Sustain Times

Home Energy Saving Tips too!

Home Energy Saving Tips – Electricity and Natural Gas

Northern California home energy advising service, watch the 1.5-minute video above.  Chris in the video is my home energy advisor colleague.  Video courtesy of HEA, Home Energy Analytics.  See below for signup.
Energy Saving Audit Details
Our priority is inexpensive fixes with high energy savings for you.  Upgrading windows and installing a new furnace (both good ideas) can be done later, giving priority to the simpler, less expensive tips below. 

Use this Home Energy Saving Walkthrough Guide

Greg M. Bell, Home Energy Advisor
Greg M. Bell, Home Energy Advisor

We follow the guideline below when performing a walk-through of your home in person or on the phone.  We’re experts, we use time-proven building science applied to the guidelines below.  Choose one or two items and begin today!

TABLE of CONTENTS – Quick Links
During Summer Home is Too Hot
Rooms are Cold in the Winter
Water Heater Efficiency
Outdoor Energy Review: Lighting, Pool

– Replace key location (high-use) bulbs w LED bulbs, bring your bulb to Home Depot, 2700k or 3000k rated bulb light is a pleasant warm color, 5000k is a less desirable color for many people.
– Home entertainment on standby?  Many screens and audio equipment consume power when they look like they’re off.  If there is a handheld remote, the system is consuming power in standby mode.  Put speaker, amplifiers and other devices on power strips so they can be easily shut down when unused.  I need to mention this applies especially to plasma TVs, some are still in use today and they use excessive power, especially on standby.  (Do you have a plasma TV?  Most likely yes, if your TV is 5+ years old, or 4+ inches in thickness and especially if it’s warm when on).
– Set-top box in the spare bedroom, turn off with a power strip.
– Have an older, unused VCR, unplug it.
– Do you have a sub pump, removing water from under your home or yard?
– Do you have exercise equipment that requires power? If yes, place them on a surge strip and turn it off when not in use.
– Check your utility rate plan; log into the PG&E web site or call them.  Here are PG&E rates as of Oct 2020. Utilities have a rate comparison tool so you’ll know if you’re on the lowest price plan.  PG&E uses smart meter data to tell you exactly how much you would save given your recent consumption.

– See if the refrigerator is older, replace if more than 15 years, newer refrigerators will keep food cold longer, especially in during power shutoffs.
– Move refrigerator away from wall 2-4 inches, clean coils yearly with long brush and vacuum.
– Open your refrigerator, check for fullness, check door seal for tears, keep minimum 80% full.
– Turn off your second refrig, consolidate food into one.

Electric Kettle is Energy Efficient - Fast Boil Too!
Electric Kettle is Energy Efficient – Fast Boil Too!

– Instant hot water at sink? Use a timer or turn off and use microwave or electric tea kettle (the kettle is best, most efficient).  Instant hot water heaters use considerable electricity.
– Check if freezer is old (newer are more efficient) or full, if not full, add container with water to be block of ice.
– Replace halogen bulbs with LED bulbs in cooktop vent, these are easily missed but used often.
– Check air gaps around kitchen ceiling recessed lights (also known as can lights).  Buy replacement lights that air seal.  See below.
– Do you have a second wine cooler with only a few bottles? If yes, consolidate, turn it on only for parties or events in your home, then off the next day.


Water Too Hot at Your Sink - Lower the Dial Temperature!
Water Too Hot at Your Sink – Lower the Dial Temperature!

Water Too Hot at Your Sink – Lower the Dial Temperature!

– Check water heater temperature. Test, go to a sink closest to your water heater, test with your hand under the water.  Is it too hot?  If so, you are overheating (paying for this energy) by mixing in cold water.  The fix is turn down the temperature dial, check shower temp in a few days where it really matters.  Lower it again until slightly hot.

– IMPORTANT: The factory-set standard temperature for most water heaters is 140 degrees F.  The Department of Energy recommends turning down the temperature to 120 degrees to save energy.  Just remember – any setting below 120 degrees increases bacteria growth inside the tank, so you should not set a lower temperature.

Have a Recirculation Pump? Be Sure It's on a Timer!
Have a Recirculation Pump? Be Sure It’s on a Timer!

Have a Recirculation Pump? Be Sure It’s on a Timer!

– Check for a hot water recirculation water pump at your water heater, adjust for heating shower water for morning or evening time.  Install a timer if you don’t have one.

– Do you have radiant baseboard heaters in any rooms? Make sure they are off in summer. Mini-split heater/air conditioner is far more efficient.
– HVAC heater needs a setback programmable thermostat.
– HVAC, install clean filter for heating system (change air filter yearly), check if wider (thicker) filter can fit, they are more efficient, buy them from Amazon

– We suggest a whole house fan on upper floor to reduce air-conditioning load.
– Anyone cold at night? Use electric bed heating pad (foot area only), they auto off 2-3 hours, use socks, really!
– Is your bathroom floor warmed electrically, turn it off during summer?  Power may need to be turned off at breaker.
– Heated towel rack? Turn off during summer months. May need to be turned off at breaker.

Glass Fireplace Doors Stop Updraft Heat Loss.
Glass Fireplace Doors Stop Updraft Heat Loss.

– Chimneys leak warm air out of the building.  Use glass doors in front, or block air-flow with fireplace insert, POST a “Non-functioning fireplace notice – no fires allowed.”

Heating Season Focus – (priority is low-cost first to higher-priced investments)

Our focus here is to optimize your building envelope. We recommend: air sealing, exterior wall and ceiling insulation, install door weatherstrip, block window cold air flow, correct ceiling light penetration, repair HVAC duct leakage. We know these steps will increase your home heating efficiency, solve cold room issues and will reduce heating bills. Buying an expensive new heating system or a supplemental room space heater are later recommendations after first implementing all the items below.
– Weatherstrip and caulk doors to the outside and be sure your pet door fully closes.
– Close fireplace damper (or install a fireplace air balloon), then close existing fireplace doors. If not available, consider having glass doors installed.
– If you have unused rooms, you can close the heater air vent, close the door and place a rolled towel on the floor at the door bottom to reduce air flow.
– Block warm air escaping through light fixtures with recessed lighting adapters. (see round light photo)
– Install heavy drapes to keep cold window air away from room. (Drapes less expensive than replacing windows.)

Leaky Air Ducts Waste Your Money
Leaky Air Ducts Waste Your Money

— Have your HVAC ductwork sealed (notoriously leaky), air balance tested and adjusted by a professional.  Air seal duct floor and ceiling connections. (see taped duct photo on this page)
– Install or adjust directional vents to direct air to the cold areas of the room.
– Confirm adequate return air flow (for both winter and summer; second floor also), a technician can confirm with a system check.
– Check register vents, they should direct air in one smooth flow, non-tumble or no turbulence. Have HVAC technician review.
– Check/add insulation in attic space (KEY ITEM: be sure to air seal first). Next insulate your walls.  Check your city energy programs, they may offer rebates for insulating.
– If you have cold floors, covering the floor area or insulating from below may be required.
– Buy resistance oil-filled room heater (last priority – upfront cost is low, but electricity energy dollars are high).
As mentioned, these are pricier fixes after the above are implemented.
-Windows replace with double pane energy efficient glass.
– Contractor install an auxiliary mini-split heat pump system, outside install (inside units are louder and have a condensate tray to clean).

DAP Dynaflex 230 for Caulking Air Gaps
DAP Dynaflex 230 for Caulking Air Gaps

– Caulk window trim outside to seal air leakage gaps.  DAP Dynaflex 230 works quite well – available at Home Depot stores.
If the summer heat inside your home is too much, here are some actions that will cool it.   Benefits are your air conditioning system will work less hard to cool your home and you’ll spend less on electricity.
– Outside Fixes:

– Shade your air conditioning unit, if located on the sunny side of your home, south or west facing.
– Have your air conditioner system checked, the coolant may need to be recharged.  But first, have a qualified contractor check for pipe leakage, important to do before adding refrigerant.
– Have a qualified building energy auditor perform a temperature scan (IR) of your building looking for uninsulated walls, ceilings and other energy leaks.  KEY ITEM: air sealing may be required before adding insulation, performed by a contractor.
– Building Attic Fixes:
– Install an electric or solar powered gable vent on hot side of your home to provide more cool attic space which will keep your home hotter.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

– Install additional roof vents, again for more attic cool air flow.
– Shade your home from the sun, install window awnings on the south and west side of home.

Add Blown Insulation for Walls (and attic space too)- Add thickness to your attic insulation, minimum of 12 -18 inches.  Attic insulation settles over time, have thickness checked by contractor, add wall and attic insulation if needed along with air sealing.  These are inexpensive fixes.

Add Blown Insulation for Walls (and attic space too)

– HVAC, have cold rooms?  Your ductwork highly likely has leaks, have contractor reseal with mastic (we’ve learned in a few years, using tape-only deteriorates in time) Run the fan and hand check register air flow in colder rooms.  If there is minimal air flow, have a HVAC tech check your system.  Hire a certified pro for any system changes.
– Re-seal all ductwork, cool air from your air conditioner may be escaping. (ducts are notorious for leaking); hire a contractor.

Ceiling Light Fits Tightly Against Ceiling, Stopping Air Flow.
Ceiling Light Fits Tightly Against Ceiling, Stopping Air Flow.

– Building Inside Fixes:
– Install a ceiling fan and use it only when the room is occupied.  Ceiling fans don’t cool a room, they cool people with the breeze produced.  Low speed setting is most energy efficient.
– Install cooler LED light bulbs, including the bulbs in your cooktop vent, most-likely they’re hot halogen bulbs.  Hot bulbs will battle your air conditioner, making it less efficient.
– Upgrade all ceiling lights to LED sealed type to greatly reduce hot/cold air transfer.  Again, air may be leaking where it shouldn’t.  When buying bulbs, remember 2700k color is the warm bulb color and is appealing for most people.  Home Depot has replacement lights.

Air seal duct connections to the floor with aluminum tape
Air seal duct connections to the floor with aluminum tape

– Re-seal all ductwork floor and wall vents to the floor, aluminum tape works well.  Air sealing the ducts means cooler air will be directed into rooms and not escape below your home.
– Install triple insulated honey-comb mini blinds on the warm side of your home; they’ll keep sun heat off your windows, reducing the heat inside.
– Install awnings, they will keep sun off windows on the warmer south and west sides of your home.
– Larger Fixes:
– Install a roof ridge vent to further cool your attic space.  Hire a contractor.
– Install a radiant barrier (metal foil sheeting in your attic space) to keep the attic air cooler.  Hire a contractor.
– Install an induction cooktop (see details below) which does not radiate significant heat into your kitchen.  Gas and standard electric cooktops will heat your kitchen, even after being turned off, causing your air conditioner to work harder.
– Actions You Can Do:  Keep your kitchen cooler in the summer, cook outdoors, you’ll use less energy.  Why?  When cooking inside you’ll use gas to cook (or electricity) and you’ll use air conditioner electricity to cool your home that is hotter because of cooking.
When cooking outside you’ll use gas/propane only and you won’t have excess cooking heat inside.

– Check outdoor lighting use LED bulbs, use a timer.
– Check floodlights, change to LED bulbs.
– Check outdoor fountain pump, use a timer or turn it off, better is unplug and fill basin with river rock for aesthetics.

Pool Pump Timers Save You $$
Pool Pump Timers Save You $$

– Check your pool pumps are on timer, both filter and sweep pumps should be on timers; 3-5 hours max needed to keep pool clean.
– Pool pump, have an electrician wire a variable speed motor, uses less energy.
– Walk the outside, check for any areas of energy and other concerns, such as rodent intrusion, roof wear, rain water mis-direction, etc.

(There are many revisions above.  Do note this is a process requiring a few upgrades and weekend projects for you to revise everything.)
ELECTRIFICATION OF HOMES – Future is All-Electric Homes
(Here are some pointers when you remodel, buy new appliances and move towards an all-electric home.)

– Driving an EV is a wise use of energy.  A 200+ mile battery car is mature product with a considerable range, a smaller battery EV car is 80 mile.  Buy a used EV for around-town driving.
– Solar panels (PV) can provide electrical generation to home and to a battery, the battery is your backup and for everyday power use at night.
– Batteries can generate and store expensive power during day, use battery power at night.  And, batteries are cleaner than running a gas generator.
– Use an electric leaf blower and other electric garden tools. Have your gardener upgrade to electric.  Our air will be cleaner.

Electric Induction Cooking Has No Gas Fumes in Your Home
Electric Induction Cooking Emits No Gas Fumes into Your Home – Unlike a Gas Range

– Professional chefs love cooking with induction, they rave about the precise heat control, changeable in seconds.
– Electric induction cooking is cleaner than natural gas cooking.  Induction cooking emits no natural gas by-products, nitric oxide or NOX is produced. (NOX is an unhealthy natural gas combustion by-product).  Indoor electric cooking air quality is healthier than gas cooking.  PG&E studies show natural gas does not vent completely from a home in many cases, even with an operating vent hood.  Additionally, there is a growing data showing a health concern linking natural gas cooking and asthma. You can wait for all data to arrive or switch now and have healthier indoor air quality.  Here is a user story about cooking with this modern cooktop.
– Check your electrical panel size, 200 amp is ideal for an all-electric home, a 100 amp panel allows for only 1-2 larger electric upgrades (such as: EV car charger, heat pump water heater, induction cooktop with electric oven).  Ask your electrician.
– Your water heater will fail in upcoming years, they all wear out.  You can prep for more efficient electric heat pump water heater (HPWH).  Have an electrician wire a 220v circuit to the current gas water heater location. You’ll be ready for an electric HPWH energy-saving upgrade.
– When you do replace your furnace, an electric mini-split heater with air conditioner is a wise choice. A mini-split can also supplement colder areas of your home.
– For a cooler home in summer:  Plant trees to shade your home, plant westerly and southerly locations.

If your California gas and electric company is PG&E, sign up for a free HEA home energy audit service here, available in Northern California.  You already pay for this service as a monthly line item on your PG&E utility bill, so use this opportunity to save.  If you are not a PG&E customer, you can find a home energy auditing service in your area or follow the guidelines above to make your home more energy-efficient.  Doing these easy steps will save you money every month and reduce energy waste.  Have your Northern California friends and neighbors sign up for a free energy audit too!
Final Thoughts

  • Upgrade Investments for Your Home to Reduce Your Energy Use – Priorities Explained.  Spend larger investment money wisely (we can show you how), get the largest gain for your money and time.
  • Think Watt Diet which is wise electric use to match solar panel output, home usage and battery storage capacity.
  • For healthier indoor air, move cleaning and other chemicals to your garage.
    Regarding my home:
  • I installed (2700k warm color temp) FEIT LED bulbs in my home
  • I have a ChargePoint EV charger
  • I drive a Nissan Leaf EV
  • I have 4000 kWh (true power generated) solar panel system on my roof
  • I have a Rain Machine weather-linked sprinkler controller (water saving)

Questions regarding the above energy saving tips? Contact us.

Worldwide, progressive climate actions presented daily at Daily Climate.

I have a ChargePoint EV charger.
I drive a Nissan Leaf EV (Add photo)
I have a Rain Machine weather-linked sprinkler controller (water saving).

rev: Jan 2021

Australia energy crisis, electric solution, battery storage, lithium-io

%d bloggers like this: