18 Actionable Steps Towards Energy Efficiency

Monday, April 1, 2013 14:26
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    Welcome to CleanEdison’s new series for the month of April: 18 Actionable Steps Towards Energy Efficiency!

    We’ve all heard about the amount of money that can be saved by changing a few simple behaviors and making some adjustments to your home.

    But where to start? Who has the time? How much can be saved?

    We are here to answer these question in the form of small, actionable steps that you can take each day after work or school that will add up to major savings in the end.

    On weekends, there will be slightly bigger projects that will unlock even greater energy savings.

    Together, let’s make our homes and communities more energy efficient and our nation cleaner, safer and healthier!

    April 18th – Repair, replace and add insulation to your attic

    Installing InsulationRemember last week when you checked for uneven insulation and water damage in your attic? Well today is the day you do something about it.

    Summer is coming and you don’t want to have one day of wasted energy leaking from your attic, not this year at least. Improving your home’s air leaks are the fastest and most cost-effective ways to reduce energy waste and make the most of your energy dollars.

    If you found any missing insulation you’re going to want to make sure that every inch of space between the beams is accounted for. If you see fiberglass insulation, you’re probably good, this seldom needs to be replaced – UNLESS it is water damaged. Also inspect dirty spots in your insulation for air leaks and mold. You can seal leaks with low-expansion spray foam made for this purpose.

    Don’t forget to use the proper mouth and hand protection when handling fiberglass insulation.

    How’d it go up there? Don’t you feel all the money you’re saving?

    April 17th – Schedule Maintenance for your water heater

    Water HeaterHaving a properly maintained water heater is like going to the dentist – no one wants to do it, but it’s gotta be done. Ideally, you should have an inspection and maintenance done on your water heater once a year.

    Since you’ve already done all that hard work to use less hot water, it’s pretty important to make sure that your water heater is properly insulated and working at maximum efficiency.

    If you have an older model this is especially important, as it does not have the fancy new features such as built-in heat traps and demand response.

    Although most water heaters last 10-15 years, it’s best to start shopping now for a new one if yours is more than 7 years old, up until then have a annual inspection.

    Make a comment below about anything you want!

     

    April 16th – Clean Your Refrigerator Coils

    Clean Your Refrigerator Coils Twice a Year to Increase Efficiency!
    It might seem like a small thing, but your refrigerator can be a HUGE drain on your energy bill. We’ve already shown you how to check for leaks in your refrigerator seal—now let’s take the next step in keeping your ‘fridge in top working order. The coils in the refrigerator are generally hidden away so it’s easy to forget about them or to think there isn’t much of a problem. The truth is that these coils are very important in helping your appliance to maintain the highest levels of efficiency. If they’re covered in dust and dirt, they can’t do their job. Adding these simple steps to your maintenance routine twice a year can increase your refrigerator’s efficiency and save you money over the life of the appliance.

    1. CONSULT YOUR OWNER’S MANUAL: this will give you information on where your refrigerator’s coils are located and the best way to reach them. On some models, this may require a screwdriver and on others the panel will lift away by hand.
    2. Pull the ‘fridge away from the wall for easy access to the appropriate panel if it’s in the back—you’ll also need room to get your vacuum close.
    3. Make sure the refrigerator is disconnected from the power supply and then open the panel that covers the coils.
    4. Use a vacuum cleaner with a long, thin nozzle attachment and gently clean away the dust and build-up around the coils. Go as far as you can with the vacuum.
    5. For hard-to-reach coils, use a nylon or wire brush to clean off dirt and debris.
    6. Be sure to clean up the dirt that fell off the coils before you replace the panel cover, slide the refrigerator back and plug it in!

    Let us know how you overcame your fear of what lives under the refrigerator in the comments below!

    April 15th – Empty the Lint trap on your dryer

    Clean lint screenOK, you had a busy weekend, so today we’ll give you an easy one. I’m sure many of you already do this, but if you don’t, you’re just wasting money and creating a fire hazard.

    After every load in your clothes dryer, cleaning the lint screen improves the air circulation, which means that the system will work more efficiently on less energy. In order to really get it all, periodically use the long nozzle tip on your vacuum cleaner to remove the lint that collects below the lint screen in the lint screen slot of your clothes dryer.

    This was an easy one, any reason you couldn’t do it? Let us know below!

     

     

    April 14th – Project: Check the Insulation in your attic

    Check ventilation

    Attics can be a huge energy drain if they are not insulated sufficiently. We’ll leave the

     

    heavy lifting for next weekend, but for now look for uneven insulation, base sports, water damage, and anything else that looks out of place.

    For even better results, look up your area’s recommended R-value and determine if you are using the optimal type of insulation. The R-value is a measure of thermal resistance used in the building and construction industry. The ideal R-value will be different based on your geography.

    Also, be sure to use proper safety precautions! You’ll need gloves and a mask to go up there because fiberglass insulation can be very harmful.

    The attic isn’t the most fun place, but it’s necessary to get full efficiency, tell us how it went!

    April 13th – Project: Repair or Replace Problematic Windows

    Replace WindowsIt’s Saturday and the weather is getting warm, but that is no excuse for letting money and energy literally fly out the window every single day. Hopefully you were able to find all the drafts and leaks in your windows last night.

    Now is time for the execution. If you found a few leaks that are causing indoor air to escape, you can simply caulk and weatherstrip the area around the windows to mitigate this. Make sure there is weatherstripping at all movable joints.

    If, instead, you found that your windows were generally ineffective at keeping an air and temperature barrier, it is certainly a wise investment to install ENERGY STAR qualified windows. These are generally double-pane windows with high performance glass that can reduce heat loss through the windows by 25-50%.

    What Did You Do To Make Your Windows More Efficient? Let Us Know

    April 12th – Project: Check your windows for drafts and leaks

    drafty windowDid you know that heat transfer through windows can account for up to 25% of your energy bill by letting heat our during the winter, and makes your air conditioner work overtime to combat the sun’s heat? Drafts and leaks can be the biggest culprit of energy waste but can also be fixed with relatively little effort.

    A simple way to check for a draft is to close all windows and doors then run a candle or burning incense along the frame watching the smoke to see if it gets pulled in or out. This works best on a windy day, and preferably with a fan set up to blow air out of your house. This simulates one of the tests an energy auditor would do when checking the energy efficiency of your home. Additionally if you can close a window on a sheet of paper and pull it out without tearing it, then there is definitely a problem.

    Take note on which windows are drafty and need to be fixed and which ones need to be replaced completely.

    Check back tomorrow for solutions to these window problems!

    April 11th – Check the seal on your refrigerator

    fridge dollarDid you know that your refrigerator is the third most energy draining appliance in your home? Often the seal on the fridge can leak, wasting energy like running your A/C with an open window. It already takes a lot of energy to cool the contents of your fridge, but cooling your whole kitchen would take a lot more! When you get home today do this simple test: close your fridge door on a dollar bill or piece of paper, if you can pull the bill out easily or worse, if it falls then it is time to replace the seal or the whole unit.

    If your fridge has a latch, make sure it is closing properly as it may be the culprit. Either way inspect the seal all the way around the door. If it seems to be in good condition consult have a maintenance worker come check out why your fridge isn’t sealing well. If it looks worn out then you might want to replace it.

    If you choose to replace your fridge, make sure you consider getting an ENERGY STAR® model. According to the Department of Energy these appliances minimum 20% less energy than federal requirements state and up to 40% less energy than non-ENERGY STAR® models.

    Let us know how your fridge checks out in the comments below!

    April 10th – Check your HVAC air filter!

    air filter Did you know that a dirty filter in your HVAC equipment can reduce its efficiency by up to 20%? Did you also know that it is recommended to check your filter every month? Don’t dispair, everything depends on the amount of pollution in your area and most manufacturers recommend replacement of the air filter only every three months.

    The filter is usually located in between the fan and the duct, and is easily accessible. Simply pull it out and see how dirty it is. Cheap disposable filters may or may not be worth your time to clean depending on how dirty they are but reusable filters exist and can be cleaned by rinsing with water.

    If you opt to replace your filter make sure to take into account the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating. A filter with a high rating will be more efficient and catch more pollutants but will also be more expensive, and need to be cleaned or replaced more often.

    Set up a schedule to check on your air filter ever month or two in addition to your other regular home chores and maintenance to make sure your HVAC system is in top shape.

    Let us know how it goes in the comments below!

    April 9th – Wash your dishes in cold water as much as possible

    Dishwasher efficiencyMore than the electricity needed to run these machines, the “rinse hold” hot water setting that many households use is the biggest energy drain – As much as 80 percent of the energy your dishwasher uses goes to heat water.

    If you think about it, hot tap water isn’t really hot enough to kill germs — the detergent does that — so unless you have a new, high-tech model that brings the water temp to over 140 degrees Fahrenheit- there’s no reason not to wash with cold water.

    …or you can just rename your dog Cold Water and use him, that’s pretty energy efficient too.

    This is one of the hardest changes to make, how did you do? Let us know in the comments below!

    April 8th – Set your hot water heater to the lowest required temperature

    Hot Water HeaterThe Department of Energy recommends having your tank-based hot water heater set to 120 degrees Fahrenheit for most people, but if you’ve never adjusted the temperature on your hot water heater, it’s probably set to 140 degrees, which is the default setting from most manufacturers.

    When you get home go to your hot water heater, remove the cover and turn it down to 120 degrees (sometimes labeled “hot” as opposed to “very hot”.

    Not only does this switch save you money, it will also prevent you from getting scalded in the shower. You can expect to save about $20 a year from this simple switch.

    Let us know how easy or hard it was to turn down your hot water heater in the comments below

    April 7th – Air-dry Your Clothes and Dishes!

    Drying CatA really great way to use less energy is to air-dry your clothes and dishes!

    While using a dryer and the dry setting on your dish washer can sometimes be convenient, if you have to time to air-dry you can save a lot of energy. Replacing a task that uses electricity with one that does not is a no-brainer when trying to save on your energy bill, so air-drying can be very advantageous.

    Also safe for cats!

    If you are in the market for a new dryer or dishwasher remember to always remember to look for ENERGY STAR® models.

    Let us know your laundry and dish washing tips for energy saving in the comments below!

    April 6th – Do a Full Load of Laundry and Dishes!

    Laundry CatHeating water is the highest drain that laundry machines and dishwashers have on your bill. On average, water heating accounts for 18% of your energy bill.

    It is really easy to reduce this simply by avoiding multiple partial loads of laundry and dishes. More ways of reducing the strain on your water heater include using the cold water settings as much as possible, and taking shorter showers. If you turning a sink on for a short period of time turn it on cold, because even though warm water might not reach the faucet in time the water heater still turns on.

    If you are looking to buy a new laundry machine or dishwasher, look for ENERGY STAR® models which use much less electricity and can save you money over the lifespan of the appliance.

    Avoid washing cats and other pets in the laundry machine as well.

    Let us know how you save on laundry and dishes in the comments below!

    April 5th – Close Your Windows!

    Open WindowNow that you are in the habit of turning the thermostat down (or up) when you’re not around, you have to realize the importance of windows when it comes to efficiency. It’s so easy to open a window a little when you’re not feel at the right temperature. The problem with this is that is drastically reduces the effectiveness of your heating or AC.

    Many people don’t know that most HVAC systems don’t produce more or less heating or cooling based on the room temperature – they simply blow air for longer. If you have outdoor air fighting against that, you are going to spend a lot of money without getting very far.

    So today, in your school, office or home, make sure that when the heat or cooling is on, the windows are closed. Of course, you can simply decide that the outdoors are a perfect temperature and you want to have the windows wide open, just make sure the AC or heating is off.

    Let us know how if you decided to turn off the air or open the windows in the comments below!

    April 4th – Turn Down Your Thermostat!

    CFL and LEDDid you know that space heating can on average account for 45% of your energy bill? That means that your thermostat is not only a control for your temperature but also your wallet!

    There are two situations which do not require you to be heating your home: when it is warm and when you are not at home. Since it is still a bit chilly outside, you may want to consider setting up a routine of turning down the set temperature on your thermostat when you head out in the morning and when you go to bed.

    Alternatively, you can install a programmable thermostat, which provides many advantages over turning the heat down yourself. A programmable thermostat lets you set multiple temperatures everyday, meaning you can sleep in a cool room but wake up to a comfortable temperature. Save money by not heating an empty space while you are at work but return to a warm house afterwards. The added convenience of not having to remember to change the temperature every day in addition to the comfort of not waiting for the room to heat up when you are home makes this a great investment.

    This also applies for running your A/C in the warm months!

    Let us know how you save money on heating in the comments below!

    April 3rd – Plug Your Electronics Into Power Strips

    CFL and LEDTonight, after work or school stop by a hardware or electronics store and pick up some power strips (preferably with surge protectors) for all of your large electronics if you do not have some at home already.

    Some large electronics can use as much energy as a light bulb while in stanby mode meaning you should unplug them when you leave the house or know you won’t use them for a while. Having a large electronic setup plugged into a power strip makes it much easier to completely power it down, especially if it has a lot of plugs like a home theater system or computer.

    Power strips with surge protectors can potentially save your electronics as well. A large electric surge such as a lightning strike can fry the power source or other components on expensive electronics. While some have these built in, a surge protector is an inexpensive way to provide an extra layer of protection.

    Let us know what electronics you power down in the comments below.

    April 2nd – Pick Up CFLs or LEDs

    CFL and LEDTonight, after work or school, stop by the hardware store and pick up some Compact Fluorescent (CFL) or, if you know you’ll be living in the same place for a long time, some LED light bulbs.

    CFLs use 75% less energy and last 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb. I know that when I purchased new lamps for my house, they had a whole shelf of incandescent bulbs right next to it, and I had to go search the store for CFLs, so I understand if you are currently using incandescent bulbs. But it’s worth the switch, not only are they equal in price, they last way longer and will save you hundreds of dollars over their lifetime.

    LEDs are very interesting too. They do cost more, but they use much less electricity than other bulbs, have extremely long rated lives (25-50 times that of an incandescent), produce very little heat, do not emit UV or infrared, contain no mercury, are resistant to shock and vibration, and can operate effectively in extremely cold environments. They are generally a sound long term investment if you know you will be in the same place for more than 8-10 years, and you’ll get a crazy ROI over the lifetime (also a great way to earn some extra LEED Certification points).

    Let us know which type of bulb you got in the comments below!

    April 1st – Call Your Utility Company

    Certified Energy AuditorTonight when you get home from work or school, call your utility company and ask what incentives they have for you to get an energy audit for your home. Many utilities have been offering free energy audits for years, but very few people have actually taken advantage.

    In case you’re unfamiliar, an energy audit is an assessment of your home by a certified energy rater (make sure they have a BPI Certification) in which they use diagnostic equipment to determine a list of recommendations for how you can improve the efficiency (and comfort) of your home.

    If your utility offers free or discounted audits, make an appointment for after April, so you’ll have done most of the easy stuff before he/she gets there.

    Let us know how the call went in the comments below!

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      • JuliaZhou

        Word to the wise – Ikea is a great place to pick some really, really low cost CFL light bulbs.

      • Max

        Wouldn’t a new thermostat be expensive? How long will it take to pay off and start saving money?

      • JuliaZhou

        You can find a programmable thermostat at Home Depot or Lowe’s for $25. There are fancier ones, like the nest (http://www.nest.com), but you can get a very serviceable thermostat for less than the cost of a dinner out.

        With the average utility bill at $111 per month (eia.gov), the payback period can be as little as one month. Hope this helps!

      • RGL

        Information about AC /DC power supplies is an urban rumor started by the US DOE. Actual cost is less than $0.02 / year. Google article called WATTS UP

      • http://www.displayad.com/ California Architect

        I used 1 inch rigid insulation with a smooth white surface to wrap the sides and top of my refrigerator. With white duct tape holding it together, it looks normal. Since my refrigerator is one of my biggest contributors to my electricity bill (AC is the 1st) this helped me save about $10 per month. I did not insulate the back of the refrigerator because that’s where the vents are; must be unobstructed.

      • JuliaZhou

        Thanks for sharing, California Architect!

      • JuliaZhou

        California Architect, did you see today (April 11th)’s tip? It’s all about insulating your refrigerator properly! Thought you’d like it. :)

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