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Conservation Tips

What should be considered in an effort to make greener decisions?  This is clearly a huge and often misunderstood topic.  Green is more than a recycling bin on the curb.  It’s asking what if?  It’s saying no thanks to paper or plastic and bringing your own reusable grocery bags, it’s renewable energy (which means a lot more when we renew our energy consumption habits), it’s commuting together instead of driving alone. Green is putting your home on an energy diet. It comes in all sizes.  Green is taking action now.

Over time we will continue to add to the links below that give excellent guidance on making green decisions for all aspects of your life.  We would, however, like to cover a number of energy saving concepts here. 

With every bit of energy consumed, we are using up finite resources and contributing to carbon emissions.  The operation of buildings is responsible for nearly 50% of all consumed energy and over 75% of all power plant generated electricity.  Reducing our energy usage is an imperative part of saving our planet for future generations. 

Please note that most of this isn’t about giving up anything other than waste.  In addition to the benefits of using less energy, with quality automation, you also gain the benefits of greater convenience, safety and an overall improved lifestyle from your home’s systems.

Windows & Doors

  • About 1/3 of all heat lost in a home occurs through windows and doors. – EIA
  • Seal gaps and weatherstrip wherever possible.
  • Lock your windows.  This is great for security but it also makes a tight seal.
  • Carefully select window treatments.  Certain types insulate better than others (layers also work well) and if you live in a warm climate, choose light colors to face outside.  Choose a size that block the entire opening if possible, not just the window.
  • Keep window treatments open in the winter for daylighting and to allow heat from the sun in.  In the summer, keep the sides facing the sun – east, south and west if you’re not going to be home and if you are, follow the sun so you still get reflected daylight but avoid direct (and hot) sunlight.
  • Replace damaged windows with efficient models.  This will cut your energy usage as well as block color damaging

Insulation / Ventilation

  • Contact an insulation contractor to be sure you’ve maximized your insulation potential in walls, attics and floors above unheated spaces.
  • Seal all cracks, holes and mechanical openings in ceilings and interior and exterior walls.  Do the same around your drainpipes under your sinks.
  • Insulate interior outlets and switches on exterior walls.

Appliances

  • Appliances account for about 15% of an average household’s energy use.
  • Unplug or use home automation to cut power to devices when not in use.  Phantom power savings can easily approach $10/month for an average family.
  • Run major heat generating appliances at night.  This relieves your heating and cooling systems at all times of year.
  • Refrigerator
    • Take control of your refrigerator’s temperature.  The refrigerator should be 37-40o F and the freezer, 0 to 5o F.
    • Use the brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner to make sure your refrigerator’s coils and front panel are clean.  This will help it run closer to its peak efficiency.
    • Unplug any unused refrigerators and padlock them closed so one gets trapped inside.
    • Cut power to your refrigerator for 90 minutes over night.  A properly sealed unit will not lose a single degree as long as the door is not opened.
    • Plan food use.  When cooking, try to go into the refrigerator once to get everything and once to return to minimize temperature increases.
    • Keep your freezer full.  If you don’t want that much food inside then freeze water in bottles to fill it.  It will be cheaper to keep cool.
  • Oven and cooktop
    • If using the self clean feature on an oven, give it a head start by running it right after baking something.  The heat will give it a head start.
    • Thaw foods in the refrigerator before cooking to reduce cooking time.
    • Put a lid on every pot to increase efficiency by up to 15%.
    • Use a toaster oven.  Smaller equals more economical to operate.
    • Use the oven light instead of opening the door to check on food.
    • Grill in the summertime.  It will keep the heat outside.
    • Leave the oven door ajar after baking in the winter to let the heat fill the room.
    • Heat and reheat foods in the microwave.  For beverages and smaller meals, it is more efficient.
    • Clean your microwave as it will run more efficiently.
  • Dishwashers
    • Use it!  Efficient models will use and therefore heat about 6 gallons less water than washing by hand.
    • Rinse dishes in cold water by hand.  Don’t use your dishwasher’s rinse/hold feature.
    • Don’t run your dishwasher until its full.
    • Let the dishes air dry.
  • Washing Machines and Dryers
    • When purchasing, consider front loading models which use about ½ the water and energy of a traditional top loader.
    • Use the max extract cycle to extend the spin cycle to get clothes their driest before putting them in the dryer.
    • Wash clothes in cold water.  This can save an average family 90% or $70/yr
    • Presoak.  15 minutes of presoaking and 5 minutes of agitation get clothes cleaner than 15 minutes of agitation.
    • Fill them but don’t stuff as it will decrease efficiency, especially when drying.
    • Do loads consecutively to take advantage of dryer heat from the prior load.
    • If your dryer ahs humidity or temperature sensing shut-offs, use them.  They can save 10-15% compared to timer shut offs.
    • Remove lint form your filter and clean the dryer vents.
    • Get things out of the dryer immediately to avoid ironing.  Ironing can consume as much energy as 5 loads in a clothes washer.

Lighting

  • Lighting contributes to about 15% of an average home’s energy usage.  Home automation is the obvious choice to make your savings automatic while providing some convenient and valuable features.
  • Don’t light an empty or lit room.  Use motion, occupancy and photocells to make sure someone is in the room and it is dark enough to require lighting.
  • Use timers for interior security lighting.  Be sure your home looks lived in even when you’re not there without wasting energy by leaving them on all day and night. 
  • Use photocells and motion detection for outdoor security lighting.  After dark, movement will turn the light on.

Plumbing

  • Accounts for about 15% of a home’s energy use.  There is opportunity to save both water and energy.
  • Set the thermostat to 120o this is hot enough for dishes and showers but won’t burn children and of course will save energy.  Wait at least an hour after resetting to check the temperature out of a faucet with a thermometer.
  • Flush the water heater.  Follow manufacturer’s directions or contact a professional.
  • If the outside of your water heater is warm to the touch, insulate it.  Always check with the manufacturer first.
  • Turn off your water heater when away for 4 days or more.  It will cost less to reheat the water than to keep it heated while you’re gone.
  • A seven minute shower will use less than half as much hot water than a bath.
  • Install low flow showerheads.
  • Use aerators on your faucets to cut water flow.
  • Fill your sink when you shave or do dishes as it will use less than leaving the faucet running.
  • Fix leaks!  This can waste hundreds of gallons…a month. AWWA claims up to 14% of water consumption is wasted through leaks.

Heating and Cooling

  • Heating and cooling uses 56% of the energy consumed by the average home, offering a lot of savings upside.
  • Watch the temperature.  Dress appropriately for the season and set your thermostat to the edge of comfortable.
  • In moderate climates, open the windows!
  • Setting your thermostat back 10o overnight and while you’re away at work can save 20% on your energy bills.
  • Control setbacks with an intelligent home automation system.  This will combine the benefits of some preset timers like you find in a programmable thermostat with a smart system that knows when you’re home, going to bed, getting up or on vacation.
  • Change your furnace filter as recommended by the manufacturer to keep your air clean and your furnace running efficiently.
  • Clean the air intake and exhaust of your forced air heating system.
  • Keep your cold air returns and registers clean and unobstructed.
  • Have your furnace checked and tuned up every two or three years.
  • Seal heat ducts and the joint where they meet the register to keep everything flowing into your rooms.
  • Use your registers to control heat.  You’ll typically want to leave them open most for bigger, lower level rooms and closed more for upper levels where heat rises.
  • Use a humidifier in the winter.  Water is an excellent conductor of heat and will make the air feel warmer.  Make sure this is turned off in the summer.  If it’s humid outside, you may consider a dehumidifier to make it feel cooler.
  • Close off unused rooms and close the vent or register to avoid heating it unnecessarily.
  • If you have a fireplace, be sure it’s got glass doors as they will help keep air from escaping up the chimney when not in use.
  • If you use your fireplace, close the damper immediately after the fire is out.  It’s like having a 4 foot hole in your wall.
  • Adjust your ceiling fans between summer and winter.  They should turn clockwise during the heating season to push the warm air down into the room and counterclockwise to push cool air up.
  • Use portable fans to distribute heat, especially from fireplaces.
  • Clean and maintain your air conditioner’s condenser to keep it running efficiently.

Outdoors

  • Plant some shade trees and shrubs on the west and south sides of your house to help keep it cool in the summer.  One tree can reduce your outer wall’s temperature by 20-40o.  Deciduous are best as they will drop leaves in the winter to allow the suns warmth through when you want it.  Awnings arbors and pergolas can have the same effect, especially if retractable or moveable in winter.
  • Shade sidewalks, patios driveways and decks to avoid the heat reflected toward your house.
  • Evergreens on the north and east sides of your home can act as a windbreak in the winter to cut down on drafts.
  • Shade your air conditioning condenser to gain another10% efficiency over one in full sun but be sure to prune around it for unrestricted air flow.

Renewable Energy

  • Now that you’ve maximized your home’s current systems and eliminated waste, contact your local renewable energy specialist to harness the sun or wind to power your new energy efficient home.
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