How Your Energy Company Can Help you Save

Another month has come and gone and that means another electric bill is due. A good majority of us are guilty of just scrolling our eyes down to the bottom of the statement, only looking at the total amount due. We write out the check and then go on to open another bill. But how many times have you actually analyzed your electric bill and assessed your energy use for the month? Do you know which rooms of your home use the most energy or the time of day your energy consumption is at its peak? To help you answer those questions, most electric companies offer an in-home energy audit to help you save energy.

 

 

Energy Audit

 

Energy AuditHome energy audits can be performed by your electric company or by a professional energy auditor. During your home checkup, the auditor will inspect your attic’s insulation, furnace and duct work, as well as look for any leaks. A blower door test and infrared camera might also be used to establish any areas where the home has an unintentional air passageway. After the audit, the auditor will be able to determine where your house could be more efficient and what can be corrected to help you save energy and money.

 

 

Energy Plan

 

Energy PlanAfter the energy audit, you will be more aware of where the majority of your energy consumption is going and how to make any necessary changes to be more efficient. These proposed changes are simply recommendations made by the auditor, and are not required. However, by making the suggested efficiency upgrades, you could save 5 to 30 percent on your monthly energy bill.

 

 

DIY Energy Assessment

 

DIY Energy AssessmentIf your energy company does not offer an energy auditing service or you do not want to pay for a professional, you can perform an energy assessment on your own. You can check for air leaks caused by gaps around windows, doors, lighting fixtures, and electrical outlets, in addition to inspecting the insulation in your attic. A home energy assessment is just the beginning of your energy savings journey, and whether performed by a professional or done by yourself, it can help you be more conscious of where the majority of your energy is being consumed.

 

 

Become Energy Efficient

 

Become Energy EfficientSo the next time you get your electric bill, take a look at your total energy consumption for the month. Consider contacting your electric company to see if an energy audit service is offered, and to identify how efficiently or inefficiently your home’s energy is being used.

   

Stay Warmer This Winter with Window Film

When you think about how window film works, the fact that it keeps harmful UV rays and heat out of your home makes logical sense, but did you know that window film also retains heat inside of your home? Considering that the average home loses about one-third of its heat through windows and doors, window film can go a long way toward conserving energy and keeping your winter heating costs down.

 

Keeping Your Money from Going Out the Window

Keeping Your Money from Going Out the WindowHeat is attracted to cold, so hot air will flow to cold windows. But with window film that absorbs the sunshine, windows are kept warm. This keeps the warm air within the room and requires less heat from the heater to maintain a comfortable temperature.

 

Protection from a Closer Winter Sun

Protection from a Closer Winter SunThe sun is closer to the earth during the winter, which means even more exposure to its damaging UV rays. But window film lets you enjoy the natural light and views while protecting your furnishings. Window film also reduces glare, which may be more of a problem in the winter when UV rays reflect upward off of the bright snow.

 

Learn More About Window Film

Learn More About Window FilmTo learn more about window film protection, check out this informative guide, “Beauty Inside & Out,” from the International Window Film Association – you’ll be surprised at what you’ll learn. Here’s just one fact to consider:

 

“UVA rays account for up to 95 percent of UV radiation reaching the Earth’s surface and although they are less intense than UVB, UVA rays are 30 to 50 times more prevalent, and go through glass, making sun protection necessary inside as well as outside.”

 

Or if you’re more of a visual person, check out this infographic that explains all of the benefits of window film. From UV protection to energy conservation, it’s helping people in your community live better lives in many ways.

   

How to Optimize Your Home for Passive Solar Energy

To get your favorite flowers to bloom, you make sure the pot is situated for optimum sunlight. Though your house won’t grow from light exposure, it can benefit tremendously from the same kind of strategic positioning. The only question is: which way should your house face?

 

 

The Who:

 

The WhoA home’s orientation is important for those shopping for a home or piece of land to purchase. At this point, it’s easy to consider the direction the house faces. You still have the option to either keep shopping or have a home custom built.

That being said, current homeowners can also benefit if you’re willing and able to undergo some remodeling. There are smaller projects that can optimize when and where the sun’s rays shine through, such as increasing the size of your windows or knocking down a wall to allow sunlight to reach more rooms.

 

 

The What:

 

The WhatThe concept of positioning your home toward the sun to save on heating and cooling costs is called passive solar energy. Depending on where the sun is in relation to your home’s windows, it may help heat up your living space while keeping unused areas cool. The catch: there’s a lot to consider when setting up your home for effective passive solar energy.

 

You probably know the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, but there’s a little more to the equation than that. As explained by the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, the Earth’s tilt causes the sun to rise and set a little bit to the south in the winter and a little bit to the north on warm, summer days [in the Northern Hemisphere]. With that understanding, these orientation tips will help you capitalize on the sun’s free energy, while enhancing your home’s curb appeal and value:

 

  • A rectangular home should run east to west, so that its long sides face north and south.
  • The south side of your home should get the most exposure to the great outdoors with large, floor-to-ceiling windows, glass doors and very few trees or obstructive roof overhangs. This allows for the winter sun to naturally heat your home. To truly optimize your windows, apply window film that will allow the sun to shine through while blocking harmful UV rays and cutting down on glare.
  • On the contrary, the northern side of your home should have fewer or smaller windows, more shade trees and a deep roof overhang or awnings.
  • The layout should bring frequently used rooms to the south side of the home to feel the effects of winter sunlight, while garages and laundry rooms should be situated on the northern side to block winter winds. For existing homes, you can re-purpose rooms or knock down walls to achieve the same results. Plus, an open-concept home is more marketable for resale.
  • Design walkways and driveways so that they run to the south or east of the house. Gravel and asphalt heat up quickly, which can impact your home’s overall temperature. Keeping these paths away from the strong summer sun can help prevent unwanted heat gain.
  • Utilize masonry floors and walls to absorb and store the solar heat coming through southern windows. This is a direct gain design, as described by Energy.gov, which releases the stored heat as the room cools after sundown.

 

The Why:

 

The WhyYour energy bills are mostly impacted by the cost of heating and cooling your home. By carefully positioning the direction your home faces, as well as enhancing certain features, you can take full advantage of free solar energy. Not only does your home become more cost-efficient, but you may also create a better view, increase curb appeal and raise the resale value of your home.

   

Infographic: Benefits of Window Film for Your Home

Have you ever moved your couch or some other piece of furniture and noticed your carpeting that was once one shade of gray is now two different shades? Or perhaps you’ve had to close your blinds or curtains to avoid that annoying sun glare on the TV? Well if either scenario sounds familiar, window film can help resolve these issues.

 

Professionally installed window film can block up to 99% of UV rays and reduce the fading of your home’s interior and upholstery. Ultraviolet light and the sun’s visible light are the main causes of interior fading (65%), followed by the heat from the sun (25%). Window film can also reject heat rays up to 92%, cutting cooling costs by as much as 30%. This infographic shows how professionally installed window film can make a beneficial difference to your home’s interior.

 

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Window film is not limited to your home’s windows. It can also be applied to buildings in your community and to your vehicle.

   

The 411 on Zero Net Energy Homes

To save energy at home, you may start small by unplugging countertop appliances and turning off all the lights before you leave. Over time, you could seal any air leaks and install a programmable thermostat. Eventually, you might end up with solar panels on your roof. This natural progression toward a more cost-saving home is not as radical as you may think. In fact, you could reach a whole new level of energy efficiency known as a “zero net energy” home.

 

 

What does zero net energy mean?

 

What does zero net energy meanA zero net energy building must produce as much or more energy than it needs to maintain. This entails a renewable energy system and various energy efficiency measures that will offset the home’s annual energy consumption.

 

 

How do I achieve zero net energy?

 

How do I achieve zero net energyTaking small steps and implementing a few energy-saving tactics at a time is perhaps a smart way to go about it, especially if you’re working with an older home. Dan and Christine Fisher of Tampa, Florida did exactly that. Their 20-year-old home was built with some efficient characteristics, but this “green” couple took it all the way to the top.

If you, too, seek the ultimate in energy efficiency, the Department of Energy’s Zero Energy Ready Home program has guidelines. They include:

  • Having an Energy Star-approved HVAC system in place
  • Meeting the standards for proper water management (as established by Energy Star)
  • Featuring high-performance windows
  • Installing insulation that’s up to par with the International Energy Conservation Code
  • Following the best recommendations for an air duct system
  • Conserving water through an efficient hot water system, typically a tankless water heater
  • Offering indoor air quality that meets the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Indoor airPlus Program standards
  • Potentially using solar energy sources where they comply with the EPA’s solar electric guide

For more details on each of these efforts as they pertain to your home and your state’s policies, consult a Zero Energy Ready Home partner.

 

 

What are the gains from a zero net energy home?

 

What are the gains from a zero net energy homeThe Fishers started with insulating the attic and then quickly moved on to their windows. Living in a hurricane-risk state, these Floridians opted for Energy Star certified double-paned windows. Of course, they didn’t stop there. To make their windows more efficient, they covered them with Madico’s Exterior 20 window film. This simple change blocked heat without compromising the performance of the double-paned glass. It was estimated that the window film alone contributed to a 4% reduction in energy usage. Ultimately, this Tampa couple got their electric bill down to $17 per month from $500.

When working toward a zero net energy home, you’ll notice that small improvements, like adding window film, can make a large impact on your overall savings. Energy.gov analyzed various DOE Zero Energy Ready homes to find that they saved up to $101 per month on utility costs. On top of the monetary savings is the value in knowing that you’ve lowered your carbon footprint – and that’s priceless.

   

Getting Started With Solar Panels

Residents of the Sunshine State or those who live in the hot, beaming desert have likely given thought to solar-powered energy. Of course, year-round sunlight is most conducive, but even the cooler climates can take advantage of nature’s purest source of power. Learning how to use solar panels in your home can be overwhelming, so follow this guide to get started.

 

 

Terms You Need to Know

 

Terms You Need to KnowInstalling solar panels may be the most complicated energy-saving tactic, but it also has the largest payoff. If you’re ready to take on the project, there are a few terms to learn before you get started:

 

Photovoltaic (PV) cell: The building block of solar panels, this electrical device converts light into electricity.

 

Solar panel: A compilation of photovoltaic cells, which are situated in a way that harnesses sunlight and transforms it into usable energy.

 

Inverter: The unit that converts direct current (DC) energy from the solar panel into an alternating current (AC) that’s compatible with the electricity system in your home.

 

 

Factors You Should Consider

 

Factors You Should ConsiderThe top two factors to think about before diving deeper into solar power are 1) the climate in which you live, and 2) whether or not you have open and direct access to sunlight during the peak hours of the day (10 a.m. – 2 p.m.).

 

Once you’ve determined your location is perfectly suited for solar energy, you’ll want to calculate how many kilowatts you use on average each month (your utility bills should help). You’ll also want to know the surface area of your roof to help determine how many solar panels will fit on top.

 

 

Power You Can Replace

 

Power You Can ReplaceIdeally, you’d power your entire home with solar-sourced energy. However, easing into it with smaller projects can still offer big benefits. From the simplest installation to the most complex, here’s where you can use solar panels around your home:

 

Outdoor lighting: You’ve seen them at your local hardware store. Solar-powered torches can be easily placed in the ground to light walking paths or driveways. Advances in PV cell technology have made these miniature solar panels much more powerful than the first generation.

 

Indoor lighting: Solar-powered desk lamps, wall-mounted lights and floor fixtures are easy to install and require a relatively small investment.

 

Water heating: Solar water heating systems not only cut down on your energy bill, but they don’t contribute to any greenhouse gas emissions. Energy.gov recommends finding a solar-powered system certified by the Solar Rating and Certification Corporation. If you have a pool or hot tub, solar water heating is usually comparable to the cost of conventional systems. According to Energy.gov, heating a pool is the most efficient use of solar panels.

 

Home heating system: Known as an active solar heating system, this process uses solar energy to heat liquid or air. The hot liquid or air then travels through a collector, further heating up as it moves. These collectors are not your typical solar panel, but the concept is the same – just much more intricate. Solar liquid collectors are best used for central heating.

 

With several state and federal tax incentives in place, many homeowners have made the hefty investment to power their entire home. A Forbes.com article noted that installing solar panels can cut your carbon footprint by an average of 35,180 pounds of carbon dioxide each year – the equivalent to planting 88 trees. In money terms, you could save $84 on your monthly electric bill. Not to mention, the value of your home significantly increases with the smart decision to use renewable energy.

   

Why You Should Service Your Air Conditioner

With warmer temperatures, you’ve probably noticed an increase in running your home air conditioning unit and higher monthly energy bills. Home cooling costs for United States’ homeowners is an average of $11 billion annually. Per household, average cooling costs make up 6% of the entire electric bill. By properly maintaining your AC unit throughout the year and scheduling an annual checkup with a professional technician, you can cut down on your cooling costs and will have a longer lasting cooling unit.

 

 

AC Useful Life

 

AC Useful LifeThere are several types of air conditioners, with the most common being room cooling systems and central AC units. Room air conditioners have a 10 to 15 year lifespan and central air conditioners have a 20 year useful life. By providing the proper maintenance to your air conditioning units, you will maximize its efficiency which will also maximize the appliance’s useful life.

 

 

Change the Filter

 

Change the FilterTo ensure that your air conditioning unit is working as efficiently and effectively as possible, routinely change your air filters. The air filter is a component in cooling systems that needs to be changed frequently. Hair, pet fur, dust, dirt, leaves, and any other debris can leave you with a dirty and clogged filter. How frequently you change your air filter depends on several factors including pets and allergies. Typically filters can be changed every other month; however with pets and/or allergies, your air filter could need to be replaced every 30 to 45 days. A clean air filter will make your unit operate efficiently and can save you five to 15% on your energy bill.

 

 

Call a Professional

 

Call a ProfessionalAn annual air conditioning technician will check to make sure everything within the unit is running properly. Spring is a good time of year to make this appointment. You can beat the mid-summer rush of people who later discover a faulty cooling system and desperately need assistance. The professional technician will be able to check the refrigerant level and check for any leaks. They should be able to identify any minor issues that, if not noticed at an early stage, could become large, costly repairs in the future.

 

Air conditioning units reduce the moisture in your home and keep you living comfortable during those hotter months. Routinely maintain your air conditioner so that it will use less energy to cool your home and cut down on your electric expenses.

   

5 Tips to a Lower Water Heater Bill

In one day alone, the average household uses 64 gallons of water, equivalent to 23,360 gallons of water per year. It’s no wonder your water heater makes up almost 18% of your utility bills and is the second largest expense in your home. There are several ways you can reduce your water heater expenses which can be as simple as changing your habits.

 

 

Water Heater Maintenance

 

Water Heater MaintenanceDraining and cleaning your water heater every six months will make the system run more efficiently. It also avoids the chance of the bottom of your water heater rusting from sedimentation buildup. Debris can clog pipes and pollute your clean water, disrupting the water flow and costing you more money.

 

 

Use Less Hot Water

 

Use Less Hot WaterBetween showering, washing your hands, and running the dishwasher or washing machine, you use a large portion of hot water, driving up your water heating bills every year. According to Home Water Works, dishwashers use up to 15 gallons of water per load, a washing machine uses up to 40 gallons per load, and a shower uses an average of 2.5 gallons per minute. That is a large amount of hot water being consumed, but it can be managed. By reducing the time in the shower by two minutes per day, you would save 1,825 gallons of water per year!

 

 

Turn Down the Heat

 

Turn Down the HeatLowering the temperature of your water heater to 120⁰ Fahrenheit can reduce costs dramatically. You can cut energy costs by as much as 5% for every 10 degree drop in temperature.

 

 

Insulate Your Water Heater

 

Insulate Your Water HeaterIf you have an older water heater, chances are it is not insulated. Having an insulated water heater will reduce its standby heat loss by as much as 45% and can save you anywhere from 4% to 9% in costs. Insulation jackets should be placed around the water heater, but should not cover the thermostat or other appliance components mentioned in the manufacturer’s recommendations.

 

 

Buy a New Water Heater

 

Buy a New Water HeaterApproximately 27 million U.S. households have a water heater greater than 10 years old, which becomes problematic as the average useful life ranges from 10 to 15 years. If you have the funds, the last option is buying a new, more energy efficient water heater altogether. There are many different styles to choose from. The most efficient type is a solar water heater, saving 50% more energy than gas or electric water heaters.

 

Try some of these different tips to see how they reduce your water heating costs.

   

Saving Energy in Every Room

Not sure how to lower your energy costs? There are opportunities in every room of your home to become more energy efficient. You just have to know where to look!

 

Saving Energy in Every Room-Infographic 002

 

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Here’s a closer look at more energy saving tips by room:

   

How Glass and Window Film Work Together to Save You Energy

It has long been a well known fact that window film can help anyone cut down on energy costs. In 2013, the Department of Energy wrote that “there are a variety of options for consumers who are looking to improve the energy efficiency of their existing windows” before highlighting window film as one of those wonderful options. But simply purchasing window film is not enough. If you really want to get the most out of your energy-saving window film, you’ve got to make sure your film and your windows are working together.

 

Windows-and-window-film-an-energy-savers-best-friend
 

Windows and Window Film: An Energy Saver’s Best Friend

As the old saying goes, windows are the windows into your energy-saving soul. (Editor’s note: this is not a saying, and it’s honestly barely a sentence. But just go with it.) If your windows don’t fit perfectly on your house, you’re going to see that reflected in your unnecessarily-high energy bill. Although top-notch window film will mitigate the energy-wasting effects of leaky windows, if you want to get the most out of your film, you’ve got to make sure your windows are shored up.

 

If you’re tight on cash, inexpensive window treatments like caulking or weatherstripping could be viable short-term solutions for your home. Energy saving is all about getting the best bang for your buck. Don’t let your air conditioning or heat escape from your home, along with your hard-earned money. Once your windows are secure, they’re ready for film.

 

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Let the Big Savings Begin

 

Installing window film can be incredibly tricky. Fortunately, professionals are available to provide you with hassle-free installation. Just be sure to communicate with them about what exactly you want done. Before the installer comes to your home, there are several things you should do to prepare your home.

 

First, remove all blinds, curtains or drapes from the windows receiving film. Remove any picture frames or knick-knacks from windowsills and surrounding areas as well. Any furniture that would hinder access to your windows should be moved. Then, on the day of your install, try and keep all doors and windows closed to minimize dust and airborne contamination. Your installer will probably turn the heat or AC off when he arrives, but you needn’t suffer. Keep the thermostat set at your comfort level until he or she arrives.

 

The beautiful, complex, challenging mystery of window film is that every energy saver has different needs. Make sure you know what yours are, and you will get your windows working with your window film to save you energy like the energy-saving pro you are.