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
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.
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?
Imagine using your smartphone to control your thermostat from your office, or while you’re coming home from vacation. What about adjusting your interior or exterior lighting based on real time weather reports instead of preset timers?
Sound too good to be true? It isn’t. Home automation systems are widely available now, thanks to new technology that gives you more control over your home – and how you live in it – than ever before.
A recent study by the home improvement store Lowe’s found that:
U.S. homeowners would prefer a smartphone-enabled, do-it-yourself platform for home automation over a closed, subscription-based system.
This DIY approach is a great solution for homeowners who want the most flexibility and control over their homes. Many people are already familiar with home automation in the form of basic programmable thermostats and zoned heating and cooling systems. These are two of the easiest upgrade projects, and they can begin repaying your investment immediately. Adding a learning thermostat can save up to 20% of your home’s energy consumption.
Advanced home automation systems include desktop software, mobile apps, and home appliances that respond to your controls through a simple interface. Centralized control of lighting, HVAC systems, and kitchen appliances may help you optimize your home’s energy efficiency and increase your family’s comfort with the touch of a button.
You can install some home automation components, like thermostats and lighting timers, yourself. All you need are the manufacturer’s instructions and a few common tools.
Advanced home automation systems may require professional installation and setup. This will link your home’s hardware to the manufacturer’s software or third-party apps, and you will have total control over every part of your home.
Is a home automation system the right choice for you?
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.
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 comfortable 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.
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.
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.
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.
Improving your home’s insulation by insulating raw spaces, or upgrading to newer and more energy efficient products, can not only save you money on your heating and cooling bills, it can make your home healthier for your family. You’ll feel more comfortable year ’round with improved insulation.
The Department of Energy recommends home insulation as one of the most important steps you can take to make your home more energy efficient:
A qualified home energy auditor will include an insulation check as a routine part of a whole-house energy assessment. An energy assessment, also known as a home energy audit, will also help identify areas of your home that are in need of air sealing. (Before you insulate, you should make sure that your home is properly air sealed.)
Insulation is graded according to an R-value. The R-value indicates the insulation’s ability to resist heat. The higher the R-value, the greater the heat resistance. Choosing insulation with a higher R-value will save you money on your heating and cooling costs. It will also make your home more comfortable and healthier, because better insulation also acts as an air filter in your walls.
Some types of insulation, like spray foam, also act as a barrier against moisture, insects, and pests. Based on your home’s location and construction, a home performance professional will make recommendations to meet your needs and budget.
Improving your home’s insulation doesn’t have to be an expensive project. Focusing on the most important areas of your home, like the attic, will yield a result on your next utility bill. Insulating your home is commonly a one time project. Fiberglass and spray foam insulations can last longer than your mortgage, so your work will pay for itself quickly, and give you a high return on your investment over the life of your home.
The Department of Energy’s “Years to Payback” equation can help you determine your exact return on investment. A good rule of thumb is that insulation projects will pay for themselves in 3-5 years. A professional home performance contractor can complete the job in a day or two. You’ll start saving money immediately.
Your cost will vary depending on the type of insulation you choose and the size of the space you are insulating. The good news is that you may be eligible for tax rebates from your state government, or incentive programs from your utility company, for home energy efficiency upgrades and retrofits. Your home performance contractor can help determine your eligibility and provide you with required documentation.
Refrigerators and freezers can be some of the biggest energy hogs in your home. They draw electricity around the clock, not just when the kids leave the door open – as much as 18% of your energy costs each year. And we often forget to clean the mechanical parts, making the compressor and radiator work harder with each passing year. Energy efficient refrigerators don’t need to be brand new. We have tips on how to get the best performance out of what you already have.
Got one that looks like this? It may still be running, but it’s costing you much more than it should. According to Efficiency Vermont’s home appliance energy usage infographic, a 20 year old, 22 cubic foot refrigerator draws 1,475 kWh per year, costing you $236.
Have a slightly newer fridge? A 10 year old, 22 cubic foot model will draw about half the electricity, 857 kWh, and save you $100 per year on your bill. Brand new models offer even more savings: 537 kWh per year and an annual cost to operate of just $86!
But even if you’re not in the market for a new energy efficient refrigerator you can take a few steps to improve your kitchen energy efficiency.
Keep it clean.
Dust and grease can build up on the back of the refrigerator, making it more difficult for air to vent from the mechanicals and circulate around the unit. Wipe the exterior surfaces down when you clean your other appliances, and use a can of compressed air to remove dust if needed.
Keep it cool.
Your refrigerator’s job is to keep things cool, but we often place them next to the oven, or in direct sunlight. Any heat source will make the fridge work harder. Giving a little extra time to planning your kitchen can make your fridge’s life – and your own – easier.
Keep it closed.
We all know not to leave the refrigerator or freezer doors open, but even closed doors can let cold air out and warm air in. There’s a simple test to check how tightly your refrigerator doors are sealing: open the door and put a piece of paper inside. Now close the door. If you can pull the paper out easily, the door is not tightly sealed.
Fill ‘er up?
Keep it full, but not too full. Refrigerators are designed to use the food and drink inside them to help maintain an even temperature. An empty freezer or fridge will work harder to keep itself cool. But air need to circulate through the inside, so don’t fill it up all the way.
You don’t have to invest in new energy efficient refrigerators to save money on your home energy bills. A few simple changes to the way you use your appliances can make a big difference.
If you are in the market for a new fridge or freezer, be sure to consider an Energy Star rated model. Energy Star rated refrigerators and freezers are certified to use less electricity and save you money every month, and every year, you own them.
Home lighting technology has come a long way from Thomas Edison’s heated filament incandescent bulbs. Today, people like you are replacing their inefficient incandescent bulbs with CFL (compact fluorescent light) and LED (light emitting diode) bulbs, and saving hundreds of dollars at the same time.
The incandescent light bulb loses as much as 90% of its energy as waste heat. New technologies have made efficient CFL and LED light bulbs competitive choices for most home lighting needs.
Compact fluorescent light bulbs use an integrated ballast to energize chemical vapors. These vapors then produce ultraviolet light. That ultraviolet light strikes the fluorescent coating inside the bulb’s glass housing, which produces visible light. CFLs have been around for decades, and can now create everything from the warm glow of your favorite reading lamp to clear, bright light perfect for your kitchen or home workshop. CFLs cost as little as $2.00, and can last for 5-8 years.
Light emitting diode bulbs are newer than CFLs, and they promise to last an extremely long time in normal usage. These bulbs create light when energized electrons pass from the negative to the positive charged layer in a semiconductor. Because they draw very little electrical current a 60 watt equivalent bulb may only use 7 watts of electricity! This makes them very inexpensive, and it also makes them suitable for use in antique lamps with ow power draws. LED bulbs can cost as much as $60 for a 60 watt equivalent, but they will last for decades – and the price is dropping every year.
Are CFL and LED light bulbs the right choice for you?