Did you know that the typical U.S. family spends about $1,900 a year on home utility bills? Unfortunately, a large portion of that energy is wasted. And each year, electricity generated by fossil fuels for a single home puts more carbon dioxide into the air than two average cars. And as for the road, transportation accounts for 67% of all U.S. oil consumption. The good news is that there is a lot you can do to save energy and money at home and in your car. To cut your energy use up to 25%, see the recommendations below.
Developing a ‘Systems’ mindset
The key to achieving these savings in your home is through a whole-house energy efficiency plan. To take a whole-house approach, view your home as an energy system with interdependent parts. For example, your heating system is not just a furnace—it’s a heat-delivery system that starts at the furnace and delivers heat throughout your home using a network of ducts. Similarly, your air conditioner isn’t just an appliance. Like your furnace, it’s a delivery system that utilizes the same ductwork that your furnace uses. That ductwork is as important as the furnace or air conditioning unit when it comes to minimizing wasted energy.
Even a top-of-the-line, energy-efficient furnace will waste a lot of fuel if the ducts, walls, attic, windows, and doors are not properly sealed and insulated. Taking a whole-house approach to saving energy ensures that dollars you invest to save energy are spent wisely.
Energy-efficient improvements not only make your home more comfortable, they can yield long-term financial rewards. Reduced utility bills more than make up for the higher price of energy-efficient appliances and improvements over their lifetimes. In addition, your home could bring in a higher price when you sell.
Determining where your energy is really going
The first step to taking a whole-house energy efficiency approach is to find out which parts of your house use the most energy. A home energy audit will pinpoint those areas and suggest the most effective measures for cutting your energy costs. Most home owners don’t have the equipment or expertise to do an effective energy audit themselves. For a comprehensive examination, contact Eagle Shield for a no-cost audit.
Formulating Your Plan
After a comprehensive energy audit has identified where your home is losing energy, assign priorities by asking yourself a few important questions:
- How much money do you spend on energy?
- Where are your greatest energy losses?
- How long will it take for an investment in energy efficiency to pay for itself in energy cost savings?
- Do the energy-saving measures provide additional benefits that are important to you (for example, increased comfort from installing double-paned, efficient windows)?
- How long do you plan to own your current home?
- What is your budget and how much time do you have to spend on maintenance and repair?
Once you assign priorities to your energy needs, you can form a whole house efficiency plan. Your plan will provide you with a strategy for making smart purchases and home improvements that maximize energy efficiency and save the most money.
Get the advice of a professional
Eagle Shield will analyze how well your home’s energy systems work together and compare the analysis to your utility bills. He or she will use a variety of equipment such as infrared cameras, which reveal hard-to-detect areas of energy leakage. After gathering information about your home, we will give you a list of recommendations for cost-effective energy improvements and enhanced comfort.
So far, on our journey toward the reduction of unnecessary energy use, we have dealt with three of our ten energy guzzlers: the refrigerator, the flat-screen TV, and the air conditioner. This blog deals with an energy guzzler that, to me, came out of left field: the notorious swimming pool and hot tub filter pumps. No kidding. How often do you stop and consider just how much energy it takes to keep your pool and hot tub clean?
My answer? Never. That’s because we hardly use them, yet pay the same amount as if we were using them 7 days a week! Here’s how it breaks down for me:
• Swimming pool filter pump: Runs approximately 8 hours a day and costs me an average monthly cost of $37.00
• Hot Tub filter/pump: This is an older unit (115 volt) which is set at 100 degrees, and found that it is costing me $43.00 a month, even with an insulated cover. That’s in a warm climate.
So both units are running me around $77.00 a month. In the summer months we use the pool on a daily basis and rarely use the hot tub. In the winter months (gets down into the 40’s) we often use the hot tub but rarely use the pool. When we considered the “ROI” (return on investment) for these appliances, based on their usage, we decided to make some changes.
First of all, the hot tub. How can something so much smaller than the pool cost more to run?? I have a buddy who used an infra-red gun and showed me that heat is leaking out from my tub onto the deck. In other words, the deck lit-up. I’m unintentionally heating my outside deck. Upon inspection, we found that the Mickey-mouse insulation that originally came with the tub was mouse-fodder. He helped me take two-inch foam block and glued it to the insides of the tub housing, which made a huge difference in keeping the heat in. No more heating the deck.
We also decided to just shut-off the hot tub during the summer months. Finally, we were told when we did use the tub, to not leave the jets on unless we were using the tub. It seems that the jets like to inject COLD water into the tub which, in turn, needs to be heated. We think that we can shave around 50% off our hot tub energy bill.
Next, the pool. I found that running the pump 8 hours a day doesn’t significantly improve the cleanliness of my pool, but it does significantly increase my energy bill! I set my pump to run no more than 4 hours a day during the summer and we’re still trying to decide if we want to shut it off completely, or run it for only a couple of hours in the winter. Also, I have an older model, power-hungry, single-speed pump and am considering moving to one of the newer variable speed ones. I have found that the cost of the new pump would be well worth the investment, and along with shutting the pool down in the winter months, will save me around 40-50% of my annual pool bill.
So…if I can reduce this energy use by 40%, that’s a $30 monthly savings. I’d rather spend that on lunch after church one Sunday than give it to PG&E! Come to think of it…the money I will be able to save by reducing the energy usage of all 10 of these energy guzzlers could be enough to buy us lunch every Sunday!