Energy Saving Tips


Preface

  • The only way to determine the overall energy performance of your home is through an Energy Audit performed by a professional, using special testing equipment such as a Blower Door, Draft Test and Gas Combustion Analyzer, and infra-red optics. But perhaps the most important tool, which catches some of the most serious problems, is a careful visual inspection.
  • Many of the items listed below are no-cost or low-cost remedies to high heating bills, and will increase comfort for your family.
  • Your home's air and thermal barriers dictate its energy performance, as well as your heating bill and comfort level, both winter and summer.
  • Building science has determined that 70-77% of a typical home's heat-loss is through infiltration -- air that leaks in around your doors, windows, electric outlets, basement and attic.
  • The next most important is your home's insulation. How much insulation is in the walls and attic may actually be less important than how well it was installed, and how carefully it has been kept in place.
  • The ultimate air-leakage goal is to reduce your home's "Air Exchanges per Hour" (ACH) to 1/3rd. Most homes built in NH before 1970 have an ACH of 4 or 5 (that's when the wind moves the curtains.) Most homes built under the energy codes of the last 30 years have an ACH of about 2.
  • The Energy Star program is asking builders to achieve an ACH of 1.25 per hour for new construction. With professional help, it is sometimes possible to achieve an Energy Star rating for an existing home.
  • For NH Energy incentives and rebates, go to the DSIRE web site and click on NH.

Here are some of the ways you can improve your own home:

Heating Energy Savings Tips

Maintenance and Operations

  • Make sure your heating system receives professional maintenance each year
  • Clean and replace filters on furnaces once a month as needed
  • Set your water heater temperature at 120 degrees. Insulating your cold water pipes prevents condensation, water damage and mold build up.
  • Insulate heating ducts in unheated areas such as attics and crawlspaces, and keep them in good repair, to prevent heat loss of up to 60 percent at the registers.
  • Check the ducts on forced hot air systems and baseboards on hot water systems. Ducts aren't always easy to see, but you can often find them exposed in the attic, the basement, and in crawl spaces. Ducts should be vacuumed once every few years, to clean the abundant dust, animal hair, and other things that gather in that will impede the flow of hot air through the house. Clean hot-air registers, baseboard heaters, and radiators as needed; make sure furniture, carpeting and drapes do not block them.
  • Remember the chimney. Chimneys need to be swept; however, it does not need to be done every year. Just make sure it has been at least inspected before you start using it for the year. However, woodstove chimneys should be cleaned once a year. Buy a cap for your chimney to keep foreign objects out. Also to keep cold air out, fireplace/woodstove owners should keep the damper closed when it isn't in use. Fireplace owners should also keep the glass doors shut when it is not in use. If the chimney is not used, install an inflatable chimney pillow or caulked-in foam plug to better seal
  • Make sure all fan-driven exterior vents (dryer, stove, bathroom etc) have an exterior flap that closes tightly when the fan is off. Clear vent flaps of lint and other debris so they close tightly.
  • Check for holes or cracks around walls, ceilings, windows, doors, light and plumbing fixtures, switches, and electrical outlets that can leak air in and out of your home
  • Drain a quart of water from your hot water tank every 3 months to remove sediment that impedes heat transfer and lowers the efficiency of your heater. The type of water tank you have determines the steps to take, so follow the manufacturer's advice

Improvements

  • Place heat-resistant radiator reflectors between exterior walls and the radiator
  • Insulate your hot water heater tank and hot water pipes to prevent heat loss. This can raise water temperatures by 2-4 degrees F and you can lower your water costs.
  • Block the leaks. Check the most common areas that leak, such as recessed lighting, window frames, door frames, attic hatches, plumbing and electrical bypasses in the attic, and electrical outlets. Use weather-stripping, door sweeps, foam, and caulk to seal up leaks. This could reduce energy usage by 10-20%
  • Insulate. You should have a minimum of 12 inches of (Fiberglass) insulation in your attic. If you don't know how to tell, look at your ceiling joists. If you can see them, you need more insulation. Also look into insulating your walls and floors above crawl spaces, as well as the attic hatch or stairs.
  • Don't forget the windows. Storm windows are very helpful, especially if you have old, single-pane glass windows. Replacing windows can be very pricey and the experts say to do a few at a time. However, in the meantime, buy a kit you can get at your local hardware store. It is a special kind of plastic sheeting that is affixed to the window's interior with a hair dryer. The heat from the hairdryer shrinks the sheeting to the window. It is pretty inexpensive, can be quite effective, and is easy to remove in the spring.
  • Stone wall foundations in old homes are incredibly leaky. Hire a contractor to spray 2 inches of sprayed foam, or ridged insulation from the subfloor down to the floor this will stop air infiltration, insulate against freezing temperatures and reduce moisture infiltration
  • Install heat traps on the hot and cold pipes at the water heater to prevent heat loss. Some new water heaters have built-in heat traps
  • Insulate at least 6 feet of the hot and cold water pipes connected to the water heater

General Energy Saving Tips

Maintenance and Operations

  • Run your kitchen, bath and other ventilation fans for at least 20 minutes after you are done cooking or bathing. Using a timer on your fan can help.
  • Bleed trapped air from hot water radiators once or twice a season; if in doubt about how to perform the task, call a professional.
  • Use fans during the summer to create a wind chill effect that will make your home feel more comfortable. If using AC, a ceiling fan will allow you to raise the thermostat setting by 4 degrees F with no reduction in comfort
  • Reverse your fan. By reversing the direction of the fan after summer, the fan will push warm air downwards and force it to re-circulate. To do this, when you look up at the fan makes sure it is turning clockwise.
  • Check the furnace. Turn the furnace on now to make sure it is working before the cold weather hits. It is a good idea to have the furnace cleaned and tuned annually. While this maintenance is being performed by heating technician, make sure of the following:
  1. the thermostat and pilot light are working properly
  2. the fuel pipe entering your furnace doesn't have a leak
  3. check the heating exchanger for cracks, as a crack can bring carbon monoxide in to the home
  4. make sure to change the filter in forced hot air systems. The filter should be changed monthly during the heating season. Homeowners can change the furnace filter themselves.
  • Clean your gutters. In the fall, once the leaves have fallen, make sure to clean out the gutters on your house, as clogged gutters can cause water to back up and freeze, causing ice jams. Such ice jams will cause water to seep into your home. When washing out the gutters, also look for leaks and misaligned pipes.
  • Check the alarms. Check the operation of all of your smoke detectors. Also, check to make sure your fire extinguisher is still where it should be and up to date. Finally, make sure to have a carbon monoxide detector. Every home should have at least one.
  • Air dry dishes instead of using the dishwasher's dry cycle
  • Turn off the computer and monitor when not in use
  • Plug in home electronics, such as TV's and DVD players, into power strips; turn the power strip off when the equipment is not in use. When you replace this equipment make sure it is Energy Star qualified models.
  • Take short showers (5 minutes) instead of baths. 15% of an average home energy bill goes to heating water
  • Use cold water for laundry and save up to $63 a year
  • Wash only full loads of clothes and dishes.
  • If heating a swimming pool, consider a swimming pool cover. Evaporation is by far the largest source of energy loss in swimming pools
  • For a quick hand rinse, do not turn on the hot water. By the time the water gets hot, you finished rinsing your hands

Improvements 

  • Install a programmable thermostat that adjusts the temperature according to your schedule. Reducing your thermostat by 7 degrees at night will save you 10% in your heating costs
  • Wrap the pipes. Before the temperature hits freezing, make certain that the water to your hose is shut off inside your house and that the excess is draining. Next, go looking for pipes in the crawlspaces, basement, and garages that aren't insulated. Wrap them with pre-molded foam rubber sleeves .
  • Swap out any incandescent bulbs. If every US household replaced just one incandescent bulb with a Energy Star qualified bulb, it would save enough energy to light 7 million homes and save $600 million in utility bills
  • Look for ways to use lighting control, such as occupancy sensors, dimmers, or timer to reduce lighting energy use.
  • Consider natural-gas on-demand or tank less water heaters. Researchers have found savings can be up to 30% compared with a standard natural-gas storage tank water heater
  • Consider installing a drain water waste heat recovery system. A recent DOE study showed energy savings of 25% to about 30% for water heating using such a system
  • Buy an energy efficient water heater. It may cost more initially but energy savings will continue during the lifetime of the appliance
  • Although most water heaters last 10-15 years, it is best to start shopping for a new one if yours is more than 7 years old. Do your research before you must have one
  • Repair leaky faucets promptly; a leaky faucet wastes gallons of water in a short period of time
  • Install aerating, low-flow faucets and shower heads.
  • Select a shower head with a flow rate of less than 2.5 gpm for maximum water efficiency. Before 1992, some showerheads had flow rates of 5.5 gpm, so you might want to replace them if you are not sure of their flow rate.s
  • You might qualify for tax credits or rebates for buying a solar water heater

 

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