In our attempt to reduce our hidden energy usage and be as ‘green’ as we can as a household, I did some checking into an energy resource that we have just taken for granted: Water. It’s just there. Every time we need it, we just turn on a faucet, and it comes out. If you’re like us, you really don’t know how much you’re using on a daily basis.
In a men’s group that I attend, the subject of energy conservation has been a topic of discussion for some months now, and we’re all trying to minimize our usage-and the money we spend on it. But no one, until last week, talked about water.
So I did some research into just how much an average family uses on a daily basis. I picked ten average water-usage activities for a family of four to present to our group and here’s what I found:
WATER-USE ACTIVITY AVERAGE AMOUNT OF WATER USED
1. One bath 50 gallons
2. One 10 minute shower 2.5 gallons per minute = 25 gallons
3. One teeth brushing 1 gallon X 4 = 4 gallons
4. One hand/face washing 1 gallon X 4 = 4 gallons
5. One face/leg shaving 1 gallon X 1 = 1 gallon
6. One dishwasher load 20 gallons = 20 gallons
7. One dishwashing by hand 5 gallons = 5 gallons
8. One clothes washing load 10 gallons = 10 gallons
9. One toilet flush 3 gallons X 10 = 30 gallons
10. One 8oz glass of water 8oz X 4 = ½ gallon
Now, taking into consideration that we wash clothes and (in our house) baths are taken periodically (we shower daily), that comes to an average daily water usage of 84.5 gallons! If someone had suggested to me that we use an average of 600 gallons of water a week I would have thought he was crazy! I realize that this is just an estimate, and I’m not taking into account everything we use water for, such as cooking and dog washing. And, water use for all activities vary by individual. I might use three gallons of water to wash dishes by hand, but my son might use five. You might leave the water running when you brush your teeth, but your wife might not. If you live in a newer house, your toilet probably uses less water per flush than the toilet in a very old house. Newer houses also have shower and faucet heads that use less water than before (look at the end piece on your sink faucet — it should have the number of gallons per minute that it will allow stamped in it).
The guys in my group were stunned. We all were. We were trying to guess how much water we all used in washing our trucks. We all took a minute to add up the houses on our street in order to figure-out how much water actually goes down the drain…You get the point. It’s scary.
It also started us thinking about how much water it took to put those cups of coffee and burgers in front of us, and the rest of the people in the restaurant. Being the researcher that I am, I offered to do some research on that as well, and share it with them over the next few weeks. I’ll put what I find into a blog, for those of you who are interested.
This is one of those deals where one feels like just one person can’t make much of an impact, but we figured that we were only responsible for ourselves, our families, and others that we might be able to impact. So here’s what we decided to do:
1. Each guy was going to share this information with his family and vow to cut-down on as much water usage as possible in his own home. We figured we could probably reduce it by 50% with some effort and controls. I’m still not sure about only flushing the toilet a couple of times a day.
2. Each of us were going to ‘walk our neighborhoods’ with a home-made flyer and see if he could get the neighbors to do the same.
3. All of us were businessmen, so we decided to take the message to our work-place as well.
4. We all frequent Starbucks, restaurants, etc. and decided that (for what it was worth), we’d give them the info as well. Who knows?
5. We all agreed to email the info to our relatives as well.
Is this going to make a difference? We’re not naïve. We know that some of our kids, relatives, and co-workers will just shrug their shoulders and not really give a rip. But some-maybe many-will, and make some changes in the way they take for granted one of our best natural resources. Who knows? It may just reduce their water bill at the same time.
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.
Eagle Shield was there when Maria Loutzenhiser accepted the keys to her new Idyllwild home then hugged Julie Countryman who gave them to her. About 200 people attended the dedication ceremony of the four-bedroom, two-bath home that was built at no cost to the Loutzenhiser family.
Loutzenhiser is the widow of U.S. Forest Service Fire Capt. Mark Loutzenhiser, who was killed in October of 2006 while fighting the Esperanza Fire. Most Habitat for Humanity homes are provided to low-income families at an affordable cost. This project was different. Maria Loutzenhiser had no house payments thanks to the generosity of the public.
Habitat For Humanity selected Eagle Shield to provide the insulation protection for the home. Idyllwild sits at about 5300 feet in the Southern California mountains and experiences freezing lows in the winter and can reach triple digits highs in the summer. Traditional insulations would not due. Fire fighting professionals have been fans of the Eagle Shield technology found in its High Performance Reflective insulation, long before it became “popular” because of its tremendous resistance to heat and its ability to slow down a fire in a home. Firefighters have used this technology for decades. Eagle Shield’s High Performance insulation now protects this home’s roof, walls, and crawl space under the house.
Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry that seeks to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world, and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action. Habitat invites people of all backgrounds, races and religions to build houses together in partnership with families in need. Habitat has built more than 250,000 houses around the world, providing more than 1 million people in more than 3,000 communities with safe, decent, affordable shelter. HFHI was founded in 1976 by Millard Fuller along with his wife, Linda.
As many of you already know solar energy is a renewable energy source. Our sun is virtually an unlimited source of energy, and solar energy cannot be depleted unlike fossil fuels that will eventually become depleted. Once this happens world needs to have good alternatives, and solar energy definitely looks like one of the best possible alternatives. Here’s why:
- Solar energy is an environmentally friendly energy source that doesn’t emit harmful carbon emissions that contribute to climate change like fossil fuels do. With every watt of energy generated from the Sun we need less fossil fuels, and with it we are actually reducing the impact of climate change. The latest studies have reported that an average home solar system is capable to eliminate 18 tons of greenhouse gas emissions from the environment each year. Solar energy also doesn’t emit nitrogen oxide or sulphur dioxide meaning that it doesn’t contribute to smog or acid rain.
- The Sun is a completely free energy source which can be used by each and every one of us. Nobody owns the Sun, so after you recover the initial investment, the remaining energy from the Sun is completely free.
- The more solar energy we use the less we are dependent on fossil fuels. This is not only good from the environmental point of view but also improves our energy dependence and our energy security since there is a lesser need for foreign oil import.
- On the long run solar energy saves us money. The initial costs are well worth it because you will have access to energy that is totally free, and if your home solar system produces more energy than you need, your utility company can buy it from you, meaning there’s a potential extra profit involved. Many countries also provide different tax benefits, and offer financial incentives for using solar energy.
- Solar panels operate very silently (unlike huge wind turbines) so there is no noise pollution. Solar panels usually have a very respectable lifespan of at least 30 years, and maintenance costs connected with them are very low since they have no moving parts. It is also fairly easy to install solar panels.
- Photovoltaic cells (often referred to as ‘solar cells’) are the most efficient technology to date. Photovoltaic cells are “devices that convert sunlight into electricity using the photoelectric effect”. Photovoltaic cells are made of semiconducting materials similar to those used in computer chips and use a lens to focus the sunlight onto the cells which contain collectors of the Sun’s heat.
As you can see, solar energy is one of the best energy options for individuals looking to reduce or eliminate their dependency upon fossil fuels. Eagle Shield utilizes the latest technology in photovoltaic cell systems Eagle Shield’s High Performance Solar Systems modules have received the California Energy Commission’s top performance ranking and ensure years of superior energy production. Our system is designed to make installation of modules quick, simple and secure. Fire-code friendly panels allow for easy, fast installation. To learn more, call us at 800-811-0466 for a free estimate. We’ll include an 18-point home energy audit to show you other ways you can increase your home comfort, save money on energy bills, and protect the environment.
Eagle Shield: Tell us what it was that you were experiencing that resulted your investing in Eagle shield?
Marrianna: I have a condo that was built in 1984 with single pane windows. In the winter the downstairs portion of my condo would be least 15-20 degrees colder than upstairs. Trying to heat the downstairs to a comfortable temperature meant that the upstairs would be 100 degrees. And in the summer the upstairs would be stifling.
Eagle Shield: It sounds like you needed a way to achieve a consistent temperature throughout your home. After consulting with Eagle Shield, what service or products did you decide would get you the results you were looking for?
Marrianna: I decided to have Eagle Shield’s High Performance Reflective Insulation installed. (Note: Reflective Insulation – sometimes called radiant barrier insulation – is a patented, strong, thin aluminum foil sheet designed to block radiant heat transfer across open spaces. Installed on the rafters in your attic, it works with your existing insulation to boost the insulating power of your home.)
Eagle Shield: How did working with Eagle Shield meet or exceed your expectations? What was the ‘before and after’ difference?
Marrianna: Before having the High Performance Reflective Insulation installed I would wear several layers of clothing and turn on the heater and it would run for three hours. The downstairs temperature would raise only 5-10 degrees (not much to notice) and the upstairs would be at least 40-50 degrees hotter. In the summer the condo would be very hot when I got home. Now with the Eagle Shield Insulation I do not have to wear several layers of clothing and the downstairs warms up much faster and stays warm after I turn off the heater. In the summer the condo stays fairly cool when I arrive home after 6pm.
Eagle Shield: How would you rate the competency and professionalism of the service, and follow-up provided by Eagle Shield?
Marrianna: An Eagle Shield staff member explained the value of Reflective Insulation and what it would do for me, and I decided to purchase it. The installers were great. They were professional, friendly and were informative. They were in and out of my home quickly and they cleaned up after themselves in a timely manner. The staff member followed up to see if the product was working like she had explained and if I was satisfied.
Eagle Shield: How do you feel about recommending Eagle Shield to others?
Marrianna: I have recommended the Eagle Shield High Performance Reflective Insulation to my friends and family.
I don’t know if you have a similar issue, but keeping a consistent level of warmth in all of the rooms of our house is a problem. Our house is around 3500 sq. feet, and has four bedrooms on the upper level. The thermostat is located in the center of the second floor, in the hallway. I can set it at 78 degrees and it keeps the main floor and the middle of the second floor pretty-much at that temperature. The problem is that two of the bedrooms, which are located at the far end of the house, always feel cold in the winter. We felt that turning up the heat in order to keep those rooms warmer wasn’t a wise thing to do, since it might drive our heating bill through the proverbial ceiling, so we opted for getting a couple of electric space heaters for these rooms. Bad idea. Here’s why: kids live in these rooms.
We bought 1500 watt heaters with automatic temperature regulators (for obvious reasons-kids) with the idea that a portable heater would be a great way to ‘take the chill’ off the morning. We also thought that the kids would be vigilant about turning them off in the mornings when they left for school. Wrong again. What we didn’t think about was that these thermostatically controlled heaters would automatically turn on again when the room got cold, which it did during the day. Once the temperature of the room reached a certain temperature, the heater would shut down. The kids just forgot to turn them off, because they didn’t ‘hear’ them running.
Our energy consultant asked us if we had portable heaters and asked us why we thought they were a better idea than turning up the heat. Of course, we thought it was going to be a cheaper way to bring heat to those cold rooms. He asked us if we knew how much they actually cost us to operate. We didn’t really have a clue. Here’s the reality of how much these things cost to run: At $.17 a KWH a 1500 watt portable heater running three hours a day costs around $23.00 a month to operate. Take that times two and we were looking at $46.00 a month, just to ‘take the chill’ off. Amazing what escapes us. That’s if they only ran the three hours. I could just see the heaters kicking-on-and-off-again throughout the day…with no one home. Add this additional amount to what we paid for the heaters and we felt like idiots.
O.K… so what were we to do? The rooms were still going to be cold if we didn’t do something.
Our issue was not wanting to increase our heating bill by turning up the furnace, but we didn’t want the additional $46.00 or more added to our heating bill, either. He told us that the ductwork in our house, because of the size, didn’t have the capacity to bring the needed heat to those out-lying rooms. If we turned up the heat, the rooms in the center of the house got warmer-too warm for us-even though the cold rooms did warm-up. Besides that, the additional heat seemed to want to kill these great fern plants that we have on the second story landing.
Our guy suggested something that did, in fact, work for us. In order to compensate for the inconsistent heat flow we could spend more money for a higher output furnace (which we weren’t going to do), or we could do the following (which we did):
• Select the temperature range on the thermostat that brought enough heat into the cooler rooms in order for them to be comfortable.
• In the rooms in the center of the house, close the heat registers so they would be less affected by the additional heat and subsequently, force more heat into the cooler rooms. We had to play with this a little in order to get the right balance, but it worked.
• Take the portable heaters out of the room and sell them on Craig’s list, which we did.
After a couple of months we noticed a couple of things:
• Our always-cold daughters stopped complaining about their rooms being cold.
• The overall house temperature seemed more balanced and comfortable.
• The increase in our heating bill increased only by around $20.00 a month-half of what we were unknowingly paying to heat those rooms.
• The ferns aren’t dying.
It’s amazing when one thinks about the concept of Hidden energy guzzlers. They really are hidden, and that’s what makes them so insidious when it comes to the impact that they have on our wallets. I have nothing against energy companies. I want to pay my fair share. Truth is, however, that I’d rather save what I can and spend it on something I enjoy. I figured that, with the amount of money we were going to save by being more energy efficient, I could eventually buy a new sea kayak. That didn’t go over all that well…
If you have been following any of these recent blogs, you will have picked-up that we are on a mission to uncover and eliminate hidden ‘energy guzzlers:’ the appliances, equipment, and habits that, unknown to us, are wasting energy and causing us unnecessary expense. We have found that some appliances and equipment, much to our surprise, use much more energy than we would have guessed (flat screen TVs and hot tub pumps). But there are a couple of appliances that, at first blush, might seem to be energy-suckers, but in fact are not.
I asked a few people at work to identify the two appliances in their kitchens that they thought were the biggest energy-wasting culprits. To the person, each one listed both their dishwasher and their electric stove. By the way, none of these folks thought that their refrigerator was an energy-waster. I pointed them to blog number one. Like them, I really thought my dishwasher and electric stove used lots of electricity, so I try to use them sparingly. I was surprised to find that they actually use much less electricity than I thought. This was good news for me because I love to cook and hate to wash dishes.
First, the Dishwasher. I figured that we ran our dishwasher 18 times (cycles) a month. That’s a little more than every-other-day. At $0.17 per KWH, the dishwasher costs us an average of $6.62 a month. Huh. I spend more than that on breakfast. What about all that hot water? We were of the opinion that if we cut down on running the dishwasher and washed dishes by hand, we’d be saving money. Not so. I found that we use less energy washing dishes in a dishwasher than washing by hand! This is one of those counter-intuitive things. It’s like taking a bath versus taking a shower. With all that water running down the drain, it would seem that a bath would use less water than a shower, but just the opposite is true. Same with washing dishes by hand.
Even though there was a smile on my face when I found that the dishwasher wasn’t a true ‘energy-guzzler,’ I was given a couple of tips that can help reduce the energy usage even more.
First, run the dishwasher only when full. We found that this reduced our monthly usage from around 18 cycles to around 15. But here’s the tip that I thought was pretty cool. We were told to use the cool-dry cycle (on our dishwasher it’s called the ‘no heat’ button) rather than the hot cycle. Never thought about that. I guess I thought that they needed that cycle to make sure the germs were killed. The utility guy told me that, with 160 degree water, the germs were already dead and it just takes a little longer for the dishes to dry. For those of you who don’t have this feature on your dishwasher, you can turn it off after the final rinse and let the dishes air dry. I guess that this can reduce the dishwasher’s energy usage by 30-40 percent.
Next, the Electric Stove. We figured that we used the stove-top around 45 minutes to an hour a day. The average monthly cost, oddly enough, is only $7.25 a month. Not bad. Everyone I asked thought this one was the bad-boy of the kitchen, using much more energy than any other appliance. Interestingly enough, some of my friends have spent hundreds of dollars on counter-top appliances that they purchased just so they wouldn’t use their stove. One friend, who just spent $135 on a convection-type, dome-shaped oven, upon hearing how little his electric stove was really costing him, gave me the “thanks a lot” look. Should have saved his money.
In closing, here are a couple of tips we picked-up regarding how we can reduce the stove usage even more.
• Foods cook faster at lower temperatures if you use pots with flat bottoms and tight-fitting lids.
• Pans that are bigger or smaller than the heating coil waste energy. (Weird. I thought that by putting the smaller pan on a larger coil would cause it to heat-up faster)
• You can also save energy by using your microwave oven, slow-cooker, toaster oven, and electric skillet instead of the larger oven or stove.
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!