America's Home Energy Experts

American Home Energy Alliance

Winter’s coming. Here are some hot budget tips for the chilly season

Fall is here and since the cold of winter is just around the corner it may be a good idea to do an energy evaluation of your home to save money and fix what may be leaking. Be it the dead of winter or the dog days of summer, it’s always a good idea to make sure your home is air tight.

Wasted energy is money lost. Infiltration is the culprit.

“Infiltration is the leakiness of a home. Around doors, windows, plumbing penetration under the sinks in the kitchen and bathrooms. Those are all places where air can move in and out of your home.

First, make sure your insulation is at least adequate. You never see it, but it’s more important than any piece of furniture you’ll ever own.

“Insulation slows down the heat transfer from one area to another. So if you’re paying for cooling to be inside the home, you don’t want heat moving in from outside.

“Older homes with single pane windows see a noticable loss of heat energy in the winter. Double or triple pane windows that you mostly see in newer builds help retain that heat by slowing down transfer.

Caulking is easy and an investment in saving energy dollars.

“Come to the edge of the window. You don’t want to seal where a window might open. But you want to come where the window meets the frame and seal right along the edge of it with caulk all the way around the inside and the outside. And that will cut down on that leakiness.

You can test for leaks with tissue paper or incense sticks around the seals or edges of your windows and doors.

“You can often close a door, back up, and see light around the door. Especially along the bottom. And those are definate energy wasters, Especially in the winter time, you can really tell you’re trying to keep your house warm any kind of cold air coming in. … Run your hands around the seam and you’ll feel it,” Lee said.

Is your weather stripping old and cracked? Heat energy can quickly escape from there in the cold winter.

Weather stripping on doors is really simple to do. And running a caulk gun is really not that hard, either.”

Next, and you wouldn’t think this, but check your kitchen and bathroom plumbing for one important factor.

“Where the plumbing penetrates through the wall even in new homes. This is something that is often overlooked.

Check those freon levels. Make sure your filters are changed on a regular basis. And keep area around your unit clean and free of obstructions. From insulation to weather stripping….a little maintenance can go a long way in conserving energy and money.

For your free home energy evaluation call American Home Energy Alliance today 513-273-0100

5 Tips For Saving Energy This Fall

Cut down your home’s energy costs this season with a few simple changes.

With temperatures lowering and days getting shorter, energy bills are rising. It can be easy to rack up energy costs in your home without even realizing it. The U.S. Department of Energy looked at the average home’s energy use, resulting in the following breakdown:

  • 42% Space Heating
  • 18% Water Heating
  • 6% Cooling
  • 5% Lighting
  • 5% Refrigeration
  • 24% “Phantom Energy

This evaluation shows that heating is the top energy source used in homes, meaning it is also where most of your money will go to in your utility bills. The typical U.S. family spends more than $2,500 a year for home utility bills, so knowing how to reduce that cost is a priority for homeowners. Knowing how to maintain and control your energy used in your home will help lower costs while also improving the health of your home. Here are five things you can do to save energy while saving your money.

1. Adjust your thermostat

Lowering your home’s thermostat is a quick and easy way to save. When you leave your home or are asleep at night, try turning your thermostat down by 10 degrees and then turning it back up when you get home or in the morning. This can save you around 10% of your heating bill. A comfortable setting for your home’s thermostat can be less than 70 degrees and you can install a programmable thermostat so that your temperature is on a pre-set schedule. The lower the temperature in your home, the slower heat is lost, meaning the more energy you save.

2. Inspect insulation

Check the insulation in your home from your basement, attic, ceilings and floors. Proper insulation will help reduce costs by keeping your home energy efficient. The best way to check your insulation is to hire a professional to examine the type of insulation your home has, what rooms are insulated, and the R-value (thermal resistance) of the insulation. Once your home has been inspected you will be able to assess whether you need to install more insulation or update your current insulation.

Book an Insulation Inspection

3. Seal air leaks

The first step to sealing air leaks in your home is to find the leaks. Most air leaks come from windows or doors that are not sealed properly, but other hidden leaks can come from holes in the attic or basement that you may be unaware of. Adding weatherstripping around doors or caulking the connections between windows and walls can help seal air leaks to reduce heat loss. This will further lower your energy bills by controlling ventilation of outdoor and indoor air, which directly impacts air quality and costs.

4.  Heating system maintenance

Maintaining your home’s heating is crucial to keeping an efficient system. This can involve checking your thermostat connections, to replacing your furnace filter. Making sure that your home’s heating system is updated, tested, and properly functioning will help keep your heating at peak performance. While you can clean and change filters on your own, some other check-ups can be more extensive, like checking gas connections and equipment controls. It can be beneficial to both you and your home to hire a contractor to complete this inspection for you. A professional will have the required knowledge to perform all tests and inspections thoroughly to ensure that your energy is efficient throughout your house.

 

5. Check your fireplace

You can reduce heat loss in your home by cleaning and checking your fireplace. To make sure that heat doesn’t escape through your chimney, keep your fireplace damper closed when the fireplace is not in use. Keeping the heat in and air out can also be done by sealing unused fireplaces or caulking around the fireplace hearth. If you have a fireplace and a heating system in your home, avoid running both at the same time. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, consider switching to a gas, which will reduce air pollution and save you on energy costs.

TIPS: How to conserve energy in your home this summer

AHEA has released some summer energy savings and safety tips as summer kicks into full gear.

Here are the Top 5 Tips for Summer Energy Savings:

  • To adjust the thermostat manually, lower the setting a few degrees at a time rather than all at once. It’s more economical – and comfortable – to raise the thermostat setting rather than turn off the air conditioner.
  • For natural ventilation, turn off your cooling system and open your windows when it’s cooler at night. During the day, keep blinds, shades and drapes closed during the hottest part of the day. Shut your windows during the hottest hours of the day.
  • Planting trees or shrubs that provide shade for your air conditioning unit can increase efficiency by up to 10 percent.
  • Do not place lamps or television sets near your thermostat. The thermostat senses heat from appliances, and that might cause the A/C to run longer than necessary.
  • Safety: Plan ahead during days while you’ll be away. Don’t forget to close your windows during hot summer days, and consider a programmable thermostat to ensure your home is at a safer, cool temperature when you return. This is especially important for households with pets, infants or elderly family members.

Additionally, residents who plan on going away for vacation are advised to do the following to help conserve energy:

  • Turn off your electric water heater
  • Raise the temperature of your refrigerator to 42 to 45 degrees
  • Put security lights on a timer
  • Turn off the air conditioning

Keep Your Cool This Summer With Energy Efficiency

With summer on the way, it’s time to take steps to make sure your home will be comfortable without wasting energy—or overheating your wallet—as the temperature rises.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is working to make sure that the government’s energy efficiency standards developed or updated over the past year for many types of products that help keep you cool, including ceiling fans and portable air conditioners, take effect on schedule. Updating national efficiency standards on a regular basis means that when it’s time to purchase new cooling equipment, you can be assured it meets at least minimum energy-saving performance criteria while saving money and energy.

But in the meantime, here are some tips to keep your cool in the warmer months:

Seal it up

Don’t let that cool air—and your hard-earned dollars—sneak out the window! Windows, doors, and other parts of your home’s envelope are often leaky (see the graphic below for more examples), and many buildings don’t have enough insulation in their walls or attic. Sign up with your utility or a local contractor for a home energy audit, which will give you an idea of exactly where you’re wasting the most energy. Then seal the leaks, install weather-stripping, and add more insulation to make sure you get to enjoy your home in comfort while lowering your energy bills.

If you’re in the market for a new air conditioner, make sure you choose a product with the ENERGY STAR label. ENERGY STAR room air conditioners use around 15 percent less energy than conventional models while central air conditioners use about 8 percent less– which keeps more cold cash in your pocket. And ENERGY STAR ceiling fan/lighting combinations are a whopping 60 percent more efficient than conventional fan/light units thanks to improved motors, blade designs, and lighting. Even better, choose a product recognized as ENERGY STAR Most Efficient, which signifies you are choosing the top energy-saving products on the market that use the least amount of energy.

Speaking of ceiling fans…

DOE

Staying comfortable when it’s hot outside is more about how the air feels on your skin than the actual temperature. A ceiling fan can help a room feel up to 10 degrees cooler and uses just 10 percent of the energy of a central air conditioner, so you save money when you don’t have to set your thermostat as low to keep your cool. Make sure your fan is set in the forward (counterclockwise) direction so that it will pull up the cooler air from the ground and blow it back down onto you, creating a breeze to keep you comfortable. (And bonus: you can switch the direction of a ceiling fan to clockwise in the winter to clockwise, which will circulate warm air in the room.) Just remember to turn the fan off when you leave the room as a fan doesn’t do any good if there’s nobody in the room to enjoy that breeze.

Put your window coverings to work

One of the simplest ways to help beat the heat is to keep your curtains and blinds closed during the day when the sun is at its hottest. If your windows are older or your home gets a lot of sun, the heat gain through the windows can greatly contribute to the indoor temperature. Closing curtains and blinds will help keep the room cooler and your energy bills lower. It’s not rocket science, but it works.

Invest in a programmable thermostat—and use it properly!

Using a programmable thermostat is a great way to make sure your home stays cool while you’re there to enjoy it, but that your air conditioner isn’t working overtime when you’re away. If you have a fairly regular schedule, it’s easy to set your thermostat for your home to be warmer when you’re not there, but have it kick on so that it’s cool and comfortable by the time you walk in the door. And if you use a ceiling fan, you may be able to set your thermostat a few degrees higher without the room feeling warmer, which saves even more. Check out the ENERGY STAR website here for tips on how to properly set your thermostat to make the most of it. A programmable thermostat is beneficial to your winter cooling bills too: when used properly, the right thermostat settings can save you up to about $180 in annual energy costs.

Myth busting, with physics

There’s a common misconception that having your air conditioner run all day to keep your home at a constant temperature will use less energy than setting your air conditioner to a warmer temperature during the day. Let’s put that myth to rest! The cheapest way to use your air conditioner is to turn the thermostat up for when you’re not home.

EPA

Curious about why this is the case? The answer is physics, specifically the second law of thermodynamics. Simply put, it means that heat always flows from a hotter environment to a cooler environment until it reaches a state of equilibrium. This is true for your home, too. The larger the temperature difference between your home and outside, the more heat flow there will be. If your thermostat is set to 65 all day and it’s 85 degrees outside, more warm air wants to flow into your home, which means your air conditioner has to work hard throughout the day to replenish the cool air. But if you set your thermostat higher, say at 81 degrees on that 85-degree day, as your house warms there will be less heat flow from the outside to the inside because your house is closer to that state of equilibrium. It is true that your air conditioner will need to kick on and run for a little longer to cool your home before return. But air conditioning systems operate most efficiently at full speed for a longer period of time, rather than cycling on and off to keep your house cool while you’re away. This also underscores the importance of having a well-sealed and insulated home to keep the cool air in and the warm air out.

 

How to slash your electric bill by killing ‘vampire’ power drains

While Halloween may still be six months away, you likely have some “vampires” lurking around your home today – and they’re taking a bite out of your wallet.

With many of our consumer electronics products plugged into electrical sockets — an average of 40 items per household connected at any one time – they’re constantly “sucking” electricity, even when not in use. In fact, some of these products can still consume as much as 25% of its full power even when switched off.

Along with large appliances, which are the main culprits, other common “electricity vampires” include televisions, cable/satellite boxes, DVD and Blu-ray Disc players, game consoles, printers, phone chargers and desktop computers.

But there are several ways to help fight back against “vampire power” — also referred to as “standby power” or “phantom power” – plus there are other ways technology can help you save money in your home.

Timed power cut-offs 

 Simply unplug the gadgets from the wall when you’re not using them, or when your devices have finished charging up. For example, your smartphone’s battery is probably fully charged after 45 minutes, so there’s no reason to keep it plugged into the wall overnight. Manually unplugging devices is the cheapest way to handle “vampires,” but requires you to stay on top of it.

On a related note, curb idle time on your gadgets, such as having your laptop or game console go into sleep mode after a short period.

Special switches and power strips can also cut off electricity, on demand, or via a timer. Tricklestar, for example, has a line of Conserve-branded switches that completely shuts off power to what’s plugged into it — either with the flip of a switch or after a predetermined amount of time . Conserve power strips can also cut off any residual power to the device after a specific time or with a wireless remote switch. Supporting up to eight devices, these power strips include outlets you want powered all the time — such as a Digital Video Recorder (DVR), so it can still archive your favorite shows – while shutting off other outlets, like a TV, audio-video receiver, game console, and so on.

Ensure you’re purchasing consumer electronics branded with the Energy Star logo as they’ve been tested and verified to be more energy efficient. You should see that familiar sticker on the box and product itself. When in doubt, ask a salesperson or write to the manufacturer on their website. Around since 1992, Energy Star-certified products will be Eco-friendlier than those that did not earn the seal of approval. More info is at energy star.gov, including a list of its 2017 award winners for products with superior energy efficiency.

LED lights

Replacing your incandescent or florescent bulbs with LED lights can greater reduce the amount of power your home consumes, as they sip rather than gulp electricity. A 60-watt equivalent, for example, might only be only 6.5 to 10 watts for comparable lumens with an LED light — not to mention they can last considerably longer, which saves you even more money.

Smart thermostats

Smart thermostats let you easily adjust heating and cooling settings from your smartphone, tablet or smartwatch, and many can automatically optimize settings based on when you’re home and when you’re not. By learning your schedule and detecting the weather, ecobee3 lite, for example, now works with optional wireless sensors for room-by-room comfort. ecobee estimates users save an average of 23 percent annually on heating and cooling costs, calculated by comparing to a hold of 72˚F.

Water sensors
You’re not alone if you’re concerned about water damage and the havoc it can wreak – especially if you knew the national average cost to repair water damage is now $2,175 (HomeAdvisor.com). Have some peace of mind with a simple solution like the D-Link mydlink Wi-Fi Water Sensor. This small white doohickey plugs into an open power outlet — such as one in a basement, under a window or near an old water heater — and immediately notifies you if a leak is detected with a notification sent to your smartphone. There are no monthly monitoring costs as it joins on your existing Wi-Fi connection. Since you don’t need to be physically there, this water sensor is also ideal for summer homes and rental properties