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Thursday
Jan082009

Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Saving Tips From an Expert

Courtesy of Greenovationtv.com.

WASHINGTON - With winter and the recession going strong, homeowners are looking for ways to cut their energy costs. Pascale Maslin, green executive officer of Energy Efficiency Experts LLC, shares a host of low cost do-it-yourself and professional suggestions to ease the pinch on homeowners wallets during these difficult times.

Ms. Maslin discusses everything from how much can be saved by simply changing a few light bulbs to buying an insulation jacket for your water heater (which is cheaper than you might expect) to which are the most available and environmentally friendly home insulations.

The first and easiest things that can be done to lower costs are to replace incandescent light bulbs with compact florescent ones. Using florescent bulbs that meet U.S. government Energy Star standards require about 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer.

Switching bulbs can save homeowners about $30 or more in electricity costs over each bulb’s lifetime. Florescent bulbs also produce about 75 percent less heat, so they’re safer to operate and can cut energy costs associated with home cooling as well, according to statistics from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Ms. Maslin also suggests that homeowners check their water heaters, especially if they are over 15-years-old. “If it’s an older heater that doesn’t have at least three inches of insulation around it, then you are not only paying to heat the water, but it is being lost to heat the outside and you are heating the room as well,” she said.

Ms. Maslin suggests feeling the outside of the water heater to see if it feels warm, and if it does, to purchase an insulation jacket for it from a hardware store or online. They range in cost from about $12 to $30 depending on the store and location. Homeowner can install the jackets themselves.

Another self-installation that a homeowner can do is to insulate hot water pipes. “For about $4 (prices will vary depending on where you purchase it), I can buy about 12 feet of insulating sleeve. I get the electrical tape and I put the insulating sleeve around the pipes and I just tape it,“ said Ms. Maslin, who added, “This doesn’t have so much of an impact on your heating bill as it does your water bill because it reduces the amount of time it takes to heat the water that goes to your facet or shower. This means that you have to run the water for less time until it runs hot.”

Another area where money can be saved is in phantom loads, which refers to the electrical power consumed by appliances while they are switched off. Estimates vary as to how much household electrical energy is lost this way- expert studies show between six to 10 percent. Ms. Maslin cites EPA statistics of about six percent. In other words, when an appliance is turned off, it is still drawing approximately 60 percent of the energy required for it to function. What can be done is either for the appliance to be unplugged or buying and installing combination switches designed to completely cut off the power to the appliances without having to physically pull the plugs.

Ms. Maslin also suggests getting a programmable thermostat, which can be set to different temperatures depending on the time of day, and whether people are home or not. (Writer’s note: I am always cold at the usually prescribed temperatures, so I won’t detail them, and leave this to the readers’ discretion) The main point is that the house should be at a lower temperature when no one is home to save energy.

Courtesy of Natural Resources Canada

Another do-it-yourself job that homeowners can do to improve their heating and cooling system efficiency is to replace the filters on their gas furnaces. Ms. Maslin explains, “some of those filters are metal and just need to be cleaned, and sometimes they are designed where they have a one inch filter that needs to be replaced every three months or every six months, and it depends on if you have animals or not.

“If you have a furry dog in the house, you should be changing that filter every month. Most homes -twice a year- once in the Spring and once in Fall is sufficient. If you have a filter and it gets clogged up with dust and debris, then the fan has to work harder to push air or draw air through that filter, and so you are consuming more electricity.”

She added saying, “You do it yourself. What I do is when I go to the hardware store, I buy four to five of them, and I just have them sitting next to my furnace. Every three months, I just go in and change it out.”

Ms. Maslin also suggests bleeding the radiators. According to Wisegeek.com, this is done in the following manner:

“First, turn off your central heating system. To bleed a radiator, you’ll need to have a bleed key handy. With this in hand, locate the bleed valve. It is typically positioned at the top of a radiator, near the end. Insert the bleed key into the bleed valve and turn it counterclockwise. Don’t turn it too much; a half a turn is usually enough to successfully bleed a radiator.

“As you turn the radiator key, the valve will open and you will hear a hissing sound. This is completely normal and is simply caused by the air escaping. Once water begins to leak out of the radiator, it is time to close the valve. To do so, turn the bleed key clockwise for half a turn. You can then move on to bleed a radiator in another part of your home, as necessary.

“When you bleed a radiator, keep a small bowl or rag handy to catch the water that drips down. If you have a sealed heating system, be sure to do a pressure check and add water if needed. Once you’ve done so, you are finished and may turn your heating system back on. Store your bleed key until the next time you need to bleed a radiator.”

Courtesy of GreenOptions.com.

On a more professional level, Ms. Maslin also suggests that homeowners have their heating and cooling system companies send maintenance workers every two years to tune-up their systems, which will make them both last longer and operate more efficiently.

Regarding home insulation, Ms. Maslin suggests that, “people can get blue jeans that have been turned into insulation, and cellulose which is recycled newspaper that has been treated with a fire retardant. Those are the two that are the most available and environmentally friendly.”

Many older homes, especially, are very leaky in terms of air that escapes, according to Ms. Maslin, who suggests that an inexpensive solution is “to seal up a house with some cork, some foam and some weather stripping. By doing this, a person can really reduce their heating and cooling bills by 25 percent to 30 percent.”

Ms. Maslin’s company performs home energy audits, in the Metro D.C. area, indicating where energy is being lost and what cost savings measures can be implemented.

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