment.

From a standpoint that’s more practical for you, an energy-efficient home can save you money in the long run because you’re using less electricity. It doesn’t even need to be as expensive as you think and it can even be as easy as remembering to turn the lights off when you leave a room or adjusting the air conditioner to run less when you’re going to be out of the house for a while. If you have a smart phone or an iPhone, you could even download an app that lets you turn things off even when your away if you forgot. It’s these little things, plus these tips, that can make your home more energy efficient and lower your electric bill.

energy efficient home

Next time you buy appliances, look for an Energy Star rating. Energy Star rated appliances are designed to run more efficiently than the alternative. It’s a voluntary program run by the U.S. Environmental Agency for appliance makers that want the marketing edge that comes with having an appliance that has been certified to reduce electricity usage. Even with light bulbs, you might see an Energy Star LED model. LED is more efficient than other types of bulbs anyway, so make sure you use these.

Have your roof inspected and maintained. Heat rises, so a lot of heat can be lost through an ill-maintained roof and/or degraded insulation layer in the roof. This increases the amount of money you’re spending to keep your home heated during the winter months. It can even affect the efficiency of your air conditioner during the summer months when hot air seeps in through flaws in the roof and insulation layer and gets trapped under the roof.

Locate and repair any leaky areas that are causing drafts. If there’s a draft in one of your rooms, it’s not just annoying. It’s also costing you money. Many drafts are caused by window sills that have sprung a leak, so have them inspected and caulked or replaced if necessary.

Have your HVAC system inspected and maintained on a regular basis. Your heating and air conditioning is a major factor when it comes to how much you’re spending on your utilities. Having them inspected and maintained on a regular basis can not only slash your energy costs, but also reduce the hazards that come with having an ill-maintained HVAC system. If you are considering purchasing a new HVAC, you should not only consider an Energy Star model, but also consider what kind of HVAC would be most appropriate for your living space. If you live in an apartment or condo, you may wish to coordinate with the landlord or building manager if you are having issues with your heating and air conditioning. You may also be able to get away with installing efficient portable heaters and air conditioning units in the rooms you use most and turning off the central unit.

Invest in a thermostat that gives you the option to set it using a timer. The thermostat can turn your air conditioning off or run it less during times when you’re normally gone and turn it back on a little before you normally get back home. You’d be amazed by how much electricity this can save simply because you aren’t needlessly running your air conditioning.

Have your electric system inspected. Interesting tip: Contractors will usually refuse to sign off on a job if they find a problem with your electrical system until you have it repaired. This is because a faulty electric system can actually be dangerous and they don’t want the liability. A degraded electrical system can cause deadly house fires because they transport electricity less efficiently, often causing dangerous heat buildup behind your walls in the process. The reduced efficiency may also be driving up your electric bill.

Turn off computers and electronic devices when you aren’t using them. Even hibernation uses a small amount of electricity. Shutting them down not only clears the RAM and clears out about 90% of the problems you might be having with your computer, but also saves you on your electric bill.

Try not to run anything electrical during peak hours if you have a choice. Peak hours are usually during the afternoon, so instead of turning on lights, I just open the blinds to let light in through the window. Same goes for fans and the exhaust in the bathroom and kitchen. If you don’t need it, don’t turn it on. Even when you have things like hair dryers that you keep turned off, you should also unplug them because they’re still drawing a trickle of electricity that can add to your bill during peak hours.

Consider one of those solar water heating units for your shower. You probably know how annoying it is when you have to wait for hot water or it’s entirely out of hot water because you’re taking a shower right after somebody indulged in a long, hot shower. That means there are inefficiencies in your central water heating unit that wastes electricity while heating water you don’t need right now. With a good, properly installed solar heater, you’re using solar power to heat water exactly when you need it and you won’t need to worry about running out of hot water.

Be aware of the ways you might be wasting electricity in your home. It could be something like staring into your fridge while you decide what you want to eat. Besides making you look indecisive, it also makes the fridge work harder to keep food cool. You should only open it if you’re sure that you actually want something and, if so, what it is. Same goes for running a dishwasher that’s not very full or running small loads of laundry. You might not think it’s a big deal, but it adds up.

Saving electricity is not just about saving the environment. It’s about saving you money. It might take some up-front investment, but it’s worth it if you know that less of your monthly budget is going to the utility company.

Class #2 – Why You Should Consider Going Solar

In this class, I’ll talk a bit about solar energy. Let’s start, shall we?

So, have you seen those solar panels on people’s houses and wondered how much they’re saving in energy costs? The answer could be: Quite a bit. When you live in a climate that gets quite a bit of sunlight, you might as well take advantage of solar power to reduce your energy bill.

Benefits of Solar Power

You can do the equivalent of renting solar panels. The high up-front cost of solar power might scare away some people. However, if you don’t want to buy them outright, you can see if companies like SolarCity operate in your area. What these companies do is install solar panels on your rooftop and sell you the power at a cheaper rate than the electric company can.

You might get tax credits for installing solar panels. The federal government or your state might offer tax credits for qualifying solar panel installations. California, for instance, offers the California Solar Initiative to provide rebates for the installation of solar panels. Be sure to check with your local tax preparer for details.

Some states and municipalities require solar panels for a certain percentage of new homes. Lancaster, California became one of the first cities to require that all new single-family homes have solar panels as part of a drive to make the city the solar capital of the world. So if the contractor you hire insists that solar power is a requirement in the city where you’re building a new home, don’t promptly dismiss it as a non-issue even though it might mean additional cost. Look it up if you don’t believe him.

Solar power conserves natural resources. Solar power is regarded as a renewable resource because the sun is constantly shining on some part of the planet. When you install solar power on your home, you are reducing your dependence on fossil fuels and taking advantage of the sun as a cost-effective energy source.

Solar power can save you money in the long run. Solar panels have increased in efficiency and reduced in price since they were first invented. That means they’re not very expensive to install on the roof of your house and they can more efficiently harvest the sun’s power.

Solar panels can increase the value of your home. Many home buyers look for ways that they can keep their utility costs down. Solar panels are an obvious way to impress these buyers because it says that its owner cared about maintaining the home in a way that’s eco-friendly and keeps energy costs down.

Solar power can reduce or eliminate your reliance on power companies. Many solar panels installations work by sending power out to the power grid, thus causing your power meter to “spin backward” and register the power being added to the grid as a credit to your account. However, they can also be set up so that you can have your connection to the grid deactivated and send the power to batteries instead. This is good for you when your neighbors have to haul out their gas-powered generators during a blackout and you’re still generating solar power.

There’s a way to receive financial incentives for producing solar power. This might surprise some people, but a cryptocurrency called Solarcoin was created specifically to hand out rewards for creating solar power. Besides that, if you produce surplus power that you don’t use but provide to the power grid, you may be eligible to receive payment from the local electric company.

How Solar Energy Works
How Solar Energy Works

Negatives of Solar Power

City and state building codes might restrict solar panel installations. Florida might seem like an obvious state to install solar panels on every home, but state regulations make it difficult, if not impossible, to use solar power for residential buildings.

Solar power does have an up-front cost. Most solar power rentals will absorb the cost of purchasing and installing solar panels as an investment in exchange for the benefit of selling you solar power. However, if you buy your panels, you’ll also need to hire a contractor to install them.

Solar panels can lose their efficiency if they aren’t kept clean. Dirt and debris can accumulate on the solar panels, reducing their efficiency. That means getting up on the roof on a regular basis to clean them off. While you’re doing that, be sure to inspect them for any signs of damage that might effect their performance.

Is solar power right for you? It can be if you own a home, you’ve already done everything you can to make your house energy-efficient, and you want to further reduce your utility bills. Solar power is a popular way to take advantage of inexpensive “green” energy and reduce your environmental footprint.

What’s Next?

Thanks for attending this class on my blog. The next one will be about energy-efficient homes and I am in the process of making final edits before it gets published in few days or so. Stay tuned!

ps. If you’ve missed my first class, here it is.

Class #1: Geothermal Heating and Cooling Systems for New Homes

ecohomeWhen considering heating and cooling systems for new homes, it might be easy to go with a standard HVAC system. Before you commit to this, though, consider the fact that the HVAC system is a major factor in how high your utility bills are going to be. Choosing the wrong kind of system for the home can cause you to waste money unnecessarily.

A geothermal heating and cooling system can change that by taking advantage of the fact that, below a certain level, the temperature of the ground never changes very much even when you live in a region that freezes in the winter and gets hot in the summer. It pipes water between your home, a heat pump and the ground to improve the efficiency of keeping your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Compare this to a standard HVAC that pipes in air from the surrounding atmosphere to keep your home warm or cool. Heating or cooling this outside air with a standard HVAC system is much less efficient, especially on days when you really need it.

Benefits of Geothermal Heating and Cooling Systems

They’re eco-friendly. Geothermal heating and cooling can reduce the energy used for heating and cooling by as much as 70%. Because geothermal heating and cooling systems are more efficient, they reduce the amount of fossil fuels needed to keep your home warm or cool. They basically make use of the laws of thermodynamics to either shed or absorb the required amount of heat, so they reduce the environmental impact of one of the major energy users in your home.

They’re cost-effective. If you’ve been wanting a new home but you’re also concerned about how much you would be paying for electricity, a geothermal system can keep that monthly bill under control. A typical geothermal system can pay for itself in energy savings within 2 to 5 years. A standard HVAC is an energy hog, but because the geothermal system is taking advantage of what the ground naturally has, it can achieve efficiencies of 400% to 600%. It’s not violating thermodynamic laws; it’s just pulling heat energy directly out of the ground instead of burning fossil fuels to keep your house warm during the winter. That saves you money on your monthly heating and cooling bill.

They’re easy to maintain. While geothermal heating and cooling systems do require regular maintenance to continue running efficiently, the technician is often called unnecessarily because the homeowner was not very familiar with their needs. Many maintenance issues can be solved with something as simple as keeping the filters clean, checking the fuse box, checking the grilles and supply registers to make sure they’re open and not obstructed, and making sure the thermostat is on the right setting.

They’re reliable. Geothermal heating and cooling systems have a long life span when they’re properly maintained and can reliably heat or cool your home simply because they’re piping the heat directly to or from the ground.

They’re tax-deductible. Many people hesitate to install a geothermal heating and cooling system because they think the up-front cost is too high. However, you can get tax deductions that make the price more palatable. Be sure to check the tax deductions you can get on your state and federal taxes.

They’re among the most highly recommended heating and cooling systems. 95% of owners of a home with geothermal heating and cooling would recommend it to others because they like the reliability and the savings on their utility bills.

image credit: http://www.nfecoop.com/content/what-geothermal (click to enlarge)
image credit: http://www.nfecoop.com/content/what-geothermal (click to enlarge)

Are There Any Drawbacks to a Geothermal Heating and Cooling System?

Not very many, though you do want to check with your city building code to see what say about geothermal heating and cooling systems. Some contractors may also not be very familiar with geothermal heating and cooling systems because they’re not very common yet. Installing any new heating and cooling system is not going to be cheap even when you can get tax deductions for a geothermal system. In the long run, though, the pros outweigh the cons because you won’t be spending as much on your monthly utility bills.

It’s easiest to install a geothermal heating and cooling system when building a new house, but you may also have options if you need to replace an existing HVAC system. If you’re looking to build a new house or replace a heating and cooling system in an existing house, ask the contractor if he’s familiar with geothermal systems because this can save you money and be friendlier on the environment in the long run.

To the next class!