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Improving Ducts: Duct Sealing and Insulation

2014 August 20
Ducts #1

Ducts before improvement (arrows show common leaks)

Ducts after improvement (arrows show proper air flow)

Ducts after improvement (arrows show proper air flow)

In the second installment of our seal and insulate series, ENERGY STAR Product Manager Doug Anderson gave advice on how to choose a contractor in order to seal air leaks and add insulation to your attic during the warm summer months. Today’s post goes one step further—giving expert advice on sealing ducts and adding duct insulation. Leaky ducts can reduce heating and cooling system efficiency by as much as 20 percent. Sealing and insulating ducts increases efficiency, lowers your energy bills, and can often pay for itself in energy savings.

By: Doug Anderson

In previous blog posts, we’ve talked about the benefits of air sealing and insulating your attic. In this post, we’ll address some topics that you may be less familiar with: sealing ducts and adding duct insulation.

In homes with forced-air central cooling, a system of ducts is used to deliver the cooled air to the rooms and other living spaces of the home. Unfortunately, in typical homes, the duct system can lose about 20-30% of the air that moves through due to leaks, holes, and poorly sealed connections. Addressing these issues by hiring a heating and cooling contractor or other residential energy efficiency professional can increase summer comfort, as well as save energy and money.

There are two types of ducts in most homes: supply ducts that deliver the cool air through registers or vents in each room, and return ducts that bring air back to your air conditioner. If your supply ducts are leaky, cool air from your air conditioner is wasted on its way into the living space; and leaky return ducts can result in dusty, humid, or moldy air being pulled into the system, which can aggravate allergies and other health issues.

Identify Problem Areas

The ducts that run through spaces like attics, crawlspaces, basements, and garages typically waste the most energy. You or your contractor can identify areas for improvement in your home by inspecting ducts in these areas for the following types of problems:

–          Duct tape that is dried-out, loose, or has fallen away from duct joints

–          Ducts that have been torn or crumpled

–          Poorly hung ducts with bends and kinks that restrict air flow

–          Ducts that are partially (or completely) disconnected

Next Steps

Mastic sealant is an effective way to stop leaks at duct joints

Mastic sealant is an effective way to stop leaks at duct joints

Metal tape can also be used to seal duct leaks

Metal tape can also be used to seal duct leaks

If you find these types of duct problems in your home, EPA recommends calling a professional to help you address them. A contractor will also be able to test air flow after the job is completed to make sure that your system is performing correctly.

In many areas, you can also find pre-screened, trained, and certified contractors through a locally-sponsored Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program. These programs are a great place to start looking for contractors to help you with your project. To find out if a program exists in your area, visit our website.

For some homeowners, sealing and insulating ducts can be a do-it-yourself project. If you choose to make these improvements on your own, be sure to have your heating and cooling contractor assess the system’s air flow when you are done to make sure any air sealing has not caused any air flow problems – and perform a combustion safety test to confirm there is no backdrafting of gas or oil burning appliances. To learn more about improving your home’s ducts, check out www.energystar.gov/ducts.

About the Author: Doug Anderson is an ENERGY STAR Project Manager and has been with EPA for 14 years. He works on issues related to the home envelope, including insulation products and energy-efficient residential windows.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here 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.

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Getting the Seal and Insulate Job Done – Hiring a Contractor

2014 July 31

In our last seal and insulate blog post, ENERGY STAR Product Manager Doug Anderson gave advice on how to identify problems that may be keeping your home from achieving energy efficient comfort during the hot days of summer. Now that those issues have been identified, today’s post shows you how to select a contractor to fix any problems.

Adding ‘blown’ attic insulation – it’s a hot, messy job in the summer

Adding ‘blown’ attic insulation – it’s a hot, messy job in the summer

By: Doug Anderson

Unless you enjoy working in hot, cramped attics, it’s best to just pour yourself a cool drink and call a contractor to properly seal air leaks and add insulation to your attic during the summer.  Insulation contractors have all the equipment and experience to do the job right and do it much quicker than you can. Let them do the hard work. Your job is to find a good contractor.

Shop Around – Selecting a Contractor

As with any home improvement project, you want to make sure you’re getting a good price and that the work will be done right:

–          Check with your electric utility or state energy office to see if they offer incentives for improvements or have pre-screened program contractors. (See www.dsireusa.org or www.energystar.gov/dime for lists of incentives)

–          Get several estimates from contractors (know the square footage of your attic).

–          Make sure the contractor is licensed and insured in your state.

–          Ask if the crew chief is certified to do insulation work.

–          Ask how the contractor will keep your house clean during the work.

–          Make sure the contractor understands you want attic holes and gaps sealed before any insulation is added. If they do not agree to “seal before insulating,” call another contractor.

Some locations in the U.S. have pre-screened, trained and certified contractors available through the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program.  These programs are run by local utilities or State Energy Offices and are a great place to start looking for contractors to help you with your project.  To find out if a program exists in your area, click here.

Make Sure the Job’s Done Right – What to Look For

When hiring a contractor, make sure that you clearly understand the work they’ll be doing. Don’t hesitate to ask questions before the contractor starts, and stay involved throughout the process. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

–          Contractors should seal air leaks in the attic floor before adding insulation. It’s much easier to seal first to ensure you get the full performance out of your insulation.

–          If you have air ducts in the attic, make sure contractors do not step on or damage them.

–          Burying any ducts on the floor in insulation is OK to do – it can even improve efficiency. Just make sure the ducts are well sealed first.

–          Unless your old insulation is wet, moldy, smelly, or contains animal waste, contractors can just add new insulation on top. It is usually not necessary to remove existing insulation.

–          Most contractors use blown-in, loose fill insulation for attic floors, which is quick and easy to install with the right equipment. Typical materials include fiberglass or cellulose – both contain some recycled content (glass or ground up paper) and are inexpensive and safe. If traditional insulation rolls are used for the attic floor instead, be sure that it is “unfaced” (no foil or paper backing needed) so moisture does not get trapped.

–          Any project estimate should also include installing insulation baffles (rafter vents). This ensures that as you add insulation, soffit vents (which allow outside air to enter the attic) are not blocked and your attic has proper air flow.

Seal and Insulate- Installing a Baffle

Installing a Baffle (or Rafter Vent)

–          If you have older recessed light fixtures (can lights) that stick up into the attic floor, the contractor should cover and seal them before installing insulation using specially designed covers that are available at most home improvement stores.

–          Contractors should also seal the chase (hole) in the attic around the plumbing vent pipe.

–          It’s also important to weather strip and insulate the attic hatch or door. There are several off-the-shelf products available for standard-sized openings.

–          EPA recommends having a professional contractor conduct combustion safety testing before and after any air sealing, as this may affect the drafting of any combustion (oil or gas) appliances in the house.

Finally, tell the contractor that you expect documentation at the end of the job to show how much insulation has been added and what the new insulation R-value is for your attic. When it’s done, take a picture and compare it to the pictures you took earlier to see the improvement. Then, you can sit back and enjoy the rest of your summer knowing your home is more comfortable and efficient.

If you would like more information, including details on doing this work yourself, ENERGY STAR has expertise you need.  Check out our website for details.

About the Author: Doug Anderson is an ENERGY STAR Project Manager and has been with EPA for 14 years. He works on issues related to the home envelope, including insulation products and energy efficient residential windows.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here 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.

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What are Television Makers Doing to Reduce the Carbon Footprint of their Products?

2014 July 29

tv

By: Verena Radulovic

ENERGY STAR certified TVs are more efficient than ever due to advances in technology and innovations in product design. The energy savings that have resulted play an important role in the fight against climate change. But even with this success, there’s still more work to do to reduce the significant climate impacts associated with manufacturing TVs as well as computer displays and tablets. The issue is the release of potent fluorinated greenhouse gasses, known as F-GHGs, used to create the LCD panels that go into these products. For example, SF6, which has 23,000 times more heat-trapping potential than carbon dioxide, is widely used in LCD manufacturing.

Last year, EPA’s Center for Corporate Climate Leadership began highlighting steps the world’s major LCD panel suppliers are taking to reduce these gasses by posting company-specific profiles that cover current mitigation measures, future reduction goals, and public disclosure efforts.

This year’s update to these supplier profiles, which feature twelve suppliers that represent 99% of all panels produced globally, shows some encouraging signs. Some suppliers have outfitted their newer manufacturing facilities- those that make the largest LCD panels for products like 50-inch and larger TVs– with equipment that captures and destroys F-GHGs. Overall, reported annual emissions are continuing to decrease, both on a per meter of glass produced basis, and in some cases, across an entire facility or facilities. But there continues to be room for improvement. Some LCD suppliers still need to implement key reduction measures at their newer facilities. Many have yet to outfit older facilities with these climate-benefitting measures. And a few suppliers have not publicly reported any control efforts.

FGAS

One really exciting development is the growing recognition among many big name brands that this is an issue their customers are likely to care about. Leading companies Dell, Lenovo, HP, Wal-Mart and Best Buy have banded together to collectively call on suppliers to set new targets for reducing F-GHGs in the manufacturing of LCD products, and demonstrate results within just a few years. To learn more about the electronics sector’s efforts to reduce F-GHG emissions, visit our website.

Verena Radulovic, EPA

Verena Radulovic, EPA

About the Author: Verena Radulovic develops and manages various product specifications for the ENERGY STAR program, including televisions, displays and audio/video products.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here 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.

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Summer Savings with Seal and Insulate – Don’t Sweat it!

2014 July 23

Insulation

By: Doug Anderson

Happy summer! While the season brings trips to the beach, vacation, and barbeques, summer also brings the heat and humidity. Now is the perfect time to make sure your house is well-prepared for the summer weather, so you can leave the sweating where it belongs– outdoors.

To start, get your air conditioning (AC) unit or heat pump system checked and tuned to make sure it’s running efficiently – it needs regular maintenance just like your car. If your AC is working well but your house still has warm walls, hot ceilings, or uncomfortable humidity, your home may have air leaks and low levels of insulation.   Sealing air leaks and adding more insulation can improve home comfort by keeping the cool air in and preventing pollen, dust and pests from entering.

Getting Started – Identify Problem Areas

In most homes, air leaks and low levels of attic insulation are one of the biggest sources of energy waste and summer time discomfort. While it’s important to check your home’s attic insulation levels, be aware that any attic in the summer is usually extremely hot and uncomfortable.

Tips on Checking Insulation levels:

–          The best time to do a quick check your attic during the summer is in the morning when it’s cooler. If you start to feel overheated at any point, get out of the attic right away.

–          Take a yardstick or tape measure, pen and paper, a flashlight, and a digital camera or cell phone with you to measure your insulation and take pictures.

Ruler- Insulation

–          Measure the depth of the insulation in a few spots with your tape measure or yardstick and jot the levels down. You should have about 13 inches of typical insulation (fiberglass or cellulose) if you live in the southern United States and about 17 inches if you live in the central or northern United States. If you don’t have those levels, you are paying for it with higher energy bills.

–          A good rule of thumb is that if the insulation level is just up to the top of the attic floor joists, you have only about half the insulation you should (see illustration).

–          While you are looking around, take pictures of the insulation level, different corners of your attic, and of any ducts or air conditioning units you see. The pictures are a good record for future reference and to show to a contractor.

Next Step – Call a Contractor

If you found you have low levels of attic insulation – what’s next? EPA recommends calling a contractor or planning a Do-it-yourself project for the fall when it’s not so hot. Unless you have some experience doing this type of work, a contractor is your best bet. They are trained, have all the right tools, and will work quickly to get the job done. In our next post, we’ll talk about how to select and work with a contractor.

About the Author: Doug Anderson is an ENERGY STAR Project Manager and has been with EPA for 14 years. He works on issues related to the home envelope, including insulation products and energy efficient residential windows.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here 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.

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Splash into Savings with ENERGY STAR Certified Pool Pumps

2014 July 17

Pool

By Steve Ryan

Did you know there are more than 5 million in-ground pools installed across America, and over 50,000 new in-ground pools built annually? If you are (or are soon-to-be) a pool owner, keeping the water clean is probably a key consideration. That’s where the pool pump comes in– it re-circulates water through a filter to maintain water clarity and hygiene. All swimming pools have at least one recirculation pump, but many have multiple pumps.

Why should you care about your pool pump?

If you have a pool, the pool pump uses the most electricity of any single product in your home. They typically cost $450 a year to operate – much more than they need to. Conventional single-speed pool pumps are set to run at the higher speeds required of the pool cleaner and waste energy during filtration operation, which really only needs half the flow rate. 

How can ENERGY STAR help?

An in-ground pool pump that has earned the ENERGY STAR label can run at different speeds and be programmed to match your pool’s needs with appropriate speed. The energy saved is considerable: reducing pump speed by one-half allows the pump to use just one-eighth as much energy. ENERGY STAR pool pumps are independently certified to deliver those energy savings while providing the performance you expect. In some cases the performance may exceed expectations—for instance, variable speed pumps that earn the label are much quieter. 

Pool Pump

Pool Pump

How much money does an ENERGY STAR certified pool pump save annually?

There are two types of pool pumps that can earn the ENERGY STAR label: multi-speed and variable speed. Multi-speed pumps operate at two speeds and allow the pool owner to reduce the speed of the motor during the majority of its operation. Variable-speed pumps are the most efficient because they can be programmed to operate at many different speeds, even below half speed, depending on the pool usage. Both offer considerable energy savings over the more commonly used single-speed pump.

An ENERGY STAR certified “variable speed” pool pump will use 2,800 kWh less electricity per year, on average, equivalent to:

  • $340 in savings
  • 2.2 tons of reduced greenhouse gas emissions

An ENERGY STAR certified “multi-speed” pool pump will use 2,300 kWh less electricity per year, on average, equivalent to:

  • $280 in savings
  • 1.8 tons of reduced greenhouse gas emissions

This is money you can PUMP back into the family budget.

The energy savings are great … but is it worth it?

Even considering the extra money you might pay to buy them, ENERGY STAR certified pool pumps pay for themselves in about a year-and-a-half (less for multi-speed pumps). And that’s not all. Many utilities offer rebates for ENERGY STAR certified pool pumps. For example, Long Island Power Authority offers a $400 rebate. Check with your local utility. 

By the way, you’re not just saving money, you’re helping the environment

If all pool pumps sold in the United States were ENERGY STAR certified, the energy cost savings would grow to about $110 million each year, and 1.5 billion pounds of annual greenhouse gas emissions would be prevented — equivalent to the emission from nearly 140,000 vehicles.                                                         

So…

Contact your local pool maintenance technician or distributor about ENERGY STAR certified pool pumps. For more information, check out our website

About the Author: Steven Ryan joined the sales and marketing team at the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR Labeling Branch in June 1999 and is currently the Program Manager for ENERGY STAR labeled pool pumps, office equipment, roofing, water heaters, and HVAC products. Mr. Ryan holds a Master’s degree in Environmental Science and Resource Policy from George Washington University and a BA in History from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here 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.

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Top 5 Ways to Chill out this Summer with ENERGY STAR

2014 June 19

By: Brittney Gordon

Even when the temperature goes up, your utility bills can still stay low. With help from ENERGY STAR you can keep your cool, tame those bills, and help fight climate change. The secret is to keep your cooling system from working too hard. Discover these Top 5 Ways to Chill Out with ENERGY STAR, so that you and your cooling system can both enjoy the summer!

1. Keep the heat out

Insulation_graphic (1)

Take advantage of shades, blinds, curtains, awnings and even trees to  keep the sun out during the day, especially on the south and west side of your house. If you are upgrading your windows, consider ENERGY STAR certified windows, which will keep even more heat out. Find and seal leaks (the biggest ones are in your attic and basement) – this will also help reduce humidity and keep out pests and pollen.  Consider adding attic insulation so less heat radiates down into your house from your hot attic.  Sealing air leaks and improving your home’s insulation could save you up to $200 a year in cooling/heating costs (or about 10 percent of your annual energy bill).  Finally, if you’re replacing your roof, you can reduce the effects of the hot sun by installing ENERGY STAR certified roof products.

2. Keep the cool in

Seal and Insulate 2

You’re paying for your AC’s cool air, so don’t let it leak out of your ducts before it gets to the vent and the rooms you want to cool. That’s YOUR air!  In most homes, 25 percent of air that flows through air conditioning ducts leaks out before it gets to you. So get a contractor to test your ducts, seal them, and insulate them so you’re not paying for cool air you don’t get to use. You could reduce your cooling energy bill by about 20 percent.

3. Maintain Your Cooling System

Thermostat

A simple tune up of your HVAC equipment can do wonders.  Make sure you also change your air filter regularly – EPA recommends every three months at a minimum.   And, if you do not have a programmable thermostat – install one and program it around your family’s summer schedule. Setting the thermostat up by seven degrees when you’re away from home and up by four degrees when you’re asleep can save more than $180 a year.

4. Be a fan of fans

ceiling fan

If you raise your thermostat by only two degrees and use your ceiling fan instead, you can lower cooling costs by up to 14 percent. Use bedroom fans on those cooler summer nights when you might be able to turn off your central air conditioning and naturally cool your home for a lot less. Plus, don’t forget to use your ENERGY STAR certified vent fans to get rid of that unwanted humid air in your bathroom after a shower.

5. Look for the ENERGY STAR

ENERGY STAR Logo

If your central air conditioning unit is more than 12 years old, replacing it with an ENERGY STAR certified model could cut your cooling costs by 30 percent. In the market for a new room air conditioner? Find one that has earned the ENERGY STAR and use about 15 percent less energy. ENERGY STAR certified dehumidifiers also use 15 percent less energy than a conventional unit.  One last easy tip is to change out those old, hot, incandescent bulbs with ENERGY STAR certified CFL and LED bulbs–they produce 75% less heat!

Looking for more great tips? Head to www.energystar.gov/cooling.

About the Author: Brittney Gordon-Williams works on the ENERGY STAR communication’s team. Her summer cooling project will involve trying out ENERGY STAR certified LEDs in her new home.

 

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here 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.

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Making copies the Energy Efficient Way

2014 June 12

Imaging

By: Chris Kent

Pop quiz: Does your home/office imaging equipment (printer, copier, scanner, etc.) have the ENERGY STAR label? If it does, consider yourself a very smart shopper. On average, imaging equipment that is ENERGY STAR certified is 40 – 55 percent more efficient than a standard model. From copiers and printers, to fax machines and scanners, imaging equipment accounts for some of the first products to ever earn the ENERGY STAR label. As these products grow in use in homes and offices across the country, EPA’s ENERGY STAR program continues to make strides in making them more energy efficient.

Through the years, EPA has strengthened the energy efficiency requirements so that models meeting the latest requirements will be more energy efficient than ever. Now, by meeting requirements to enter low-power “sleep” modes when inactive, and using efficient power supplies, an ENERGY STAR certified copier saves energy when it is in use AND when it is not.

Looking for ways to cut down your imaging costs even more? Consider purchasing an all-in-one device the next time you are in the market. An all-in-one device (or multifunction device) that meets ENERGY STAR requirements can result in significant energy and paper savings for businesses.  The multifunction device typically performs two or more functions (scan, copy, print, fax) housed within one unit.  By comparison, with single-function devices every piece of networked equipment uses electricity, even when it is not in use.  But by combining these functions into one device, you can save on electricity costs by reducing the number of devices into one integrated unit.  Also, these multifunction devices are where industry is incorporating innovative energy saving technologies, so despite having multiple functions, a multifunction device may actually use less energy than a comparable single function unit.

If your printer/copier/multifunction device is older than 5 years, it is likely that your printer’s energy consumption is about 50% higher than a new machine.  Industry continues to make great strides in improving the energy performance of imaging equipment and ENERGY STAR continues to revise its requirements to recognize these top performers.

Some features that save on energy, paper and ink costs include:

  • Sleep mode and automatic shut off: ENERGY STAR products are required to automatically go into a reduced power state after a specified period of inactivity.  This provides great energy savings.
  • Automatic double-sided printing/duplexing: Automatically setting a printer or multifunction device to print double sided saves up to 50% of your paper usage.  Printer and multifunction devices that can produce images on both sides of the paper by automatically flipping the paper make it easier to produce a double-sided page, which cuts down on paper use.  Paper is the largest energy impact associated with printing, and in most cases, making this change does not cost anything additional.
  • Various quality settings: Many units have more than one quality setting and using a lower quality or draft mode when printing draft or internal documents can save ink.
  • Color vs Monochromatic: Printing in color generally does not use any additional energy than printing in monochromatic. But you can spend more on ink depending on the machine you choose. Units that use one cartridge for all colors tend to waste more ink than units with individual color cartridges. This is because colors are used at different rates, but the cartridge must be replaced once any one color has run out.

When looking to buy a new printer or multifunction device, go the ENERGY STAR Imaging Equipment product finder to find the right product for your needs.   And remember, think before printing.

Chris Kent

About the Author: Chris Kent has worked at EPA for 25 years and for the last 7 years has been the product lead for the ENERGY STAR imaging product development. 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here 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.

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How Does Your Home Compare to Your Neighbor’s?

2014 May 12

Yardstick

By: Brian Ng

It’s springtime! Now that the dark, cold days of winter are gone, it’s time to do things to tidy up the outside of your home. After all, who wants to be the “messy” house in the neighborhood? Now is also the perfect time to tidy up your home’s energy efficiency, especially compared to your neighbors’ homes. After all, who wants to have the highest utility bill in the neighborhood? Plus, reducing our energy consumption at home helps fight climate change since using energy means having to produce energy, which typically involves the burning of fossil fuels that generate greenhouse gases and cause climate change.

But short of knocking on their door, how do you find out how your home’s energy use compares to your neighbor’s home? The ENERGY STAR program offers a free, online tool called the Home Energy Yardstick, available here. It allows you to compare your home’s energy use to similar homes across the country. By entering your home’s annual energy use, the number of occupants, conditioned square footage, and its ZIP code, the Yardstick computes a score between 0 and 10, indicating the relative energy consumption of your home compared to a nationally representative sample of single family homes.  On the Yardstick scale, 0 is the most energy-consuming household and 10 is the least energy-consuming household. An “average” home scores a 5 on the Yardstick. So the higher the Yardstick score, the better! You can even print a certificate and brag to your neighbors if your score warrants bragging rights.

To use the Yardstick, you’ll need the last 12 months of utility bills for your home.  Typically you can find a 12-month usage summary on your most recent bill or through the utility’s web site.  It only takes about five minutes to enter the information and get a score.  Some utilities provide customers with the ability to download a “Green Button” file that provides detailed information about energy usage for their home.  If your utility participates in Green Button, you can simply upload your home’s utility data directly into the Yardstick. To find out if your utility offers Green Button, visit:  www.greenbuttondata.org. For those whose Yardstick score is less than brag-worthy, fret not. ENERGY STAR’s Home Energy Advisor provides recommendations for energy-saving improvements for typical homes in your area.

Although these tools provide good insight into your energy consumption and how to reduce it, they are not meant to replace a professional’s help. So if you need an expert opinion on how to improve the efficiency and comfort of your home, a good place to start is with a local Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program. Home Performance with ENERGY STAR offers a whole-house approach to improving the efficiency and comfort of your home. A participating Home Performance contractor will evaluate your home using state-of-the-art equipment, recommend comprehensive improvements to yield the best results, and help you get the work done.

So while you’re doing your spring cleaning this year, take a moment and begin cleaning up your home’s energy use as well.

About the Author: Brian manages communications activities for the ENERGY STAR Residential Branch, which forms voluntary partnerships to promote greater energy efficiency in new and existing homes. He enjoys trying to improve the energy efficiency of his own home when he’s not busy keeping up with his two kids.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here 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.

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Celebrate Earth Day with ENERGY STAR!

2014 April 22

Earth Day graphic

By: Brittney Gordon-Williams

Earth Day is here and people across the country are taking a few minutes out of their day to do something good for planet earth. What are your plans? We may be a bit biased, but here at ENERGY STAR we would love for you to make protecting the environment from climate change part of your Earth Day resolutions. Preventing climate change may sound like a tall order, but we’re here to show you how easy it can be to make a difference. And did we mention that it will also help you save money?  I think we now have your full attention. Check out our list of no-cost to low cost ways to save energy at home and at work this Earth Day!

ENERGY STAR’s Earth Day and Beyond Checklist

1.)    ENERGY STAR Lighting- Purchase an ENERGY STAR certified LED! This is one of the easiest ways to make your home more energy efficient. ENERGY STAR certified LEDs use 70-90% less energy and last 25x longer than your old incandescent bulbs. With the prices dropping fast, this is the perfect time to try out the light bulb of the future! Need help picking one out? Check out this video.

2.)    Computer Power Management- Are you reading this on your computer? Have you programmed that computer to go into sleep mode when you are away? Enabling your ENERGY STAR certified computer/monitor’s power management features can save you up to $90 a year.

3.)    HVAC Maintenance- Check your filter every month, especially during heavy use months (winter and summer). If the filter looks dirty after a month, change it. At a minimum, change the filter every 3 months. A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you warm or cool — wasting energy.

4.)    Build Your Team- You can also “Bring Your Green” to work! Create a Green Team with your co-workers, help build support for energy efficiency in your workplace, and reduce office waste. Set a goal to certify your building as ENERGY STAR.

5.)    Inspire Your Friends- The only thing better than saving energy yourself is inspiring your friends to do it with you. Share this infographic in social media and encourage your friends to get with the energy-saving program!

EarthDay_infographic_Twitter

It’s pretty amazing that simple changes like these can make a big difference in reducing carbon pollution in our environment, helping to stop further climate change. Need some assistance on your energy-saving journey? Take the ENERGY STAR Pledge and let EPA show you how simple it can be to save energy, save money and protect the environment. Try it out today and make this Earth Day the best one yet.

About the Author: Brittney Gordon-Williams is a member of the communications team at EPA’s ENERGY STAR program. This Earth Day she plans on purchasing an ENERGY STAR certified LED bulb.  

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EPA Unveils the Winner of the National Building Competition!

2014 April 16

Battle of the Buildings2

By: Andrea Schnitzer

Have you ever seen the NBC show, The Biggest Loser? It brings together a group of motivated people, who all have one goal in common—a desire to get healthy and lose unneeded weight.  Today, EPA is announcing the winners of the fourth annual EPA ENERGY STAR National Building Competition: Battle of the Buildings, a competition that is inspired by the hit NBC show. But instead of individuals working to lose excess weight, this year-long competition brings together commercial buildings from across the country to see who can reduce the most energy use. Today we are excited to announce this year’s winners and open registration for an exciting new competition year.

The Results are in!

Claiborne Elementary School

Claiborne Elementary School

This year, Claiborne Elementary School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, won the competition by cutting its energy use nearly in half!  But this impressive accomplishment only tells part of the story about the more than 3,000 competitors who threw their hats in the ring this year. The top 15 finishers reduced their energy waste by more than 29 percent, and nearly 50 buildings in the competition achieved at least a 20 percent reduction in energy use. In the end, the competitors saved a combined total of more than 130,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions and $20 million on utility bills. To see a list of the competitors and their energy savings, go to www.energystar.gov/battleofthebuildings.

Many were winners. Only one was the biggest loser.

Claiborne Elementary School emerged victorious by cutting its energy use by a whopping 46.9 percent in one year. And they did this largely through low and no-cost efforts, like educating students and teachers about the actions they can take every day to save energy. This included adjusting thermostats, keeping doors and windows closed when the heat or air conditioning is on, turning off lights, and making sure electronic devices are turned off at the end of each day.  The school also fine-tuned automated controls of the HVAC and lighting systems, making sure that lights were turned off in unoccupied areas and that the heating and cooling systems were optimized to run only when necessary.

Small changes make a big difference.  

The results aren’t all that different than what we often see on NBC’s The Biggest Loser. Buildings across the nation compete to work off their energy waste with help from ENERGY STAR. At the end, the building that cuts its energy use the most is declared the winner.

And just like on the TV show, there are ups and downs for every building. Sometimes, drastic measures are needed, but often it just takes small changes every day that add up to big savings. Just like it’s not always necessary to take extreme measures to lose weight, buildings don’t always need to implement expensive technology upgrades to start cutting energy use. Likewise, adopting small lifestyle changes like eating healthier and exercising can make all the difference. Changing behaviors, whether it’s by turning off lights that aren’t being used, not heating or cooling empty spaces, and unplugging energy-wasting equipment, can make a huge impact when it’s done regularly and becomes a lifestyle.

Step on the scale. Repeat.

Of course, one of the most important steps in an energy waste-loss program is stepping on the scale. For buildings, that means entering monthly energy data in ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, EPA’s energy and water measurement and tracking tool. By continuing to monitor and track the ups and downs of energy and water use, building owners and managers can find out where they stand…and where they need to go.

Join us for the 2014 competition. Register by May 16!

So who really won this year? The short answer: we all did. When buildings use less energy, the plants that power them emit fewer greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, resulting in a cleaner, healthier environment for all of us.

Want to be a part of the solution? Ask your management to enter your building in the 2014 competition. This year, compete to win EPA recognition for energy and water savings, or join as part of a team competing against other groups to become the next biggest energy or water saver.

Learn more and register at www.energystar.gov/battleofthebuildings

About the Author: Andrea Schnitzer is a National Program Manager with the ENERGY STAR program for Commercial Buildings and Industrial Plants.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here 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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.