Behavioral energy efficiency: how you live affects how your home performs

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?

Pisgah Home, Highland Park Historic District

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

A house sitting on a stack of money
Go green and save some green!

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.

What is Demand Response?

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!

Electricity meter with demand response caption

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

A basic programmable thermostat from Honeywell

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.

What’s new at AREVS?

Normally our blog posts are abut how to save energy at home, energy efficiency, and how to make your home more energy efficient. Some of our favorites, like “Do you live energy efficiency?” are quick and easy steps everyone can take today to cut energy costs. (Tip: if you find blog posts like that useful, sign up for our home energy performance newsletter. Twice a month we’ll send you our best tips and ideas on how to maximize your home’s energy performance.) This week we want to bring you up to speed.

What’s new at AREVS:

We’re proud to be part of the Cleantech Open startup accelerator Class of 2014. Cleantech Open is the world’s largest accelerator and business competition for cleantech startups, providing access to capital, mentoring, and networking events.

We’re using our time in the accelerator to build, test, and launch our next product: the Heating Energy Assessment Tool. HEAT is a revolutionary new way to understand dome heating energy consumption and costs. And after the winter we’ve all been through, taming heating costs through energy efficiency is more important than ever.

More than simply reporting home heating costs, HEAT gives renters, homeowners, and professionals an easy to understand A-F HEAT Grade for each home and family’s energy efficiency. The HEAT Grade is proof of home performance, and a tool everyone can use to get the most out of their home.

HEAT will launch in July on our website and on partner sites, making HEAT available for every existing home in America: 128 million homes in all 50 states!

Dean Durst presents AREVS at New York Energy Week This week our Co-founder Dean Durst was invited to present a poster at the New York Energy Week Cleantech Startup Showcase. The Showcase featured “40 of the most innovative and exciting cleantech companies developing groundbreaking, carbon-reducing technologies.” Dean created a good buzz about HEAT and we’re excited about the new opportunities that came out of Dean’s presentation.

What’s next from AREVS?

We’re working hard to bring HEAT to more residential and professional customers in the coming months. We’re improving our algorithms to make our tools, the AREVS Home Energy Performance Calculator and the new Heating Energy Assessment Tool, the most accurate home energy performance software on the market. And we’ve got great ideas for new products and services for renters, homeowners, landlords, and professionals.

Subscribing to our home energy performance newsletter is a great way to find out what’s new at AREVS, and to get our best money saving tips for your home, family, and colleagues.

You can also Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and connect with us on Google+ and LinkedIn. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

What do the new EPA rules on greenhouse gas emissions mean for consumers?

New federal limits on greenhouse gas emissions published this week by the Environmental Protection Agency are designed to reduce the U. S. greenhouse gas emissions level by “30% from their 2005 level,” according to a Wall Street Journal report. This reduction will bring U. S. emissions well under the nonbonding Copenhagen Agreement of 2009, when the U. S. pledged to reduce emissions by 17% of the 2005 level.

According to the Wall Street Journal,

A big factor in the EPA’s cost forecast: successful energy-efficiency programs. These can include steps consumers take, such as more energy-efficient refrigerators, and programs utilities pay for, such as giving companies credits for shifting power use to periods of low demand.

Emphasizing home energy efficiency can be effective in controlling greenhouse gas emissions because reduced demand on utilities to generate electricity should lead to reduced emissions that are a product of electricity generation.

The new EPA rules on greenhouse gas emissions place the burden of compliance on each state, which must develop its own emissions target plan for EPA approval. This will put the states that have invested in renewable and clean energy ahead of others – in particular the states that rely on coal, such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Iowa, for example, has invested $10 billion to generate 28% of its electricity from wind.

What do the new EPA rules mean for consumers?

  • Higher home energy costs. Utilities will need to invest in equipment and employees o comply with the new federal rules. These costs will be passed along to consumers in the form of surcharges, taxes, and rate hikes.
  • Higher prices on manufactured goods. Labor intensive durable goods from home appliances to cars and trucks will rise in price as manufacturers invest in their factories to comply with new federal rules.
  • More jobs for hard hit industries like construction, industrial manufacturing, home performance, HVAC, and energy. Complying with new federal rules will require businesses to invest in tools, equipment, and training for their current and future workers.
  • Lower home energy costs – eventually. Utilities will raise prices in the short term to cover the expenses of complying with new federal rules. But home energy efficiency will lower energy costs for homeowners, renters, and landlords in the long run. By consuming less electricity, households will reduce their energy costs.

Energy costs the average American household more than $2,000 each year. Those costs are anticipated to rise over the next few years as the new federal rules come into effect. But home energy efficiency can reduce those costs for everyone, whether you own or rent your home.

How will the Green Button Initiative work for you?

What is the Green Button Initiative?

Launched in January 2012, the Green Button Initiative provides utility customers with their home energy usage data, directly from the utility’s website. Just click the green button icon and go.

With this information at their fingertips, consumers would be enabled to make more informed decisions about their energy use and, when coupled with opportunities to take action, empowered to actively manage their energy use. – U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra

Green Button Dowonload My Data
Look for this button on your utility’s website!

How will the Green Button Initiative work for you?

Having your home energy usage data is good. What you can do with it is even better. Data from your utility company about your own energy usage can help you reduce high energy costs. You can see exactly what you’re spending on heating, cooling, and hot water. Understanding your home energy costs is the first step toward using home energy efficiency to reduce those costs. It may be as simple as changing the way you use your home, or you may decide to hire a professional to complete a whole house energy audit.

According to the Department of Energy, which is advising utilities and businesses on data standards and program implementation, only 35 companies currently support the Green Button Initiative. More have pledged to do so, and many others will join the program in the future. If you want to know more about the technical aspects of the Green Button Initiative, check out the independent web site Green Button Data, or the US government’s data.gov Green Button web site.

Solar water heating

Solar water heating and solar domestic hot water systems let you heat your home’s water using the sun. These systems include solar collectors and water tanks. They can be active or passive.

solar water system diagram

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.

Is solar water heating 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.

Want more ideas on how to save money on your home energy costs? Just It’s full of the information and ideas you need to make your home less expensive to operate and more comfortable – and healthier – to live in.

 

 

 

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Solar photovoltaic

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 collector on roof

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? 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.

Want more ideas on how to save money on your home energy costs? Just It’s full of the information and ideas you need to make your home less expensive to operate and more comfortable – and healthier – to live in.

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Top 5 Reasons to Improve your Home Energy Efficiency

Whether you buy or rent your home, improving your home’s energy efficiency can make the difference between a place you live and the place you love. Here are our Top 5 reasons to improve your home energy efficiency. If you like them, sign up for our email newsletter and get tips and DIY projects, coupons, and product and service discounts delivered to you each month.

House with A-F grade range

5. A home that consumes less energy creates less pollution. Energy created for residential buildings is largely created by consuming fossil fuels. By-products of this energy creation are greenhouse gases and other pollutants. These can accumulate in the air, ground, and water, and damage the health of the environment.

4. A home that is optimized for energy efficiency has less of an effect on man made climate change. . Energy efficient houses consume less energy, and they also make the most effective use of the energy they do consume. This means fewer damaging heat emissions and chemicals enter the environment.

3. Energy efficient homes are more comfortable homes. A programmable thermostat can keep your rooms at the perfect temperature day and night, season to season. Low-e windows keep your rooms comfortable year ’round, and they can block damaging UV rays. Not only are new appliances more energy efficient, they’re quieter and easier to clean and repair. All of this makes it easier and more confortable for you to love where you live.

2. Energy efficient homes are less expensive to own and operate. Replacing older appliances with Energy Star rated models will save you money every hour they’re in service – and you may qualify for a rebate, too! Other home improvements, like weatherization and air sealing, keep your expensively heated and cooled air inside where it belongs, saving you money on your heating and cooling bills.

Happy Family, by Guirec Maugat.

1. Energy efficient homes are healthier homes for you and your family. Air sealing and better insulation keeps your home comfortable, and it can also keep out moisture, mold, and pests that make your family sick. A fully serviced HVAC system can improve the indoor air quality of your home, helping you and your family breathe easier and sleep better.

There are many reasons to improve your home’s energy efficiency. Whether you want to reduce your costs of owning or renting, sell for the highest price, or keep your family comfortable and healthy all year long, home energy efficiency can deliver.

Home energy audit

Is your home too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter? Did your heating or air conditioning bills take you by surprise last year? You might need a certified professional to conduct a home energy audit.

A whole house energy audit will help you understand your home’s energy consumption and performance, air leakage, and a room-by-room assessment of how you can save money on your heating and cooling energy bills. You may even be eligible for a free or discounted home energy audit based on where you live or your utility company.

What’s involved?

According to RESNET, the Residential Energy Services Network:

A general energy audit is also known as an energy assessment, standard energy audit or detailed energy audit. It expands on the home energy survey by collecting more detailed information regarding the home’s energy usage, as well as a more thorough financial analysis of its energy costs.

The general energy audit also includes diagnostic testing using specialized equipment such as a blower door test, duct leakage tester, combustion analyzer and infrared camera. These tests are done to determine:

The location and number of air leaks in the building envelope.
How much leakage is occurring from HVAC distribution ducts.
How effective is the insulation inside walls and ceilings.
Any existing or potential combustion safety issues.

home infrared image

Is a home energy audit 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.

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All of the above: a home energy strategy for everyone

Tuesday’s State of the Union Address gave President Obama a chance to remind the country of his “All of the Above” energy strategy. This strategy, announced by Obama in 2012, “develops every source of American-made energy” with the goals of reducing energy costs, growing the energy sector of the economy, and reducing the effects of climate change. These are admirable goals, and we’re doing our part for home energy efficiency, so it was good to hear that Obama believes that his strategy is working. It got us thinking about our own energy strategy at home and how we can adapt All of the Above for home energy efficiency.

We can make simple behavioral changes, like turning off the lights in empty rooms and turning down the thermostat a degree or two in the winter.

Simple changes around the house, like swapping incandescent light bulbs for CFLs or LEDs, take just minutes and will save you money for years to come. Looking for the best deals? Shop 1800Lighting.com for a wide selection of energy efficient light bulbs for every fixture in – and outside – your home.

When an old appliance breaks down, replacing it with an Energy Star rated appliance can save big money: up to $100 each year for the lifetime of the appliance!

Time to remodel? Buying a home? It’s the perfect time for a home energy audit. A home energy audit is performed by a home performance professional to assess how much energy a home uses and find areas to improve the comfort and lower the energy cost of a home. Many states and utilities offer discounts on home energy audits, and winter is a good time to get it done.

An all of the above home energy strategy can work for everyone. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time or cost much money. Best of all, you can see the results – lower costs – on your next energy bill.