Energy Saving Ideas
Home Energy Analysis
There is no substitute for an on-site energy analysis of your home by a professional energy analyst to diagnose excessive energy use. You may however, wish to conduct your own simple “walk through” analysis to find some simple, easily identified energy conservation measures. Typically, the main areas to focus on are:
- Space heating & cooling.
- Water heating.
- Miscellaneous (lights, pumps, heaters, etc.)
Space Heating & Cooling
Heating and cooling your home typically accounts for the biggest part of the energy used in a home. Checking to see how well your home retains heat and how good your heating system is at delivering heat should be your first consideration.
When was your home built? Before 1992 the Oregon Energy Code wasn’t as good as it is today and it was even less stringent before 1980. So if your home was built before 1992, it is definitely worth checking home insulation levels to see if they could be improved. If your home was built after 1992, it’s likely that insulation levels are pretty good and there isn’t much to be gained from adding more.
Ceiling Insulation. Measure how deep the insulation is in your attic. Insulation is rated by its “R-value” and the higher the R-value the better the insulation. If you only have 3-6 inches of insulation, adding more ceiling insulation is a definite recommendation. Three inches is R-11. Six inches is about R-19. The current recommendation for ceilings is 12-14 inches, R-38. Check to see that your exhaust fans are ducted to outside the attic to avoid moisture buildup. If you have an electric heating system CEC has a program to help you upgrade ceiling insulation. Check out the details on our Weatherization Program page.
Vaulted beam and deck ceilings were (are) very popular in Central Oregon homes but usually not insulated very well, R-3 to R-10. These types of ceilings are usually best improved at the point when the home is re-roofed. If you have beam and deck ceilings, and are going to get new roofing, don’t forget to upgrade ceiling insulation in the process. R-30 is the current code for vaulted ceilings.
Floor Insulation. Poke your head under the floor. Does the home have insulation up tight against the floor? Many pre-1992 homes do not. If you have no floor insulation, adding insulation is a definite recommendation. For fire safety reasons, as well as energy savings, you want to completely fill the floor framing cavity with insulation. The facing on fiberglass insulation should face up towards the floor, not downward, and the insulation should be supported every 18 inches. You’ll also need to make sure the soil under the home is completely covered with plastic and that all pressurized water pipes are insulated. If you have an electric heating system CEC has a program to help you upgrade floor insulation. See our Weatherization Program page.
Windows & Glass Doors. What kind of windows do you have? If your windows have only one pane of glass, it’s time to upgrade. If you have metal frames with two panes, it may be worth considering new windows but new windows are expensive, compared to adding insulation. New windows with “Low-E” coatings improve comfort, control heat loss and gain and can reduce fabric fading from sunlight. If you have an electric heating system CEC has a program to help you upgrade your windows. Again, see our Weatherization Program page for details.
Heating Ducts. If you have a forced air heating system, are the ducts in good shape? Ducts under the floor in the crawl space should be supported every 5 feet and insulated with 2-3 inches of insulation. Are the ducts sagging? Are there dark spots or smudges on the duct insulation? Do some rooms not seem to get much heat? Have you seen signs of rodents inside the heating ducts? If the answer to some, or all, of these questions is yes then professional duct testing and sealing may be in order. If you have an electric heating system CEC has a program to help you upgrade your ducts. See our Weatherization Program page.
Heat Pumps. If you have an older electric furnace and are thinking of a new heating system, consider replacing the furnace with an electric heat pump. Compared to an electric furnace, heat pumps use 30-50% less energy for heating. CEC has a program to help you upgrade your home heating system to a heat pump. See our Heat Pump Program page.
Water Heaters. If your electric water heater feels warm to the touch, especially if it’s in an unheated space, it may need an insulation blanket. Be sure to follow the installation instructions with the blanket. Check the temperature setting on the water heater by measuring the hot water temperature with a thermometer at the tap closest to the water heater. If your dishwasher pre-heats its own water, you may not need your water heater set over 120 F. Does your home use a hot water circulating pump? These systems can save water but use a lot of energy reheating water that is being constantly pumped around the house. Install an inexpensive timer to turn the pump off when you typically don’t use hot water (when you’re asleep, at work, etc.). If you use lots of hot water consider upgrading to a solar water heater. Information about CEC’s two water heater programs can be found on our Electric Water Heater Program and Solar Water Heater Program pages.
Spas / Hot Tubs. Do you have a spa/hot tub in your energy use picture? These devices heat hundreds of gallons of water and have two things that use energy: water heating elements and a circulation pump. Can you use thermostats and timers to reduce the water temperature when the tub is not being used? Can you reduce the circulation time to the minimum needed to keep the water clean? Are the sides and top of the tub well insulated?
Refrigerator, freezer, washing machine, or dishwasher on its last legs? It may be time to consider a new, more efficient, Energy Star rated model. Check out more appliance tips on our website at Energy Saving Tips, and for details on appliance rebates, visit Energy Star Appliance Program.
Pumps. Do you have a water feature with a water pump that runs 24/7? A one horsepower pump running continuously will use about $50.00 per month in electricity. Instead of running pumps 24 hours a day, can you control the pump with a timer and bring it on only when needed?
Automobile Block Heaters. Do you warm your car engine in the winter with a plug-in block heater? Warming the engine in cold weather prior to starting can cut emissions and improve fuel economy but the engine usually only needs to be heated for 3 hours before starting. Instead of heating the engine all night can you use a timer so the heater is on only the amount of time needed to do its job?
Lighting. Fluorescent lighting is much more efficient than incandescent lighting so use standard and compact fluorescent lighting where practical. Remember to read the directions with compact fluorescent light bulbs because not all bulbs are suitable for all applications.
Electric Meters. “My bill is way out of line. There must be something wrong with my meter.” Usually, if a meter goes bad, it slows down. It doesn’t speed up. So meter error is an extremely unlikely cause of high electrical bills.