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Saving Green and Going Green in the Home
Environmentally friendly living is very much in the news these days. I thought I’d do several blogs about green practices that not only help the environment, but keep $ in homeowners’ pockets. Ideas for a greener home can range from daily energy-saving steps, to major renovations. As appliances and fixtures wear out, its a great time to replace them with modern designs that have conservation in mind.
According to NAR studies, buyers will pay 4 to 11% more for a green friendly home. (National averages). There is even a listing service dedicated to green homes, www.listedgreen.com. When the ratio of sellers to buyers is 14 to 1, buyers are either looking for extra low price, or extra value. A seller needs to make their house stand out from the rest to get it sold. If kitchens and baths need to be updated, or flooring, hot water heaters, or other appliances, why not make them more green while your at it!
Lets take a tour through the house and see what ideas we can come up with.
a. Bath and Sink Faucets: A faucet dripping once per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons of water a year. Replacing the washer is a solution, but if its older than 1994, replacing it is better. Newer faucets are required by law to have a flow rate no greater than 2.2 gallons per minute; older onces can flow at a rate of 3 to 7 gallons per minute. TIP: Look for the EPA’s WaterSense label, which signifies high-efficiency faucets that reduce flow by more than 30%.
b. Showerhead: Current low-flow showerheads have improved a lot from the earlier models. Newer ones send down larger droplets at a higher velocity. Water use is cut in half. TIP: Choose a showerhead that lets you adjust the flow, further increasing your savings.
Highland tip: Get a shower head cut off, a lever which shuts off the flow of water temporarily, for taking a “ship-board shower”. (I’m a Navy Brat:) Our water bill was cut by a third after installing these!
c. Toilets: Before the federal mandate in 1994, toilets used as much as 7 gallons per flush. Ther earlier low-flow toilets got many complaints, but recently, the redesigned versions function very well, using 1.6 gallons per flush. Dual systems allow for the choice of a .9 gallon or a 1.6 gallon flush. TIP: WaterSense label = 20% less water used than the current national standard.
a. Refrigerator/Freezer: The refrigerator is the largest energy user in the kitchen. When replacing your refrigerator, look for a high-efficiency compressor, thick insulation, and precise temperature controls. The Energy Star label insures these features, and on average, these refrigerators use less than half the energy used by pre-1993 models. TIP: Top and bottom freezer units are generally more efficient than side-by-side models, and units with ice-despensers on the door use more energy than those without. But it is still important to compare individual models.
b. Dishwasher: Choose a water-conserving model; the less water used, the less it will cost to heat. Energy savings can be up to $65 a year, so spreading the higher cost over the average 9-year lifespan of a dishwasher, buying a more expensive but efficient model can save you $ in the long run. TIP: Choose a model with a quick-wash cycle to same time, energy and water. Other energy-saving features include a no-heat drying option and a delay-start control. Today’s models do a great job, so rinsing dishes before you load them is a waste of water, most of the time.
c. Cooktops: Gas ranges have the longest life expectancy (later blog), but the lowest efficiency, only 55% of the energy used goes directly toward cooking the food. Electric ranges are 80% efficient.
Ranges, ovens, cooktops and microwaves currently don’t have an “Enegy Star” designation, but the latest in cooking is the magnetic induction cooktop. It creates an electromagnetic field of energy that heats only iron or steel and has no exposed coil, open flame, or heated surface. It’s 90% efficient and produces almost instant heat only to the pan: convenient, and easy to control. The only extra expense: if you don’t have iron or steel cookware, you’ll have to purchase that too. TIP: Gas burners with standing pilots, rather than electric ignition, can more than double the annual enegry consumption of your cooktop.
d. Ovens: Convection ovens are usually more energy efficient than conventional ovens because the heated air is continuously circulated around the food being cooked, reducing required temperature and cooking times. On average, you’ll cut energy use by about 20%.
With conventional gas or electric ovens, self-cleaning models are more energy-efficient because they have more insulation. But if you use the self-cleaning feature more than about once a month, you’ll end up using more energy with the feature than you save from the extra insulation.
Ranges, ovens, cooktops and microwaves currently don’t have an “Enegy Star” designation, but the latest in cooking is the magnetic induction cooktop. It creates an electromagnetic field of energy that heats only iron or steel and has no exposed coil, open flame, or heated surface. It’s 90% efficient and produces almost instant heat only to the pan: convenient, and easy to control. The only extra expense: if you don’t have iron or steel cookware, you’ll have to purchase that too.
TIP: Gas burners with standing pilots, rather than electric ignition, can more than double the annual energy consumption of your cooktop.
e. Microwave: The microwave actually uses more energy than an oven, but because the cooking time is so much less, the cost is cut by two-thirds. It also saves during the summer by not heating up the surrounding area in the kitchen.
3. All over the House:
a. Washer and Dryer – Low water washers are common today and save a lot of money on the water bill, while still cleaning clothes. Today’s dryers often have a moisture sensor that shuts off the machine when the clothes are dry.
b. Windows: Replacing windows is one of the most expensive home improvements, but with today’s many options, you can reduce your energy bill by up to 15%, and add to the value of your home. Look for double or even triple panes of glass, sometimes filled with argon gas, which acts as insulation, or low-E glass (low emissivity), or warm edge spacers that reduce heat flow and prevent condensation. (Federal tax credits for energy-efficient windows expired at the end of 2007, but many states offer rebates. Your local energy company may also offer rebates. www.dsireusa.org )
c. Heating and Air conditioning: When your furnace or air conditioner enters the 12 to 15 year age range, Energy Star guidelines recommend replacement with a new, more efficient unit. If temperatures are moderate, a geothermal heat pump is a great choice. see www.geoexchange.us Any system that is Energy star certified can save 20 to 30% on heating and cooling costs. Sometimes a more efficient system will make a smaller-size unit possible, saving on initial cost as well as future bills.
Zoned Heating Systems: A zoned heating system allows you to only turn up the heat where you need it, resulting in significant savings. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, zoning the heating system can save homeowners up to 30 percent on a typical heating and cooling bill. Because heating and cooling accounts for more than 40 percent of an average household’s utility costs, the savings from a zoned system can really add up.
d. Water Heater: the third largest home energy expense. A tankless heater (this blog post) costs about $800 – $1200 uninstalled, and will save you 50% in operating costs. A solar water heating system will cost $2500 to $3500 installed and will save 50 – 80%. Think of how this can insulate you from any rise in energy prices. see www.epa.gov for a comparison fact sheet.
TIP: The most environmentally friendly way to dispose of your old appliances is to donate them. In our area, you can donate to Frederick Building Supply, or to Peace and Plenty,
on South Street. Or, you can join Freecycle at www.freecycle.org. Reliable Junk, now on 8005 Reichs Ford Road is also a great resource to recycle.
With many stores, hauling off the old appliance is part of the service, so be sure to ask.
For more ideas on making your house more green, go to The Daily Green.
Life Expectancy of Appliances
- Faucet – 20+ years
- Toilet – Unlimited with 10-year maintenance on working parts
- Showerhead – Unlimited
- Cooktop – Gas, 15 years; electric, 13 years; magnetic induction, 10 years
- Refrigerator/Freezer — 13 years
- Dishwasher – 9 years
- Washer – 10 years
- Dryer – 13 years
- Water Heater – Electric, 11 years; Gas, 10 years; Tankless, 20+ years
- Windows – Aluminum, 15-20 years; Wood, 30+ years
- Heating and Air Conditioning – Warm-air electric, 15 years; Warm-air gas, 18 years; Warm-air oil, 20 years; Heat pump, 16 years; Central air conditioning, 15 years
for more tips, visit www.aceee.org
Thanks so much to David Goldberg, our favorite home inspector, for this super informative collaborative post about going greener in the home, for energy savings as well as savings on money. For all of David’s posts, read our Home Maintenance Category
- Green Homes are in Demand
- Green Home Building is Gaining Momentum
- Are Solar Panels Worth The Investment?
- Tankless Water Heaters – Worth It?
Saving Some Green
Really, am I going on about this green stuff too much? I don’t think so, because I’m still seeing energy bills and water bills come from my mailbox that make me want to cry. So I need to take some of my own advice.
Well, Chris and I are not in the place to do any major renovations right now, and our appliances are newer and working just fine. So here are a few small things that we can all do that will add up.
1. Change to the new compact fluorescents (CFLs). Each bulb may cost a little more , but will pay for itself in three or four months. (Just be careful not to break the bulb!)
2. Seal off drafts, which can reduce your energy bills 5 to 30 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The cost is a tube of caulk. Just doing that can drop your annual heating bill by $100, according to Department of Energy figures.
3. Buy a programmable thermostat, for $50 to $100. By maintaining more constant heating and cooling levels, and always ‘remembering’ to turn down the heat at night, the average family will save $150 a year, according to the EPA.
4. Install motion detectors. Only using outside lights when they are neccessary is going to save.
5. Install dimmer switches. Increase the life of your bulbs, and reduce the amount of light when you don’t need it.