Here’s are some energy-saving tips, as winter is just around the corner:
Check caulking around windows and doorframes for leaks and fill them. Inspect seals around doors and windows and add new weather stripping as necessary — if you can slide a dollar bill easily through the gap you are losing heat, energy and money. Think about it: a little crack all the way around a window or a door equals a 3- or 4-inch hole in your wall.
Consider adding insulation and/or increasing R-value to recommended levels. This can be a relatively small chore or a large one that requires outside help, depending on the nature of your building. If you wish to know the exact optimal R-value for your area, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has a website http://www.ornl.gov/sci/roofs+walls/insulation/ins_05.html
Tune-up your heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) system with an annual maintenance contract. Even a new ENERGY STAR qualified HVAC system, like a new car, will decline in performance without regular maintenance. A yearly maintenance contract costs as little as $100 depending on the building and HVAC system, but can save even more than this.
Change, or clean if reusable, your HVAC system’s air filters regularly. These filters often cost as little as $2 each but a dirty filter can waste up to $5 per month in energy. In addition to higher operating expenses, dirty filters increase resistance, causing equipment to work harder, possibly leading to premature failure. The cheap $1 or $2 filters are only good for a month. Consider buying the three-month filters and set a reminder to replace them.
Install programmable thermostats to automate your HVAC system. Modern solid-state electronic programmable thermostats can optimize HVAC operations 24/7, based on your needs. A “smart thermostat”; can turn on the HVAC before you arrive and off after you leave, instead of heating or cooling all night or on weekends. These thermostats cost between $25 and $300 but can cut HVAC costs by up to 30 percent. For every 1 degree your thermostat is turned back for 8 hours a day saves you 3% on your monthly utility bill.
Do you have ceiling fans? Check the owner’s manual to see if they are reversible. If not, consider reversible ceiling fans, which can be reversed in the winter to allow the warmer air that accumulates near the ceiling to be pushed back down.
Are your water heater and pipes insulated? Insulation will decrease your energy consumption and may even allow you to turn the temperature back and still maintain comfortable water temperatures at points of use, such as faucets and showers. If your water heater is an older, uninsulated unit, consider adding a water heater blanket to prevent heat loss from the tank.
Set the water temperature on your water heater only as hot as needed (110-120 degrees Fahrenheit) to prevent scalds and save energy. Or go all out with an on demand instantaneous water heater.
Use the sun to your advantage! During the heating season, with the sun low in the south, open or uncover unobstructed southern windows to increase the interior temperature, and close them at night to help retain the warmth.
Consider buying ENERGY STAR qualified equipment for your business and home. The ENERGY STAR label indicates the most efficient computers, printers, copiers, refrigerators, televisions, windows, thermostats, ceiling fans, and other appliances and equipment. Visit http://www.energystar.gov for more information.
Aur ‘DaEnergyMon’ Beck, is a NABCEP Certified Solar PV Installer™ with AES Solar in Carterville and started educating himself about renewable energy as a teenager even before (at age 15) he moved into a camper in his parents driveway to live off grid solar and ended up living off grid for 18 years. Aur understands that living how he does makes it very easy to advocate for a life of simpler living, energy efficiency and renewable energy. His name Aur (pronounced “or”) means light or to enlighten in Hebrew. Can be reached at tech@AESsolar.com