Energy savings come in many forms and are highly important for many reasons. Implementing and practicing some or all of the following energy savings tips can result in marked improvements in your home's energy efficiencies, a significant reduction in your energy bills, and will help reduce your impact and footprint on the environment.
HOME ENERGY EVALUATION
During a Home Energy Evaluation, a technician will test your home and A/C ducts to determine the amount of air leakage in your home. Next, they will inspect the walls for proper insulation. Then, they will inspect the attic for proper insulation and ventilation.
AIR SEAL YOUR HOME
Older homes typically leak a good amount of conditioned air out of the home through penetrations in the walls and ceiling for plumbing, electrical and air conditioning systems. Sealing up these gaps and holes keeps your heated or cooled air inside your house and helps prevent outside air that has dust, pollen and pollution from getting in. During the blower door test of a Home Energy Evaluation, May Energy Solutions will determine how much air is leaking out of your home and from where. May Energy Solutions offers air sealing services and has the experience and equipment to do it efficiently.
VENTILATE YOUR ATTIC
During hot Texas summers, a lot of heat can build up in your attic. That extra heat in your attic transfers to your home and makes your A/C unit work harder to cool down your home. That is why it is important to properly ventilate your attic and get that hot air out before it heats up your home. Building codes require a minimum amount of ventilation for every square foot of attic area. May Energy Solutions can help you achieve properly balanced attic ventilation that has the appropriate number of vents in the soffit to let cool air in and on the roof to let hot air out. During a Home Energy Evaluation, we inspect the amount of venting you currently have and recommend improvements as needed.
HAVE YOUR HVAC SYSTEM INSPECTED AND SERVICED ANNUALLY
This is something that every homeowner should be signed up for with their preferred A/C service company. You may think that if your HVAC (heating, ventilation and cooling) system is running that your system doesn't need to be serviced, but that is not always true. Air conditioning and heating systems are complicated pieces of machinery that need regular maintenance to operate at their most efficient. If the refrigerant in the system is low, your system could be running much longer than it needs to cool your house (or to heat it if your system is a heat pump). Most A/C service companies offer discounts if you sign up for regular inspections versus just calling when you need them and may even include discounts if your systems do need repair.
MAKE SURE YOUR HVAC SYSTEM IS SIZED PROPERLY
Most heating and cooling systems last an average of around 15 years according to the Department of Energy (DOE). If your unit is approaching that age, is struggling to heat or cool (driving up your energy bills) or needs frequent repairs; it may be time to consider a new system. This is typically the most expensive system you have in your home, but it is well worth it to get it done correctly. A properly installed system of the right size will keep your home comfortable for a long time and will likely reduce your energy bills. Get recommendations from trusted family and friends. Also get estimates from at least three companies so you have good comparisons.
It is also important to ask them how they will size the system. An undersized system will cost less but may struggle to cool your home during hot Texas summers, or, considering the severe cold spells we have had in recent years, it may even struggle to keep your house warm during those times. An oversized system can cause problems as well. During our humid Texas summers, an oversized system will cool the house quickly but will not run long enough to remove the humidity from the air inside your home. This could make your home uncomfortable and possibly lead to issues with mold and mildew. A properly sized system will keep your home comfortable, last longer and run more efficiently, saving your money in the long run. The HVAC contractor should take into account not only your homes square footage, but also the orientation of your home to the sun, amount and quality of insulation in your home, how much air leakage your home has and also the number, size, location and quality of the doors and windows you have. All of these significantly affect how much energy it will take to heat and cool your home.
A good HVAC contractor should use Manual J, Manual D and Manual S from the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA). Manual J calculates the heating and cooling needed for your home’s specific details. Manual D guides the design of the ducts for your home and Manual S guides the selection of equipment to meet your homes heating and cooling needs. You can also ask your utility company or your HVAC contractor if they have an Energy Star Verified Installation (ESVI) program. For this program the contractor must design and install the system based on national standards and the installation and system performance is verified by a third party. The following link on the DOE Energy Star website provides more information on this program: https://www.energystar.gov/https%3A//www.energystar.gov/campaign/heating_cooling/esvi May Energy Solutions can help you with insulation and air leakage by performing an energy audit. The energy audit will show how much air is leaking from your home and where your insulation is sub-standard. We can then seal those leaks and bring your insulation up to the recommended values. Taking this step before you replace your system could result in being able to purchase equipment that is smaller and less expensive. The same goes for your windows and doors. If you have old, inefficient single pane windows, replacing them before getting estimates on a new system could save you money on the HVAC system needed and energy bills in the future.
REPLACE HVAC FILTER REGULARLY
This is another part of home maintenance that you can easily do on your own. Depending on the type of filter you have, you should replace it every 30 to 90 days. Watch this video on HVAC filters showing different filter types and locations to help you to be able to do this on your own.
Video credit: This Old House. “How to Choose the Right Furnace Air Filter | This Old House”. YouTube, 11 Sept. 2014
INSULATE YOUR ATTIC ACCESS
This only applies if your attic access is inside the heated space of your home (Air Seal Your Home). An unsealed attic access door can be one of the largest sources of air and energy leakage out of your home. If you are a homeowner with good home improvement skills, you may be able to do this project on your own. But if you have doubts about accomplishing this on your own, May Energy Solutions would be glad to give you an estimate for this service.
SET YOUR THERMOSTAT TO THE APPROPRIATE TEMPERATURE FOR THE SEASON
The Department of Energy (DOE) recommends setting your thermostat during the heating season to 68 degrees during your waking hours at home and lower while sleeping. It is more efficient to wear a sweater or put an extra blanket on the bed to remain comfortable. Also, sleep experts say we sleep better if our bedroom is cold and our feet are warm. During the cooling season, the DOE recommends a setting of 78 degrees when you are home. While you are away from home, the recommendation is to adjust the setting 5 to 7 degrees warmer in the summer or cooler in the winter. You can do this manually, but the easiest way is to install a programmable thermostat. They are available at most home improvement or hardware stores. If you’re unsure about doing this yourself, please hire an electrician.
USE CEILING FANS FOR BETTER COMFORT
The Department of Energy tells us that using a ceiling fan to blow air down can let you set the thermostat up to 4 degrees warmer and not lose any cooling comfort. Reversing the fans direction during winter to blow air up results in better circulation of your heated air that may otherwise stay up near the ceiling and away from the homes occupants.
USE SHADES AND CURTAINS TO CONTROL ENERGY LOSS
You can use window treatments to help lower your energy bills by closing shades and curtains on the sunny side of the home during summer. This keeps the sun from heating up your home unnecessarily. During the winter you want to do the opposite, open the shades and curtains on the sunny side to help warm your home. On especially cold nights, closing all the shades and curtains helps your windows release less heat.
CHOOSE ENERGY STAR CERTIFIED APPLIANCES
You probably have seen the energy use stickers on refrigerators, washing machines or other home appliances. This helps you choose the products that cost the least to operate. A product that is Energy Star certified is another way to pick the most efficient appliance. Energy Star certified products must meet strict energy efficiency criteria making them more efficient than average. Energy Star ratings also apply to products such as windows, office equipment and heating/cooling systems. The following link on the DOE Energy Star website gives you more information about the Energy Star rating program: https://www.energystar.gov/products
TURN OFF ELECTRONIC EQUIPMENT WHEN NOT IN USE
Even in standby mode, electronic equipment such as computers, printers, monitors and televisions use power. Turing these off when not in use, especially overnight can save energy and money. An easy way to do this is to have a power strip that you can use to easily turn off power to all the equipment that won't be in use for a significant amount of time.
SET WATER HEATER THERMOSTAT
The Department of Energy recommends setting your water heater thermostat to 120 degrees to save energy and prevent accidentally scalding someone in the tub or shower. Often water heaters come from the manufacturer set to 140 degrees, so be sure to check and adjust the setting on newly installed water heaters.
INSTALL A TIMER ON YOUR WATER HEATER
Heating water accounts for a large portion of a home's energy bill. An easy way to control your water heater energy use is to install a timer. If you have a water heater that just serves your bathrooms, then it doesn't make sense to keep the water at the set temperature when you are not bathing. For a family that only showers at night, you can set the timer to come on an hour before the usual bathing times and go off an hour after so that the water heater is only using electricity for 4 or 5 hours a day. Today's water heaters are typically well insulated, especially if you choose an Energy Star certified unit (Choose Energy Star certified appliances), so the water will stay warm enough during the rest of the day for hand washing or other occasions that only use a small amount of water. Water heater timers are available at most home improvement or hardware stores. If you are unsure about doing this yourself, please hire an electrician.
INSULATE THE PIPES ON YOUR WATER HEATER
The hot water coming out of your water heater is usually protected from losing heat as it goes through walls and floors in your home or under your slab to get to its final destination at your sink, tub or shower, especially if the plumber insulated the pipes when the house was built. Often the pipe or hose coming out of the heater and going into the wall is not insulated. Adding foam pipe insulation, available at most home improvement or hardware stores, to these exposed pipes or hoses is an easy project for any homeowner.
WASH CLOTHES IN COLD WATER
Modern laundry detergents are very efficient at cleaning so for clothes that are not heavily soiled, there is no benefit to washing in warm or hot water. Go to the DOE Energy Saver page on laundry for more tips: https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/laundry
CLEAN DRYER LINT TRAP AND EXHAUST DUCT
Clean the lint trap after every load so the flow of air through your dryer is not restricted by the buildup of lint on the screen in the lint trap. You should also periodically clean lint buildup out of the lint screen slot and the dryer vent hose and duct that leads to the outside. If you are fortunate to have your dryer on an outside wall, this is easy because the duct only goes through the wall. If the duct your hose connects to has to go along a wall, or though a floor or attic then the duct can be very long and may require special equipment to properly clean it.
DEFROST YOUR FREEZER
Most modern freezers automatically defrost periodically. If you have on old freezer that doesn't have this feature, frost can buildup from the moisture in the air freezing on the surfaces of the freezer. This frost buildup prevents the freezer from efficiently cooling its contents. If you see buildup of frost in your freezer, you should manually defrost it. An easy way to do this is turn off the freezer, empty the contents of your freezer into a good cooler and use a hair dryer to quickly melt the frost. Don't forget to have some towels available to soak up the water from the melting frost and most important, don't forget to turn the freezer back on after loading your food back into it.
KEEP YOUR OVEN CLOSED DURING USE
The Department of Energy estimates that up to 15% of a home's energy is used in the kitchen. This includes refrigeration, dishwashing, but cooking alone typically accounts for around 5% of a kitchen’s energy use. Opening the oven to look at food's cooking progress can cause the temperature in the oven to drop as much as 25 degrees. This causes the oven to use more energy to get back up to the correct temperature, possibly affecting the outcome of food sensitive to oven temperatures such as cakes or soufflés. Instead use the oven window and light to check on food and only open the oven if you must do something like turn the food or check the food’s internal temperature. If you must open the oven for these tasks, open it quickly, remove the dish, and close the oven while working with the food.
TURN OVEN OFF A FEW MINUTES BEFORE FOOD IS READY
Most modern ovens are well insulated and will hold the temperature for quite a while if the door is closed. You can save some energy by turning off the oven 5 to 10 minutes before the time is up and the residual heat in the oven will finish the cooking.
KEEP YOUR REFRIGERATOR OR FREEZER FULL
A relatively full refrigerator or freezer operates more efficiently because the mass of the cold items inside keeps the temperature more consistent, especially when the door is opened. If there is not a lot of food related items to take up the space, then a good way to keep it full is to use water bottles.
USE AIR DRY ON YOUR DISHWASHER
Using the air-dry feature on your dishwasher is a good way to save some energy and prevent possibly melting of sensitive plastic items in the dishwasher.
INSTALL A TIMER ON YOUR BATHROOM VENT FAN
The vent fan is needed in our bathrooms to exhaust odors and humidity. A good way to control the vent fan and not have to remember to come back and turn it off is to install a timer switch. These are available at most home improvement or hardware stores. If you are unsure about doing this yourself, please hire an electrician.
REPLACE YOUR DOORS AND WINDOWS
If your windows are more than 25-30 years old or if they are single pane windows (only one layer of glass), then your house would greatly benefit from replacing the windows. New windows will help make your home quieter, more comfortable, and help lower your energy bills. Window technology is always advancing, and you can find good windows at different price points. At the minimum you should have double pane windows (two layers of glass with an insulating layer of air in between) in your home. Better windows will replace that insulating air layer with argon, a gas that is a better insulator than air. Also helpful are windows that add a coating on the inner surface of the glass that reflects heat. Older windows will likely have aluminum frames and aluminum conducts heat well. More energy efficient windows will have the frames made from vinyl, fiberglass or wood. Replacing all your windows is a relatively expensive home improvement, so get several estimates from established, reputable window manufacturers.
CHANGE LIGHT BULBS TO LED
This is an easy one to do on your own. According to the Department of Energy, LED bulbs use up to 75% less electricity and last 25 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs and last up to 5 times longer than compact fluorescent bulbs. They also put out much less heat than other bulbs, so they don't add as much heat to your home in the summer and are less hot to the touch. LED bulbs were expensive when they first came out, but their cost is much more reasonable now and even though they are still a little more expensive than incandescent bulbs, considering the energy savings and long life, it is well worth it to replace your old bulbs with LEDs.
TURN LIGHTS OFF WHEN NOT IN USE
This is a simple one that you probably heard from your dad or grandpa, but it works. If you (or your kids) have trouble remembering to do this, you can add a motion detector to the switch that will automatically turn off the lights when no one is in the room and turn them on automatically when someone enters the room. These are available at most any home improvement or hardware store and an easy project for most homeowners to replace their regular switch with one of these smart switches, just remember to turn of the electricity to the switch at your breaker box before starting the replacement project.
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