07.0 Your Home

  1. Average US electrical usage is 11,000 kwh per household, per year, or about 900 kwh per household per month. A 90% reduction would mean using 1,100 per household, per year or 90 kwh per household, per month.[1]
  2. Switch your home’s electrical power source to wind and/or solar or hydro power.  ConEd and other utilities obtain power from traditional and green sources and you can choose green, which adds approximately $10/month to your electric bill.  Help push the utilities to produce more renewable energy.  Go to Power Your Way(high impact)
  3. Sub-size it.  Houses between 1,500 and 2,000 s.f. consume 40% less energy than a 4,000+ s.f. McMansion.  (high impact)
  4. If you’re moving, choose a home near public transportation, and use it.  (high impact)
  5. If you’re moving, consider a row house or an apartment building instead of a detached home. Promote the construction of energy-efficient apartment buildings over single-family homes.  (high impact)
  6. Consider living in a cohousing community – an intentional community that not only increases social interaction but through it, typically encourages a wide range of sustainable living practices.  Find one in your area or start a new one.
  7. Consider renovating an old home rather than building new.
  8. Rehabilitate, renovate, reuse and preserve.[2] Get resources at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
  9. Whether renovating or building new,  single family or multi-family, consider Passive House construction standards to truly achieve 90% energy reduction and optimal light and air quality too.   Visit the Passive House Institute US or where it originated, the Passivhaus Institut(high impact)
  10. Conduct a Home Energy Audit –  do-it-yourself via the U.S. Department of Energy Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory’s Home Energy Saver.   Or hire a certified home energy audit professional through the Residential Energy Resources Network(high impact)
  11. Monitor your home electrical use.   Real time access to your household’s energy information will allow you to smartly reduce your electric bill.    Use The Energy Detective (TED) to give you a fascinatingly detailed picture of how you use electricity in real time.  Available through Energy Circle and TerraPass among others.   (In the future Google will also be offering Power Meter across the U.S.) (high impact)

7a. Re-Insulate:

  1. If your home is more than 10 years old, it is probably under-insulated.[3]
  2. Install as much insulation as possible – install as many of the itmes listed below as possible.  (high impact)
  3. Weather stripping and caulking –  Probably the least expensive, simplest, most effective way to insulate and cut down on energy waste in the winter. Improperly sealed homes can waste 10 to 15% of the homeowner’s heating dollars.  Check around doors and windows for leaks and drafts. Add weather stripping and caulk any holes you see that allow heat to escape. Make sure doors seal properly.
  4. If your windows leak really badly, consider replacing them with newer, more efficient ones. Keep in mind, however, that replacing windows can be expensive.
  5. Every duct, wire or pipe that penetrates the wall or ceiling or floor has the potential to waste energy. Plumbing vents can be especially bad, since they begin below the floor and go all the way through the roof. Seal them all with caulking or weather-stripping.
  6. Electric wall plugs and switches can allow cold air in. Purchase simple-to-install, pre-cut foam gaskets that fit behind the switch plate and effectively prevent leaks.
  7. Roofs –  Install a green roof – plantings provide building insulation in summer, and site water management.   See Green Roofs for Healthy Cities.
  8. Windows & Doors – Close the blinds on hot summer days, open them on cool winter days.
  9. Install window quilts.
  10. Use storm doors and windows in cool environments.
  11. Install high-performance windows when it’s time to replace them.
  12. Heating and Cooling Systems – Examine your house’s heating ducts for leaks. Mostly out of sight, ducts can leak for years without you knowing it. You can save roughly 10% of your heating bill by sealing them.
  13. Insulate hot water pipes.
  14. Fireplace -Avoid using the fireplace when the heating system is on.
  15. Install fireplace inserts (doors and circulation blowers) so less warm air goes up the chimney when the fireplace is going.
  16. Don’t forget to close the damper on your fireplace when not in use.

7b. Heating:

  1. US average natural gas usage is 1000 therms per household, per year. A 90% reduction would mean a reduction to 100 therms per household, per year.[4]
  2. Heating Oil (this is used by only about 8% of all US households, mostly in the Northeast). Average US usage is 750 Gallons per household, per year. A 90% cut would mean using 75 gallons per household, per year.[5]
  3. Wood. This is a tough one. The conventional line is that wood is carbon neutral, but, of course, wood that is harvested would have otherwise been absorbing carbon and providing forest. There are good reasons to be skeptical about this. Therefore wood is divided into two categories.[6] Locally and sustainably harvested, and either using deadwood, trees that had to come down anyway, coppiced or harvested by someone who replaces every lost tree. This is deemed carbon neutral, and you can use an unlimited supply. This would include street trees your town is taking down anyway, wood you cut on your property and replant, coppiced wood (that is, you cut down some part of the tree but leave it to grow), and standing and fallen deadwood. You can use as much of this as you like.  Wood not sustainably harvested, or transported long distances, or you don’t know. 1 cord of this is equal to 15 gallons of oil or 20 therms of natural gas.
  4. Have your heating system cleaned and inspected regularly by a qualified contractor.
  5. Set your thermostat to 68 degrees during the day and 60 degrees at night and when no one is home. Each degree over 68 can increase by 3 percent the amount of energy you use for heating.
  6. Put on a sweater. There are numerous ways to improve home heating efficiency, but none so simple as dressing warmly and dialing back the thermostat.
  7. Install a programmable thermostat and set it to turn down the heat at night and when no one is home. Lowering the thermostat 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours a day can save you about 10 percent a year on heating costs.  (high impact)
  8. Keep drapes or furniture away from radiators and baseboard heaters so heat can flow freely.
  9. Remove window air conditioners when the weather gets cool. If you can’t, enclose them with a cover.
  10. Open blinds and shades, particularly on the south and west sides of your home before you leave in the morning to make use of the sun’s heating potential.
  11. Use an efficient humidifier to maintain comfortable humidity levels and help you conserve heat. Proper humidity helps you feel comfortable without turning up the heat.
  12. Use ceiling fans to circulate warm air in winter, especially in rooms with high ceilings.
  13. Close doors and warm-air vents in unused rooms, but in extreme cold, be aware of water pipes that could freeze and burst.
  14. If you have a hot-water heating system, release any trapped air from radiators.
  15. Radiators can lose heat into exterior walls. Reduce this loss by placing reflectors between the wall and the radiator.
  16. Clean or replace filters for your hot-air furnace and heat pump every month during the heating season or use filters made to run six to 12 months before needing replacement.
  17. Insulate any hot-water pipes that pass through unheated spaces. For steam pipes, use nonfoam insulation, as foam can melt.
  18. When buying a new furnace or boiler, look for the ENERGY STAR label.
  19. When you’re away turn the thermostat down to 50 degrees.

7c. Air Conditioning:

  1. Dress cool: don’t turn on the air conditioning. (Sweating it out could be good training for a hotter planet.)
  2. Switching to high-efficiency air conditioners and reducing your air-conditioning use can cut your cooling costs by 20 to 50 percent.
  3. Install properly sized high efficiency AC units. A larger-than-needed air conditioner cycles on and off more frequently, reducing its efficiency.
  4. Inspect and clean your air conditioner or cooling system regularly. A well-maintained unit uses less electricity.
  5. If you have central air conditioning, keep the condenser unit’s coils and fins clean. Remove grass, leaves, and other debris that may collect.
  6. Set your air conditioner to no cooler than 78 degrees. Lower than 78 degrees can increase your costs by up to 40 percent.
  7. Install ceiling fans or whole house fans to help reduce your need to use the air conditioner. A fan will make a room feel 4 to 6 degrees cooler, making it possible to raise the thermostat from 78 degrees to 82 degrees or higher. For every degree you raise the air conditioning thermostat, you can save 7 to 10 percent on cooling costs.
  8. Alternate the use of air conditioning and fans. When you’re comfortable, shut down your air conditioner and turn on the fan. This approach can cut air conditioner use by up to 40 percent.
  9. Don’t air-condition an empty room.
  10. Whenever the outdoor temperature is below 72 degrees open windows for cooling in lieu of A/C.
  11. Turn your air conditioner off when you leave home.
  12. Install a programmable thermostat or use a timer to turn on your air conditioner a half hour before you return home rather than having it run all day.
  13. If you have central air-conditioning, consider Con Edison’s offer of a free programmable thermostat. Visit ConEdison and find out more.
  14. Clean or replace air-conditioner filters at least once a month during the cooling season.
  15. Shade windows that face south, east, and west. Keep windows, drapes, and shades closed during the day. About 40 percent of unwanted heat comes in through windows.
  16. Install your air conditioner in a shady area, if possible.
  17. When it’s time to cook in the summer months, grill outside and keep your oven off.
  18. In the summer months, run your washing machine, dryer, and dishwasher early in the day or at night when it’s generally cooler.

7d. Water Consumption & Heating:

  1. The Average American uses 100 Gallons of water per person, per day. A 90% reduction would mean 10 gallons per person, per day.[7]
  2. Visit the Alliance for Water Efficiency.
  3. Next to heating or cooling, water heating is typically the largest energy user in the home. To conserve energy, conserve hot water.
  4. Plan on buying an energy efficient water heater before your old one fails. If your gas water heater is more than 10 years old, it may be operating at less than 50 percent efficiency.
  5. Set your water heater no higher than 120 degrees.
  6. If appropriate, consider a demand water heater that has no storage tank. It can reduce your energy use by 10 to 15 percent.
  7. Wrap your hot-water storage tank with an insulation blanket. If it’s a newer model check to confirm it doesn’t void the warrantee and is fully compatible.
  8. Fix leaky faucets.
  9. Don’t leave the water running while washing dishes.
  10. Take showers rather than baths. Showers generally use half as much hot water as baths. And install a low-flow showerhead. And take shorter showers. And shut off the shower while soaping, scrubbing, or shaving.
  11. Shut off the faucet while brushing your teeth.
  12. Install a low-flow toilet.
  13. Install a rain barrel to reduce storm runoff and to water your garden. http://www.rainbarrelguide.com

7e. Lighting:

  1. Use ENERGY STAR-qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). They use less than 25 percent of the electricity standard bulbs use and last 10 times longer. Look for color temp 2700K to provide similar light quality to incandescent. Recycle used CFL bulbs.
  2. Consider light emitting diode (LED) lights for most possible savings. Available for under-cabinet kitchen lighting and a growing number of applications.
  3. For CFLs the best light bulb selector I’ve found is at the Environmental Defense Fund’s Find an Energy-Saving Light Bulb.   It is an easy to use, common sense and comprehensive guide to the myriad of options, including dimmable, 3-way and  outdoor light bulbs.   We hope they will be adding LEDs soon.
  4. Turn off lights when not in a room. If family members won’t turn off the lights, install motion sensors.
  5. During the day, let daylight do the work and turn off lights near windows.
  6. Install light tubes to increase natural lighting.
  7. Instead of brightly lighting an entire room, focus the light where you need it.
  8. Keep bulbs and fixtures clean.
  9. Replace light switches with dimmers or motion sensors.
  10. Use bright lights only where you read or work.
  11. When you go away, use timers to turn your lights on and off.
  12. Turn off outdoor lights. Choose lights with dawn/dusk sensors. If you can, get lights powered by solar panels and batteries so that you don’t have to install any electrical wires.

7f. Electronics:

  1. Don’t watch television, or watch as little as possible. Our flat screens are beautiful power-sucking monsters.
  2. If buying a new TV, get an LCD.[8]
  3. Turn off stereos and TVs with a power strip to avoid continuous power drain. In the average home, nearly 75% of all electricity used to power electronics is consumed by products that are switched off but still plugged in.
  4. Unplug chargers (think cell phones and iPods) when not in use.[9]
  5. Use a laptop instead of a desktop computer.[10]
  6. Ensure your computer’s power settings are enabled: set your computer to automatically hibernate and set your monitor to automatically sleep.
  7. Turn off your monitor when you leave your computer for more than 20 minutes. Screen savers use electricity.
  8. Recycle your rechargeable batteries and old cell phones.  Go to Call 2 Recycle.

7g. Appliances:

  1. Appliance over 15 years old should typically be retired.[11]
  2. Choose ENERGY STAR-qualified appliances.[12]
  3. Use the energy-saving setting for all appliances, particularly your refrigerator, air conditioner, washing machine, dryer, and dishwasher.
  4. Clean and maintain appliances so they work efficiently.

7h. Refrigerator:

  1. If your refrigerator is old, think about replacing it. Some older models may account for up to 50 percent of your monthly electricity bill.
  2. Make sure your refrigerator is the right size for your needs.[13]
  3. Don’t keep that old, inefficient refrigerator running in the basement for occasional use.
  4. Resist the temptation to overfill the refrigerator. Loosely stored food in the refrigerator allows air to circulate around it.
  5. In the freezer, pack items tightly. If there’s extra space, add bags of ice.
  6. Set your refrigerator to 40 degrees, and freezer to 0 degrees.
  7. Open the refrigerator and freezer doors only when necessary.
  8. Check your refrigerator door’s seal.
  9. Install your refrigerator away from the stove, radiator, heating duct, or direct sunlight, if possible.
  10. Allow hot foods to cool before putting them in the refrigerator.
  11. Cover liquids in the refrigerator. Uncovered liquids make the refrigerator work harder.

7i. Cooking:

  1. Use a microwave rather than an electric or gas oven as much as possible.[14]
  2. For certain recipes that require long cooking times, use a Crock-Pot.
  3. Use copper-bottom pots and pans. They heat up faster than regular pans.
  4. When baking, preheat your oven no more than five to eight minutes.
  5. When broiling or roasting, don’t preheat your oven.
  6. Don’t open the oven door more than necessary. Every time you open the door, the oven loses 25 to 50 degrees.
  7. Cook as much of your meal as possible at one time in the oven.
  8. You can turn the oven temperature down 25 degrees when using glass or ceramic pans. The cooking time will remain the same.
  9. Use the self-cleaning oven feature right after you’ve used the oven to cook a meal – while it’s still hot. (But try not to use this feature too often.)
  10. An electric kettle generates about half as much greenhouse gas as using a microwave oven or a cook top. Be careful not to boil more water than you need.

7j. Dishwasher:

  1. Run your dishwasher only when it’s full.
  2. Don’t run the dishwasher’s dry cycle. Let your dishes air dry, or put a towel to them.
  3. Turn down the water temperature on the dishwasher to 120° F
  4. Use the energy-efficient setting if available.
  5. Pack your dishwasher efficiently.
  6. Scrape dishes before placing them in the dishwasher. Don’t rinse.[15]
  7. Use the “soak” or “prewash” dishwasher setting only for burned-on or dried-on food.

7k. Laundry:

  1. Use your clothes washer only when it is full.
  2. Wash and rinse your clothes in cold water.
  3. Straighten and clean the air ducts on your dryer.
  4. Clean the lint filter in the clothes dryer before each load.
  5. Don’t overdry your clothes. [16]
  6. Better still, use a clothes line to dry.
  7. More esoteric is a drying closet.  Washed, wet clothing is hung in a closet acting also as the return air plenum to your home’s ventilation system, and passively dried in the process.

7l. Yard:

  1. Plant deciduous trees that shade your home during the summer. Or just plant a tree. And plant a sidewalk tree too.  Check out Trees New York and  Million Trees NYC.
  2. Utilize Xeriscaping.[17]
  3. Use natural pesticides.
  4. Use a rake, not a leaf blower.
  5. Create a more porous exterior walkway, driveway or yard to reduce storm-water runoff.
  6. Consider drip irrigation.
  7. Take your yard global. Adopt some rain forest. Visit The Nature Conservancy’s Adopt an Acre.

7m. Home Renovation:

  1. If a renovation is in the cards, consider:
  2. Integrating natural cooling techniques such as operable skylights to vent hot air.
  3. On-site renewable energy sources:
  4. Geothermal Heating and Cooling – see NY State programs.
  5. Solar Photovoltaic (PV) panels – see more NY State incentives.
  6. Solar Thermal Water Heating – see U.S. DOE info on the subject.
  7. Wind Turbine Electric – see NY State programs.
  8. Reuse construction material and equipment.  See Planet Reuse.
  9. For new millwork and cabinetry use wood substrate that is urea- and formaldehyde-free.
  10. Flooring – consider certified woods, natural linoleum, cork or bamboo.
  11. Maintain and re-use existing walls and building components where possible
  12. Use low – VOC (volatile organic compounds) sealants, adhesives, paints, coatings and carpets.
  13. Use green insulation materials: blown-in cellulose and recycled denim.
  14. During construction, work with the contractor to divert as much waste as possible from the landfill – many materials can be recycled or sold.

[1] Riot 4 Austerity

[2] Renovating, rather than building a new home captures the “embodied energy” of the existing structure. Restoration produces less waste and uses less energy.

[3] Heat loss due to inadequate insulation can account for 30% of home heating and cooling costs. Most heat escapes through the roof as heat in the home rises, so a properly insulated attic is a priority for an energy efficient home.

[4] Riot 4 Austerity

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] http://www.riot4austerity.org

[8] LCDs consume 30 to 40 percent less power than a plasma of similar size. (And do you really need a 40″ screen?)

[9] Only 5% of the power drawn by a cell phone charger is used to charge the phone. The other 95% is wasted when it is left plugged into the wall.

[10] A typical laptop, while plugged in, uses 50 watts of energy compared to the typical desktop system that uses about 270 watts (including the CPU and monitor), making a laptop 80% more efficient.

[11] The good news is that about 80 percent of a refrigerator or a clothes washer is recyclable.

[12] Energy Star appliances use 10 to 50 percent less electricity than standard models. Look for the yellow EnergyGuide label to help you compare the efficiency of different major appliances.  Visit Energy Star.

[13] Bigger isn’t better. Refrigerators with the freezer on either the bottom or top are much more efficient than those with side-by-side doors-even more so when through-the-door icemakers and water dispensers are included. These features will increase your refrigerator’s energy use by 14% to 20%. Bottom freezer models are the most efficient, using approximately 16% less energy than side-by-side models and 3% less than top freezer models.

[14] Microwaves use less than half the power of traditional ovens. And up to 90% of the energy used by traditional ovens is wasted.

[15] Rinsing dishes under running hot water before putting in dishwasher can use more hot water than the dishwasher itself.

[16] Except for towels, no more than 10-15 minutes drying is typically required.

[17] Xeriscaping is a comprehensive approach to landscaping for water conservation. Principles include: planning and selecting plants for your regional and microclimate. Limiting turf. Efficient irrigation and use of mulches.

6 Responses to “07.0 Your Home”

  1. Shannon Says:

    Cooking: pressure cook foods! New pressure cookers have multiply redundant safety features and cook in a third or quarter the time!

  2. Hostert1644@gmail.com Says:

    Hello. Very first I wish to say that I actually like your weblog, just observed it the past week but I’ve been following it ever since then.

    I seem to be to agree with most of the ideas and beliefs and this post is no exception. I fully

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  3. Heat Exchanging Says:

    Installing a heat recovery ventilator will replace the moist air with fresh air from outside that is dry. This happens using a fan to create a constant slow incoming flow of outdoor air while concurrently having an outward flow of indoor air that has become stale. In essence, fresh air is in constant supply as the allergens and other pollutants are regularly being escorted out.

  4. The home remodeling Says:

    This post is full of information and the links to the government site or energy sites are just wonderful. Thanks for putting up this post. My buddy decided that he will do his own energy audit. It is amazing that how much information is really out there and even someone like my buddy Mike who is not involved with home renovation or construction was able to do his own audit.

  5. kenlevenson Says:

    Thanks Earl – I’ll take a look. And thanks for all you comments!

  6. Earl Killian Says:

    I don’t think PV belongs under renovation. It is an alternative to the first item.

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