GLASGOW – Homes have numerous places where changes ranging from relatively minor and costing only a few dollars to those costing hundreds or thousands can increase energy efficiency – and thus decrease power use and long-term power costs, and energy consultant Jeff Christian shared suggestions for several of them at two seminars Thursday in Glasgow.
Christian, who spent years researching energy use in buildings for Oak Ridge National Laboratory and is now a senior energy efficiency specialist for Strata-G, was here at the request of the Glasgow Electric Plant Board.
He spoke about common places where air leaks from the home, but where residents may not think to look, and methods for sealing them properly for “envelope tightening,” but he also addressed some things such as heating and cooling units and water heaters and more.
If a home has moisture or structural problems, those should always be addressed before energy issues, he said, and sometimes fixing the moisture problems can, in turn, help improve the energy efficiency. For example, he said, if crawl spaces have insulation, if they also have moisture and even standing water, the insulation is absorbing that moisture, and moist insulation does not function properly.
Another place that insulation tends to get wet is where homes incorrectly have their bathroom and kitchen air ventilation going into an attic space, rather than outside where it should go, and often, the vent is even covered by insulation on the attic side, so that’s the only place the moisture can go, Christian said.
He said there is no reason not to switch to LED as light bulbs are being replaced around the house. Although florescent lights can save some on power over the traditional incandescent ones, the light-emitting diode bulbs are even more efficient, Christian said.
He called incandescent bulbs “public enemy No. 1 in your house.”
When consulting for GEPB on the Smart Energy Technology (SET) project, Christian said he found many people hesitant to really do much with their programmable thermostats to make the best use of them, but he said such thermostats are getting pretty easy to work.
“It just makes so much good sense,” he said of using the devices. “Pound for pound, dollar for dollar, that is the best thing you can do.”
Having a well-sealed, but properly ventilated home helps maximize what a person can do with the programming, too, he said. For instance, if someone is precooling or preheating a home during hours when electricity is less in demand and costs less so they can then use less when it costs more, a home with a tighter envelope is going to hold onto to that precooled or preheated air longer, but if air is leaking like a sieve, the effort won’t work as well.
The primary reason GEPB brought Christian to Glasgow to inform the public about free or low-cost methods for improving energy efficiency was that it was attempting to fulfill a request of a customer advisory council that wanted an independent person to offer the information. GEPB arranged for special bus routes for both the 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. seminars and provided an option for those who needed a ride but could not take advantage of the bus to call and arrange that.
Barely more than two dozen people, aside from GEPB staff and media representatives, attended the first seminar, when the Glasgow Daily Times was there, and only five went to the second, said Shelia Hogue, GEPB’s marketing manager. No one used the special bus route or additional transportation opportunity offered for either session, Hogue said.
Earlier in his presentation, Christian also discussed some of the measures that had been taken to improve energy efficiency in some homes that were part of the Glasgow Electric Plant Board’s SET project that was funded with a Tennessee Valley Authority grant.
Most SET participants got a new water heater, a home battery that could store energy that could be used during peak demand times rather than power from the electrical grid that would cost more during those hours, and a programmable thermostat, but some homes also got upgrades that included the types of work Christian discussed during the seminar. He played a role in helping to write the grant proposal for the project and also in inspecting and identifying the homes that would be best suited to getting the extra upgrades, so he spent some time outlining what those included.
The first seminar was video-recorded to be shown later on GEPB’s Energy Channel, which is Channel 2 for GEPB cable customers.