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Question of the Week: What have you done to make your home more energy efficient?

2008 October 14

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

New technology, product choice on such items as insulation, light bulbs and double-pane windows and even landscaping can help make a home more energy efficient. Reducing use of air conditioning or programming sleep mode on computers are other ways to lessen our energy use. October is the Change the World Energy Star campaign.

What have you done to make your home more energy efficient?

En español: Cada semana hacemos una pregunta relacionada al medio ambiente. Por favor comparta con nosotros sus pensamientos y comentarios. Siéntase en libertad de responder a comentarios anteriores o plantear nuevas ideas. Preguntas previas.

Nueva tecnología, selección de productos como insolución, bombillas, y ventanas de vidrio doble, e incluso el diseño del jardín pueden hacer su casa más eficiente del punto de vista energético. La reducción en el uso del aire acondicionado o la programación de las computadoras para el apagado automático (o dormir) también son otras maneras de disminuir el consumo de energía. Durante el mes de octubre se celebra la campaña de “Para cambiar el mundo,” comience con Energy Star.

¿Qué ha hecho para que su hogar tenga una mayor eficiencia energética?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

93 Responses leave one →
  1. David F. Anderson PE permalink
    October 15, 2008

    We use our south facing deck to dry some clothes and especially towels from the pool. With 2 sons being lifeguards they always had a towel in need of drying. Fewer beach towels in the laundry makes a big difference.

  2. David F. Anderson PE permalink
    October 15, 2008

    I have a whole house fan that helps cool the house down quickly when the sun sets.

  3. David F. Anderson PE permalink
    October 15, 2008

    I went one step further this summer on outside lights. I put solar walk lights in. They are very inexpensive now (less than $3 each) and you do not have to worry about turning lights off or having deer turn on lights when they wander through our yard.

  4. David F. Anderson PE permalink
    October 15, 2008

    I am thinking about geothermal. I know the heat and cooling is there. A rock ledge runs through my house and actually keeps part of my driveway 1 to 2 degrees hotter than the rest. I have well water. I need to look into if geothermal will affect my drinking supply. How much do you expect the cost of geothermal will be?

  5. David F. Anderson PE permalink
    October 15, 2008

    I have done a back of the envelope estimate and believe most people can save around 50% by doing easy stuff. Spend more for technology and it can go way lower. Start with the easy things first.

  6. Awalker permalink
    October 15, 2008

    I disagree with having them completely banned only because certain lighting applications are not optimal for CFLs yet. For example, lights you turn on and off quite often or where dimmers are involved. Yes I know that they sell CFLs for dimmer use, but I have had terrible luck with them and they are awfully expensive still. As for on/off cycles, this reduces the ballast life of CFLs substantially. Did you know if we made are houses truly energy efficient, we could heat our houses with just body warmth and incandescent light bulbs?

  7. Karen permalink
    October 15, 2008

    We have replaced all bulbs to the cfl light bulbs. Use the ceiling fans when possible instead of the air conditioning. Replaced our windows with double pane e glass with the agron gas. Unplugged everything we do not use on a reqular basis. Only turn on a light when absolutely needed. Burn wood for heat. Use cold water for washing clothes and rinsing dishes. Use laptop instead of desk top computer. Bought a more efficient car. Combine trips out.

  8. Awalker permalink
    October 15, 2008

    Had an energy audit completed on the house to see where my money would be best spent.
    • It’s amazing how much air enters/escapes through recessed lighting, ceiling light penetrations, wall outlets and switches and mail boxes. Sealed these all up with caulk, expanding spray foam, and foam insulators.
    • Found huge air leaks in foundation walls in the basement near ground level. Re-tuck pointed around foundation blocks, from inside and out.
    • I have a crawlspace with vents, even when shut they let too much air to enter/escape. Depending on where you live I have found it is best for me to seal these up, especially in the winter. I replaced the vents with the glass block type windows that can be opened or closed as needed, plus they have built in screens.
    • Found gapping areas of no insulation in the attic along with blocked soffit vents.
    • Added new door seals, especially on the bottom of the door where they wear out sooner.
    • Energy audit recommendations:
    o Have it done during the heating season, the thermal imaging will highlight the air leaks and areas that lack enough insulation much greater.
    o Ask for the smoke stick and personally walk around the house and check for drafts every where, and note them. (Cheap route: turn on all ventilation vans that expel air outside like bathroom or kitchen vents and get some inscent sticks and look for drafts.)
    o Be sure they seal and cover vents if they are going to test your duct work for leaks.
    o You should get a report showing the building envelope and the amount of air transfers that are occurring.

    Now I can’t wait to have it done again to see how I have improved, yet kept the house safe from the lack of ventilation.

  9. Ryan permalink
    October 15, 2008

    We have replaced all of our lightbulbs with CFL’s, caulked around windows, and installed new door seals. The most high tech change that we have made is in the use of a new “cycling” programmable thermostat. This thermostat wirelessly connects to the internet and can be cycled (temporarily reprogrammed) by our energy provider during times of peak demand. The cycling can only happen for 10 minutes every 30 minutes, plus, I can override the settings at any time.

  10. Jerry permalink
    October 15, 2008

    I live in Wisconsin where it is cold during the Spring, Fall and Winter.

    1. Installed CFL’s all over the house
    2. Put up heavy curtains over sliding glass door to deck
    3. Insulated water heater
    4. Installed special vent on dryer to send dryer hot air to house
    5. Installed programmable thermostat and programed it so highest temperature is 65 degrees F
    6. Cut, split and stacked 10 cords of wood for burning in fireplace insert to cut down on use of natural gas for heating
    7. Put up storm door on front door
    8. Installed several motion detector switches to turn off lights when motion is not detected in room after 3 minutes and turn on lights when motion is detected in room
    9. Bought new energy efficient refrigerator
    10. Put on storm windows
    11. Put in foam insulation around outside wall sockets and switches
    12 Turn off computer, printer and modem at night
    13. Turned down hot water heater thermostat
    14. Drained and turned off hot tub heater for fall, winter and spring. Do not heat hot tub in Summer.
    15. Took off molding around outside doors and added foam insulation before putting molding back.
    16. Quit using central air conditioner in the summer.
    17. Insulated hot water pipes
    18. Use the Microwave more for cooking food.
    19. Daily keep track of energy use and if it increases try to figure out why
    20. Wear a sweater or sweatshirt more while in the house in the winter
    21. Increased time to between mowing the lawn in the summer.
    22. Shovel more and use the snowblower only when there is a big snow.

  11. Blossom Hoag permalink
    October 15, 2008

    1. Changed lightbulbs
    2. When its brown, flush it down, when its yellow let it mellow
    3. Compost
    4. Ceiling fams
    5. Awning on sundeck
    6. 1/5 PV system and sell RECs back to the grid
    7. Water bottles in old toilets
    8. EnergyStar washing machine, hang clothes to dry and replace appliances with Energy Star ones as needed
    9. Replaced our windows with double pane e glass.
    10. Unplugged everything we do not use on a reqular basis
    11. Use microwave & toaster oven rather than large oven
    12. More 1 skillet meals.
    13. Use ceiling fans
    14. Programable thermostats set at 50 when asleep or away and 67 when home
    Drive a Prius

  12. Brian permalink
    October 15, 2008

    I switched my heating/cooling to a geothermal heat pump (standing column system), coupled with a desuperheater to pre-heat domestic hot water. New multi-programmable thermostat, designed to keep heat pump from using backup on highly variable temperature days/thermostat settings. Installed 20+ compact fluorescent bulbs (all fixtures except dimmer controlled recessed) and chandelier bulbs, which are pricey and still have light quality issues. Put all outdoor lights on computerized (auto daylight savings time adjusting) timers, and reduced lighting period from dark to 11, rather than doing so all night. Insulated a second layer in the attic, and also insulated all hot water pipes. Installed ceiling fans in all living spaces/bedrooms, used to circulate air to ease heating/cooling burden. Use whole house fan on moderate temp days to ease air conditioning usage. Close blinds/curtains on hot summer days to reduce heat gain, and open them in fall/winter days to reduce lighting and for heat gain. Eliminated second freezer, and crammed my main fridge full instead. Replaced washer/dryer with Energy Star units, with washer being high efficiency front loader (1/5 the water use). Replaced dishwasher with Bosch super energy efficient model (190 kw/h per year — most efficent sold in US). Turn out lights in all but the rooms being occupied. Disconnect “vampire” rechargers when not in use. Shut off computers (via power bar) when not in use. Caulked windows and replaced door sweep weatherstripping. Installing 1.7 gpm low-flow showerheads in baths, and aeration low-flow faucet heads on sinks. Next step is outdoor clothesline, basement/crawlspace wall insulation. Also plan to install solar attic ventilation fans. After that, I am considering installing solar photovoltaic system — just waiting on state/federal incentive decisions to finalize my decision on that one (politicians, please help us do the right thing with incentives and by re-instituting the fed tax credit).

  13. asmita permalink
    October 15, 2008

    hey i put on the light only in the room , where m there!
    i don’t use fans or ac
    i hv bulbs,cfl in my room.
    n gardening!

  14. Michelle permalink
    October 15, 2008

    Well, one thing, just turn off ac and heat a good bit when at work, leave it off as I can and just tolerate between 60 to 75.

    Latest thing is quit the clothes dryer, use a rack indoors along with outdoor line and hang up on a pole in the laundry room. (I visited a friend in Germany and there is not a dryer in the flat, assume Europeans do this all the time so why not me…..)

    Use the cfl bulbs where I can as well, where my child cannot break them.

  15. Sharon Triplett permalink
    October 15, 2008

    I had insulated windows installed in my home. I replaced my regular light bulbs with compact flourescents. I turn my thermostat up to 81-82 during the day. Keep my curtains, blinds, closets doors closed. I save my laundry until I have a full load. Built an insulated covered porch on the back of my house. Added new insulated glass/screen doors on front and back.

  16. Leo George Michael Dearmin permalink
    October 15, 2008

    The installation of a whole house fan with existing 3 roof-mounted room “air movers” has been the most significant measurable addition. My a/c use has been reduced 30% possibly more because the fan does run on electric. The savings in summer utility bill was well worth the cost of installation.

  17. Steve B permalink
    October 15, 2008

    I agree, truly well insulated houses could be heated with incandescent light bulbs and body heat. I’ve know houses with foot thick walls and 4 feet of attic insulation. My concern about the ‘energy’ saving claims for CFL’s that the the heat generated by incondescent light needs to now be generated from the home heating system. Thus, the question becomes which heat source is more efficient? Electricity or the alternative?

  18. Eric permalink
    October 15, 2008

    I’ve put in new windows and I’m considering installing an electric furnace to replace our 10 yo fuel oil furnace. Are electric furnaces better/cheaper???

  19. Lorraine H. permalink
    October 15, 2008

    I use the new lightbulbs, turn off lights and appliances when before I would leave them on, turn down the thermostat when I am away, and am having new windows installed.

  20. carol menken permalink
    October 15, 2008

    look emfs up on line-you will see it has never been proven that they are harmful to human health. all of your household electric appliances give oo emfs and you are in much closer proximity to them.

  21. Christine Smith permalink
    October 16, 2008

    We’ve purchased CFLs and EnergyStar electronics, like our computer and washer/dryer.

    However, we are constrained by what we can do by the fact that we live in an apartment. We can’t replace appliances that we’d like to, like the A/C or the refrigerator, nor can we do anything to better insulate or weather proof the building. To a large extent, we are at the mercy of the apartment complex. Technically, even our installation of CFL bulbs was against our lease (sshhh, don’t tell them!), because our lease specifically requires that for all apartment fixtures, we must use the same types and wattages of bulbs that were there when we moved in.

  22. Fran permalink
    October 17, 2008

    I think it’s great that as a college student you are finding ways to be more efficient in your dorm room. Keep it up! :)

  23. Fran permalink
    October 17, 2008

    Since I’m a renter, I’ve rented a smaller home with less space to heat for one person. I use a flourescent bulb in my kitchen and the compact flourescent ones in the lamps. I”ve opened the windows to take advantage of the breeze that always seems to be blowing in my direction and on the cooler days I’ve resisted turning on the heater and have opted for an extra blanket on the bed and a sweater/sweatshirt around the house in the mornings. Since the bulk of the windows face east I’ve opened the blinds to let in the light and the warmth as well.

  24. Carol Krause permalink
    October 17, 2008

    we have done everything to protect our home and enviornment. What I would like to know why the EPA does not do their job.Are their hands tied? They speak of citizens have access to safe drinking water. Think again. Fluoride is in our drinking water,food products,juices,drugs,surgical anesthetics and many other products. My yearly water reports indicates Fluoride comes Erosions of natural deposites and discharge from fertilizer and aluminum factories.Many of our children are ill and many are tranferred to St. Jude. We are currently correcting our problem with the help of our councilman.

  25. Barok permalink
    October 17, 2008

    Installed all CFL bulbs, with smart lighting controllers. Replaced landscaping lights with solar powered LED lights. Replaced washer & dryer with energy efficient, and water efficient units. Replaced water heaters with energy efficient unit. Replaced old HVAC thermostat with smart HVAC controllers.

  26. Awalker permalink
    October 17, 2008

    Hi Christine,

    I lived in an drafty apartment for some time and the stuff that helped lower my heating bills the most were putting in programmable thermostat which you can easily replace and switch back to the original when you move out, and put plastic on the windows (though it leaves a residue or can peel paint off, a little paint touch up at move out is all thats needed). I saved around $90 that winter and it was colder than the previous year. I actually left the plastic on the windows the summer I left, so the new tenant, if still utilizing them, is hopefully saving now.

  27. Yvonika permalink
    October 18, 2008

    My entire house now has compact fluorescent bulbs

  28. Christine permalink
    October 20, 2008

    I switch off my computer each night after using it to save energy. I switch off the electrical switch board when electricity is not in use.

  29. Joe Smith permalink
    October 20, 2008

    In 2005 and 2006, I replaced the 32 wood double hung windows in 100+ year old home with either double or triple pane vinyl replacement windows. Additionally, just two weeks ago, I replaced my 25 yr old oil burner with a new 80 AFUE gas model. The replacement was because my oil burner was at the end of its useful life. The switch from oil to gas seemed like the thing to do. I do not know if it will save me money in the long run. I’ve also renovated my kitchen and installed energy saving appliances e.g. refrig, stove, and dishwasher.

  30. Hugh Watkins permalink
    October 20, 2008

    I have 4-watt night lights plugged into at least 1 outlet in each room. As it gets dark, I turn them on. I can light the whole house enough to navigate around for less than 60 watts. I then turn on task lighting only where I need it.
    I keep the water heater turned to the lowest setting (barely warm). 15 minutes before taking a shower, I do the dishes. This fires up the water heater and the causes the water to be plenty hot for my shower.
    I keep the thermostat at 55 degrees and I wear more clothes. I can isolate the hallways by keeping doors closed, and have turned off the forced air heat registers in the hallways. I use a small ceramic electric heater directed at my legs when working at the computer. This brings the office temperature up to 60 degrees or so. By the end of winter I am tired of constantly opening and closing doors, but it energy and saves me money.

  31. Gillian permalink
    October 21, 2008

    We just put in Energy Star-rated windows. We also have energy-saving lightbulbs, and conserve electricity as much as possible. In addition, we have a water-saving showerhead, and only run the water when it is being actively used. We do not wash our cars. We try to do as much as we can!

  32. Kate permalink
    October 21, 2008

    That’s a good suggestion for a science project. There are monitors that record energy use and the cost of it. Google Power Monitor or Power Cost Monitor to find a few good ones that measure the whole home, or, there are a few products that plug into a single outlet and show what leaving a single appliance running uses.

  33. Diego permalink
    February 14, 2009

    Hi everybody

    We did a lot of things and use now 1500kWh less energy, in total 7500kWh for heating AND electricity use year-round. We hope to get at the point where we will use only 6000kWh and we will install a PV-System for this 6000kWh. We also plan to buy a Aptera electric car when available in the North East.

    The number of inhabitants is two. We live in the North East, Central MA in a condo of 800sqf. One person is at home during the day working in the home office.

    We also use organic cleaning agents for the dish washer, cleaning, soap, hair, shower and so on.

    I find it very important to concentrate on heating and warm water. This makes already 70% of our electricity use per annum.

    First – very important:
    —————————-
    - we bought a kill a watt electricity meter
    - analyzed our electricity bill from the past year

    Electricity:
    ————————————
    - we buy 100% renewable electricity from wind and water from our utility
    - we installed energy saving appliances
    e.g. refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, clothes washer
    - we unplug all electric appliances when not in use with several strips (TV, stereo, game console and so on)
    - we turn off lights
    - we use a laptop, uses only 20Watt instead of 150W for a desktop
    - we use CFL’s throughout the house

    Warm Water use:
    ————————————–
    - we wrapped the water heater with insulation blankets
    - we set the water thermostat to 57 degrees
    - we insulated all hot water pipes (double in the cold basement)
    - we are washing with cold water (not during winter)
    - we installed water saving faucets and shower head
    - we always use the dryer :-(
    - we will install the soon available (mid of 2009) heat pump water heater which will save us another 1000kWh year-around!
    - and we will install a drain water heat recovery system which saves another 500kWh

    Water use:
    ———————————-
    - we use a water filter instead of buying water bottles
    - we lowered the water level in all toilets
    - we installed water saving faucets and shower head
    - we collect rain water

    Heating:
    ———————————–
    - we set the temperature to 68 degrees (and even 66.2). When there are no drafts an you wear enough warm clothes, 66.2 degrees is very comfortable. The trick is to stop all air leaking.

    - we sleep at 64 degrees
    - we turn the heating off in rooms that are not in use and during the night. They heat up very quickly because of the electric baseboards.

    - We fixed all air leaks
    – front door
    – patio door
    – basement door
    – attic door
    – installed shrink foil on all windows during winter
    – put insulation around the windows

    - we sealed penetrations in basement and between ceilings
    from electric and water pipes in bathrooms, kitchen and all rooms
    - we sealed all electrical outlets and the electrical pipes entering
    the outlet with silicone caulk and installed electrical outlet foam pads
    - we insulated the basement ceiling

  34. Will Stanley permalink
    November 27, 2009

    Loads, sometimes I feel like I am sort of environmental bore. But luckily here in Oxford there are a lot of us.

    Easy tip one, turn the heating down and put a jumper on. Walking round the house in a t shirt in the middle of winter is just nuts.

  35. solar lights permalink
    August 19, 2011

    cfl’s have just moved jobs to china. If you compare what they save against the jobs lost and added cost cfl’s lose big time.
    I have installed them in my house but outside i have installed solar lights. Maybe we need to take the money that is given to the oil companys as a subsady and use it for solar.

  36. Diego permalink
    September 20, 2011

    Hi again

    Our Electricity use is now at 6535kWh per year compared to my last post above on Feb 14th 2009 which was 7500kWh. We started from 8283kWh per year for our all electric home.

    The best thing we could do now is to install an electric inverter split aircon/heating system and a heat pump or solar water heater. We could save another 3147kWh a year and end up using only 3388kWh a year icluding heating for our all electric home! But first we need to save for these investments. A PV system could produce the rest to become a net zero household.

    Good luck to you all for saving even more energy and slowing global warming.

    Diego

  37. Harry Duff permalink
    March 25, 2012

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