When you buy trash bags, you pay for something you’re just going to throw away. While trash bags are cheap; the energy you buy to power and heat your home is not. Don’t throw that away! Energy efficiency and conservation are two ways to help protect your energy investment.
Energy efficiency is basically the ratio between how much energy you bought and how much of it actually gets used for the purpose you bought it. Energy conservation is simply minimizing unnecessary energy use.
Take something as simple as a light bulb. The rating on incandescent bulbs is given in watts. Watts actually have little to do with the amount of light produced. Watts have more to do with the amount of energy given off in heat. You pay for both the light and the heat. The only correlation between the two terms is that the brighter the bulb, the hotter it gets. Chicken brooders and toy ovens are two examples of using incandescent bulbs for both light and heat, but typically we buy light bulbs for lighting purposes. Florescent lighting produces the same amount of light without wasting so much energy in heat. Replacing incandescent bulbs with fluorescent ones can save you a surprising amount of money. For local, directional lighting, LED lights are available.
What about your water heater? Whether powered by natural gas or electricity, a tank type heater uses energy to keep the water hot even when you’re not using it. You are paying for that convenience. There are steps you can take to reduce the energy wasted on convenience. Make sure the tank has an insulating blanket around it, make sure your hot water supply lines are insulated and turn it down to the lowest temperature setting that works for you. You could invest in an on-demand heater that heats the water when you call for it. Even better, you could invest in a solar water heating system that can provide most or all of the hot water you need.
Other energy saving appliances are good investments because they use the latest technology.
Newer refrigerators and freezers use more efficient compressors and are better insulated.
Energy efficient furnaces have better heat exchangers that capture more combustion heat, sending less up the chimney. The most efficient ones have PVC exhaust pipes. That should illustrate how small the heat loss is.
With winter just around the corner, we need to take another look at the thermal efficiency of our homes. Older homes may still have single pane windows in them. They are notorious for heat loss. Installing storms windows, interior window insulation and even exterior plastic sheeting can help reduce the heat loss through these types of windows. Obviously, wall, ceiling, and floor insulation play a huge factor in the amount of heat loss. While the law requires a certain amount of air infiltration, too much can cost you a lot of money. An energy efficiency survey can tell you the areas you need to address. Blower door tests can tell you the amount of outside air infiltration your home has. You can then take steps to minimize heat loss. Some companies even use thermal detectors and imaging to see where the areas of infiltration are. You can do your own efficiency survey. The web link provided below has a step by step guide for doing your own assessment. Inexpensive gaskets for electrical switches and outlets can save you a few bucks. Door jambs and transoms are another major source of heat loss. Attention to these areas will pay off in energy savings. In homes that are tight and well insulated, fresh air can be an issue. There are intake air exchangers available that transfer the heat from the exhaust air to the incoming fresh air.
The Federal Government is very interested in energy efficiency because the more energy we save, the less we need to buy or produce. They have a web site dedicated to energy efficiency and conservation.
You can find it at EERE: Energy Savers Home Page. Take a look for more ways to save energy and money.