Energy savings

(Survival manual/5. Energy/Energy savings)

A.  Your Household Energy Inventory

Energy Auditing Tips

  • Check the level of insulation in your exterior and basements walls, ceilings attic, floors, and crawl spaces. Contact your local contractor for advice on how to check your insulation levels.
  • Check for holes or cracks around your walls, ceilings, windows, doors, light and plumbing fixtures, switches, and electrical outlets that can leak air into or out of your home.
  • Check for open fireplace dampers.
  • Make sure your appliances and heating and cooling systems are properly maintained.
  • Study your family’s lighting needs and use patterns, paying special attention to high-use areas such as the living room, kitchen, and exterior lighting. Look for ways to use day lighting, reduce the time the lights are on, and replace incandescent bulbs and fixtures with compact or standard fluorescent lamps.
    [Pie chart at right: Source of air leakage from a typical home.]

 Insulation Tips

  • Consider factors such as your climate, building design, and budget when selecting insulation R-value for your home.
  • Use higher density insulation, such as rigid foam boards, in cathedral ceilings and on exterior walls.
  • Ventilation plays a large role in providing moisture control and reducing summer cooling bills. Attic vents can be installed along the entire ceiling cavity to ensure proper airflow from the soffit to the attic to make a home more comfortable and energy efficient.
  • Recessed light fixtures can be a major source of heat loss, but you need to be careful how close you place insulation next to a fixture unless it is marked “I.C.” – designed for direct insulation. Check for local building codes for recommendations

Weatherization Tips

  • First, test your home for air tightness. On a windy day, hold a lit incense stick next to your windows, doors, electrical boxes, plumbing fixtures, electrical outlets, ceiling fixtures, attic hatches, and other locations where there is a possible air path to the outside. If the smoke stream travels horizontally, you have located an air leak that may need caulking, sealing, or weather stripping.
  • Caulk and weather strip doors and windows that leak.
  • Caulk and seal air leaks where plumbing, ducting, or electrical wiring penetrates through exterior walls, floors, ceilings, and soffits over cabinets.
  • Install rubber gaskets behind outlet and switch plates on exterior walls.
  • Look for dirty spots in your insulation, which often indicate holes where air leaks into and out of your house. You can seal the holes by stapling sheets of plastic over the holes and caulking the edges of the plastic.
  • Install storm windows over single-pane windows or replace them with double-pane windows. Storm windows as much as double the R-value of single-pane windows and they can help reduce drafts, water condensation, and frost formation. As a less costly and less permanent alternative, you can use a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet on a frame or tape clear plastic film to the inside of the window frames during the cold winter months. Remember, the plastic must be sealed tightly to the frame to help reduce infiltration.
  • When the fireplace is not in use, keep the flue damper tightly closed. A chimney is designed specifically for smoke to escape, so until you close it, warm air escapes – 24 hours a day!
  • For new construction, reduce exterior wall leaks by either installing house wrap, taping the joints of exterior sheathing, or comprehensively caulking and sealing the exterior walls.

    Heating and Cooling Tips
  • Set your thermostat as low as is comfortable in the winter and as high as is comfortable in the summer.
  • Clean or replace filters on furnaces once a month or as needed.
  • Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters, and radiators as needed; make sure they’re not blocked by furniture, carpeting, or drapes.
  • Bleed trapped air from hot-water radiators once or twice a season, if in doubt about how to perform this task, call a professional.
  • Place heat-resistant radiator reflectors between exterior walls and the radiators.
  • Use kitchen, bath, and other ventilation fans wisely; in just one hour, these fans can pull out a house full of warmed or cooled air. Turn fans off as soon as they have done the job.
  • During the heating season, keep the draperies and shades on your south-facing windows open during the day to allow the sunlight to enter your home and closed at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows. During the cooling season, keep the window coverings closed during the day to prevent solar gain.
  • Close an unoccupied room that is isolated from the rest of the house, such as in a corner, and turn down the thermostat or turn off the heating for that room or zone. However, do not turn the heating off if it adversely affects the rest of your system. For example, if you heat your house with a heat pump, do not close the vents-closing the vents could harm the heat pump.
  • Select energy-efficient equipment when you buy new heating and cooling equipment. Your contractor should be able to give you energy fact sheets for different types, modes, and designs to help you compare energy usage. Look for high Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) ratings and the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). The national minimums are 78% AFUE and 10 SEER.
  • Look for ENERGY STAR® and EnergyGuide labels. ENERGY STAR® is a program of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designed to help consumers identify energy-efficient appliances and products.

Duct Tips

  • Check your ducts for air leaks. First look for sections that should be joined but have separated and then lock for obvious holes.
  • If you use duct tape to repair and seal your ducts, look for tape with the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) logo to avoid tape that degrades, cracks, and loses its bond with age.
  • Remember that insulating ducts in the basement will make the basement colder. If both the ducts and basement walls are insulated, consider insulating both.
  • If your basement has been converted to a living area install both supply and return registers in the basement rooms.
  • Be sure a well-sealed vapor barrier exists on the outside of the insulation on cooling ducts to prevent buildup.
  • Get a professional to help you insulate and repair all ducts.

Heat Pump Tips

  • Do not set back the heat pump’s thermostat manually if it causes the electric resistance heating to come on. This type of heating, which is often used as a backup to the heat pump, is more expensive.
  • Clean and change filters once a month or as needed, and maintain the system according to manufacturer’s instructions.

 Fireplace Tips

  • If you never use your fireplace, plug and seal the chimney flue.
  • Keep your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is going. Keeping the damper open is like keeping a 48-inch window wide open during the winter; it allows warm air to go right up the chimney.
  • When you use the fireplace, reduce heat loss by opening dampers in the bottom of the firebox (if provided) or open the nearest window slightly-approximately 1 inch-and close doors leading into the room. Lower the thermostat setting to between 50 degrees to 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Install tempered glass doors and heat-air exchange system that blows warm air back into the room.
  • Check the seal on the flue damper and make it as snug as possible.
  • Add caulking around the fireplace hearth.
  • Use grates make of C-shaped metal tubes to draw cool room air into the fireplace and circulate warm air back into the room.

Cooling Tips

  • Whole-house fans help cool your home by pulling cool air through the house and exhausting warm air through the attic. They are effective when operated at night and when the outside air is cooler than the inside.
  • Set your thermostat as high as comfortably possible in the summer. The less difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill will be.
  • Don’t set your thermostat at a colder setting than normal when you turn on your air conditioner. It will not cool your home any faster and could result in excessive cooling and, therefore, unnecessary expense.
  • Consider using an interior fan in conjunction with your window air conditioner to spread the cooled air more effectively through your home without greatly increasing your power use.
  • Don’t place lamps or TV sets near your air-conditioning thermostat. The thermostat senses heat from these appliances, which can cause the air conditioner to run longer than necessary.
  • Plant trees or shrubs to shade air conditioning units but not to block the airflow. A unit operating in the shade uses as much as 10 percent less electricity than the same one operating in the sun.
  • Look for the ENERGY STAR® and EnergyGuide labels.

 Water Heating Tips

  • Repair leaky faucets promptly; a leaky faucet wastes gallons of water in a short period.
  • Insulate your electric hot-water storage tank and pipes, but be careful not to cover the thermostat.
  • Insulate your gas or oil hot-water tank and pipes, but be careful not to cover the water heater’s top, bottom, thermostat, or burner compartment; when in doubt, get professional help.
  • Install non-aerating, low-flow faucets and showerheads.
  • Buy a new energy-efficient water heater. While it may cost more initially than a standard water heater, the energy savings will continue during the lifetime of the appliance.
  • Although most water heaters last 10 to 15 years, it’s best to start shopping for a new one if yours is more than seven years old. Doing some research before your heater fails will enable you to select one that most appropriately meets your needs.
  • Lower the thermostat on your water heater; water heaters sometimes come from the factory with high temperature setting, but a setting of 115 degrees Fahrenheit provides comfortable hot water for most uses.
  • Drain a quart of water from your water tank every three months to remove sediment that impedes heat transfer and lowers the efficiency of your heater. The type of water tank you have determines the steps to take, so follow the manufacturer’s advice.
  • If you heat with electricity and live in a warm and sunny climate, consider installing a solar water heater. The solar units are environmentally friendly and can now be installed on your roof to blend with the architecture of your house.
  • Take more showers than baths. Bathing uses the most hot water in the average household. You use 15 to 25 gallons of hot water for a bath, but less than 10 gallons during a five-minute shower.
  • Look for the FTC EnergyGuide label.

Cold-Climate Window Tips

  • Install exterior or interior storm windows; storm windows can reduce your heat loss through the windows by 25 percent to 50 percent. Storm windows should have weather-stripping at all moveable joints; be made of strong, durable materials; and have interlocking or overlapping joints. Low-E storm windows save even more energy.
  • Repair and weatherize your current storm windows, if necessary.
  • Install tight-fitting, insulating window shades on windows that feel drafty after weatherizing.
  • Close the curtains and shades at night; open them during the day.
  • Keep windows on the south side of your house clean to maximize solar gain.

 Warm-Climate Window Tips

  • Install white window shades, drapes, or blinds to reflect heat away from the house.
  • Close curtains on the south- and west-facing windows during the day
  • Install awnings on south- and west-facing windows.
  • Apply sun-control or other reflective films on the south-facing windows to reduce solar gain.

Indoor Lighting Tips

  • Turn off the lights in any room you’re not using, or consider installing timers, photo cells, or occupancy sensors to reduce the amount of time your lights are on.
  • Use task lighting; instead of brightly lighting an entire room, focus the light where you need it. For example, use fluorescent under cabinet lighting for kitchen sinks and countertops under cabinets.
  • Consider three-way lamps; they make it easier to keep lighting levels low when brighter light is not necessary.
  • Use four-foot fluorescent fixtures with reflective backing and electronic ballasts for your workroom, garage, and laundry areas.
  • Consider using four-watt mini-fluorescent or electro-luminescent nightlights. Both lights are much more efficient than their incandescent counterparts. The luminescent lights are cool to the touch.
  • Use compact fluorescent bulbs in all the portable table and floor lamps in your home. Consider carefully the size and fit of these systems when you select them. Some home fixtures may not accommodate some of the larger CFLs.
  • When shopping for new light fixtures, consider buying dedicated compact fluorescent fixtures with built-in ballasts that use pin-based replacement bulbs.
  • For spot lighting, consider CFLs with reflectors. The lamps range in wattage from 13-watt to 32-watt and provide a very directed light using a reflector and lens system.
  • Take advantage of daylight by using light-colored, loose-weave curtains on your windows to allow daylight to penetrate the room while preserving privacy. Also, decorate with lighter colors that reflect daylight.
  • If you have lamp fixtures with halogen lights, consider replacing them with compact fluorescent lamps. Compact fluorescent lamps use 60 percent to 80 percent less energy, can produce more light (lumens), and do not get as hot as the halogen lights.

Outdoor Lighting Tips

  • Use outdoor lights with a photocell unit or a timer so they will turn off during the day.
  • Turn off decorative outdoor gas lamps; just eight gas lamps burning year-round use as much natural gas as it takes to heat an average-size home during an entire winter.
  • Exterior lighting is one of the best places to use CFLs because of their long life. If you live in a cold climate, be sure to buy a lamp with a cold-weather ballast.

Dishwasher Tips

  • Check the manual that came with your dishwasher for the manufacturer’s recommendations on water temperature; many have internal heating elements that allow you to set the water heater in your home to a lower temperature (115 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Scrape, don’t rinse, off large food pieces and bones. Soaking or prewashing is generally only recommended in cases of burned-on or dried-on food.
  • Be sure your dishwasher is full, but not overloaded.
  • Don’t use the “rinse hold” on your machine for just a few soiled dishes. It uses three to seven gallons of hot water each time you use it.
  • Let your dishes air dry; if you don’t have an automatic air-dry switch, turn off the control knob after the final rinse and prop the door open a little so the dishes will dry faster.
  • When shopping for a new dishwasher, look for the ENERGY STAR® LABEL. ENERGY STAR® dishwashers use less water and energy and must exceed minimum federal standards by at least 13 percent.

Refrigerator/Freezer Energy Tips

  • Look for a refrigerator with automatic moisture control. Models with this feature have been engineered to prevent moisture accumulation on the cabinet exterior without the addition of a heater. This is not the same thing as an “anti-sweat’ heater. Models with an “anti-sweat” heater will consume 5 percent to 10 percent more energy that models without this feature.
  • Don’t keep your refrigerator or freezer too cold. Recommended temperatures are 37 degrees to 40 degrees Fahrenheit for the fresh food compartment of the refrigerator and 5 degrees Fahrenheit for the freezer section. If you have a separate freezer for long-term storage, it should be kept at 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • To check refrigerator temperature, place an appliance thermometer in a glass of water in the center of the refrigerator. Read it after 24 hours. To check the freezer temperature, place a thermometer between frozen packages. Read it after 24 hours.
  • Regularly defrost manual-defrost refrigerators and freezers; frost buildup decreases the energy efficiency of the unit. Don’t allow frost to build up more than one-quarter of an inch.
  • Make sure your refrigerator door seals are airtight. Test them by closing the door over a piece of paper or a dollar bill so it is half in and half out of the refrigerator. If you can pull the paper or bill out easily, the latch may need adjustment or the seal may need replacing.
  • Cover liquids and wrap foods stored in the refrigerator. Uncovered foods release moisture and make the compressor work harder.
  • Move your refrigerator out from the wall and vacuum its condenser coils once a year unless you have a no-clean condenser model. Your refrigerator will run for shorter periods with clean coils.

Laundry Tips

  • Wash your clothes in cold water using cold-water detergents whenever possible.
  • Wash and dry full loads. If you are washing a small load, use the appropriate water-level setting.
  • Dry towels and heavier cottons in a separate load from lighter-weight clothes.
  • Don’t over-dry your clothes. If you machine has a moisture sensor, use it.
  • Clean the lint filter in the dryer after every load to improve air circulation.
  • Use the cool-down cycle to allow the clothes to finish drying with the residual heat in the dryer.
  • Periodically inspect your dryer vent to ensure it is not blocked. This will save energy and may prevent a fire. Manufacturers recommend using rigid venting material, not plastic vents that may collapse and cause blockages.
  • Look for the ENERGY STAR® and EnergyGuide labels.
Strategy One-time, Up front cost Savings per year
(1) Using ceiling fans instead of the air conditioner ~$100, if you don’t already have ceiling fans $625
(2) Use a clothesline or a laundry rack instead of a dryer ~$20 $150
(3) Washing laundry in cold water instead of hot none $119
(4) Washing laundry in warm water instead of hot none $60
(5) Replacing regular light bulbs with compact fluorescents $40 $95
(6) Replace 1990 fridge with 2004 model $460+ $45
(7) Replacing a CRT computer monitor in a home office with an LCD display $300+ $21
Total $61
amortized over 15 yrs.

  General Appliance wattages, 2008

Lighting – Emergency= 500 Watts
Lighting – Basic= 1200 Watts
Lighting – Full= 4000 Watts
Furnace – Gas= 750 Watts
Electric Heat= 5000 Watts
Heat Pump= 5000 Watts
Electric Water Heater= 5000 Watts
Security System= 20 Watts
Portable Radio= 15 Watts
Cordless Telephone= 15 Watts
Refrigerator – 20 Cu Ft= 800 Watts
Freezer – 20 Cu Ft= 550 Watts
Sump Pump= 900 Watts
Well Pump ½ HP= 1000 Watts
Well Pump 1HP= 2000 Watts
Garage Door Opener ½ HP= 400 Watts
Microwave Oven 800W= 1200 Watts
Microwave Oven 1000W= 1500 Watts
Coffee Maker= 900 Watts
Dishwasher= 1400 Watts
Toaster= 900 Watts
Computer= 250 Watts
Electric Range-1Burner= 1400 Watts
Electric Range Oven= 7500 Watts
TV – 13″ Color= 70 Watts
TV – 32″ Color= 170 Watts
VCR= 60 Watts
Stereo System= 140 Watts
Clothes Iron= 1100 Watts
Electric Clothes Dryer= 6000 Watts
Gas Clothes Dryer= 720 Watts
Washing Machine= 1000 Watts
Hair Dryer= 1600 Watts
Air Conditioning 1 Ton= 2000 Watts
Air Conditioning 2 Ton= 3000 Watts
Air Conditioning 3 Ton= 4500 Watts
Window A/C= 2000 Watts
Ceiling Fan= 100 Watts
Vacuum Cleaner= 780 Watts
Central Vacuum= 1750 Watts
C.  Electric Cost and kWh Calculations
The cost of electricity varies depending on what part of the country you’re in, and then, it depends on how much you use and when you use it.
There are also fixed charges that you pay every month no matter how much electricity you use. For example, I pay $6/mo. for the privilege of being a customer of the electric company, no matter how much energy I use.

Check your utility bill for the rates in your area. If it’s not on your bill, call your utility company and ask them to send you a rate sheet. (Or look it up on their website if they have one.)

The electric company measures how much electricity you use in kilowatt-hours. We’ll explain what those are in a minute. The abbreviation for kilowatt-hour is kWh. Note that on your bill there can be multiple charges per kWh (e.g., one for the “base rate”, another for “fuel”) and you have to add them all up to get the total cost per kWh.

Most utility companies charge a higher rate when you use more than a certain amount of energy, and they also charge more during summer months when electric use is higher. As an example, here are the residential electric rates for Austin, Texas (as of 11-03): These figures include a fuel charge of 2.265¢ per kWh.

First 500 kilowatts 5.8¢ per kilowatt hour (kWh)
Additional kilowatts (May-Oct.) 10¢ per kilowatt hour
Additional kilowatts (Nov.-Apr.) 8.3¢ per kilowatt hour

What the heck is a kilowatt hour?
Before we see how much electricity costs, we have to understand how it’s measured.

Electricity used at any moment is measured in watts. For example:

  • A 100-watt light bulb uses 100 watts.
  • A typical desktop computer uses 65 watts.
  • A central air conditioner uses 3500 watts.

To know how much energy you’re using you have to consider how long you run your appliances. When you use 1000 watts for an hour, that’s a kilowatt-hour.
For example:

  • Ten 100-watt light bulbs on for an hour, is 1 kWh [ 10 x 100=1000]
  • Ten 100-watt light bulbs on for 1/2 an hour, is 0.5 kWh
  • Ten 50-watt light bulbs on for an hour, is 0.5 kWh [10 x 50 =500 watt hours= 500/1000=0.5 kWh] Remember the electric company measures in killowatt hours.
  • One 60-watt light bulb on for an hour, is 0.06 kWh (60/1000)
  • Running a 3500-watt air conditioner for an hour is 3.5 kWh.

The average U.S. household used 10,215 kWh a year in 1997, according to the Department of Energy. The average cost of electricity was 8.3¢/kWh in the U.S. in 1998.

For smaller items we use watt-hours instead of kilowatt-hours. For example, we say a 60-watt light bulb uses 60 watt-hours of electricity, not 0.060 kWh.

 Note that the “-hours” part is important. Without it we’d have no idea what period of time we were talking about.
If you ever see a reference without the amount of time specified, it’s almost certainly per hour.

If your device lists amps instead of watts, then just multiply the amps times the voltage to get the watts.
For example:

2.5 amps   x   120 volts   =   300 watts


D.  Cooking Costs
Most people can’t save much energy by changing their cooking methods, compared to other ways you can save energy.

You’ll save a lot more energy by setting your air conditioner to a higher temperature, or switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs, or washing clothes in cold water instead of hot. But since everyone wants to know what the cheapest ways to cook are, and for those people who do a lot of cooking and happen to be using the least efficient methods, here’s what you want to know.

Summary of the cheapest ways to cook

Baking (oven)

Heating (stovetop)

•  Microwaves and   crock pots are the cheapest.
•  Gas ovens with pilot lights are almost as good, but ovens with electric igniters are   expensive.
•  Electric ovens   are the most expensive, whether convection or not.
 •  Gas is the cheapest, even though it’s inefficient, because the cost of gas is so low.
•   Electric  burners are the next best option. Microwave ovens are almost as good.
•  Heating water in a microwave is cheaper if you heat only a cup in the microwave, vs. a   whole kettle on the stove.

How much do various baking methods cost? (oven-style cooking)

(degrees F)


Energy Used


Electric oven 350 1 hr. 2.0 kWh $0.20
Electric oven, convection 325 45 min. 1.39 kWh $0.14
Gas oven, electric ignition 350 1 hr. 0.112 therm
+0.35 kWh
Toaster oven 425 50 min. 0.95 kWh $0.10
Gas oven, pilot 350 1 hr. 0.112 therm $0.08
Crockpot 200 7   hours 0.70 kWh $0.07
Microwave oven High 15   minutes 0.36 kWh $0.04

E.  Window Quilts
Your windows are usually responsible for the greatest amount of heat loss in your home-even if you have storm windows or the newer dual pane thermal windows. As a result the window covering you choose has a tremendous impact on energy consumption.

Warm Windows
If you are handy with a sewing machine, I’m told these aren’t too hard to make – and you can save some money compared to the Window Quilts above. I have seen some very nice looking examples and the home owners report liking them. The basic design uses hidden magnets in the curtain and a magnetic strip on the window trim to seal the window. For more information on these, please visit the company web site.

These shades effectively increase the R-value of your window from about R-1.5 to about R-5. But the R-value only tells a small part of the story because the radiant barrier inside the shade actually makes you feel more comfortable because radiant heat is sensible heat – we feel it. (Think about sitting at the table with bright sun pouring in on a hot day.) Another benefit from these shades is that they actually create an airtight seal around the window.

Window Quilt consists of a layered combination of quilting fabric, reflective mylar, and a quilting material which is mounted in a sealed track system on a roller with pull cord. For skylight applications, a balanced, spring-loaded roller allows easy adjustment. The weighted bar on the base of the shade ensures an airtight seal on the window sill while the sides are sealed by plastic tracks.

— end post —

1 Comment

Filed under Survival Manual, __5. Energy

One response to “Energy savings

  1. Ted Haynie

    Mr. Larry,
    Thank you. I had a ton of leaks… easy to fix.

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