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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Stop Wasting Energy and Start Saving Today!: Energy-efficiency expert Kirsten Shaw shares the big and small steps to take

Apr 30, 2014 10:11AM ● By Kirsten Shaw

The cheapest, most abundant and most reliable source of new energy available is tapping into the energy we waste every day. Most of us pay attention to some of the ways energy gets wasted in our homes. We remind our children to turn off the lights and our husbands to close the doors. We wash our clothes in cold water and turn up the thermostat a degree or two in the summer. How we live in our homes impacts the energy we use, as well as the comfort and health of our homes. But there are features of our homes that can be wasting energy no matter how careful we are. There are several steps to take to make your home energy efficient; some steps are baby steps and then there are a few giant steps that also provide giant returns in comfort, health and energy efficiency.

One of the first baby steps to take is to replace any incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent lights or LED lights. This not only reduces wasted energy for light, but also reduces air conditioning costs. Incandescent lights get very hot. Remember the Easy-Bake oven in which you baked your first cake? It used an incandescent light bulb to heat the “oven.”

You can take lighting to the next level and install occupancy sensors that turn lights on when a room is entered and off when the room has been empty for several minutes. Also, you can use the lighting dimmers when your light switches have that feature.

Next, replace showerheads with high-efficiency ones. If you change a two-gallon per minute showerhead with a one-gallon per minute one, you will save energy two different ways. You save hot water, and you save cold water! When you save any water you are saving energy. It takes a lot of energy to treat and transport the water before it gets to your home.

Keep equipment that uses power clean and in good repair. Vacuum the coils of your refrigerator. The dust build-up keeps the coils from releasing heat removed from the refrigerator. Get your heating and air conditioning system serviced and maintained every year. If the compressor for your AC is on the ground in your yard, keep it free of leaves, toys and tools. It needs free moving air around it to work properly.

A bigger step to take if you have a pool is to replace the single speed pool pump with a variable speed pump. A pool cover will reduce water loss to evaporation, too.

The first giant step in making your home energy efficient, healthy and comfortable is to get a comprehensive home energy assessment, sometimes called an energy audit. A certified and experienced energy auditor uses diagnostic testing to measure how leaky your home is and where the biggest leaks are. Ducts are also tested for leaks, as well as for static pressure. The insulation in your attic is carefully evaluated to determine if it is installed correctly, and if there are sufficient levels. Your water heater and appliances are inspected, and if any are combustion appliances, then combustion safety tests are also performed.

Even a small leak from the attic can be a big energy waster. One of the most common holes from an attic into a home is recessed can lights. Many can lights are vented so that the light housing does not overheat and cause a fire. But the vents allow hot, dusty attic air to infiltrate into the kitchen, family room or bedroom, wherever the light is.

Another serious energy waster is a leaky duct. One sign of leaky ducts is a build-up of dust around a supply register, or inside the return duct where the filter is placed.

In addition to stopping air flow from leaks, stopping heat flow with properly installed insulation is a critical step to energy efficiency. A common insulation problem found during energy audits is fiberglass batt insulation suspended between rafters instead of down on the ceiling. The insulation needs to be in full contact with the drywall ceiling to work properly. Insulation draped over the rafter is as effective as putting your sleeping bag on top of your tent when you want to stay warm camping.

When the testing and inspections are completed, then the certified energy auditor uses the data in energy modeling software to determine what will be the most cost-effective improvements for your home. But a quality energy consultant also looks for ways to improve the indoor air and comfort, not just reduce your monthly utility bill.

The experienced, certified professionals at Advanced Energy Efficiency & Environmental Quality help you stay on track when you are ready to take those giant steps making your home energy efficient.

For more information, contact Kirsten Shaw, CIEC, BPI Certified Multifamily Building Analyst, HERS Rater and LEED for Homes Green Rater, Residential and Commercial General Contractor, at 480-446-7900 or visit AE3Q.com.

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