Energy Star is a home's equivalent of Weight Watchers
By the YAVAPAI COUNTY CONTRACTORS ASSOCIATION
Originally Published: November 18, 2010 9:59 p.m.
Here are some tips on how to cut energy calories. Let's put our homes on a diet!Our homes use energy every day, all day long. They use energy to keep us warm in the winter and cool in the summer. They use energy to provide us light and provide us with hot water, and energy is used to run all of our appliances and home electronics. It is easy to reduce our energy use at home. Heating accounts for the biggest chunk of a typical utility bill at 31 percent. Air conditioning and hot water are next at 12 percent each. Lighting is 11 percent; computers and electronics and appliances are both at 9 percent; and then there is "other" at 8 percent. Here are some energy-cutting tips for spending less and living better. Save up to 20 percent on heating bills by installing a programmable thermostat and setting it to 68 degrees at night in the winter. Clean your filters on heating and air-conditioning units. Regular servicing of these systems can yield a 10 percent to 20 percent energy savings. Upgrade to Energy Star-qualified appliances. Since Energy Star appliances are approximately 15 percent more efficient than standard appliances, this means you will be reducing your carbon footprint and your utility bills at the same time. Upgrade to dimmer switches to save energy and nearly double the life span of your bulbs. Study your family's lighting needs and use patterns, paying special attention to high-use areas, such as the living room, kitchen and outside lighting. Look for ways to use lighting controls, such as occupancy sensors, dimmers, or timers. Insulate ceilings to R-30 standards if your attic has less than R-19. Unplug or switch off power strips for small appliances and electronics when not in use. Replace old windows with new high-performance, energy-efficient, dual-pane windows. Check for holes or cracks around your walls, ceilings, windows, doors, light and plumbing fixtures, switches, and electrical outlets that can leak air into or out of your home. Check for open fireplace dampers when the fireplace is not in use. If you are buying a new home, ask if it includes radiant barrier roofing. Utility companies as well as professional contractors conduct energy audits. These resources will analyze how well your home's energy systems work together and compare the analysis to your utility bills. After gathering information about your home, the contractor or auditor will give you a list of recommendations for cost-effective energy improvements and enhanced comfort and safety. A professional contractor can also calculate the return on your investment in high-efficiency equipment compared with standard equipment.Q: What do you recommend - a gas pump or heat pump for my 1,500-square-foot home?-Irene from Prescott ValleyA: If your gas source is liquefied propane (LP), a heat pump will be more energy-efficient. If your gas source is natural gas, the SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) of the system will determine whether a heat pump is more efficient. In most cases, the heat pump will be a better choice. A gas furnace delivers what feels like hotter air temperatures than a heat pump, which may be of concern to some consumers. Once the system has been properly sized through a load calculation, an energy analysis can be computed to indicate the estimated operating costs for a selected system. This will provide the homeowner with an economic basis for making an informed on decision on which system meets their needs. There is the added benefit of obtaining the air conditioning component when purchasing a heat pump system. There is a very popular system on the market known as duel fuel that uses the heat pump, which uses all electric for the mild days and gas for the colder days. This works through controls with an outdoor sensor, which tells the system which mode to run in. The system automatically converts from heat pump to gas based on the home's "balance point" and the outdoor temperature. Most balance points for Prescott Valley are 34-40 degrees. The balance point represents temperature at which the heat pump becomes less efficient than the gas furnace and then the unit converts. -Troy Koski, owner, TDK Comfort Systems, PrescottIn reply to the same question, Mike Moyer, owner of Moyer's Heating & Cooling, Prescott Valley, states that a gas furnace would be his choice. A concern is that heat pumps do not operate efficiently in the heating mode when the weather is below 38 degrees. Heat pumps offer an energy-efficient alternative to furnaces or air conditioning for climates with moderate heating and cooling needs. Prescott is not considered moderate.Mike Little, president of Chino Heating & Cooling in Chino Valley, states that there is no comparison if natural gas is available. A gas furnace would be more efficient and less costly to install than a heat pump. If the home is heated by propane, the most efficient way to heat and cool the home would be to install a duel fuel system that would utilize both gas heat and a heat pump. Yavapai County Contractors Association (YCCA) is a professional association representing licensed, bonded and insured contractors, suppliers, distributors and business entities. YCCA is your local resource for all of your construction, building, sustainability and basic technology needs. Don't start without us!YCCA is pleased to answer your questions and assist you in obtaining information from local reliable companies and business owners. Call YCCA for more information on hiring a contractor at 778-0040. Submit questions and concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org or through www.ycca.org and watch for your answer in the Friday real estate section of the Daily Courier.