12/7/2014

Improving Your Home’s Energy Efficiency and Comfort

As we move toward increasing green buildings, there are a number of strategies and solutions to make homes and buildings more economical, energy-efficient, and environmentally friendly.   When evaluating your potential solutions for energy expenses and comfort, consider elements like heating, cooling, ventilation, insulation, and use of electricity.

Heating and Cooling Solutions

For many traditional homes and buildings, heating and cooling are often the largest energy expenditures.

Some heating and cooling solutions include:

  • Duct sealing to ensure that all heating and cooling is distributed efficiently
  • Reducing heating and cooling to only areas of the home or building that are consistently used
  • Regular maintenance, including annual filter cleaning
  • Using a ground-source heat pump to utilize geothermal energy
  • Installing a programmable thermostat that uses pre-programmed regulation settings

Ventilation Systems

Proper ventilation is critical for healthy and economical homes and buildings, especially with today’s increasingly airtight buildings. Inadequate ventilation can lead to a buildup of moisture and indoor pollutants, exposing inhabitants to dangers and irritants like mold, mildew, pollen, and chemicals such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

As an important component in an energy-efficient building, a high-performance heat recovery ventilator ensures fresh, filtered air and a reduction of heating and cooling loads.  Zehnder’s CA350 HRV (for an average home) typically uses the energy consumption of less than a 40 watt light bulb.  It typically costs annually less than $40 to run the HRV continuously and another $44 for replacement filters for a constant supply of fresh-filtered ventilation for the home.

Insulation Strategies

An airtight envelope is critical for those who wish to have more comfortable, energy-efficient, and optimally-performing homes and buildings. Properly insulated homes help keep buildings cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter by maintaining a stable temperature. Insulated homes reduce the amount of warm or cool air that escapes (or leak in) a building, thus reducing the demand for constant regulation. In today’s building landscape, increasing attention is being paid to this element. However, individuals who live and work in older buildings may experience insulation and air sealing issues that can be costly in terms of energy expenses.

Insulation types include, but are not limited to:

  • Cellulose
  • Fiberglass
  • Rigid foam board
  • Spray foam
  • Recycled cotton batts

Energy-Efficient Lighting and Appliances

Reducing energy expenditure from lighting can be as simple as daylighting or opting for natural light instead of artificial light during the day. However, this simple solution may not be as effective for some as it is for others, depending on the layout and construction of homes and buildings. A great start toward efficiency is to install ENERGY STAR lighting fixtures and bulbs. Energy-efficient lighting is available across a broad range of technologies, giving home and building owners freedom to select and customize as they see fit. Lighting controls can also be used to automatically turn lights on or off as needed.

Many believe that electronics and appliances only use power when they’re turned on. While these items certainly use less energy when turned off, you’re still not saving 100 percent of your energy. Electronics and appliances that are turned off still use “vampire power,” or standby power that’s used even when the item itself isn’t in use. The surefire way to avoid spending this extra energy is to unplug the item from the wall socket. Another option is to plug items into power strips that feature switches to cut power to the items plugged into them. These methods will ensure that items do not continue to suck electricity even when they are not in use.