Another Scorching Texas Summer is Far From OverIt has already produced new records for heat and for statewide energy usage. Texas power demand reached 65,047 megawatts on Monday June 25th, destroying the record set last year. We know that will turn into record high utility bills for a lot of Austinities, so we visited our friends at TreeHouse to get some tips on how to lower the cost. The home improvement specialists known for their dedication to sustainability, health and efficiency came through with these 9 tips to avoid burning your budget this summer.
The most important issue to address in making a home or building more energy efficient is the thermal envelope. That means reducing the amount of heat transfer that goes on between the inside and outside of the house. In order of importance, the most important projects are:
Insulation – Poor Insulation of both the walls and attic are the number one reason for inefficient energy use in home. There are a number of sustainable and healthy materials you can use to increase the performance of your walls and attic…. from recycled denim and recycled glass to recycled celluslose (newspaper). All are treated with a low-toxic borate to reduce both insect/mildew problems, as well as to make them fire retardant.
Windows & Doors – Windows and doors are effectively holes in your wall, and while they are needful and nice to have, they can really put a dent in your efficiency. In the very least, windows should be dual paned, inert gas filled, and have a thermally broken frame. It is not usually a do it yourself project, but is well worth the money and time.
Weatherization/Weather stripping – This is an easy project that will get you the most bang for your buck ($20-$50 on the low end). It is essentially just sealing up gaps around windows and doors. It is super easy on you, and super easy on your wallet.
Behind HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, & Air Conditioning), the number two consumer of energy in the home is the water heating system. There are several ways to make your water heating more efficient depending on your project and budget.
Solar Water Heating – Solar water heating systems use the free solar energy that lands on every roof to heat your water for you. These systems are the most efficient and most cost effective. They can reduce water heating bills by up to 80%.
High Efficiency Electric – These tanks resemble the classic water heating tanks we all grew up with, but can be operated for around $17 per month for the average family…a substantial savings.
Tankless Water Heating – The technology of tankless water heating is based on a process called “flash heating,” where water isn’t heated until it is needed, and then it is heated so quickly that it could almost be called “instant.” Buyers should be aware that these systems function best with natural gas, and though they are very efficient, it gives you an effectively limitless supply of hot water. If you aren’t careful, you may stretch those hot showers longer than usual, and end up using more hot water than you did before.
Sunlight is ubiquitous, free, and healthy. Lightbulbs were invented to help us see in the dark, and yet we use them mostly during the day. There are several strategies for cutting down on energy used for lighting.
Day Lighting – Using skylights and sun tunnels makes use of natural, healthy, and free sunlight in the areas that you use most.
Energy Star Fixtures – These certified light fixtures make sure that the energy that you are sending to your light bulbs is in fact converted to light instead of heat.
High Efficiency Light Bulbs – CFL and LEDs are the most common examples. LEDs are by far the best, but a little more expensive. CFLs are a little more affordable, but don’t perform as well as LEDs