- Energy reduction means getting to know your own house, as if it were a ship and you the captain, navigating your home across a sea of time. Try to gain awareness of what's using energy at any particular time, and how much. It's the only way to be strategic in what you use and how much you use it. Since so much energy use is hidden, muted or completely silent, and the utility meters are inconveniently located and hard to decipher, consider buying a measuring device or two. Kill a Watt meters ($25) are useful in conjunction with a whole house energy monitor like Wattvision or T.E.D. Some typical energy consumption values are given below and in posts.
- Switched from active ventilation (fans) to passive (ridge vent). Usually done when changing roof, but seems possible to retrofit on existing roof by cutting ridge opening and matching shingles. Light-colored roof better for reflecting light back into space.
- Checked existing insulation for gaps, and made sure it wasn't obstructing airflow around roof boards at the roof edges. Then added another layer crosswise over ceiling joists.
- Tried to encapsulate on top of any recessed lighting or other small openings that were allowing room air to vent up into the attic. (note: LED ceiling light fixtures may be a way to get rid of those big heat-losing cans altogether)
- Insulated some exposed ductwork.
- Used snowmelt patterns on roof to detect any places where heat was leaking into the attic from the living space.
- Bought trim with rubber strips to close air leaks around old garage door (we have living space above garage).
- Patched up insulation over exposed ductwork in garage ceiling.
- Reduced air leaks in doorjams leading to living space.
- Used dirt from elsewhere in yard to pile against concrete and brick foundation to make water flow away from house. Less moisture in ground near house means less moisture in basement, which means the dehumidifier runs less.
- Tried to reduce air leaks around old metal basement windows.
- Puzzled over how to minimize use of dehumidifier (600 watts when on) while not allowing basement to get too humid.
- Only use electric dryer (3800 watts when on) for towels. Otherwise, laundry racks deployed upstairs, out of the way, or outdoors in summer.
- Adjusted hot water heater to heat water only as hot as is needed for a shower.
- Try to remember to change air filters on furnace.
- Unplugged and propped doors open on spare frig.
- Refrigerator: (Finally bought a 2012 frig that uses half the energy of our aging 1995 model, and doesn't have coils that need cleaning, but prior to that:) Periodically clean dust off of cooling coils with a long brush available at the local hardware store. Check dials inside frig to make sure they're close to the standard setting. Check for an "energy saver" switch, which turns on or off a heating element in the door that supposedly reduces condensation on outside of door. Turned that off. Light inside frig heats up very fast, so keeping door open not only allows hot air in but actively heats inside of frig. Allow food to cool before putting in frig. If thawing food, put in frig the day before using, rather than on counter.
- Heat only as much water as is needed for any particular purpose, e.g. don't boil a full pot of water to make one cup of tea.
- In winter, pour spent pasta water into container in sink, rather than down the drain, so that heat and steam can diffuse into room. Or use it to hardboil some eggs.
- If there's a choice in methods to cook a particular food, stovetop cooking probably uses less heat than ovens (haven't tried to actually measure).
- Dishwashers, particularly older ones, use a lot of energy to heat water and dry dishes. Handwashing can be done with a minimum of hot water and effort if dirt has been softened by water a few minutes. Hand washing dishes can be a time to think, or to slow down long enough to listen to the news on the radio.
- If you want to keep the kitchen lighted when it's not in use, have a fluorescent light or two, e.g. under the cupboards or above the stove, to leave on as ambient light.
- Composting kitchen scraps reduces the amount of trash that the town has to haul away from your curb.
LIVING ROOM/FAMILY ROOM
- Surprisingly, old televisions often use less energy than new ones. To minimize the energy drain of updating, buy a LED television (40 inch screen uses 80 watts when on), which is considerably more efficient than LCD or plasma. Take a Kill a Watt meter along to the store when you shop, to check each unit's energy use. The salesman should cooperate and might even be interested in the results.
- Use Kill a Watt meter to measure how much entertainment electronics (TV, cable box, etc.) are using when they're off, plug everything into a strip and turn off when not in use.
- Have at least one fluorescent or LED light in each room (only 15 watts), to use as ambient light when the room is not being used. We avoid using recessed lighting, which often uses bulbs that consume a lot of energy, and instead have CFLs disguised in attractive lamps. LED lights are coming down in price, too, so are worth checking out for recessed lighting.
- If there are dimmer switches you find you don't use, replace them with regular switches and replace the bulbs with the cheaper non-dimmable CFLs.
- Since hot water takes awhile to reach the faucet, wash hands with cold water. Any hot water not hot enough to kill bacteria probably just makes them stronger.
- Imagine the long trip water takes from the town's water plant to your faucet, then down the drain to the wastewater treatment plant, both of which are very energy-intensive, and wonder why anyone would want to let water run unused from faucet directly into the drain.
- Navy showers--a niche market, but worth considering, particularly in the summer.
- Use A/C (3500 watts when on) in summer only to cut humidity, then augment with fans (about 30 watts when on) and light clothing. It's possible over time to expand one's comfort range.
- Warm clothes in winter take advantage of your own inborn heat generation capacity, and allow turning the thermostat down. Though the furnace runs on gas, its fan uses 400 watts when on, and each time the furnace cycles on. It also uses 600 watts to heat the element that ignites the gas. So the furnace has a considerable electrical component to its use.
- We have older, aluminum frame storm windows which nonetheless have performed well after some tweaking to make sure the windows fit tightly in position.
- For windows that receive direct sunlight in the winter, cleaning them in the fall and removing the screens over the winter will maximize the amount of solar heat that can be harvested through them.