Energy bills are high, and for many of us they're getting even more expensive. But that doesn't have to be the case. There are many little things you can do to use less energy, which will lower those bills! Here are some tips on how to make your home more energy efficient.

Easy Energy Efficiency Upgrades: The easiest, most cost-effective ways to reduce your home's energy bills. Lower Your Heating Bills: Before winter arrives with its high heating costs, follow these suggestions.

Save Half or More on Solar Panels! Federal and local tax credits dramatically reduce the price of PV.

  • ENERGY STAR for the Holidays: Look for the ENERGY STAR label when shopping this year.
  • Relief from Rising Energy Bills: The three best ways to significantly lower your bills.
  • Insulate, Insulate, Insulate: All you need to know about insulation.
  • Save Energy and Money with ENERGY STAR: The benefits of energy-efficient products.
  • Buying Energy-Efficient Appliances: How to read the EnergyGuide label; tricks for finding efficient appliances.
  • Energy and Cost Saving Tips: 13 simple steps to reduce your energy bills today.
  • Replacing Your Windows: What to look for when purchasing windows.


Easy Energy Efficiency Upgrades
How would you like to save handfuls of money with minimal effort? And how would you feel if these actions made your home more comfortable, and were good for the environment?

You can do just that by taking these simple, cost-effective steps to quickly improve the energy efficiency of your home: Use CFLs. Replace your incandescent light bulbs (the cheap ones you probably got at the grocery store) with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). You will save more than $108 over three years when you replace your four most used 100-watt incandescent bulbs with four comparable 23-watt CFLs -- and that's not taking any recent increases in the price of electricity into account. Plus you won't have to change them out for years because they last about 10 times longer. Find out exactly how much money you are (or will be) saving with our CFL Savings Calculator (XLS File).
More on energy-efficient lighting.

Maintain Your Air Conditioner's Filter.
Clean or replace your air conditioner's filter monthly. The average American family spends more than $200 a year cooling their home. Dirty filters block normal airflow and significantly reduce the efficiency of the system, which wastes your money.
Find out more about your AC.

Plug those Leaks.
Air leaks are the greatest energy waster in the home. The amount of energy that slips through poorly insulated windows and doors in American homes is roughly equal to the amount of energy that we get from the Alaska pipeline. Installing weatherstripping and caulking leaks will stop those expensive drafts and improve comfort. Added bonus: caulking and weatherstripping is cheap and almost anyone can do it.
Find out how to caulk and weatherstrip.

Install Low-Flow Fixtures.
Install low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators to save resources without sacrificing water pressure. An efficient showerhead will save a family of four about 27 cents a day on water and 51 cents a day on electricity, which adds up to $285 per year. Installing them couldn't be easier: they just screw on.

Program Your Thermostats.
You could save 10% on your heating and cooling costs just by setting your thermostat back when you're not home and while you're sleeping. Program your thermostat to 78 degrees F or higher in the summer and 62 degrees F or lower in the winter. If you tell it to return to your preferred temperature before you return home, you won't ever know the temperature changed, until you look at the reduction in your energy bills.
More information on programmable thermostats.

Optimize Your Water Heater.
If you don't have one installed already, put an insulative jacket around your hot water heater, and insulate the pipes around the water heater. Insulative jackets cost between $10 and $20. Also, many people have the temperature on their heaters set too high. Turning it down to 120 degrees will not only save you money, but prevent children from scalding.

Although most water heaters last 10-15 years, it's best to start shopping for a new one if yours is more than 7 years old. Doing some research before your heater fails will enable you to select one that most appropriately meets your needs. Request a Blower Door Test. A blower door test will uncover the holes and cracks that are the main source of energy loss in your home. For example an open fireplace damper can let 8% of your heating costs slip out the chimney. Many utilities provide this service free of charge. If your local utility doesn't, it still would be worth the fee to hire an expert Home Energy Rater (HERS) to perform the test. You'll probably recoup the cost from increased energy savings within two years and you'll feel the improvement in comfort immediately.
Find a HERS rater.

Plant a Tree.
Properly placed trees and shrubs act as wind breaks. Annual heating and cooling costs can be reduced by 25%.
Tips on windbreaks and landscaping for energy efficiency.

Buy ENERGY STAR ®.
When replacing your appliances, select ENERGY STAR qualified products. When replacing your water heater, furnace, or air conditioner, you should also select ENERGY STAR qualified products. You will save 10-30% on the operating costs vs. non-ENERGY STAR equivalents. Find out exactly how much you save.

More Resources

  • U.S. Department of Energy's Home Energy Savers
  • ENERGY STAR's Home Improvement
  • EEBA's Home Energy Checklist


Lower Your Heating Bills This Winter
$200, $300, $500 a month! This is what millions paid last winter to heat their homes. Some paid even more. Experts say that this winter will bring even higher heating bills, with increases of about 15% to 80%, unless you improve the energy efficiency of your home now. Here are three steps toward lower energy bills:
1. Plug the air leaks in your home
2. Ensure your home is properly insulated
3. Optimize your heating equipment

PLUG THOSE LEAKS
Air leaks are often the greatest energy waster in the home. Air infiltration through small holes, cracks and other openings may contribute to as much as 30% of your home's heating and cooling costs. Infiltration not only wastes energy and money, it contributes to moisture, noise and dust problems. The most common places for air leaks are around doors and windows, but leaks can also be found around:

  • Chimneys
  • Recessed lights and light fixtures
  • Attic entrances
  • Electric wires and boxes
  • Vents and fans
  • Plumbing utilities
  • Water and furnace flues
  • Electrical outlets

To locate air leaks, conduct an air leakage survey such as the one developed by Urban Options. It involves inspection of potential problem areas for cracks or gaps. Burning a stick of incense near potential problems can help locate invisible leaks. If the smoke stream travels horizontally, there is an air leak that may need to be repaired.

Installing weatherstripping and caulking leaks will stop these expensive drafts and improve comfort. Added bonus: caulking and weatherstripping are cheap and almost anyone can do it.
Find out how to caulk and weatherstrip.

A professional may also be hired to conduct a blower door test, a more technical depressurization test that helps quantify the extent of leaks by measuring the air pressure difference between the homes interior and exterior. Many utilities provide this service free of charge. If your local utility doesn't, it still would be worth the fee to hire an expert Home Energy Rater (HERS) to perform the test. You'll probably recoup the cost from increased energy savings within two years and you'll feel the improvement in comfort immediately.
Find a HERS rater

KEEP THE HEAT IN
Air sealing should be performed before adding insulation because gaps and cracks in the wall allow air passage, decreasing the effectiveness of the insulation. Insulation is a cost-effective way to save energy and improve comfort. Insulation provides additional benefits including noise reduction, fire resistance and safety. It's not just your walls that need insulation - attics need significantly higher amounts of insulation, and floors over unheated areas should also be insulated. And don't forget your ducts!

There are four basic types of insulation: loose fill, batts and blankets, rigid board and spray foam. Insulation levels will depend on your location. The most appropriate type of insulation to use will vary based on the type of construction, the extent of the project planned and applicable code requirements.
Department of Energy's map of recommended insulation levels

OPTIMIZE YOUR HEATING EQUIPMENT
Maintain Your Furnace.
Clean or replace filters monthly during operating season. Keep your furnace clean, lubricated and properly adjusted. These actions can easily save you 5-10 percent on energy used for heating. In heating season, set your thermostat at 68 degrees or lower during the day, health permitting.

Program Your Thermostats.
You could save 10% on your heating and cooling costs just by setting your thermostat back when you're not home and while you're sleeping. Program your thermostat to 65 degrees F or lower in the winter. Set your clock thermostat at 55 degrees during the night, or when you will be away for more than four hours. If you tell it to return to your preferred temperature before you return home, you won't ever know the temperature changed, until you look at the reduction in your energy bills.
If you don't have a programmable thermostat and don't want to pay $80-120 to buy one and have it installed, just remember to turn your thermostat down before you leave and before you go to sleep. You'll save $$.
More information on programmable thermostats.

Optimize Your Water Heater.
If you don't have one installed already, put an insulative jacket around your hot water heater, and insulate the pipes around the water heater. Insulative jackets cost between $10 and $20. Also, many people have the temperature on their heaters set too high. Turning it down to 120 degrees will not only save you money, but prevent children from scalding. Although most water heaters last 10-15 years, it's best to start shopping for a new one if yours is more than 7 years old. Doing some research before your heater fails will enable you to select one that most appropriately meets your needs.
And. . .

  • Don't forget to close the damper when not using the fireplace. Turn your heater(s) down when using your fireplace.
  • During the heating season, keep the window coverings on south-facing windows open during the day to allow sunlight in. But remember to close them at night.
  • Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters and radiators as needed; make sure they're not blocked by furniture, carpeting, or drapes.
  • Also consider adding interior storm windows, which can reduce window air leakage by improving the overall window assembly's insulation value.
  • Reduce your electrical bill by using energy-saving cfls instead of standard incandescent light bulbs. Change out the five most used bulbs and your bill will dip noticeably.


Save Half or More on Solar Panels!
A solar energy system will significantly reduce electric bills, which will pay off even more as electricity costs rise. Having a personal energy source can improve the reliability of your supply and there are considerable environmental benefits of getting energy directly from the sun. But installing one of these systems isn't cheap. A 2-kilowatt (kW) system, the preferable size for most single-family homes, costs at least $20,000 to purchase and install. Fortunately, many local, state and national rebates make living in a solar-powered home more affordable. In some areas, residents can install a system for less than half the retail price! Nationwide, there are more than 200,000 homes with solar panels, including 10,000 that are entirely powered by solar energy. There are solar powered homes in every state.

National Tax Credit
The new Energy Policy Act offers consumers a tax credit of 30% on the cost of a PV system and a solar water heater, up to $2,000 for each. Courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy This tax credit starts January 1, 2006 and ends December 31, 2007. Find out more about the federal tax credits for solar.

State Rebates
Many states offer substantial rebates that can be combined with the federal rebate for further savings. Look for rebates on PV systems in your state at the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy. For further information on cost savings, visit the Department of Energy's EERE new Financial Incentives website. A few examples of state incentives are: Connecticut - Homeowners receive a rebate of $5 per Watt, which is $5,000 per kW, up to $25,000 when they install a new PV system. For a 2-kW system this amounts to a $10,000 state rebate. Some municipalities also offer property tax exemptions on the cost of the system.

Massachusetts - Homeowners can receive a 15% tax credit of the cost of their PV system, up to $1,000. They will also get a property tax exemption on the entire cost of their system.

California - Until January, 1 2006, homeowners can receive a tax credit of 7.5% of installed cost of a PV system, or $4.50 per Watt of rated peak generating capacity, whichever is less. These systems will not be assessed for property tax purposes. California lawmakers are also considering passing the Million Solar Roofs initiative, a 10-year incentive fund encouraging both owners of residences and commercial buildings to install solar power. There are also many utility sponsored rebates in California. For example, the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District (SMUD) offers a rebate of $3 per watt, which is $3,000 per kW, up to $15,000. SMUD also offers a rebate of $400 on solar water heaters.

Wisconsin - Homeowners can receive a 35% tax credit up to $35,000 for most PV systems; and 30%, up to $3,000, for solar water heaters.

Year-Long Savings with ENERGY STAR � Gifts
Buying someone a TV, DVD player or a cordless phone as a holiday gift? Do they want a new computer? A new Laptop? Or maybe this year they just want something that's really practical, like a new refrigerator or a clothes washer. Either way, the recipient can benefit for years to come if you buy them an ENERGY STAR qualified product, now available in more than 40 product categories. They use less energy, save money, and help protect the environment.

All types of appliances, home electronics, office equipment, lighting, heating and cooling equipment, and even windows and ceiling fans come with an ENERGY STAR label. Anything that uses energy has two price tags, the purchase price and the operating cost paid out month after month, year after year, in your energy bill. It's amazing how much energy (and money) you can save compared to non-ENERGY STAR equivalents. ENERGY STAR qualified TVs use about 25% less energy than standard units and ENERGY STAR computers use up to 70% less energy. Over its lifetime, ENERGY STAR qualified equipment in a single home office (e.g., computer, monitor, printer, and fax) can save enough electricity to light an entire home for more than 4 years.

Benefits Don't Stop with Energy Savings
There are additional benefits to some of these products. ENERGY STAR clothes washers yield double savings: They use 50% less energy than standard washers and can save over 20 gallons of water per load. ENERGY STAR qualified computers spend a large portion of time in low-power mode, not only saving energy, but helping the equipment run cooler and last longer. ENERGY STAR ventilation fans provide better efficiency and comfort with less noise, and have motors that perform better and last longer.

Tips on Selecting Efficient Appliances
Refrigerators with a freezer on either the bottom or top are the most efficient: approximately 15% more efficient that side-by-side models. Through-the-door ice makers and water dispensers are convenient and reduce the need to open the door, but still increase the refrigerator's energy use by 14 to 20%, and an ice maker is often the first part of the refrigerator to fail.

Kitchen Stoves and Ovens do not come with ENERGY STAR labels, but you can still make good energy choices. Self-cleaning ovens are usually the most energy efficient for cooking because of added insulation, but if you use the self-cleaning feature more than once a month you'll use more energy than you'll save. Convection ovens allow food to be cooked on all racks, reducing cooking time and energy use. The new type of flat top electric ovens are easier to clean, but they take longer to heat up and use more electricity. Dishwashers come in compact and standard capacities. Compact models use less energy but hold fewer dishes. Using a compact dishwasher more often can result in greater energy use. Look for dishwasher features like "energy-saving" and "short-wash" cycles so you can use less water and save energy when appropriate. Air-drying uses considerably less energy than heat-drying.

Relief from Rising Energy Bills
Across the nation the leaves have fallen, days are shorter and nights are distinctly chilly. The heating season has begun and consumers are starting to see the impacts of escalating energy costs. Heating oil prices are projected to jump nearly 40% compared with last year, propane is forecast to rise by 26% and natural gas by 23%. Since heating costs comprise nearly half of the energy consumed in a single family home, this economic punch will hit consumers at all income levels.
Consumers: Before you consider a second or third job to pay your utility bills, consider the following PATH tips and technologies as protection against soaring energy costs.

Builders and Remodelers: Improve the value of your services by incorporating energy efficiency into your projects. A great tool to help improve efficiency during a remodeling project is HUD's Energy Efficient Rehab Advisor. Choosing to incorporate energy efficiency measures in homes provides insurance against rising costs. Energy efficient technologies require less energy to operate, which reduces the home's consumption and, ultimately, the energy bill. Incorporating efficient technologies and practices will help reduce the nation's dependence on fossil fuels and avoid harmful environmental impacts. With all these benefits, why choose anything else?

Start with the Basics: Weatherization
First: Stop the Leaks
Air infiltration through small holes and cracks may contribute to as much as 30% of your home's heating and cooling costs. Infiltration not only wastes energy and money, it contributes to moisture, noise and dust problems. Check for signs of air leakage. One telltale sign of air leaking into your house is finding dirty spots in your insulation.

Drafts are also a clear sign of leakage. Hold an incense stick near suspect areas and watch the smoke for the source of the draft. Areas that may have significant leaks are near the attic, crawlspace or basement, and around windows, doors and chimneys. Plumbing chases, electrical outlets, attic accesses and dropped ceilings are other likely suspects.

  • You may need to hire a contractor to run tests to determine the location of smaller air leaks. An energy professional will use diagnostic tools such as a blower door to locate air leaks and pressure imbalances. Caulk and seal any exterior penetrations and weatherstrip doors and windows that are leaky. Holes in the envelope of the house should be repaired from largest to smallest. Air sealing should be performed before insulation is added as gaps and cracks in the wall will allow air passage, decreasing the effectiveness of the insulation. Although you may want to hire a professional to perform a thorough inspection of the house, air sealing is something you can do yourself. There are several materials that may be used for air sealing, depending on the purpose.
  • Backer rod - Closed-cell foam or rope caulk. Press into crack or gap with screwdriver or putty knife. Often used with caulk around window and door rough openings.
  • Caulk - For sealing gaps of less than � inch. [Learn how to caulk and weatherstrip]
  • Spray Foam - To fill large cracks and small holes. A few precautions should be heeded when using spray foam: do not use near flammable applications and do not use expanding foams around windows and doors.
  • Weatherstripping - To seal areas with moveable components such as doors and windows.


For larger areas:

  • Housewrap - To form an airtight seal over the exterior sheathing, housewrap must be sealed with tape or caulk. Does not provide a vapor barrier.
  • Polyethylene Plastic - To serve as a vapor and air barrier. This material may be used for sealing complicated leakage areas that may be of irregular shape. Also consider adding interior storm windows, which can reduce window air leakage by improving the overall window assembly's insulation value.

Learn about ENERGY STAR home sealing

Second: Keep the Heat In - Insulate
Insulation is a cost-effective way to save energy and improve comfort. Insulation provides additional benefits including noise reduction, fire resistance and safety. It's not just your walls that need insulation - attics and floors over unheated areas are particularly important areas to insulate. And don't forget your ducts!

There are four basic types of insulation: loose fill, batts and blankets, rigid board and spray foam. Insulation levels will depend on your location. The most appropriate type of insulation to use will vary based on the type of construction, the extent of the project planned and applicable code requirements.
More on insulation from ToolBase
Department of Energy's map of recommended insulation levels

Third: Stay in Tune
A simple, annual tune-up can have a dramatic impact on the effectiveness of your heating and cooling system. Installing a programmable thermostat can also produce big savings for a small investment. Also consider:

  • Try setting your thermostat just 2 degrees lower. Set it as low as is comfortable in the winter and as high as is comfortable in the summer.
  • During the heating season, keep the window coverings on south-facing windows open during the day to allow sunlight in.
  • Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters and radiators as needed; make sure they're not blocked by furniture, carpeting, or drapes.


Select energy-efficient equipment when you buy new heating and cooling equipment. Look for the ENERGY STAR and EnergyGuide labels. Leaky ducts are also a big source of loss. Your heating system may be working hard to heat and distribute air that never reaches its intended destination. Check your ducts for air leaks. You can conduct a visual check of your ducts to look for holes or separated joints. You may want to call a professional to identify hidden leaks. Seal duct leaks with fiberglass mesh and mastic, mechanical fasteners, or foil tape -- just don't use duct tape! Consider PATH HVAC technologies for your home.
Learn about Home Performance with ENERGY STAR

Building New?
There is no better time to incorporate energy efficient technologies in your project than during construction. Technologies to consider for new construction include:
Composite Window Frames have high insulation properties and can help save energy. The frames conserve natural resources and are recyclable.
Frost Protected Shallow Foundations provide protection against frost while eliminating the need to excavate below the frost line. HVAC Sytem within Conditioned Space improves energy efficiency, comfort, and health.
HVAC Proper Sizing Practice can mean savings in initial and operating cost of mechanical equipment and increased comfort to occupants.
HVAC "Smart" Zoning technology consists of dampers and electronic controls that attach to standard central air systems. By providing controlled damping at the base of each branch duct, multiple zones can save energy and increase occupant comfort and convenience. Low-E Glass and Spectrally Selective Glazing allow more natural light into homes or other buildings, while controlling radiated heat, providing maximum energy efficiency and reducing heat loads in areas where cooling costs are high.

Optimum Value Engineering (OVE) refers to framing techniques that reduce the amount of lumber used to build a home while maintaining the structural integrity of the building. Using OVE techniques results in lower material and labor costs and improved energy performance for the building.
Radiant Barriers reflect radiant heat back towards its source, reflecting as much as 97%.

Additional Technologies to Consider

  • Aerosol Duct Sealing when used in conjunction with traditional methods of tape and mastic, makes heating and cooling ducts 5 to 8 times more airtight than tape and mastic alone.
  • Electrochromic Windows can be darkened or lightened electronically. These smart windows can control the amount of light and heat allowed to pass through windows and block the glare of the sun or provide instant privacy with the flip of a switch.
  • Geothermal Heat Pumps use the natural heat storage capacity of the earth or ground water to provide energy efficient heating and cooling.
  • Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) can help make mechanical ventilation more cost effective by reclaiming energy from exhaust airflows. HRVs use heat exchangers to heat or cool incoming fresh air, recapturing 60 to 80 percent of the conditioned temperatures that would otherwise be lost.
  • Insulating Concrete Forms are rigid plastic foam forms that hold concrete in place during curing and remain in place afterwards to serve as thermal insulation for concrete walls. The foam blocks, or planks are lightweight and result in energy-efficient, durable construction.
  • Insulative Vinyl Siding gives vinyl siding a competitive edge by increasing its energy efficiency and enhancing its impact resistance.
  • Passive Solar Ventilation Air Pre-heater This durable exterior wall cladding system is designed to passively draw in fresh air, solar heat it, and circulate to the house interior. This creates an energy-efficient, well-ventilated indoor environment.
  • Photovoltaic Roofing is integrated right onto your house, taking the place of your existing roofing materials such as asphalt shingles or concrete tiles. PV roofing proves the same energy and environmental benefits as regular solar technologies, reducing the need for fossil fuels.
  • Radiant Floor Heating - Dry System Hydronic allows even heating throughout the entire floor. The heat radiates from the floor and warms objects near the floor as opposed to forced hot air that tends to rise to the ceiling.
  • Structural Insulated Panels allow builders to quickly construct an exterior building envelope that is strong, airtight, and energy efficient.
  • SIP Modular Housing By combining the time-saving advantage of SIP exterior walls with modular construction, a manufacturer achieves a durable, low-cost, energy-efficient product.


Insulate Insulate Insulate
Having the right insulation is the first step toward household comfort and energy savings. No matter how well-sealed the walls are, and no matter how good your heating and cooling system is, your home will often be drafty and unevenly conditioned if your insulation is inadequate.

Insulation is rated according to its R-Value, or its ability to resist heat flow, with a high R-Value being a greater resistance. Follow the Department of Energy's insulation guidelines and your house will be more comfortable, a little quieter, and will cost less to heat and cool than if you had gone with the local code requirements. Proper installation is critical; gaps and compressed areas will dramatically reduce effectiveness. But what is the right insulation? Well, it all depends on:

  • Where you live
  • What part of the house you are insulating
  • How your house is constructed, and whether it is new or being remodeled


New Homes
If you are having a new house built, don't just go with the insulation required by the building code. The Department of Energy (DOE) has recommended insulation levels for: (most importantly) ceilings and attics, walls, basements, and crawlspaces.

Existing Homes
Adding more insulation while you are remodeling is very cost effective when you are tearing out walls and messing with the attic anyway. And use the Energy Efficient Rehab Advisor to see how much it will cost to add this insulation and how much you'll save in utility costs. Most older homes, especially those built before 1975, have much less insulation than DOE recommends.

Generally, for comfort and energy savings, the attic is the best place to add insulation. And if your attic is easily accessible it might be easy to add ceiling insulation, even if you are not doing any remodeling at all. Just be sure when you are adding insulation that a vapor retarder is not applied between layers of insulation. When adding additional insulation, do not use insulation that comes with a vapor retarder (paper or aluminum-like sheating) integrally attached. Moisture can be trapped below this new vapor retarder, causing damage to the insulation, ceiling and paint below the vapor retarder.

Before You Insulate
Conduct thorough air sealing. Adding insulation may make some air leaks difficult to access. The insulation itself typically will not stop these leaks. Air flowing through the insulation will waste energy. Moist air can damage the insulation and reduce its effectiveness.

Control moisture. Rain can penetrate through improper flashing and leaks around doors, windows, chimneys and poorly-installed siding. If you're remodeling, fix these problems and install a vapor retarder. Remove any existing insulation that has gotten wet. Recessed light fixtures can be a major source of heat loss, but you need to be careful how close you place insulation next to a fixture unless it is marked "I.C."-designed for direct insulation contact. Check your local building codes for recommendations.

**Caution: Many types of insulation used before the 1978 contain asbestos, which, if disturbed, is a dangerous material.

Types of Insulation
There are four basic types of insulation: loose fill, batts and blankets, rigid board and spray foam. The most appropriate type of insulation to use will vary due to the different construction techniques, whether your house is being built or being remodeled, and applicable code requirements.

Batt and blanket insulation, the most common type, and the easiest to work with for do-it-yourselfers, is made of mineral fiber -- either processed fiberglass or rock wool -- and is used to insulate below floors, above ceilings, and within walls. Generally, batt insulation is the least expensive wall insulation material but requires careful installation for effective performance. Loose-fill insulation, for new or remodeled homes, includes loose fibers or fiber pellets that are blown into building cavities or attics using special equipment. It generally costs more than batt insulation, but it offers reduced air leakage through the wall cavity plus improved sound deadening.

  • Cellulose fiber, made from recycled newspapers, is chemically treated for life and has good moisture resistance. (Check that the bags are clearly labeled to indicate that the material meets federal specifications for fire resistance). It can be installed in walls, floors or attics using a dry-pack process or a moist-spray technique.
  • Fiberglass and rock wool loose-fill insulation provide full coverage with a "Blow-in Blanket" System (BIBS) that involves blowing insulation into open stud cavities behind a net. Rigid board insulation is commonly made from fiberglass, polystyrene, and polyurethane and comes in a variety of thicknesses with a high insulating value (approximately R-4 to R-8 per inch). This type of insulation is used for reroofing work on flat roofs, on basement walls, and as perimeter insulation at concrete slab edges, and in cathedral ceilings. Spray foam insulation is a two-part liquid containing a polymer (such as polyurethane or modified urethane) and a foaming agent. The liquid is sprayed through a nozzle into wall, ceiling, and floor cavities. It expands while spraying into a solid cellular plastic with millions of tiny air-filled cells that fill every nook and cranny. Spray foam insulation should only be applied by professionals. It is commonly used for retrofits because it is good for irregularly shaped areas and around obstructions. Spray foam materials cost more than traditional batt insulation. However, since spray foam forms both an insulation and an air barrier, it can be cost competitive with batt insulation because it eliminates the steps for air-tightness detailing (such as caulking, applying housewrap and vapor barrier, and taping joints).


Save Energy and Money with ENERGY STAR
Whether you are a private resident or a leader in the homebuilding industry; whether you are an eco-nut or an insatiable consumer--it pays to buy ENERGY STAR qualified products. Without sacrificing features, style, or comfort, energy-efficient choices can save about a third on your energy bill with similar savings of greenhouse gas emissions. ENERGY STAR helps you make the energy-efficient choice. When you buy equipment that has earned the ENERGY STAR, you know that it meets strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with no compromise on quality.

Many Products--Many Savings
ENERGY STAR recognizes energy-efficient models in 38 product categories--from lighting to computers to water coolers; from large energy users (central air conditioning systems and boilers) to low energy users (cordless phones). Some products, like TVs and VCRs, save energy by reducing the standby power required. Others have high mechanical and/or combustion efficiencies. Some give you multiple benefits: an ENERGY STAR qualified clothes washer, compared to a 10-year old model, can save up to $120 per year on your utility bills and reduce your water consumption by 30 to 50 percent! ENERGY STAR qualified products usually cost a little more, but because of the energy savings they pay back quickly:

  • ENERGY STAR qualified heating and cooling equipment can reduce your heating and cooling bill by 1/3.
  • ENERGY STAR qualified refrigerators use 40% less energy than the conventional models sold in 2001, and use at least 10% less energy than required by current federal standards.
  • ENERGY STAR qualified dishwashers use 25% less energy than the federal minimum standard, and can save you more than $30 a year in energy costs compared to a 10-year old dishwasher.
  • ENERGY STAR lighting uses less than 1/3 the energy of standard incandescent bulbs.


Many states and localities also offer various rebates and tax breaks on ENERGY STAR products.

ENERGY STAR Homes
If you are looking for a new home, look for one that has earned the ENERGY STAR. If you are a developer or a homebuilder, why not provide one? They meet strict energy efficiency standards and are more comfortable, more durable, cost less to own, and are good for the environment.

Select the links below for additional information on high efficiency appliances and equipment:

  • Geothermal Heat Pumps
  • Heat Pump Water Heaters
  • Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRV)
  • High Efficiency Air Conditioners
  • High Efficiency Refrigerators 
  • Horizontal Axis (Front-Loading) Clothes Washers 
  • Horizontal Axis Washer-Dryer Combination Unit 


Energy-Efficient Appliances
How to Read the EnergyGuide Label
What is big, square, yellow and informative? No, it's not SpongeBob SquarePants, it's the EnergyGuide label found on most appliances.

This label tells you how much energy an appliance uses, and compares it to other models. You'll find EnergyGuide labels on all new refrigerators, freezers, water heaters, dishwashers, washing machines, room air conditioners, central air conditioners, heat pumps, furnaces and boilers. Note: The EnergyGuide label should not be confused with the ENERGY STAR label.

Although the label looks quite simple, there are some tricks to make sure you get the most energy-efficient appliance. The EnergyGuide label gives you two important pieces of information you can use to compare different models when shopping for a new appliance:
1. In the white box: estimated yearly energy consumption at the top, sitting on a scale showing the range of energy use for all other similar models.
2. At the bottom: estimated yearly operating cost based on the national average cost of electricity.
Tricks for Finding the Most Energy-Efficient Product

Don't just use the scale in the white box. The range of energy usage (uses least energy to uses most energy) in the white box is only for models with similar features. In the example above, the refrigerator is compared with other 22.5 to 24 cubic feet models with automatic defrost, a side-mounted freezer, and without through-the-door ice service. You can see the features just under the large EnergyGuide title at top left of the label.

Because you might be considering other models with different features, compare the total energy used number (776 kWh) or the annual operating cost ($68) with the total from other models that you are considering.

Take it one step further. . .
Calculate an accurate yearly operating cost. Just below the annual operating cost ($68) is fine print that tells you what electricity rate (or natural gas rate for some other appliances) was used to determine the figure. This is the national average, which may be significantly different than the rates that you pay. On this label, it is 8.4 cents per kWh. Before you shop, look at your energy bill and determine what your actual rate is, and then calculate what your annual operating cost will be. For argument's sake, say it's 10 cents per kWh. Multiply 10 cents by the energy use (776) and you get $0.10 x 776 = $77.60. Now you will be able to more accurately compare different models with different efficiencies.

And one more step. . .
Calculate lifetime cost. One way to determine overall cost is to multiply the annual energy cost by how many years you expect to keep the product, and then add the purchase price. For example, if you expect to keep the refrigerator above for 15 years, multiply $77.60 x 15 = $1164 and then add the purchase price (we'll assume $800). The total is $1164 + $800 = $1964. Now compare this price with other models that you have done a similar calculation with, and you'll have a better idea as to what the best deal is. The simplest thing is to look for the ENERGY STAR label. ENERGY STAR qualified products are more energy-efficient than conventional models. Use this major appliances shopping guide.

Replacing Your Windows
Thinking about getting new windows? That's not a bad idea if they're cracked, drafty, too cold to be near in the winter, have lead-based friction surfaces (where the window slides), or if the wall around the window is damaged.

Here are Your Window Repair Options:
Window Condition Recommended Scope of Repair Replace window glass, sash, track and/or sill Install new window with its own retrofit frame within existing window frame Completely replace existing window assembly including frame Rebuild/repair wall surrounding window so that opening is structurally sound, plumb and square Some window components may be damaged, but frame and surrounding wall are undamaged, plumb and square Window components and frame are damaged, but surrounding wall is undamaged, plumb and square Window components, frame and surrounding wall are damaged

What Type of Windows Should I Get?

First of all, if you have single-pane windows, you'll probably be happy if you replace them. Single-pane windows are one of the largest sources of heat loss in winter due to their low insulating ability and high air leakage rates. They're also a major source of unwanted heat gain in the summer. As a result, single-pane windows are responsible for 25 to 50 percent of the energy used to heat and cool homes.

Since single-pane windows have become dinosaurs, almost any new window will significantly improve the comfort of your home, not to mention its energy efficiency, and you won't get all that moisture build-up from condensation in the summer and winter. Keep in mind, though, that new windows are expensive. They will be a great improvement in many ways, but energy savings alone will barely pay the interest on a loan to upgrade with new windows.

Scott recently replaced his old metal framed single-pane windows because they were uncomforable to be near in the cold winters and hot Maryland summers. He replaced them with ENERGY STAR qualified windows with vinyl frames. The new windows are more comfortable to be around, and easier to open and close. His energy bills also decreased. He couldn't be happier. (This could be you!) Safety is a separate issue. If the friction surface of existing windows is lead-based, a little bit of lead dust can be released into the air each time you open or close the windows. In that case you might not care about the energy savings as much as keeping the kids healthy.

Select a window with the ENERGY STAR label. ENERGY STAR qualified windows will cost 5 to 15 percent more than the lower-performing alternatives, but they can also reduce home heating and cooling costs by $125 to $340 a year (depending on climate), compared to older single-pane windows.

The National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) energy performance label will also help you compare windows based on five factors:

  • U-factor measures how well a product prevents heat from escaping
  • Solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) measures how well a product blocks heat caused by sunlight
  • Visible transmittance measures how much light comes through a product
  • Air leakage measures how much air will pass through cracks in the window assembly
  • Condensation resistance measures the ability to resist the formation of condensation on the interior surface


The optimal combination of U-factor and SHGC depends on your climate zone. Products with the ENERGY STAR label will include a map to help you determine the right window for your area. In hurricane and tornado prone regions, choose impact-resistant windows if you can afford them. Impact-resistant assemblies have laminated glass that won't shatter when hit by most flying debris (just like your windshield -- only stronger). A little extra money up front could protect your house from significant water and wind damage and make your life a lot easier during and especially after a severe storm. If you prefer to keep your older window for aesthetic purposes, consider installing an interior storm window for added energy-efficiency.

Window Frames
Frame materials are another key consideration. The frame can affect not only a window's appearance, but also its energy efficiency. On the whole, fiberglass is one of the better performers among window frame materials because manufacturers can hollow out the frames and fill them with insulation without sacrificing their strength or integrity. Wood windows are also efficient and may best match an older home's existing style. Vinyl frames are most affordable, while metal frames allow the maximum amount of glass. One strong and increasingly popular option is composite frames, which combine two or more materials, such as a wood foundation with vinyl or aluminum cladding. Composite frames can look like wood and are about as efficient, but are more resistant to warping, fading, denting, moisture and decay.

For more info on replacing your windows, read our article, Replacement Window Options, in Professional Builder.

Confused about what what a bow window is, or what egress is? Look no further than PATH Partner Anderson Windows' glossary of window terminology.

Scary Utility Bills?
Don't despair. Some utilities have programs that will actually help you lower your bills. While utilities profit when you buy more of their product, some want you to buy less to keep supplies level or save on infrastructure costs in the long run. Many are obligated by state governments to use public benefit funds to encourage conservation. Check with your utilities to see if they offer any programs that will help you spend less on energy and water. Here are some popular programs and incentives that your utilities may offer.

Electricity and Gas

  • Rebates on energy efficient products and appliances
  • Discounted home energy audits
  • Incentives for home weatherization
  • Demand Side Generation/Management
  • Rebates on renewable energy systems and products
  • Time of use pricing, which reduces your rate during periods when demand is low if you agree to pay a higher price during periods when demand is high


Water

  • Rebates on products and appliances
  • Free or discounted surveys of your irrigation system to determine where inefficiencies may lay


Heating Oil

  • Locking in an early rate with your supplier may result in savings if oil prices are expected to increase during the heating season


What's in it for you?
Check our database to see what utility incentives might be out there.

Fire

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