Monday, November 4, 2013

The Simple Things: Energy Efficiency in the home, the best small things to carry out?

AEnergy Efficiency in the home: The best small things to carry out?

Energy Efficiency in the home: The best small things to carry out?

I recently posed this question to a number of energy efficiency expert groups. I have a pretty good idea of what I believe are the most effective measures you can carry out easily without breaking the bank; however,I thought I would engage with the experts in the field to get their very honest opinions.

Rather than listening to me blather on about it I will reproduce snippets from my favourite quotes. They are in no particular order of importance nor is the list exhaustive. You will however, hopefully, find them useful, there is some real low hanging fruit here.

I may revisit some of these tips in future blogs if an interest is expressed.

So in no particular order here goes; a selection of the best small things you can do to reduce your energy bill:

Cooking with induction rings and cookers

"I'm now doing 50% of all our cooking on a portable single burner induction unit. It has some shortcomings, such as a fairly small effective coil and a moderately noisy fan, but for under $100 I get induction cooking. I can't say enough about it - effectively instant heat and superb efficiency."

— Quote courtesy of Curt Kinder, RESNET BPI - Energy Audit and Home Performance group.
Image of induction cooker, courtesy of
Note from Editor: The philosophy of scaled down cooking can also be extended to other efficient small appliances such as toaster ovens and slow cookers. One of the easiest things to do is to take the kettle off the cooker and invest in an efficient electric type.

Switch and outlet gaskets

"Electric switch and outlet gaskets. Foam gasket that seals the opening around the switch or outlet boxes. Simple and cheap, remove plate cover, install gasket, replace cover. This will help air infiltration / exfiltration."

— Quote courtesy of Don Lovel, Energy Efficiency Professionals group.
Image of gasket fitting, courtesy of
Note from Editor: When combined with child safety caps on all unused outlets, this can have a significant impact on air leakage (cold drafts).

Low flow shower heads and faucet aerators

"Simply changing out your standard max 2.5 GPM shower heads with max. 1.5 or 1.6 GPM models instantly slashes domestic hot water cost by roughly 1/3! Most customers report they find them just as satisfying as their older units following a brief adjustment period."

— Quote courtesy of Brian Robinson, RESNET BPI - Energy Audit and Home Performance group.
Image of faucet aerator, courtesy of
Note from Editor: Saving water is a subject in itself which, I will revisit at some stage. Saving energy by replacing shower heads with low-flow options and installing faucet aerators is a very simple non-plumbing job that can genuinely save lots of energy.

Change those filters!

"Change out the AC filters on a regular schedule. Half the homes I look at have completely clogged filters."

— Quote courtesy of Don Lovel, RESNET BPI - Energy Audit and Home Performance group.
Image some nice chap changing his furnace filter, courtesy of
Note from Editor: Change furnace and AC filters on a regular basis. Consult with your local heating engineer to determine how often but a good ballpark figure is every 3-6 months.

Drying clothes!

"We have a front load washer dryer with a dampness sensor, this makes a big big difference."

— Quote courtesy of Frank Malpere, RESNET BPI - Energy Audit and Home Performance group.
Image of teddy on washing line, courtesy of
Note from Editor: Better still invest in a line, carousel or clothes airer.

The old favourite, light bulbs!

"One of the aspects sometimes missed for bulbs that "run for only five minutes" (closets, attics, etc.) is that sometimes those bulbs get left on until the user next enters the lit space...which might be days or weeks later. In cases where a bulb may be needed only a few minutes per day but is vulnerable to being inadvertently left on for days at a time, a CFL or LED is still a good investment."

— Quote courtesy of Kirt Kinder, RESNET BPI - Energy Audit and Home Performance group.
Image of LED spot-light, courtesy of
Note from Editor: The above statement is an often overlooked scenario. There are a myriad of LED and Compact fluorescent bulbs available now with LED getting better and less expensive by the week.

The Whopper, energy meters and awareness!

"Several years ago, after attacking the 'big things' in my own home, I bought an early version of the Kill-A-Watt power monitor. Here are some of the little things I've discovered over the years, which led to painless energy savings:

  • Turn off outdoor lights when not needed *
  • Got rid of old DISH DVR (45 watts whether off or on) - 400 kWh/yr.
  • Replace refrigerator (TBD) - 400+ kWh/yr.
  • Aggressive use of DHW timer - 300 kWh/yr.
  • Replaced rear projection TV (CRT) with LCD TV - 200 kWh/yr.
  • Started regular use of standby mode on desktop - 180 kWh/yr.
  • Unplug chargers and other wall warts when not in use - 150 kWh/yr.
  • Replaced DSL modem & router - 100 kWh/yr.
  • Turn on printer only as needed (rarely) - 60 kWh/yr.
  • Turn on PC speakers / sub-woofer only as needed - 50 kWh/yr.
  • Unplugged VCR (never used anyway) - 50 kWh/yr

* Actually, I never did this, but several neighbors leave outdoor lights on all night. I estimate this adds about 1,000 kWh/yr to their electric bill. Seeing this is like the sound of scratching fingernails on a chalkboard. It also adds to light pollution (I'm an amateur astronomer)."

— Quote courtesy of David Butler, RESNET BPI - Energy Audit and Home Performance group.
Image of power bars, courtesy of
Note from Editor: Use Power bars and timers to shut down equipment when not in use, for example computer equipment and home entertainment areas. Replacing things when you can afford to with Energy Star alternatives is also a very good idea. Plug-in energy meters are a fantastic way to discover what is known as vampire loads (appliances sucking energy without you realizing it).

The bane of the energy auditor, windows!

"Remove window air conditioners at the end of the season. It is amazing how many I see left in windows year-round. Maybe the occupants are elderly, but for whatever reason these are huge air leakers (even through the space between sashes since the window is not closed)."

— Quote courtesy of David Eakin, RESNET BPI - Energy Audit and Home Performance group.
Image of plastic film being installed on window, courtesy of
Note from Editor: If I had a unit of currency (preferably a bit-coin at the moment) for the number of homeowners I have spoken to who are adamant about replacing their perfectly serviceable or repairable windows with new ones I'd be able to buy a shed full of plastic film which, is what most only need. Air seal and repair then replace in that order, that is my fingers down the chalk board moment. If you have the money invest in insulation which will give you a much better return on investment.

Finally my favourite suggestion, put a sweater on!

"Instead of turning on the air-conditioner at the first instance you feel hot, how about removing some items of clothing or opening windows. Similarly, instead of using the heater to keep warm, try putting on a sweater first."

— Quote courtesy of Dr. Max Deuble, Green Building group.
Image of this disturbing fellow, courtesy of
Note from Editor: If one must don a sweater, do it in style!

OK, not quite finished! Although, this is not directly an energy measure it is arguably much more important than anything above...Education!

"Some individuals do not pay for their energy which can make one complacent and unaware of the bigger picture. Education is key!."

— Quote courtesy of Dave Borgaro, Green Building group.
Image of green education, courtesy of
Note from Editor:The most important quote you will hear today?

"Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand."

— Chinese proverb

Many thanks for reading this



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