Whether you mostly use electricity, natural gas or propane to heat your house, with some simple and often inexpensive energy saving improvements you can save money and improve the comfort of your home.
These measures range from simply turning your lights off when you leave a room, to installing energy efficient light bulbs (CFLs) and insulating your cavity walls and loft.
An energy efficient home makes sense. It is cheaper to run and being efficient is a key selling point if you choose to sell your house.
Rising fuel prices and greater environmental awareness are encouraging buyers to pay closer attention to a home's running costs and its impact on the planet.
Heating and cooling account for about 56% of the energy use in a typical U.S. home, making it the largest energy expense for most homes 1
The City now offers an Energy Efficient Building Tax Credit, wherein owners of qualifying buildings can reap a one time 50% reduction of their annual real estate tax bill.
CLICK HERE for information on the program and tax credit
Heating, Cooling and Hot Water
It may be that your home doesn't have adequate insulation and you are paying for it through your energy bills. Installing an energy efficient boiler or upgrading controls, for example a thermostat and automatic timer switches for the heating, cooling and hot water - will not only improve the efficiency of the heating system and cut costs further for yourself, but also help to make the home more attractive to prospective buyers.
Ensuring that your home is air tight will also save on heating bills. Most obvious leaks occur around doors and windows, but insulating your loft or upgrading your existing cavity wall insulation is not as expensive as you may imagine and can save a lot of money each year on heating bills. Loft insulation is one of the most effective ways of boosting energy efficiency.
The average home leaks 50% of its air every hour 2
For cooling, there are many alternatives to air conditioning that provide cooling but with less energy use. Proper shading and landscaping can help enormously, by preventing solar energy coming through the windows. Whether relying on natural ventilation or forcing air through your home with fans, ventilation is the most energy-efficient way to cool your house.
- For further information, the US Department of Energy runs a comprehensive Energy Savers website, providing homeowners with tips for saving energy and money at home and on the road. CLICK HERE.
- For further information and tips on natural gas conservation, please CLICK HERE
Weatherization Assistance Program
This program enables low-income families to permanently reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient. It is America's longest running energy efficiency program.
During the last 30 years, the U.S. Department of Energy 's (DOE) Weatherization Assistance Program has provided weatherization services to more than 5.5 million low-income families.
On average, weatherization reduces heating bills by 31% and overall energy bills by $358 per year at current prices. For more information on this program and information on how to apply, CLICK HERE.
Energy Efficient Appliances
Energy Star is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, aiming to help citizens save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices.
With the help of Energy Star, Americans saved enough energy in 2006 alone to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 25 million cars — all while saving $14 billion on their utility bills.
- For more information on the program and how to get involved, please CLICK HERE
Lighting accounted for approximately 9% of household electricity usage in the United States in 2001,so widespread use of CFLs could save most of this, for a total energy saving of about 7% from household usage 3
CFLs - Energy Efficient Lighting
Energy Efficient light bulbs - otherwise known as Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) can drastically reduce energy consumption in the home. They use between one fifth and one quarter of the energy of a normal old-fashioned incandescent bulb.
Although the purchase price of a CFL bulb is higher than that of an incandescent lamp of the same output or wattage, this initial cost outlay is quickly recovered in energy savings and replacement costs over the bulb's lifetime. A CFL will last between 8 and 15 times as long as an incandescent bulb.
CFL Bulb Types and Compatibility
CFL bulbs are available for almost every light fitting. For a table of CFL types and what they are best for, please CLICK HERE to see the specific Energy Star guidelines.
- For additional guidance on recessed lighting, CLICK HERE for the CFL page of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, who have produced a list of suitable CFL lighting for recessed sockets that meet Energy Star standards.
- For a list of the latest CFLs available for dimmable lighting systems, please CLICK HERE
CFLs radiate a different light spectrum from that of an incandescent bulb. Because we are so used to incandescent bulbs, we talk in terms of Watts of light. The number of Watts is the amount of power the bulb uses, so this can be a misleading number for an old fashioned bulb, as 90% of the Watts are wasted as heat rather than used for making light.
Therefore, to compare brightness between incandescent bulbs and the more efficient CFLs, the amount of light is expressed in Lumens as well as Wattage. Light output, measured in Lumens, refers to how much light leaves a light source.
As with Watts, a higher number of Lumens means a stronger light.
An old 60 Watt incandescent bulb is the equivalent of a CFL of between 15 - 19 Watts. Both are around 900 Lumens. The CFL bulb would save 850 lbs of Carbon Dioxide in its lifetime compared to the old style bulb, and savings of up to $68 for the householder 4
CFLs use about a quarter of the wattage to produce the same light. So to replace a traditional 100-watt bulb, look for a CFL that's about 26 watts.
You will often see CCT referred to on the CFL packaging. This relates to the Correlated Color Temperature of the light emitted from the bulb.
If you heat metal gradually, it changes color from orange through to blue-white. The CCT of a bulb describes the warmth of the light that it will emit. For a light color close to incandescent bulbs, look for a CCT range between 2650 and 2800K. This range is referred to as warm white. Common CFL bulb colors are 2700K, 3000K, 3500K and 4100K. 5
|CCT Range||Color of light when in use:|
|2650 - 3200K||Warm white - yellowish white, much like incandescent bulbs|
|3200 - 4000||Neutral|
|Above 4000K||Cool, bluish-white. Also called 'daylight'|
- For more information on the use of CFLs, particularly the efficiencies in turning off the lights - please CLICK HERE for the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy website of the Department of Energy
- For further general information on CFLs, please CLICK HERE for the Energy Star website.
Recycling CFL bulbs
All CFLs contain a minute amount of mercury within their components. Although the amount of mercury is less than in a watch battery, it is important to ensure that they are disposed of correctly when no longer in use.
Using CFLs actually reduces mercury pollution by helping to lower the amount of energy we use, therefore reducing the amount of mercury released to the environment at source by the power plants.
When products containing mercury are placed in the normal trash, the mercury doesn't disappear. Instead, it finds its way into the environment. That's why any mercury containing bulb, battery or item of electronic equipment - regardless of the amount of mercury -should never be discarded in the trash, but be handled as regulated waste and stored carefully to avoid breakage.
1 Dept of Energy - EERE/ 2 SmartEnergyLiving.org/ 3 U.S. Energy Information Administration/ 4 & 5 Environmental Defense Organization