Going green means sometimes just being a little smarter

Brad Brinke is a licensed and well-experienced professional home inspector in the Hampton Roads area.  He may have not seen it all, but I bet there isn’t much he hasn’t seen when it comes to homes in Hampton Roads!  Going green doesn’t always mean some tree-hugging flower children holding hands in a circle and singing Greatful Dead songs – LOL.  Now, it usually means just being a little smarter in your energy usage and saving some green while doing a little here and a little there to help out the environment.  Brad Brinke of Procraft Inspection Services and The Crawlspace Company offers us a little insight and a few tips to go green and save yourself a little cash as a result.  Visit Brad’s website at:  http://www.procraftinspections.com/ and be sure to catch his blog!

 Energy Tips and Tricks – by Brad Brinke

It’s easy to be green, right?  Put out your recycling on Wednesday night and make sure that you have a low flow shower head.  Seems easy enough. The truth is that green is a word that is thrown around a lot and sometimes what you think is being energy smart is not worth the effort.  I hope in this article to explore some energy facts and myths that you may or may not be familiar with.

The CFL light bulb is an item that has gained recent popularity.  CFL stands for Compact Fluorescent Light and this type of bulb uses around 75% less energy than the standard incandescent bulb.  The other factors to consider about CFL bulbs is that they last 10 times longer and produce about 75% less heat.  All of the heat sources in the home combine together to produce latent heat and the fewer sources that are in the home, the easier it is to cool the home.  It is advisable to replace the incandescent bulbs with CFL’s before they burn out as you can take advantage of the immediate energy savings. Simply by replacing the five most used lights in your home with CFL’s will result in annual savings of $65 or more.  It is important to select an ENERGY STAR qualified bulb in the process and there are several great choices on the market now.  It is also important to mention that the CFL bulb should be recycled when it burns out due to the mercury in the bulb.

A programmable thermostat for your HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Cooling) system is another cost savings measure. When this type of thermostat is used to control the HVAC system, the potential savings are approximately $180 annually.  It is a common misconception that it takes more “energy” to heat up a cold home than it does to keep it warm all day long. Turning up the cooling or turning down the heat will always save energy.  Heat moves from hot to cold and smaller temperature differences between the interior and the exterior will result in smaller losses between the inside and outside of your home.  A programmable thermostat allows the user to program the temperatures in the home in both the summer and the winter.  The pre-programmed settings that come with the thermostats are designed for maximum savings without sacrificing comfort.  You should have your thermostat installed by a certified HVAC contractor for maximum efficiency as well.  The key is to establish a program that regulates the heating and cooling in the home when it is not needed.  Of course, installing a programmable thermostat for energy savings is a great idea and making sure that your HVAC system is running at peak performance is just as important.  Possibly the best thing about a programmable thermostat is setting it to turn on and warm up the home 20-30 minutes before you get out of bed!

The 2nd largest energy consumption in the home is the water heating system.  Most households spend $400-$600 per year on this cost alone.  There are several things you can do to increase the efficiency of the water heater.   The temperature on the water heater should be set to 120 F or lower.  There are several reasons to do this and the most important of those is safety.  Water that is hotter than 120F increases the potential for scalding with children.  If a water heater is set to 140 F or higher, up to $400 can be lost in the demand load, which is the amount of hot water you use from the tank, and around $40 in standby loss, which is heat that comes off the heater into the space.  If you have an older water heater, you can purchase and install a water heater-insulating blanket, which can account for savings of around $30 annually.  It is also advisable to use pipe wrap to insulate as much of the hot water pipe as you can at the water heater.  One last tip is to turn off your electric heaters and turn down your gas heaters if you go on vacation or an extended weekend, just don’t forget to turn it back on!

This will be the least popular section of this entire article.  I want to discuss the refrigerator in the garage.  Usually, the refrigerator in the garage is an older model that was moved out of the kitchen.  While these units probably “run fine”, they can consume twice the amount of energy as a newer energy efficient model.  The other factor to consider about this old, outdated refrigerator is the extreme temperatures that it is subjected to in the garage.  Spending up to $125 per year to keep a couple of six packs cold does not make much sense.  If the refrigerator in the garage is constantly stocked, replacing it with an ENERGY STAR qualified model is an option to consider.  You will get better performance and still save upwards of $250 over five years.  If giving up the second refrigerator causes too much angst, consider a compact fridge.  These units are great because they use a fraction of the energy of a full size unit and an ENERGY STAR unit can save up to $80 per year.  Do you have an energy hog in the garage?

Hopefully in this article you learned that being “green” is not as much as a lifestyle change as it is a change in the way you use energy. The examples listed here are just a few of the things that you can use in your home to make it more efficient and thus reducing its carbon footprint.

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