Builder's Focus: Saving Money with Energy Efficiency Improvements

2013-08-31T11:55:00Z Builder's Focus: Saving Money with Energy Efficiency ImprovementsMichelle Krueger Times Correspondent
August 31, 2013 11:55 am  • 

When you’re using energy you don’t have to use, you’re wasting money.

According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), in a typical home, air leakage can account to up to 40 percent of the energy used for heating and cooling. That translates to a loss of up to 40 cents on every dollar spent heating or cooling the average home.

Homeowners looking to put that money back in their pockets will find that sealing air leaks can significantly reduce energy bills and also make their home more comfortable.

Many air leaks in homes are obvious, such as around windows, doors and electrical outlets. But others like those in attics, around chimneys, crawlspaces and through recessed lighting fixtures, which are often the more significant sources of energy loss in a home, can be more challenging to detect.

Older doors and windows can also contribute to solar heat gain in the summer, making the switch from standard single pane to dual pane low-e glass a priority.

Going along with air sealing, exhaust ventilation is a particularly important health and safety concern. Proper mechanical ventilation is needed to remove moisture, air pollution or unwanted heat and must be checked for proper sizing and rate of air exchange.

That’s why many builders and remodelers recommend a “whole-house” assessment before homeowners start sealing air leaks for energy efficiency. Some contractors can use special diagnostic tools to help pinpoint your home’s actual leakage and make recommendations for sealing the building envelope and ducts, adding insulation and a fresh air ventilation system if needed.

Other areas to consider for energy savings include lighting, appliances and electrical usage.

On average, the typical household uses 5 to 10 percent of its energy budget for lighting. Old-fashioned incandescent lamps produce 10 percent light and 90 percent heat. CFLs use about 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer while producing 75 percent less heat, so they are safer to operate and can cut energy costs associated with home cooling.

When it comes to appliance, in some cases “early retirement” is recommended. For example, refrigerators more than 10 years old are not energy efficient and should be replaced with something Energy Star qualified.

It’s also important to determine which home electronic products are still using energy when they’re off. Try power strips to help to reduce “phantom” load.

Along with saving money, an overall growing sensitivity to the environment has added to the momentum behind energy efficiency and helped shine the spotlight on other sustainability concerns such as the use of renewable building materials and the use of recycled products in home building and remodeling, water conservation and reuse, indoor air quality and healthy homes, home automation and even renewable energy sources.

Recent history shows that consumers will choose “green” options as long as they are convenient and affordable – especially once they clearly understand the long-term benefits from both a financial and environmental perspective. More and more, we are seeing how simple actions can make a big difference.

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