Easy ways to turn your home into an eco-friendly sanctuary
All homeowners, especially those blessed with an expanse of square footage, are plagued by high energy costs. Not only is energy expensive, it is also costly to the environment. Although problems with the environment will surely take a global effort to remedy, there are still plenty of easy things you can do to make the world a greener place. This month in the first part of our Go Green series, San Diego Premier will show you how to take your first steps toward eco-friendly home improvement. By following these simple steps, green will soon become your favorite color.
To make your home an eco-friendly residence, first take a look at your large appliances. Old appliances can be one of the biggest drains on both the Earth’s natural resources and your checkbook. If you are in the market for a new washer or dryer, dishwasher or refrigerator, look for newer models that possess the blue and white ENERGY STAR® label. Providing over 50 product categories (and thousands of models) for use in the home, ENERGY STAR® appliances use significantly less energy than standard equipment, consequently saving you money on your energy bills.
Created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, ENERGY STAR® has been protecting the environment by focusing on energy efficient products and practices since 1992. Upgrading your home appliances to energy efficient models can save you about a third on your energy bill, without sacrificing any of the features found in the most popular designs and brands. Striving to help reduce America’s consumption of natural resources, ENERGY STAR® reports that their initiatives helped Americans save $14 billion on their utility bills in 2006 alone.
Now that you recognize the ENERGY STAR® potential, take note that in a typical home the refrigerator will be one of the biggest culprits of energy consumption. However, refrigerators meeting ENERGY STAR® requirements use only half as much energy as models manufactured before 1993 (and even 40% less energy than the standard models sold in 2001). ENERGY STAR® qualified refrigerators still boast all of the functionality of the top-of-the-line kitchen appliances, including in-door ice makers, see through drawers, and side-by-side freezers. So replacing your refrigerator with a new ENERGY STAR® model can save plenty on your energy bill, and your conscience.
If you are not in the market for a new refrigerator, consider these tips to make your current appliance more energy efficient. Position your refrigerator away from a heat source, including a stove or a window, and allow air to circulate around the condenser coils. Keep the coils clean and always make sure the doors are tightly closed. Don’t know what you want for dinner? Take a cursory glance at the contents in your fridge, then shut the door to mull over your choices. This allows your refrigerator to expend less energy trying to maintain its ideal temperature of 35-38 degrees Fahrenheit (zero degrees for your freezer).
In addition to your refrigerator, your central air conditioning is another leading source of energy consumption in the home. According to ENERGY STAR®, approximately one-seventh of all the electricity generated in the U.S. is used to cool buildings. If you like your home to stay cool during the hot summer months, choose an ENERGY STAR® central air conditioner and save yourself about 8% consumption. When installing energy efficient appliances such as central air, always be sure to use a licensed contractor. To find a qualified eco-friendly contractor, contact the ACCA (Air Conditioning Contractors of America) or use their online locator. This is an easy way to find knowledgeable professionals who can help you turn your home into an energy and money-saving residence.
Before installing a cooling system in your home, make sure that ducts and vents, doors and windows are all tightly sealed to prevent leaks. Drafts under doors and around windows, especially in beach communities, can quickly sap your home of its heat or air conditioning. Sealing your home is a quick and inexpensive way to tighten your home against unnecessary energy leaks. Another way to combat the rising cost of heating and cooling in your home is to program your thermostat to regulate the temperature of your house. This will keep your home at a moderate temperature while you are gone for long periods, again saving energy and lowering your heating bill.
A common misconception about electricity is that appliances, even small ones like coffee makers and home computers, do not use energy when they are in the power-save or off mode. Unfortunately, the outlets in your wall constantly emit electricity to your appliances when they are plugged in, so make sure to turn off your computer and unplug your small appliances from the wall when they are not in use.
One last quick fix to save your home from electricity woes? Replace all of your current bulbs with energy-efficient compact fluorescent lights (CFL’s). Although CFL’s are more expensive to purchase than regular fluorescent bulbs, they are four times more energy efficient and last up to 10 times longer. On average, CFL’s cost only 8 cents per kilowatt hour, and an 18-watt CFL will burn just as brightly as a 75-watt incandescent bulb. These bulbs can be purchased anywhere light bulbs are sold, even at your local grocery store, and are now available for three-way dimmer settings.
Not only does ENERGY STAR® provide environmentally friendly tools and choices for your existing residence, they also offer easy-to-use home assessment tools for those looking to build a new energy and cost-efficient residence. New homes built for the ENERGY STAR® designation must conform to rigorous U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for energy efficiency, including a necessity to be at least 15 percent more energy efficient than homes built to meet the 2004 International Residential Code (IRC). So just what makes a new home an ENERGY STAR® qualified home? When looking to build or buy a “green” home, energy efficiency is the ultimate requirement. Generally, ENERGY STAR® homes will include a multitude of features that will lend to both the aesthetic and energy efficient quality of the space. These elements can include high quality insulation, high performance windows, efficient heating and cooling equipment, and ENERGY STAR® appliances and lighting.
Now that you have taken the steps to make your home eco-friendly, you can feel secure that your energy company stands behind your efforts. San Diego Gas & Electric has set a goal to make their energy portfolio contain a noteworthy 20-percent renewable energy resources by 2010. Currently SDG&E has multiple renewable energy projects underway which span wind power, bio-gas and hydroelectric generation. Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) is another area energy provider making moves to encourage users to install energy efficient measures in their buildings.
Now that you have made your home an energy efficient dwelling, you can focus on making the rest of your life more eco-friendly. Check in with San Diego Premier for our next installment of Go Green, featuring more green tips to help you live an environmentally friendly lifestyle. The Earth will thank you.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA SMOG
Regardless of your stance on global warming, it is obvious that no one in Southern California wants to live on a coast constantly shrouded in pollution and smog.
Power plants convert the Earth’s natural resources into the electricity and gas used to power our homes. Unfortunately, these power plants are major contributors to detrimental emissions into the atmosphere.
It stands, then, that the less energy that is consumed, the less air pollution power plants will have to spew into our environment. By turning your home into an energy efficient sanctuary, you can take an active stance against this harmful environmental pollution.
SAVE ON ENERGY-SAVE ON TAXES
Not only will doing your part for the environment lower your energy bill, it may also cut you a break come
Beginning in 2006, homeowners started taking advantage of government sponsored energy tax incentives. Tax credits are currently available for home energy efficiency projects and renewable energy usage. According to ENERGY STAR, The Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006 “extends the production tax credit through 2008 for electricity produced from wind power, geothermal power, biomass, landfill gas, small irrigation power, and trash combustion facilities.”
So what does this mean for you?
For homeowners who purchase qualifying energy efficient systems or make use of renewable energy improvements and construction, it could provide special tax allowances and efficiency rebates.
Check with your energy provider or EnergyTaxIncentives.org to verify your potential tax savings.
By Kelly Cochran
San Diego Premier Vol 11 May 2007