ENERGY EFFICIENCY BASICS
Upgrades to insulation, windows and doors will
be money well spent.
By Seth Masia
The cheapest and easiest way to attain dra-
matic energy savings is through efficiency
upgrades. Summer and winter, the typical home
wastes energy in several ways, including:
• inefficient bulbs in lamps and appliances.
• inefficient water-heating systems.
• inefficient heating and air-conditioning
• through the house structure itself, via
– ceilings and roof.
– outside walls.
– floors and foundation.
– soffits, flashing and other joints.
A quick way to cut your electric bill is by re-
placing incandescent light bulbs. Incandescent
bulbs waste about 95 percent of their energy as
heat. To put this in perspective, a 100-watt bulb
generates as much heat as an electrically heated
dipstick designed to keep a V8 engine toasty warm
through a Minnesota winter night. Incandescents
are so wasteful that federal law will ban their sale
You don’t have to wait that long. Let’s assume
compact fluorescent lamps can save 40 percent on your lighting bills.
that the typical home burns six 75-watt bulbs for six you pull the plug. Solution: Use a switchable power
its heating element), a clothes washer 500 watts
hours each night (from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.). That might strip. Does someone in the house leave the TV set
(avoid using the hot-water cycle).
be one light each in the kitchen, dining room, living on for hours at a time? With its cable box, it burns
room, bedroom, bathroom and hall. At 11 cents per about 310 watts while on. An electric water heater
Most hot-water systems can be made more ef-
kilowatt-hour, those lights cost $108 per year. Just
ficient. Fix all leaks. Turn the thermostat down
by replacing those six bulbs with 15-watt long-life
to 122°F ( 50°C). Be sure all water lines, and
compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), you’d save $72 in
the tank itself, are fully insulated. Use low-flow
the first year — and that’s counting the initial cost
A good source for information on
audits is the U.S. Department of
Energy’s website on energy
shower heads. Consider a solar booster system
of the lamps, which will set you back about $15 for
(see page 12).
six at today’s prices. On summer nights, you’ll elimi-
Similarly, heating and cooling systems can usually
nate about 360 watts of heat you don’t need in the
be improved. Be sure to change the air filter quar-
house. No wonder CFLs now make up 20 percent of can draw 2,500 watts, a furnace fan 500 watts.
terly. Get ductwork cleaned and air leaks sealed,
the market, and are growing fast.
A large attic fan may draw 370 watts, but that’s
and make sure ducts are insulated at least to local
Large appliances can be energy hogs, especially cheaper than an air conditioner, which draws about
codes. Your ductwork should be set up to heat (or
if they run nonstop like the refrigerator. Older refrig- 1,900 watts per ton of cooling capacity.
cool) recirculated air from inside the house, but the
erators should be replaced (see page 10 for calcula- Most large appliances run for short intervals —
furnace should draw combustion air from outside
tions). Computers and television sets can draw 5 to when you’re doing a load of wash, for instance. A
— if this is not the case, get it fixed. If it’s time
10 watts continually, even when shut down, unless typical dishwasher draws 1,200 watts (so turn off
to replace the heating or air-conditioning system,