How to Reduce Your Home’s Energy Usage in 2018

| 12/18/2017 10:17:00 AM

Tags: LED, energy, Megan Wild, Pennsylvania,


The new year is the perfect time to change your life for the better. While healthy lifestyle goals often take the spotlight, green living is also a worthwhile and rewarding resolution to pursue.

If you’re paying bills already, you are well aware of the fact that high-energy usage equates to high spending on your part. Cutting down on your use of electricity will obviously minimize your bills, but it’ll also do good for the Earth: Reducing your carbon footprint can have a positive effect on wildlife, your health and even the economy.   

With those benefits to inspire your efforts, here’s how you can reduce your home’s energy usage in the new year and beyond:

Set up a Programmable Thermostat

Unless you adjust it every night before bed, your thermostat continues pumping out heat while you’re sleeping. If you’re bundled up under your comforter already, you don’t need that warm of a temperature to comfortably sleep.

An adjustable thermostat will automatically reduce the temperature in your house while you’re sleeping. You can set it to start up a half-hour before you wake up, so you’re not hopping out of bed and into a cold house. After a year or so of programmed reduction in use, your new thermostat will have paid for itself through your reduced energy bills.

3/15/2018 9:28:00 AM

Set up a Programmable Thermostat; Only saves with systems such as forced air set back no lower than plants thrive. The more efficient systems such as boiler fed radiant flooring and perimeter register are designed to keep up rather than catch up and do not save much if you setback. Replace Air Filters Regularly: This applies mostly to the low micron allergy type. Unless you have an abnormally dusty home, the common cheap filters folks use don't really plug up every month. Cheap filters last for the heating season. The companies that make the filters would like for you to use them monthly.

12/30/2017 2:32:57 PM

Solar hot air heaters: Even in the Pacific NW, in SW WA, we used [2] 4'x8' solar air heaters to boost warmth in an old 900 s.f. old house. These routinely saved us between $20 to $50 monthly, during the winter's cold months, off the otherwise more costly Cadet wall heaters. We made ours from recycled aluminum cans, foam insulation, Twinwall panels to glaze, and recycled wood to make box and window boot. Parts bought, were off-the-shelf common. LOW TECH GEOTHERMAL: We're experimenting with air filtration [very badly needed], combined with harvesting the grounds' temperature, on the crawlspace floor/ground. This has really been performing well to filter the air; it's been saving a little off air-space tempering, all year around, for a couple years now. Currently, there's about 60' of 6" metal ducting + a greenhouse exhaust fan in-line; filters = stacked disposable carbon filter + washable dust filter. House has about 1400 s.f., so really needs more than twice that footage of ducting to do more air tempering in there. But running that fan 24/7, to get the earth's mean temp, beats the socks off running HVAC systems more. WINDOWS: We salvaged some matching windows for 3 windows. Firred-out frame around windows, about 3" using salvaged 2x4's. Mounted the recycled 2nd windows, on the outside of that framing. Windows had to be cleaned and re-calked. Sealed the frame and windows well. That arrangement is similar to using glass storm windows, which very few, if any, window companies will do for customers...window companies in the western states, mostly don't even order nor sell storm windows....but those, mounted so there's at least a 3" airspace, can make [2] single pain windows perform far better than the pricy new dual-pane windows...I've had ZERO condensate inside either of the windows; but the dual pane windows all drip with condensate. For windows we didn't find duplicates of yet, I got several panels of Twinwall greenhouse panels, + spring-rod curtain rods to fit inside the window frame, 2 at top and 2 at bottom. I used blue painter's tape to seal each end of the channels, and placed 3 panels between the rods, so the panels are pressed together to prevent air leaks. Panels can slide side/side for cleaning window. This again, created more insulative value at those windows, than the dual pane windows can ever do. ATTIC INSULATION: We finally opted to hire someone to boost the attic fluff depth, and lay a perforated radiant-reflective blanket over the top. We simply physically can't crawl up in through all the trusses. We're not done yet...but this is helping save some on energy bills; too soon to tell how much it's saving, but guestimating around $30 per month less on heating, so far. When we can afford to get more creative, will be adding to that, but will have to do it in different ways, due to the structure of the house [read: those darned cheap trusses framing the attic, make doing ANYthing up there, darn near impossible.] REALLY considering blowing out the old ceilings, to make cathedral ceilings, to finally get rid of those trusses, rewiring the whole place in the process. LIGHTING: LED all the way. Take care though: People who are sensitive to electrosmog, may want to try making little individual faraday cages around these bulbs, as they do fact, emissions from some LED bulbs, can interfere with things like garage door openers. APPLIANCES: heating and cooling use lots of energy. We plan to get [2] chest freezers, retrofitting one using an add-on thermostat from Amazon...already have the thermostat, ready to use when we get the freezer....this allows it to run at fridge temps. Chest freezers are cheaper than most fridges, and far more efficient. Leaning curve on using them. Probably not as good a choice if you always lose stuff to the rear of the these, stuff gets lost in the bottom. But, can run on a solar panel directly, on all day, off at night, no batteries, unless you live where it gets dark in winter. That takes a nice chunk off the electric bill. Alternately, there's combo fridge/freezer uprights, configured to use as freezer, but temp can be set to fridge range...these tend to use between what the chest freezer uses, and a regular fridge, so could still run off solar. Freezers that can be used as a fridge, can usually run totally direct off solar; they have more insulation in their box than common fridges [the fakery used to get Energy Star compliant, riddles the fridge industry, it's fairly pervasive] We opted to get a couple 750watt baseboard heaters, to replace 2 large [2500 watt] baseboards. NOTE: HVAC systems are commonly over-sized, because of the data used to figure out size of systems, was designed to use for central HVAC, which blows air, and routinely loses about 70% of the BTUs you paid to heat or cool, before you get to use them, simply from blowing the air. They also lose BTU's you paid for, because most heaters are located on billing-envelope walls, where they struggle with incoming temps. We've been using radiant/convective portable heater[s], centrally placed in house, to save $30 to $50 monthly off heat bills in winter. Usually, the little $40 oil-filled "radiators", that allow running at only 600 watts. A single oil-filled radiator, heated our whole 900s.f. house, by setting it in the middle of the house, where the BTU's could be saved and gradually released, in the interior mass of the house. The smaller baseboard heaters seem to be doing as well as the oil-filed radiators. Plus, here, those have their own circuit, and, run at 220V, so save a little that way. This takes the added load of the portable heaters, off the smaller 120V circuits. Work in progress.

12/30/2017 2:21:11 PM

Those are the quick and easy methods. But to retrofit older houses, it requires getting into some real creative problem solving! For that, Low-tech geothermal might be one of the best ways to balance the indoor temps using only a blower to move either air or water through tubing to serve the house. Low tech is exactly that: keeping it simple, low or no maintenance, and, fewest moving parts. Low tech means any possible repairs, should be few or none, and easily accessible off-the-shelf parts. We're also planning to use solar air heaters on this old place. The challenge is how to camouflage those so they don't scream "solar add-ons here", and how to control the heat from those panels, when heating is not needed. But pretty much one of the best ways to lower energy uses, is to insulate the building envelope much better, even if you are using low-tech geothermal. Our goal is making this old house as low tech as possible, so the house can take good care of us in age and infirmity, and keep sheltering family as long as possible, with least input of energy or work. One of the most graft-ridden, ethically offensive industries, real estate, has become egregiously deficient in common sense designs, siting, and sensible building. I actually met a contractor who was terribly fearful that if too many people made their houses too durable and low-maintenance, he's be out of a job....he practically screamed that, he was so angry/afraid of losing his income. I answered him, "are you kidding?!? There's so many houses in dire need of retrofitting to be more durable and low-maintance, that you, your kids, and their kids, will always have more work than they can handle!"

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