Energy Efficiency Pays Best

In some parts of the Northeast, the skyrocketing cost of oil could cause residential winter heating bills to climb as high as $7,000. Oil reached $145 a barrel in late May, and many analysts are predicting $150-200 per barrel oil within two years. With heating oil averaging $4.71 a gallon, natural gas rates headed for a 20 to 30 percent rise. Add that to electricity bills up, some municipalities are shifting to four-day work weeks, and moving aggressively into renewable energy & energy efficiency.

Utah made headlines in July by becoming the first to put most state employees on a four-day week of 10-hour days. About one-third of the state’s 3,000 government buildings will be closed on Fridays, with expected savings on heat and air conditioning to hit $3 million a year. Commuters will also save on gasoline. Utah’s Governor Jon Huntsman said, “The reaction from the public has been very much a willingness to give this a go.”

Energy efficiency is happening in all sectors. Behavior is changing rapidly in light of higher prices; SUV and light truck sales have dipped 30-60% (depending on the brand) over the last year. Small car sales are up. Total “vehicle miles traveled” dipped for the first time since 1979. Yet, in the 1970s after the oil embargo prompted conservation habits for about a decade, U.S. Americans returned to wasteful ways, as oil prices dropped, ignoring past lessons.

The difference this time is that higher prices are prompted mostly by fundamental supply and demand issues. Peak oil production is either already here, or will be sometime between 2010-2015 at the latest. When global peak oil production is reached, prices will be far higher than today’s.

In order to lessen our dependence on oil, and keep our economy moving, energy efficiency is essential. This past July, U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman met with the energy ministers from the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized countries, plus China, India and South Korea, to discuss ways to enhance global energy security while simultaneously combating global climate change. The G8, which includes Canada, Russia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK and the US, established the International Partnership for Energy Efficiency Cooperation (IPEEC). It states that energy efficiency is one of the quickest, greenest and most cost-effective ways to address energy security and climate change while ensuring economic growth.

Meanwhile, financial support for the federal assistance “weatherization” program here in the US, which helps low-income families be more energy efficient, has dramatically declined. President Bush proposed eliminating the program entirely. An Energy Dept spending bill before the Senate, would provide $201 million for the fiscal year beginning in October ($40 million less than was supplied in 2007), while winter heating costs have soared. Bush, and GOP presidential candidate John McCain, and Republicans in Congress have touted drilling as the primary short-term solution to rising energy prices, despite the fact that opening offshore areas to production wouldn’t lower gasoline prices until about 2030 — if it does at all.

Currently, the average price for natural gas on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) shows an increase of 33% this year. New Jersey customers will pay another 18% based on an increase requested by NJ Natural Gas to take effect this coming October, and another 15% or more expected next year. Between 2002 and 2007, the price of natural gas nearly doubled, according to the NJ Board of Public Utilities (BPU), with corresponding increases in the price of electricity and heating fuels in New Jersey.

To address the steadily rising prices of energy, New Jersey created an Energy Master Plan. Its primary goal is to maximize energy conservation and energy efficiency. Reducing energy consumption through conservation and efficiency is the most cost-effective way to help lower utility bills, increase reliability, and lower the state’s contributions to global warming and other air pollutants. Reductions of energy use by at least 20% by 2020, as Governor Corzine has directed, would yield annual electricity savings of 20,000 GWh per year and annual heating savings of 119 trillion BTUs, and result in substantial cost savings, thereby promoting economic growth in the state.

Solar Panel Systems, Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency and Your Home

Reducing your Electric Bill with Renewable Energy

Using renewable energy to produce electricity and reduce your electric bill can be a sound long-term investment. Depending on the type of technology, you can expect a full return on your investment within 3 to 18 years. With financial or tax rebates from your utility company or state and national government, the payback period on your investment can be cut in half.

However, the very first step to considering any renewable energy system must be how to make your home or business more energy efficient. Generally, the basic rule is that for every $1 you spend on making your location more energy efficient, you save $3 to $5 on the cost of the renewable energy system. Let’s go over some basic ways you can make your home more energy efficient.

Making Your Home Energy Efficient

One of the easiest things that you can do to reduce your electrical consumption is change out your regular incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). CFLs use 65 to 75% less energy than a normal light bulb that produces the same amount of light. By replacing a normal 100 watt incandescent light bulb with a 32 watt CFL, you will save $60 to $80 in electricity costs over the lifetime of that bulb (10,000 hours). Now imagine how much you would save if you changed out all of your light bulbs to CFLs!

The technology for these bulbs has quickly evolved and improved in the last few years, while the cost has come down dramatically. You’ll find that there are CFLs that will now fit most light fixtures and lighting needs-there are even dimmable CFLs!. Head out to your local department or hardware store and buy CFLs for as many of your light fixtures as possible. The investment is well worth it.

Another alternative to traditional lights are tubular skylights . Tubular skylights look a little like shiny stove pipes that start with a transparent dome on top of the roof and come down into some room for day lighting. We frequently see customers using tubular skylights to bring daylight into hallways and closets. The light is, of course, entirely natural and in some installations can provide as much illumination as a 100-Watt incandescent light bulb.

Energy Star and EnergyGuide

One of the biggest consumers of electricity in most households is the refrigerator. In most households, refrigeration is the number one electricity consumer after any electricity-based heating or cooling systems. If your refrigerator is over 10 years old, chances are it’s electrically very inefficient. Consider replacing your current refrigerator with one that has a high Energy Star rating. Remember that just because a refrigerator may have earned the Energy Star label doesn’t mean it’s the most efficient model available-it only means that its efficiency exceeds the federally mandated efficiency standard by at least 15%. You can even do much of your investigation online at the Energy Star website. There you can search for the brand, type and size of refrigerator you want and sort by energy efficiency. When you shop in stores, consult the yellow EnergyGuide tags that are attached to all new refrigerators (and many other appliances). EnergyGuide is a different government program from Energy Star that offers information about annual energy consumption and shows you where each model lands in a comparison with similar models. For maximum energy savings, select the model that’s a leader in efficiency in its class.

Ghost Loads

Also known as “phantom loads”, ghost loads are the sneaky devices that constantly consume small amounts of electricity 24 hours a day-even when they’re not actually doing anything useful. While each device by itself may not consume much electricity, the combination of all of them within your household may easily consume the equivalent of two or three 60-Watt incandescent light bulbs left on all day and all night. Over the course of a single year this adds up to over 1 Megawatt-hour-in other words, enough electricity to power an entire energy-efficient house for 2 to 3 months!

What are these mysterious ghost loads? The most common examples are the “power brick” adapters, or power supplies, that charge or operate cell phones, laptop computers, cordless drills, answering machines, radios, inkjet printers, and many other household devices. They’re actually small transformers, turning AC electricity from the wall outlet into DC electricity for use by the device. While any one of these devices may only consume a small amount of power (e.g., 3-20 watts), a dozen or so of them, running simultaneously and continuously, consume a significant amount of electricity. What’s worse is that even when you’re not charging your cell phone or the battery for your cordless drill, that AC adapter may continue to consume power just because it’s plugged into the wall. Other well-disguised ghost loads are those devices which have the “instant on” feature, such as most modern television sets, VCRs, DVD players, many radios and even many computers. While all of these devices are supposedly turned off, they are actually consuming anywhere from 3 to 20 watts continuously-just to stay ready for you to use them.

How can you decrease the consumption of energy by these parasitic loads? One of the simplest solutions is to simply plug these devices into a power strip which has an off/on switch. When you are done using the devices and shut them off normally, then just hit the off switch on the power strip. Many people make it part of their nightly routine to shut off these power strips just before they go to bed. For AC power adapters that you use at night, like for charging a cell phone, put those on a separate power strip that you turn off during the day when you take your phone with you. Simple solutions like these could reduce your ghost electric loads by as much as 80%. In real-dollars terms, this means saving upwards of $120 per year in electricity costs, depending on your local electric utility rates and how dedicated you are to reducing your ghost loads.

Energy Efficient Double Glazed Windows

Double Glazing Windows Can Save You Money!

When you fit Energy Efficient Windows to your home you can seriously save money on your energy bills. It is estimated by the Energy Saving Trust that households can save between £130-£150 when windows are fitted with energy efficient technology.

By reducing heat loss when you fit double glazing the environment also benefits, important for those concerned about the carbon footprint that our modern lives cause. Standard windows, which are usually single pane, have been shown in tests that they are very inefficient in keeping heat contained in the home.

Choosing the right window for your home is vital to making your home as energy efficient as possible. It is important to make an informed choice when buying energy efficient windows and you should always look for the Energy Saving Recommended logo. This means that the window and pane has been tested to ensure it is as energy efficient as possible.

Energy Saving Windows – Key Factors

When you decide to fit new windows to you home there are 3 components, which are vital to take in to consideration. The window frame material, the Energy Saving Window glass rating, and the way the window operates are key to ensuring your windows are as efficient as possible.

The Window Frame

The material you choose to fit your energy efficient double glazing with plays a key part in how energy efficient they are. Each material has pros and cons which may suit your household needs.

Metal or Aluminum Frames

Advantages of metal or aluminum frames are that they are very strong, not as heavy as other materials and do not require high maintenance. A disadvantage is that they are not so good at providing insulation.

Composite Frames

Composite window frames are made of composite wood products. These frames have better stability and thermal insulation properties than wood, and last longer as they are more durable.

Fiberglass Frames

Fiberglass window frames offer high insulation properties when the air cavities with the frame are filled with insulation. Fiberglass provides a strong structure for the window frame and result in high energy efficiency for windows.

Vinyl Frames

Vinyl windows are often made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Advantages of PVC is that in the frames do not require painting, have good energy efficiency with good insulation. Unfortunately in extreme weather conditions PVC can warp in heat and crack in the cold.

Similar to Fiberglass, vinyl frames can be filled with insulation to increase energy efficicency. These well insulating frames are often used with double glazing and high energy efficiency rating windows.

Wood Frames

Wood frames can perform well when it comes to energy efficient windows. A disadvantage is however that they also can be affected by changes in the weather. They also are heavy and take up more space reducing light in to the room, as well as needing the most work to maintain.

The Effects of Energy Efficiency Home Improvement

If you own a home that you sometimes find draughty and expensive to heat – then you could benefit from carrying out energy efficient home improvements. An energy efficient home is not only more environmentally responsible, it is also much more economical in the long run. When you take steps to stop air leaks and improve the insulation in your attic, basement and walls, these steps can mean your house stays warmer and you are more comfortable through the winter months when those cold winds seem to seep in from the outside.

Be assured, steps taken to improve energy efficiency is likely to be far more beneficial than you realize particularly in an older home. Indeed, effects are likely to be as far reaching as helping to create a viable home performance industry while improving our environment.

What is energy efficient home improvement?

Energy efficient home improvement is about creating a home that is comfortable and uses less energy to heat and cool, because it is well sealed against air leaks and well insulated against heat transfer. When a home is poorly insulated, the use of a heating system can be undermined by loss of heat through lack of insulation in the walls and attic, poorly fitted windows and doors that let in draughts and so on. By taking measures to correct these problems, you’ll be able to improve the energy efficiency of your home – and that can mean significant savings on energy bills. The following are some of the ways in which you can improve the energy efficiency of your home:

Diagnostic Tools The best way to address problems in older homes or homes that have few energy efficiency measures taken during construction is through running some diagnostic tests to find the home’s ‘weak points’ when it comes to energy efficiency. These tests can assess how tightly the home is sealed and pinpoint the locations where hot air is escaping from the home. These tests examined areas such as ductwork systems, attics/roofs, basements, exterior wall cavities, utilities entry points and so on. Ultimately, the tests will determine how efficient or inefficient for that matter your home is; whether you have drafts that is allowed to come in unhindered, whether or not you have insulation in your attic or walls and whether you have insulating windows and well sealed doors etc.

Window insulations – When you have windows that are not insulated, you can experience loss of heat in two ways. First, if your windows are older (such as on a traditional, character home) then you may get heat loss via gaps or spaces around the window. Second, the home may have single glazed windows which lose heat via heat transfer. The Repairing or replacing of older windows with energy efficient ones can help to prevent further loss of heat; which in turn can improve the comfort of your home. To address the second issue, you may opt to have the windows double or triple glazed (using heat reflecting glass), or have polythene insulation installed to help minimise heat transfer and keep the maximum amount of heat inside your home. Other applications such as heavy drapes across the windows during the winter can also further reduce heat loss to the outside.

Door insulations – If you have glass doors, then many of the same principles apply to insulating these as you would your windows. Additionally, draft proofing or weather stripping is one of the simple things you may want to consider when air sealing your homes; Preventing draughts from entering rooms also means preventing heat from escaping. These applications are quick and simple to install and they can make a big difference to your home. It is also possible to carry out improvements to your home by having insulated outer doors installed by a professional. Some of these doors are solid, sturdy doors that will help to reduce heat loss because they contain insulation within their core.

Air sealing – This process refers to the sealing of the less obvious draft spots in the home. If you have a draft under a door, you may be able to stop it with a weather strip, but a significant amount of heat loss can take place via gaps and holes in basements, crawl spaces and attics or lofts. In order to eliminate heat loss in these locations, it is worthwhile to hire a contractor to assess your home for leakage, carry out sealing around areas where leaks are identified is very essential to improving the home’s energy performance. A professional can seal your home quite tightly to improve energy efficiency and prevent loss of heat from these locations.

Duct sealing – If you have reverse cycle air conditioning ducted system in your home, there is a possibility that you will experience issues of heat loss via poorly sealed openings, gaps around the seals of the ducts and so on. If you have an older home that is prone to be draughty, then chances are you are letting a lot of money slip through your fingers, heating a home that is releasing a large proportion of that heat outside conditioned space. The long-term cost of this could be significant when compared to the ease of sealing leaky ducts. A professional home performance improvement contractor can help you assess the loss via the ducts and other areas and can help you to correct these problems