A truly efficient home is a home that takes care of the needs of its occupants while lowering their energy needs. In a perfect world these homes would exist in abundance and no one would be cold in the winter or sweltering hot in the summer. Alas, we do not live in a perfect world and so each individual home owner must strive to form their home to become the most efficient that it can be.
In recent years we have all heard about a slew of energy efficient products just waiting for consumers to buy them. These products promise to save us money and save the environment, some could even claim to save the world one purchase at a time. As a home owner what are you truly saving? We certainly aren't saving gas by running from one store to the next to search out the best deal on energy efficient products and we aren't saving money by buying these things on credit either. Until we stop buying products that try to change the laws of physics and thermodynamics we really aren't going to save anything.
I recognize a real need for change. But that change doesn't start with buying a new appliance it starts with how we as individuals use appliances to begin with. While I am all for big companies making appliances that are meant to use less energy the average homeowner trying to stay afloat during a credit crisis just can't afford them. As a homeowner who is conscious of the world around me and a need for viable change that is within my grasp I have compiled this list.
First I must say that refrigeration is one of the greatest inventions to mankind, however there is a design flaw. Everything I know about the way air moves suggests that cold air follows hot air and cold air sinks. Because we know this to be true every time you open a refrigerator door you loose the "cool" air you paid to have in there. It would seem to me and to others who have built a prototype that a chest refrigerator similar to a deep freezer would work much better to keep food cool and energy costs down.
If you can't build a chest refrigerator there are some simple habits you can form to make your upright refrigerator more efficient. You should keep the door on your refrigerator leak free and closed as much as possible. You should also keep it full. Keeping the fridge full ensures there is less space within to continually cool as the products inside will keep their temperature unless they are removed for long periods of time. You should also thaw all items from the freezer in your refrigerator as this will keep the fridge from turning on during the time that the frozen food is thawing.
Hot Water Heaters
I love my hot water more than many people I know. Due to my love to take hot baths I am much more aware of what it costs me to do so. A high percentage of my homes annual energy usage is lost due to hot water heating. In my case I would estimate more than the average homeowner who pays up to 30% of every energy dollar spent to heat the water used in the home. Seeing that my affection for hot baths can cost me up to $900.00 a year I quickly set out to change the way we heat water in our home.We use a solar water heater to heat or preheat the water in our home depending upon the time of year. In the summer we do not pay for hot water and in the winter we have reduced the amount we do pay for by 60%.
Every homeowner may not be able to build a solar hot water heater but there are steps you can take to lower the energy usage of the hot water heater you already have. Insulate all hot water pipes to reduce the amount of energy lost from hot water running to your faucets. Insulate the hot water tank itself to eliminate the need for reheating water that has already been heated. If you have an electric hot water heater you can reduce the reheating need further by setting your hot water heater on an automatic timer. I think in the future all water heaters should come with this option however I don't work for General Electric so I can only tell you why it is a good idea. It is unnecessary to heat water while no one will be using it. Your hot water heater could be needlessly heating water up to 15 hours a day. Consider the peak usage hours for hot water in your home and then set the appliance to work on an automatic timer so that you are only heating water when you need it. Eliminate the need for electricity further by simply installing an on off switch to the hot water heater. If you have insulated the tank well the water will stay hot long after the tank has turned off.
Although we have taken great strides in the way we light our homes it simply isn't enough. When you examine the energy efficiency of your home, lighting has to be taken into account. For at least 200 days out of the year we are paying a company to provide a service that could be had for free 8 hours out of the day. I hope you have all changed to CFL bulbs but if you haven't the rest of this section may shock you into making the change. One 100-watt light bulb ran for 10 hours a day can cost you $44.64 yearly. Now if you multiply this by the rooms in your home you could easily come up with a much higher figure. For our house alone that would be $446.40 annually. Compare that to the new CFL bulbs that use $8.04 a year making a small change can lead to incredible savings.
Despite the change to a more energy efficient bulb we are still lighting our homes when other opportunities exist. First we could all open the curtains. I know it sounds simple but the reality is that energy efficiency often is simple. Solar tubes are another viable option for homeowners that desperately need the light and admittedly don't want to pay their power companies for it. These tubes are similar to skylights however they focus light where you need it the most. If you made a simple change to let in more sunlight you could save big dollars over the life of your home. Lets assume you lowered the amount of time you used electricity to light your home to 5 hours a day. This change could save more than $1200.00 over the life of your mortgage.
Phantom loads also known as standby power are common on many home appliances. Any appliance that has a clock, remote, or light on uses standby power, and it may surprise you to know that some appliances offer no feature at all while still drawing a load. VCR's, DVD players, home audio equipment, TV's, microwave ovens, computers, digital monitors, and printers, are just a small portion of the appliances in the average home sucking power like a vampire even while you think the appliance is off. All gaming systems draw phantom loads as well as all the AC adapters in your home. Standby power can be as much as 15 watts per device and occasionally more. Stand by power can increase your energy bills by 20% a year if you are an electronics lover.
As much as 10,980 watt hours a month can be consumed by one appliance functioning on a phantom load. That translates into 11 kilowatt hours. Kilowatt hours is how you are billed by your electric company and it is usually at a rate of around $0.08 per kilowatt. While $0.88 cents for a phantom load might not seem like much multiply that by the number of appliances in your home. I found that I had 30 appliances in my home drawing a phantom load. That's $26.00 a month that I was paying for absolutely nothing. Over the life of a mortgage a homeowner can easily pay $10,000.00 or more for appliances in stand by mode. When we think about it like that we can all agree that phantom loads need to be eliminated. You can eliminate phantom loads by switching appliances to a power bar with an on off switch. Find one that does NOT have a light on it so that you don't create another load that you don't need.
There are further ways a homeowner can reduce the way they use energy. Using space heaters instead of a central heating unit can save $1200.00 a year in home heating costs. Washing laundry in cold water can further reduce your bills by $167.00 a year and using a drying rack can drop your bill by $147.00 more. All of these little things that seem so inconsequential can add up to real savings. Those savings can be spent however you would like. Pay off your home early, go on a cruise, do something to reward yourself for your diligent use of energy efficiently.