Getting Your Home Energy Ready for the Spring:
Looking for tips for Residential Energy Saving? If you were to ask home owners in the Chattanooga area what their number one home related expense is, aside from their mortgage, the majority would tell you that it is the amount that they are paying for energy. The average 3 bedroom 2 bath house in our area uses around 1500 to 1800 kilowatt hours per month if you were to average the amounts over the year, which means a bill of $175-$200 each month. While this is actually pretty low compared to other areas in the U.S., it is still an expense that has to be paid. The good news is that you can take steps to reduce or even eliminate this expense. There are two main ways to lower utility bills, reduction in use and production of energy. As a homeowner you can do a combination of the two and really take matters into your own hands. At GreenForm we look at thing as a whole to come up with the best solution for our clients.
Lets first look at the reduction side of the equation.
There are some simple, but often overlooked, things that you can do around the house to shrink your bill. Here are a few ideas:
- Proper and adequate insulation can make a huge difference in how much power you use. The better your insulation the more you can keep in the air your paying for and keep out the harsh outside air.
Heating and Air Conditioning
- Set the thermostat for your heating or cooling so that while you are away you are not spending more than you need to to condition space that you are not in.
- Have your duct work checked for insulation issues or leaks. This can be easily corrected if there is a problem and will save you a great deal of energy.
- Have your unit inspected and serviced regularly to ensure that it is working properly
- Make sure that you turn off all lights in any room that you are not in. To take it a step further you can install occupancy sensors that will turn lights on or off when they sense movement.
- As your bulbs burn out replace them with LED bulbs. You can reduce the wattage needed by up to 90% using LED over traditional incandescent, and they last much longer.
Windows and Doors:
- Caulking. Having the envelope of your house tight is one of the best ways to keep energy costs down and can be as simple as applying a few tubes of caulk. You want to make sure that there are no gaps between the siding and any opening in your home where you could have air leaks
- With doors you want to make sure that you don’t have gaps underneath. There are products out there that just about anyone can install that will help plug these areas up.
- Replacement. While this is not the cheapest home improvement, replacing old inefficient doors and windows can add value to your home and reduce energy costs. This will pay off in the long term.
If you are using a gas water tank to heat your water consider switching to a gas fueled on demand system. If you have a traditional electric water heater it could account for up to 30% of your utility bill. If you are thinking about changing an old water heater consider a heat pump water heater. These are much more efficient and are not drastically more expensive than their traditional counterparts.
Now we can look at production.
In the Chattanooga area there is only one resource that we have that is free, clean and readily available… solar. GreenForm can install a solar photovoltaic system that will take the free energy from the sun and convert it into usable energy that can be used in your home or even sold back to the utility. These systems can be installed on your roof or on the ground, depending on your particular situation.
TVA has a program that is available to homeowners and businesses where they will buy any excess energy produced by someone having solar. Simply put, you install a solar system to eliminate either part or all of the bill that you have. If there is any excess power produced you can either carry it forward as a credit for a month where you use more power than you produce or TVA will pay you for it. You are paid based on the current price/kilowatt-hour that you pay them. So, if you pay 10.5 cents/kwh for each one you use TVA will pay you 10.5cents/kwh for each one that you send back onto the grid.
There is also a 30% federal tax credit associated with solar. So if you spend $10,000 on a solar system you will have $3000 worth of dollar for dollar tax credit. In our area solar typically pays for itself in about 9.5 years. With a system life of 25 years or more, this means that you will have 15-20 years of free power.
Combining Reduction and Production.
You can get maximum results by implementing a combination of both methods. Many of the reduction items are low cost with high benefit. At GreenForm, we recommend to first take steps to reduce the amount of energy that you use through energy efficient home improvements such as insulation, lighting etc. This will lower the amount of energy that you use so that you don’t need as much solar to get you to net zero.
DJ Shelton – VP of Operations – GreenForm