More Information on Transitional Energy
Energy Solutions - Home
Every time you buy a home appliance, tune up your heating system, or replace a burned-out light bulb, you're making a decision that affects the environment. Serious human health and environmental problems are directly associated with energy production and transportation: such as urban smog, oil spills, and acid rain, to mention just a few. But you may not realize how much a difference each one of us can make by considering energy use in our household purchases and maintenance decisions.
What you can do
- Buy energy-efficient products. However, buying brand new appliances can be expensive. If you have noticed that one of your appliances is consuming electricity more than normal, you should first look into purchasing newer, replacement appliance parts for them. Of course, not all of us are natural-born handymen, so buying a new appliance may be the only option. When buying new appliances or electronics, shop for the highest energy-efficiency rating. Look for a yellow and black Energy Guide label on the product. It compares the energy use for that model against similar models. New energy-efficient models may cost more upfront, but have a lower operating cost over their lifetime. The most energy-efficient models carry the Energy Star label, which identifies products that use 20-40% less energy than standard new products. According to the EPA, the typical American household can save about $400 per year in energy bills with products that carry the Energy Star. Refrigerators alone typically account for 20% of an average domestic electric bills. New refrigerators and freezers are about 75% more efficient than those made 30 years ago, so investing in a state-of-the-art refrigerator can cut hundreds of dollars from your electric bill during its lifetime.
- Switch to compact fluorescent bulbs: Change the bulbs you use most in your house to compact fluorescents. Each compact fluorescent bulb will keep half a ton of carbon dioxide out of the air over its lifetime. And while compact fluorescents are more expensive than the incandescent bulbs you're used to, they last ten times as long and can save $30 per year in electricity costs.
- Set heating and cooling temperatures at a level that doesn't waste energy. Get an electronic thermostat that will allow your furnace to heat the house to a lower temperature when you're sleeping and return it to a more comfortable temperature before you wake up. In the winter, set your thermostat at 68 degrees in the daytime and 55 degrees at night. In the summer, keep it at 78 degrees. Remember that water heaters work most efficiently between 120 degrees and 140 degrees. In your refrigerator, set the temperature at about 37 degrees and adjust the freezer to operate at about 3 degrees. Use a thermometer to take readings and set the temperatures correctly.
- Turn off the lights: Turn off lights and other electrical appliances such as televisions and radios when you're not using them. This may seem obvious, but it's surprising how many times we forget. Install automatic timers for lights that people in your house frequently forget to flick off when leaving a room. Use dimmers where you can.
- Use your appliances more efficiently: The way you use an appliance can change the amount of energy it consumes. Make sure your oven gasket is tight, and resist the urge to open the oven door to peek, as each opening can reduce the oven temperature 25 degrees. Preheat only as much as needed, and avoid placing foil on racks your food won't cook as quickly. The second heaviest drain household energy after the fridge is the clothes dryer. Dryers kept in warm areas work more efficiently. Clear the lint filter after each load, and dry only full loads. Hanging clothing outside in the sun and air to dry is the most energy-efficient method of all.
- Check your utility's energy-efficiency incentives: Some utility companies have programs that encourage energy efficiency. Check with your utility to find out if it offers free home energy audits, cash rebates for using energy-efficient lighting and appliances, and lower electric rates for households meeting certain energy-efficiency criteria.
- Weatherize your home or apartment: Drafty homes and apartments allow energy dollars to leak away. Seal and caulk around windows and doors. Make sure your home has adequate insulation. Many old homes do not have sufficient insulation, especially in the attic. You can check the insulation yourself or have it done as part of an energy audit.
- Choose renewable energy: Many consumers can now choose their energy supplier. If you have a choice, choose an electric utility that uses renewable power resources, such as solar, wind, low impact hydroelectric, or geothermal.
- Let the sun shine in: The cheapest and most energy-efficient light and heat source is often right outside your window. On bright days, open blinds, drapes, and shutters to let the sun light your home for free. Also remember that sunlight entering a room equals passive solar heating. Even on cold winter days, sun streaming into a room can raise the temperature several degrees.
Energy awareness tips
- Clean or replace furnace and air conditioner filters once a month during heating/cooling season.
- A basic rule of thumb for thermostat savings: for each degree you lower the thermostat in winter, you can save about 3% on your heating bill.
- Flip the Switch from 10 to 13% of the average home's electricity costs can be controlled with the flip of a light switch. You don't want to live in the dark, so how can you light the house more efficiently? A good solution: compact fluorescent bulbs have improved tremendously since first introduced. They have become smaller, cheaper, brighter, and offer improved color quality.
- When buying fluorescent bulbs use lumens the amount of light produced to compare bulbs. For example, a 23-watt fluorescent bulb produces about the same number of lumens as a 100-watt incandescent. Your investment will generally pay for itself in a couple of years.
- Shopping for a new major appliance before the old one breaks down gives you the best chance to find a higher efficiency model with the features you want. The typical refrigerator sold in 1996 has more features yet uses about half the electricity of a comparable model sold in 1980. However, there still remains a wide range in efficiency between models. Choose appliances with the Energy Star label to ensure efficiency.
- Buy a new refrigerator that is the right size for your needs.
- Use a microwave or toaster oven to cook small portions and a conventional oven or stovetop for larger items.
- A watched pot will eventually boil but putting a lid on it reduces cooking time and energy use. Also, match the pot size to burner size to avoid energy waste.
- Refrigerators in the U.S. alone use the equivalent of the output of more than 20 large nuclear powerplants. If all the nation's households used the most efficient refrigerators, electricity savings would eliminate the need for about 10 large power plants.
- If you are in the market for new appliances, look for these efficient, energy-saving features:
- Dishwashers that turn off the heating element and circulate air from outside the washer for drying.
- Clothes dryers that have moisture sensors that turn off the unit when the clothes are dry.
- Horizontal axis (front loading) washers that use less water and energy to get clothes as clean as conventional washers.( 5 )
Energy efficiency: First things first
The average American household spends nearly $1,500 per year on utility bills. There are scores of things you can do to make your home more efficient, more comfortable and free up money for better uses. Low-cost, easy to do projects can make a big difference in your utility bills.
Getting started: Weatherization
- Measure the thickness of insulation in the attic, basement, and walls. Note the age and condition of your home's heating and cooling equipment, the type of windows, and if your water heater is wrapped with an insulating jacket. How does your home feel? Is it drafty on windy days? Are you comfortable?
- Call for help: Most state energy offices have useful consumer information booklets, and can refer you to local weatherization agencies and other energy experts who can help you. Many electric utilities offer free or discounted water heater blankets, new showerheads, or compact fluorescent lamps; many also offer financial incentives for the purchase of more efficient appliances or heat pumps.
- You may want to have a comprehensive audit done on your home. Many electric utilities and weatherization agencies will send an auditor to your home, often at no charge to you. Professional audits, including a blower door test, typically cost $50 to $150, but if your home energy bills are high it will most likely be worth it.
Things that cost nothing and save cash
- Turn down the water heater thermostat to 120 degrees F.
- Set thermostats to 68 degrees F in winter when you're home, and down to 55 degrees F when you go to bed or when you're away.
- Use energy-saving settings on washing machines, clothes dryers, dishwashers and refrigerators.
- Clean your refrigerator's condenser coils once a year.
- Air-dry your clothes.
- Close heating vents in unused rooms.
- Close drapes and windows during hot summer days and after sunset in the cold winter months.
Simple and inexpensive - Things that will pay for themselves in lower energy bills in less than a year
- Plug air leaks in the attic and basement and replace and reputty broken window panes ($20).
- Clean or change the air filter on your warm-air heating system during winter and on air conditioning units in the summer ($2).
- Install an R-7 or R-11 water heater wrap ($12).
- Insulate the first three feet of hot and inlet cold water pipes ($6).
- Install a compact fluorescent light bulb in the fixtures you use the most ($15).
Getting serious - Measures that have paybacks of one to three years
- Get a comprehensive energy audit, including a blower door test, to identify sources of air infiltration.
- Caulk and weatherize all leaks identified by the test. Start with the attic and basement first (especially around plumbing and electrical penetrations, and around the framing that rests on the foundation), then weatherize windows and doors.
- Seal and insulate warm-air heating (or cooling) ducts. Have heating and cooling systems tuned up every year or two.
- Insulate hot water pipes in unheated basements or crawlspaces.
Measures that will save a lot of energy and money, but have paybacks of more than three years
- Foundation: insulate inside rim joist and down the foundation wall below frostline to at least R-19 in cold climates and to R-11 or better in moderate climates. Remember to caulk first.
- Basement: insulate the ceiling above crawlspaces or unheated basements to at least R-19 in cold climates. If your basement is heated, insulate the inside of basement walls instead to R-19 or more above grade and to R-11 or more below grade. Basement or foundation insulation is usually not needed in warm climates.
- Attic: increase attic insulation to R-50 in cold climates, R-38 in milder climates, and R-30 plus a radiant barrier in hot climates.
- Walls: adding wall insulation is more difficult and expensive, but may be cost-effective if your house is uncomfortable.
- Install more compact fluorescent bulbs. Put them in your most frequently used fixtures, including those outdoors.
- Replace exterior incandescent lights with compact fluorescents and put them on a timer or motion sensor if they're usually on more than a couple of hours a night.
- Install a radiant barrier in your attic if you live in the Sunbelt states. Convert to solar water heating, and perhaps also supplementary solar space heating.
- Upgrade your water heater, furnace, boiler, air conditioners, and refrigerator to more efficient models. Newer units are far more efficient. Upgrading is often cost-effective, especially if you need to replace failing units anyway. Also, if you've weatherized and insulated, you'll be able to downsize the heating and cooling system.
- Upgrade to superinsulating or at least low-emissivity windows in cold climates, or low solar transmittance windows in hot climates.
- Install awnings or build removable trellises over windows that overheat your home in the summer.
Save water as well as energy!
- Install a low-flow showerhead: Showers account for 32% of home water use. Low-flow showerheads deliver 2.5 gallons per minute compared to standard showerheads that pour out 4.5 gallons per minute.
- Install flow restrictor aerators: Placing these inside faucets saves 3 to 4 gallons per minute when you turn on the tap. You can also help out by doing simple things such as not running water in the sink while soaping your face or brushing your teeth.
- Repair leaks: Fix those leaking and dripping faucets as soon as possible. A dripping faucet can waste up to 20 gallons of heated water per day. A leaking toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of clean water every day.
Saving resources saves energy
Recycling materials can reduce the energy demand needed to manufacture those products including the energy necessary to extract natural resources used as raw materials.
- Recycle materials you use: Recycling saves resources, decreases the use of toxic chemicals, cuts energy use, helps curb air pollution, and reduces the need for landfills and incinerators. Participate in your community's recycling program. If there's no recycling program where you live, encourage local officials to start one.
- Buy recycled products: Look on the label for the products or packaging with the greatest percentage of post-consumer recycled content, which ensures that the materials have been used before. Paper products should have at least 30% post-consumer waste. A higher percentage is even better.
- Compost: Composting reduces the burden on landfills and is a natural fertilizer for plants and gardens.
- Buy products with less packaging: A large percentage of the paper, cardboard, and plastic we use goes into packaging much of it wasteful and unnecessary. Avoid overpackaged items
- Use durable goods: Bring your own cloth bags to local stores. Replace plastic and paper cups with ceramic mugs, disposable razors with reusable ones. Refuse unneeded plastic utensils, napkins, and straws when you buy takeout foods. Use a cloth dishrag instead of paper towels at home, and reusable food containers instead of aluminum foil and plastic wrap.
Landscape to save energy
Landscaping is a natural and beautiful way to shade your home and block the sun. A well-placed tree, bush, or vine can deliver effective shade and add to the aesthetic value of your property. When designing your landscaping, use plants native to your area that survive with minimal care.
- Deciduous trees that lose their leaves in the fall help cut cooling energy costs the most. When selectively placed around a house, they provide excellent protection from the summer sun and permit winter sunlight to reach and warm your house. Height, growth rate, branch spread, and shape are all factors to consider in choosing a tree. In general, planting evergreen trees on the north side and deciduous (leafy) trees on the south side of a home can block energy-draining winter winds and summer sun.
- Vines are a quick way to provide shading and cooling. Grown on trellises, vines can shade windows or the whole side of a house. Ask your local nursery which vine is best suited to your climate and needs. Besides providing shade, trees and vines create a cool microclimate that reduces the temperature by as much as 9 degrees F (5 degrees C) in the surrounding area. During photosynthesis, large amounts of water vapor escape through the leaves, cooling the passing air. And the generally dark and coarse leaves absorb solar radiation.
- Consider low ground cover such as small plants and bushes as well as grass. A ground-covered lawn is usually 10 degrees F (6 degrees C) cooler than bare ground in the summer. If you are in an arid or semiarid climate, consider native ground covers that require little water.
- Landscape in tune with the natural environment use plants that are native to your area. Growing native plants can lessen or eliminate the need for fertilizers, watering and mowing, thereby not only saving labor, energy and water, but also preventing water pollution from the use of fertilizers. If you must water your lawn, water early or late in the day or on cooler days to reduce evaporation. Allow your grass to grow a bit taller to reduce water loss by providing more ground shade for roots and promoting soil water retention.
- Leave grass clippings on the lawn grass clippings make good fertilizer when they decompose.