Do you live where heat? Most of us spend our time at home in a small number of rooms: the kitchen and living room, the bathroom and bedroom. But we also have closets and crawlspaces, guest rooms and garages. Too often, we pay to heat and cool rooms we don’t live in. Zoned heating and cooling systems solve that problem.
If your home only has one thermostat you’re probably heating and cooling empty rooms and wasting money. Zoned heating and cooling systems keep a convenient single control panel but add multiple zones for your living, sleeping, working, and cooking spaces.
You can control these zones independently, adjusting the temperatures to heat and cool the rooms you live in, the way you live in them. No more wasted energy on those empty rooms, and no more wasted money on your energy bills.
Remember when Mom used to tell you to shut off the light when you left a room? Or when Dad told you to put on a sweater if you’re cold? It turns out they were ahead of their time! More and more home energy professionals recommend behavioral energy efficiency as an effective way to lower your home energy costs. Just like Mom and Dad. But what exactly are behavioral adjustments, and which ones are the most effective?
A “nudge” toward behavioral energy efficiency
In the past few years, we’ve heard a lot about behavioral “nudges.” These nudges are small changes in the way we work and live that have the power to help us make better decisions and improve our results. One of the most common examples is about saving money for retirement. It was presented in the book Nudge, by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein. The argument is that
many Americans are not saving enough for retirement… ‘in 2005 the personal savings rate for Americans was negative for the first time since 1932 and 1933 – the Great Depression years.’
To improve the savings rate, Thaler and Sunstein argue, we need to make a small change to the way retirement savings plans like 401(k)s and 403(b)s work. Their solution? Make retirement savings plans opt-out instead of opt-in. “Nudge” folks to save money by making the savings effortless and easy to manage, and we should all begin to save more for retirement. No more worrying about balancing our portfolios, asset allocations, rates of return, or any of the details that can overwhelm us and stop us from taking action.
Behavioral energy efficiency nudges work in the same way.
If you want to save money on your home energy expenses, the first thing you need to know is where, exactly, is your money going? The average American family spends more than $2,500 each year on home energy. But that doesn’t all go to the light bulbs burning in empty rooms, or the teenager standing in front of an open refrigerator.
Know yourself, know your home energy costs
Home heating and cooling, along with domestic hot water (DHW), account for the lion’s share of your home energy bills. That means that controlling home energy costs begins with understanding those costs. Our Heating Energy Assessment Tool uses home performance data from your utility bill to show you your exact heating, cooling, and DHW costs down to the penny. Now that you know these costs, you can nudge yourself and your family in the right direction.
Maybe a programmable thermostat is right for you, or you’d like to try replacing your 3 most frequently used incandescent light bulbs with CFL or LED bulbs. Your utility company or state government might have weatherization incentives available, so that you can take advantage of professional air sealing and weather stripping work. A RESNET or BPI certified home performance contractor can work with you to complete a whole house energy audit and plan home improvement projects to maximize your savings and your comfort.
Because how you live affects how you use energy, it can be easy to start saving money today. There are tools, professionals, and incentive and rebate programs available to help you. And at the very least, we can remember Mom, and turn off the lights in an empty room.
Demand response is a new way for utility companies and co-ops to deliver power to customers. It has the potential to significantly change the way customers and utilities work together. So what exactly is demand response? Pretty much what it sounds like!
What you need to know about demand response
Demand response is a way for utility companies and co-ops to more efficiently deliver electricity to homeowners, based on how much electricity is in demand at any given time. Peak demand in the home is in the morning, when we’re all getting ready for work and school, and in the evening, when we all come home to fix dinner, do our household chores, watch TV, or have the neighbors over for a visit.
It’s common sense: when we’re at home we demand more electricity from our utility. When we’re not at home, that level of demand drops. We might only have the HVAC system on, and the usual appliances and electronics humming along in the background. Demand response helps utilities balance that peak demand in the morning and evening with the lower demand in the afternoon and late at night, when we’re out of the house or asleep.
How you can take advantage of demand response
Demand response programs may be offered by your utility company or co-op. Check out those inserts in your next utility bill! You may be eligible for real savings every month, just by using your dishwasher and laundry machines in times of lower power demand. Your utility might also offer you “time-based rates” which can be more or less expensive, per kilowatt-hour, based on the time of day and the demand on the utility’s power generation capabilities. Most time-based rates (they’re also called “peak pricing,” “variable pricing,” “real time pricing,” or similar names) follow the basic law of supply and demand. When demand is high, in the morning and evening, prices are a little bit higher. When demand is low, in the afternoons and late at night, prices will be a little bit lower.
Utilities offer demand based rates to encourage you to use your major appliances, like your dishwasher and laundry machines, at the low-demand times of the day. This can be a win-win situation. Your utility wins, because they save wear and tear on their equipment. You win because you save money on your electricity costs by using your major appliances in those lower demand times of the day.
What’s next for demand response?
According to the Department of Energy,
The electric power industry considers demand response programs as an increasingly valuable resource option whose capabilities and potential impacts are expanded by grid modernization efforts. For example, sensors can perceive peak load problems and utilize automatic switching to divert or reduce power in strategic places, removing the chance of overload and the resulting power failure. Advanced metering infrastructure expands the range of time-based rate programs that can be offered to consumers and smart customer systems such as in-home displays or home-area-networks can make it easier for consumers to changes their behavior and reduce peak period consumption from information on their power consumption and costs.
Demand response programs are created and managed by utility companies and co-ops. But homeowners, renters, and landlords who choose to participate in utility programs will find real benefits, including saving money on their electricity bills every month.
Understanding home heating energy performance just got a whole lot easier. The new Heating Energy Assessment Tool (HEAT) from AREVS is a RESNET Approved, easy to use web-based application that tells home energy professionals, homeowners, and renters whether or not a home is in need of energy retrofits or upgrades. Using patented algorithms that are normalized for house size and geographical location, and information from its utility bill, HEAT provides a heating energy audit for a home in under 5 minutes. A simple A+ through F grade range gives instant understanding of home heating performance.
Advantages for Professionals:
• A “first line” assessment tool to determine if a home needs further envelope assessment.
• Can be used for performance-based quality assurance verification for homes that have undergone weatherization upgrades.
• Eliminates need for on-site inspections.
• Offers opportunity for en masse initial ratings.
• Pre-qualified leads sent directly to your sales team.
• Use HEAT as a complement to asset-based rating programs.
Advantages for Homeowners:
• Economical and easy to use.
• Information from a single energy bill results in a custom HEAT Assessment in less than 5 minutes.
• Determine energy consumption and costs for heating, air conditioning and hot water.
• Provides an accurate assessment of whether a home is in need of energy retrofits or upgrades.
• Provides an accurate assessment of whether a home is in need of a further envelope assessment from a certified RESNET professional.
• Verify energy savings achieved through weatherization and energy upgrades.
• Know a home’s PITI+E payment: Principal, Interest, Taxes, Insurance, and Energy – the true cost of home ownership.
We’re ready to put a long winter behind us, but we also want to harness some of that cold air for the dog days of summer. For many people, air conditioning is the beginning and end of the story. But air conditioning is just one of the ways that you and your family can keep cool this summer.
The real key for keeping cool is to keep air moving throughout your home. Here’s how to keep cool this summer: easy tips for everyone to try.
If you can, open the windows to let air into your home. Not only will this help you become acclimated to warmer temperatures, but the air circulating through your rooms will help keep them cool.
Use a floor fan or table fan to pull air into your home. Strategically placed fans away from windows will move air deeper into a room, helping air circulation.
Install a ceiling fan in your bedroom to help you sleep more comfortably, and another in your living room to keep your family cool during the dog days of summer.
Tune up your air conditioner. The average air conditioner uses as much as 500 watts of electricity during the cooling season. In many parts of the country, August and September are hotter than July! Older or inefficient models will use more, costing you more this summer.
Air conditioner tips and tricks
Even if a new air conditioner isn’t in your budget, there are steps you can take to improve your current model’s performance.
One painless step is to raise your thermostat’s temperature during the day. Why pay to cool the air if no one is at home? Just a two degree increase can save big money each year.
You can do this manually, or install a programmable thermostat. There are many models available, from a basic digital timer to advanced “learning” thermostats that adapt to the way you live in your home.
If you’re not sure where to begin, a certified home performance professional can help you rate your home’s energy efficiency and find the best deals for your wallet and your home. They can help you determine the right size and model air conditioner for you and your home, take advantage of rebates and incentive programs, and make sure your home is performing at its peak.
Upgrading your home’s windows and doors with newer products can increase your home energy efficiency, and make your family more comfortable year round. But what products are right for your home?
Energy Star rated windows use transparent low-E (low emissivity) coatings to improve the insulating properties of the glass. Better insulation means less heat escapes in the winter, and less cool air escapes in the summer.
When a professional replaces your windows and doors he will also replace the air sealing around the frames, helping to keep your energy costs down and your comfort level up.
Are upgraded windows and doors the right choice for you? Get your home’s full energy assessment today: it’s fast and accurate and will give you actionable information to take the next step. Click here to use your assessment data and save even more time.
Air sealing is one of the most important – and effective – steps you can take to make your home more energy efficient. One easy do it yourself project is air sealing with caulk.
Caulk is a flexible sealant applied over joints and gaps in your home: between your shower and the floor, for example, or between the window frame and the window. When you seal these spaces you keep air from leaking outside your home, and your HVAC system doesn’t have to work as hard to keep your rooms at a comfortable temperature.
Is air sealing with caulk the right choice for you?
Have you ever noticed a draft in your house, especially around the windows and doors, or the baseboards? These drafts are caused by air moving from one part of your home to another. That means your heated or cooled air is leaking out, costing you money on your energy bills every month. How can you stop air leakage?
Air sealing is one of the most effective home improvement projects for increasing your home’s energy efficiency, and making your family healthier and more comfortable.
Reducing air leakage between the inside and outside of your home will keep warm air inside in the winter, and cool air in during the summer. Effective air sealing may also keep moisture, insects, and pests from invading your home. When you seal these spaces you keep air from leaking outside your home, and your HVAC system doesn’t have to work as hard to keep your rooms at a comfortable temperature.
Solar water heating and solar domestic hot water systems let you heat your home’s hot water using the sun. These systems include solar collectors and water tanks. They can be active or passive.
Active solar water heaters use pumps to circulate water through the solar collector and into the storage tank. Passive solar water heaters use a tank inside the solar collector to feed a storage tank in your home.
Forget the massive solar arrays of the 1970s. Today, your neighbors are using attractive and efficient solar photovoltaic systems to power their homes, store power for emergencies, and even sell their surplus power back to the utility company.
Solar photovoltaic systems convert the sun’s rays to electricity. This electricity can be used immediately to power your home, or in systems with battery storage it can be saved for future use. Solar photovoltaic systems are among the most developed home energy efficiency products. Depending on your home’s location and your needs you will have an array of choices for your system.
Is a solar photovoltaic system the right choice for you?