Tag Archives: energy-efficiency

5 easy ways you can reduce your energy use at home

One of today’s hot topics is saving energy. Whether you support renewables or prefer to use fossil fuels, conserving energy will help you save money that you can use for that vacation you’ve needed or the new car you’ve always wanted. You don’t need to be Super-man to conserve—these tips will help you become a home energy expert in no time.


  1. Use your yard to your advantage

It’s easy to consider your backyard as something that just sucks up water and energy. But, there are steps you can take to reverse this and actually use your yard to save electricity and money. First, make sure to plant mostly native plants. These plants are suited to your climate so you shouldn’t have to use excessive water or buy expensive soil additives to make them grow. Secondly, while keeping native plants in mind, plant trees that can provide shade near your house. Help lessen the heat in your home in the summer, which means less money you need to spend on air conditioning. And, lastly, don’t use your clean, drinking water to water your lawn and plants. It is fairly easy to install a large barrel to collect drinking water from places like your roof that you can then use to water plants.



  1. Build your home to fit the climate, don’t try to change the climate for your home

This one is really only applicable if you are considering building your own home, but there are many ways to build your house with the climate in mind. For example, if you live in a colder area, north facing windows are a bad idea because they can lose a lot of heat. Windows on the south side of your house are always a good idea. Overhangs will shade windows and stop the sun from overheating the house in the summertime. If you already own a home that is not built with the sun in mind, Phillip Murphy (a relative to the writer), the owner of Proxy homewatch, says that closing the window blinds during the summer when the sun is shining in also helps. In the winter, windows on the south facing side of your home should be left uncovered to let in any heat from the sunshine, according to Murphy. High ceilings will help the hot air rise above the areas that people walk around in. Big windows combined with screens will let in fresh air that cools down the house. If you know the weather where you live and look for a house that takes advantage of this, your energy use could decrease dramatically.



  1. Be smart with your plugs

Although people have tested and more or less disproved the theory that unused but plugged in chargers waste a lot of energy, other appliances are not so low profile. The U.S. Department of Energy says that people waste 5-10% of their residential energy by keeping appliances plugged in all day. Some appliances that suck up energy are TVs, toasters, lamps, desktop computers, stereos, and coffee makers. Try to turn off these devices if you aren’t using them; it may not seem like a big deal but every bit adds up. Turning off lights is a big energy saver as well. Dwayne Spencer, the technician at Lux apartments, says that he always turns off his lights when not using them, and tries to get by with less light instead of more. It can be hard to remember to unplug to many things, but luckily there are plug in timers to help. Lets say you have a lamp that you like to be on during the day, but off at night. A plug timer will turn off the lamp at a preset time every day, so you don’t have to remember to do it.



  1. Be more aware of your thermostat

It’s so easy these days to set your thermostat to a temperature like 73 and just forget about it, especially if you live in an apartment. But this can suck up huge amounts of energy. If you turn your thermostat down by 10-15 degrees at night in the winter for 8 hours, you can save 5-15% on your heating bill. That’s a big deal. And if you don’t think you can make it for 8 hours with your living space a bit colder, just turn the thermostat down a couple degrees—you’ll still get some benefits. The same goes for the summer; try to turn down the AC if you’re not going to be at home. If you are home, turn on some overhead fans and open some windows to get a breeze instead of cranking up the air conditioning to full blast. Your wallet will thank you. Along the lines of heating and cooling, Josh Guthrie, the head of residential & commercial Sales for Bullman Heating and Air, says there are many ways to make a difference. You can replace inefficient windows and doors that are sources of leakage and make sure to buy efficient brands. You can also better insulate your attic and crawl space.




  1. Consider renewable energy

While some states have deregulated energy and you can now choose to purchase your energy from renewables, North Carolina lags behind. But, this shouldn’t stop you from considering installing your own renewables at home. Our state isn’t well suited for wind turbines in most places, but solar and geothermal energy will function almost anywhere. The cost of installing solar energy has decreased dramatically in recent years, making it much more affordable. Geothermal energy is advantageous because it doesn’t depend on an uncertain source like the sun. While there are no current subsidies from the state, this could change in the future so be on the lookout. Guthrie says that he gives customers as much information as he can on high efficient and renewable energy, from geothermal all the way to high efficiency heat pumps. He says he gives them his opinion on how going more efficient would benefit them, and that “everyone is receptive to that,’ because they want to save money on utilities. Renewable energy can be helpful in was beyond simple energy conservation as well. Dwayne Spencer says he would love to see solar panels on the roof of Lux apartments because then there would be a backup energy source in case of a blackout, such as the one that happened earlier this year. Whatever you are using it for, renewable energy is always a great way to go.

The History of Energy Efficiency

In today’s world, we have ample opportunities to be conscientious and energy efficient citizens. However, this has not always been the case. In the past, people thought that energy would eventually be quite inexpensive, and global warming was not yet discovered.

First, it is important to establish what exactly energy efficiency means. Something is more energy efficient if it takes less energy than something else to provide the same service. So an energy efficient dishwasher does the same task as a normal one, it just uses less electricity.

It could be said that the path to energy efficiency began with the 1973 oil embargo. Arabs stopped exporting oil to the U.S. because they were supporting Israel in a war against Egypt and Syria. The U.S. was heavily dependent on Middle Eastern oil at the time, and the embargo caused vulnerability that had not previously been experienced.

There was a time that had high inflation, high prices for many goods, and fears that we were entering a period of a lack of resources. The combination of these problems led the US to make policies on energy, including energy efficiency.

The first law about energy efficiency was signed by President Gerald Ford in 1975, called the Energy Policy and Conservation Act.

When President Carter took office, he founded the Department of Energy, which was a consolidation of the Federal Energy Administration, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Federal Power Commission, and others. In the early 1990s, after a period of energy stability in the 80s, Congress made another policy to stay up to date on energy efficiency. Again in 2005, energy policies were updated to include new tax incentives and appliance standards.

More recently, the low prices of oil and natural gas have made maintaining energy efficiency much harder. It’s difficult to care about conserving energy when the benefits are not so easily seen. Involvement in conserving will no doubt take off much more quickly when energy prices being to climb again.

Since Obama has been in office, he has taken steps to address energy efficiency. In December of 2015, the government created a new energy-saving standard directed at commercial air conditioners and furnaces. Increasing the efficiency of these appliances could save $167 billion over the lifetime of the standard, as well as 885 million tons of carbon dioxide.

Renewable energy also can aid energy efficiency. Especially as more research is done and technology develops, renewables such as solar and wind power are becoming more and more efficient. Eventually, resources like these could be the answer to using energy in the best way.

Looking to the future, technologies and policies will continue to change. Phillip Murphy, the owner of Proxy Homewatch, a company that looks after second homes and helps owners become more energy efficient, says that he expects more government regulation in the future.

Murphy says, “I see similar regulation as the ones that outlawed incandescent bulbs as too inefficient—that took care of that”.

In the heating business, there are also developments on the horizon.

Josh Guthrie, the head of residential & commercial Sales for Bullman Heating and Air, says that, “every year it seems like something’s coming out new that’s more efficient than the last.” Water furnaces in particular are constantly being reevaluated and reengineered.

The future of energy efficiency looks bright indeed. Perhaps one day we won’t worry about energy efficiency at all because it will be something everyone takes for granted.


Energy Efficiency Lingo: The Abridged Version

Are you confused about the terminology builders and websites use to talk about energy efficiency? Do you just want to buy the most energy efficient option and get it done fast? Here’s a quick summary of common lingo used to talk about efficiency!


Definition: Protecting your home from the elements while raising home energy efficiency
Insulation: Material used in walls, attic, and windows to stop heat flow in and out of your house

R-value- Physics term to talk about resistance to heat flow. The higher, the better. Used for wall and attic insulation.

What R-value should you aim for?

SHGC (solar heat gain coefficient)- How much heat through sunlight is gained through windows. Low SHGC is good for sunny climates.

U-value: How much non-solar heat moves through windows. Low U-value is good for colder climates

See what other things you can do to reduce your energy use


Now, let’s talk about your energy guzzlers!

kWh- Unit of energy. 1 kWh costs on average $0.12.

Watt- Unit of power, or energy used per second

Air Conditioning: 

SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio)- Measure of efficiency of A/C through warmer and cooler seasons. Higher is better. Current Department of Energy standards is SEER 14, although SEER 18 and higher units are being manufactured.

Learn more about SEER and when to replace your AC unit

Water Heaters:

EF (Energy Factor): Measure of efficiency, ratio of energy output to input.

Federal tax credits exist for water heaters! To qualify, it must have an energy factor of at least 0.82.

Find our more about different water heaters and what type of tax credits are available to you

The Fast Answers to Your Dire and Pressing Energy Efficiency Questions

Maybe you don’t find energy efficiency in your home particularly thrilling. But, here’s some (maybe) surprising answers and facts about that energy bill that you only glance at for a moment every month.

How much of your energy bill to heating and cooling?

It’s decreased over the last few decades, but heating and cooling is still about 41% of your energy use in 2009.  Targeting this 41% is one of your best strategies to cut your energy bill.

How much does your climate and environment change your energy bill?

It can be a rather important component.

Sam Warner, a student from Asheville, North Carolina, lives in a home formerly shaded by a big maple tree. He and his family found their bill go from $80/month to $100/month during the summer after the tree was cut down.

How much has home efficiency increased in the US since 1970?

According to a Department of Energy survey, houses built recent in the 2000s are 25% more efficient that 1970s era houses.  Still, houses have increased square footage since then, reducing some of the savings.

Good news though is that there’s a lot of opportunity to reduce energy use by retrofitting older homes. Most of our efficiency gains have come by retrofitting homes built before the 1970s.

Dante Rana of Chapel Hill, NC and his family recently purchased a home that is approximately 100 years old. He says that it is very poorly weatherized. But, his family has been working on numerous efforts to improve the house.

Their list is quite extensive:

  • A central unit HVAC system
  • Upgrading efficiency of windows (multi-pane windows)
  • Replacement/installation of in-wall insulation
  • Upgrading attic and crawlspace insulation

What’s the most energy demanding appliance/electronic device in your home?

Outside of essentials like water heating, heating and cooling, appliance and electronic energy demand is getting quite high.


Here’s some numbers to get you thinking about where all of your energy’s going to:

40″-49″LCD TV- 12 watts

Laptop- 20 to 50 watts

Energy-Star Efficient Fridge- 47 watts

1996-era Fridge- 205 watts

PlayStation 3- 210 watts!