Few people realize how much wasted energy use at home impacts the environment, and makes us more dependent on foreign oil. Nor do they understand that they can quickly reduce their energy costs substantially by a variety of cost-effective conservation efforts.
Obama Gets It
President-elect Barack Obama has announced that energy conservation is a strategic new way to help reduce energy costs for low income households. He has promised to provide conservation contractors for 1 million poorer households to reduce energy consumption and cut energy costs. This would represent a historic shift in emphasis for the government, reducing people’s energy bills instead of helping to pay them. At the same time, it will create tens of thousands of jobs for contractors to assist with conservation upgrades for these homes. This will be part of the new presidents plan to create new jobs, reduce consumer energy costs and at the same time make us less depended on foreign energy sources.
Global Climate Change
The scientific community agrees that increasing CO2 levels are contributing to global climate change. But not all of this CO2 comes from industry and transportation as many people assume. Households are responsible for one-fifth of the energy consumed in the United States. A little more than half of the energy used in our homes is in the form of electricity. The remainder comes from natural gas, coal and oil. All of this CO2 takes its toll on our environment. For example, the average home produces more than twice as much greenhouse gas pollution as the average car. If you add together the emissions produced by power plants that generate electricity, plus those from oil, and gas-fired appliances, the average house is responsible for the release of 22,000 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) each year. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), this compares to poorly with a typical car’s 10,000 pounds of CO2 annually.
Conservation and Energy Use
In many homes, we don’t even benefit from a lot of the energy we end up paying for. Unneeded lights, old appliances, poorly maintained Heating and AC systems, drafty doors and windows and under-insulated attics, walls, floors, and basements all take a bite out of the energy bill in almost every home. Studies have also shown that two families living in IDENTICAL homes can have energy bills that vary by as much as 100 percent — this means that an occupants energy efficiency habits and appliances can double (or halve) your energy bills.
Many people are reluctant to improve the energy efficiency of their home when they might be moving out in just a few years, or they think the costs will be too high for conservation efforts. But the published research is clear that investments in energy efficiency are often relatively inexpensive, extremely cost effective and also lead to higher home resale values.
A study published in The Appraisal Journal found that the market value of a home increases by $10 – $25 for every $1 decrease in annual fuel bills. The study was conducted by ICF Consulting with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency. The research was conducted at a sample of over 16,000 housing units all across the nation.
What You Can Do Right Now
Schedule an energy efficiency inspector audit of your home. My client’s report an annual net energy savings of $300 after implementing the cost-effective efficiency recommendations from my audits. I offer my audits at no cost if I am conducting a new purchase home inspection. Also, many utility companies sponsor free, or reduced cost energy efficiency inspections. In addition, utilities typically have a web based self-audit that the homeowner can complete to develop their own energy efficiency plan. Most utilities also offer rebates on the purchase of new EnergyStar rated efficient appliances and other conservation materials and services. Contact your local utility provider for more information. In California, visit the Energycheck website for a qualified energy efficiency inspector in California. energycheckup.com/content/findinspector.asp/.
A fast and cost effective way to reduce electrical costs is to replace current incandescent light bulbs with the new generation of CFL energy saving bulbs. Local utilities often provide incentives to retailers (including Cost-Co) to sell these bulbs at very low costs. I recently found these bulbs for sale at various retailers in California for less than $1 per bulb. Using these CFL bulbs can reduce your electrical use and bill up to 20% alone. There has been some misinformation about CFL bulbs emitting mercury during operation. These mercury hazard claims are false. However, if a CFL bulb breaks, (since it has a very small amount of mercury), it should be placed in a plastic bag, and discarded at the proper facility where you would for paints or batteries. CFL technology has been greatly enhanced: they turn on faster and last longer. However, they still have not been perfected for dimmer light controls.
So be smart by making your home more energy efficient, at the same time you will: save money, help the environment, and the economy, as well as reducing our dependents on foreign oil.