A couple of weeks ago, I had to call the appliance repairman out to my home here in Everett, Washington. After he noticed that I was fairly energy-conscious, he asked me if I had given much thought to the energy usage of my appliances. Aside from keeping my appliances well-serviced and not using them more than necessary, I really hadn’t. As it turns out, my older appliances were using more energy than I suspected.
I’ve been well-aware of how much energy my heating and air system uses – initially it was close to half of my entire home’s usage, and it’s now closer to a third. On average, appliances use more than an eighth of your energy; my appliances – particularly my older fridge – probably use quite a bit more than that in my otherwise efficient home. I decided to find out what I could do to improve on that – starting with that refrigerator.
I’ve owned my refrigerator for about fifteen years, but I’ve never taken the temperature of the compartments inside. That’s because my fridge has worked just fine, or at least I thought it did. But even seemingly a well-performing refrigerator may have room for improvement – especially when it comes to energy usage.
So I didn’t know that the main compartment should maintain a temperature of about 38 degrees, while the freezer should run at about five. If the air in either one of these compartments is running more than a couple degrees cooler than that, you’re using extra energy to maintain a temperature you don’t need. But even if your fridge is running at the correct temperature, that doesn’t mean it’s running efficiently.
There are a number of reasons why your fridge may be working too hard to maintain its temperature. Dirty coils are one common reason. If you haven’t cleaned the coils on your fridge lately, they’re probably having some difficulty radiating away heat as they’re designed to do. A good cleaning will help them work efficiently and use less energy; a thorough vacuuming with a brush ought to do the trick.
Another common issue with refrigerators is leaky seals. It’s easy to figure out if your seals are loose and letting out cold air. Simply open the doors to both your main compartment and freezer, and close them on a small piece of paper. Be sure to check the seal in several places. In each instance, the paper should be stuck fast when the door closes on it. If it isn’t, and instead can easily move, your seal ought to be replaced. My local appliance repair guy says that’s pretty easy to do.
If your refrigerator’s seals are in good shape, and you want to keep them that way, simply clean them regularly. Keep them free of moisture, mold, dirt, and debris, and they should continue to do their job for a long time.
Here’s one last potential issue to check: If obstructed by frost, debris, or misplaced food, the vents inside your refrigerator’s freezer and main compartment may not be able to efficiently route cold air where it needs to go. So keep your vents clear of obstacles, and call your repairman if frost is blocking your vents.
Maybe your refrigerator is in good shape, but is simply not built to today’s efficient standards. My fifteen-year-old fridge uses roughly 50% more energy than today’s models – and a bit more than that compared to efficient Energy Star models. Of course it would take quite a while for those savings to pay for a fridge, but it does make a new, efficient upgrade seem like a pretty good deal.
So before you forget, take a look at your refrigerator. Is it old? Is it running at the right temperature? Is it working too hard? If you’re not sure, call your local appliance repairman. He can help you evaluate your fridge –and your options.
When it comes to improving the energy efficiency of a home, one important yet commonly overlooked aspect is water conservation – which often can be improved by repairing and replacement various components of your home’s plumbing system. In fact, it can make quite a difference to the annual cost of your water bill and carbon footprint. By regularly maintaining a plumbing system and eliminating leaks, and simply replacing old fixtures and toilets, you can see a significant reduction at the rate of which your home consumes water. For those of you in particularly hot, dry areas – like Texas – this is a highly valuable investment. For those of you that are curious to see just how much a difference making simple fixture upgrades, the EPA partnership WaterSense has a handy calculator for water savings, as well as a comprehensive list of WaterSense approved fixtures and toilets.
The Primary Concern: Plumbing Leaks
Depending on just how old your home is, your plumbing might need some immediate attention – especially if you notice an unusually high consumption of water on your monthly bill. Often times, a plumbing leak is invisible to a homeowner – hidden behind walls, under floors, and in other areas where the escaping water can go unnoticed. The best way to avoid this problem, is through regular maintenance – performed by a professional, not your DIY husband or wife if at all possible! This is easier than you think and easy to get for free. Mr. Rooter Plumbing of San Antonio has always provided free plumbing checkups complimentary with every service call they take – so if you need a repair done, then by using Mr. Rooter as your plumber of choice, you get a free and comprehensive inspection – which is awesome for any homeowner. Mr. Rooter Plumbing has always prioritized for their customers, and their plumbers offer comprehensive services to all of San Antonio.
Contributing Factors: Old Fixtures and Toilets
If your home’s plumbing system is well-maintained, and no major leaks or problems with pipes exists, then you should turn your attention to the fixtures (faucets and shower heads) and the toilets in your home. Over time, the standard GPF of a toilet has been decreased from using 5 gallons per flush prior to 1980, to 3.5 GPF up until 1994, which then was reduced again to the current standard of 1.6 GPF. You can also save as much as 2 Gallons per Minute if your showerhead is more than 2 years old – amounting to a significant reduction in water usage all together. To make finding efficient fixtures and toilets easier, look for products that have the EPA WaterSense label to ensure that you are purchasing an energy approved replacement for your home.
Carbon footprint is a popular term that gets tossed around when talking about green living and energy efficiency. Your carbon footprint is defined as the amount of greenhouse gases produced from direct or indirect human activity. This is the sum of all carbon dioxide emissions for a given time frame, usually calculated over a period of a year. Below are four tips to reducing your annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions which will in turn lower your carbon footprint.
Home Carbon Energy Improvements
- Use Your HVAC Unit in Moderation: Using your heating or air conditioning units as little as possible is one of the biggest ways to save energy and money at the same time. Make sure to not set your thermostat too high in the winter or too low in the summer. It is recommended for optimal efficiency and comfort to set your home to 68 in the winter and to 78 in the summer. For comfortable fall and spring days in between turn your HVAC unit off completely on days that you can. If you have a smart thermostat, program it to cut off when you know you will be out of the house for extended periods of times.
- Insulated and Seal Your Home: Insulating your home will help to reduce drafts and wasted energy in your home. Even if you have an older home, many states offer homeowners incentives to purchase replacement windows. It may be more of a cost upfront however; you will start to see the benefits right away with a fresh look and lower energy bills.
- Consider Solar Energy: This is a solution if you are looking to completely eliminate your electric bill. Also, depending on your state’s laws you could even earn money through selling electricity back to the grid or receiving tax breaks for your solar panels. This is going to be the most expensive upfront solution so look into possible long-term financing options with your solar panel installation company.
- Upgrade Your Appliances and Turn Off the Lights: If you are in the market for new appliances, now is the time to make efficiency the top priority. Make the smart choice and choose products with an official Energy Star label. This means the appliances, such as dishwashers and refrigerators, have been tested and certified as having superior energy efficiency. Lastly, and possibility the most simple tip to implement into your daily life is to turn off the lights. It’s easy, if you leave the room or aren’t using the light be sure to turn it off. And, the next time a light bulb burns out, replace it with a compact fluorescent or LED bulb.
We always hear about ways we can save money on office electricity, but how much could a business save by switching to more energy efficient lighting? Before we get a generalized number let’s talk about the different types of lighting options for businesses or office buildings. There three different kinds of light bulb upgrades that you could invest in that include, energy saving incandescent, CFL, and LED. You can find out all you need to know about these bulbs at energy.gov, so you can make the right choice for your business or office.
Your energy saving incandescent bulbs will save you 25% on energy costs every month so if you were to switch out every bulb in your office or business then you can cut you energy costs by 25%. Installing CFL or LED bulbs can be a greater investment up front but you are gaining at least saving 75% or greater because these two bulbs tend will last longer than your standard bulbs. Now when we say installing these light bulbs will save X percent of your monthly bill we need to understand how much of office’s energy is spent on lighting. A general office’s monthly lighting cost is around 10% of their total electrical bill. So when they say that these bulbs save you x percent you have to take that away from the 10%.
Let’s say you replace every light bulb in your office with LED light bulbs, great choice. You will only be paying 2.5% for lighting rather than your average 10%. Now let’s put a dollar amount on this so we get a real world example. You electricity bill comes in and is $200 for month and lighting will account for $20 if you have normal bulbs in your office. But with LED lighting you are only paying $5 and your total monthly bill would actually be $185! These bulbs generally last five years until you need to replace them so you will save $300 just from switching those light bulbs.
Not only will your office be saving money on energy but you will also be helping the environment. By decreasing the amount of light bulbs in the landfills and using less energy from power plants lowering the amount of coal they have to burn to create that energy. If you think your business would benefit from energy efficient bulbs then contact a Mr. Electric electrical contractor for energy audit. They will be able to tell you how much you can save and what items you need to implement into your office or business. With greater savings and lower carbon footprint you can benefit the bottom line for your business and help your community at the same time.