Evergreen’s Alliance for Sustainability advocates for energy efficiency in our homes, community buildings, and places of businesses.
- In 2010, EAS+Y applied for and received a $15,000 grant from the Governor’s Energy Office to conduct a community outreach campaign about energy efficiency. The campaign, labeled “The Biggest Loser,” challenged residents and businesses to reduce their energy use by at least 10% between 2010 and 2011. Winners of the contest were successful in reducing energy use by modifying habits; eliminating extra refrigerators; changing light bulbs from incandescent to compact fluorescent bulbs; adding insulation; weather stripping doors and windows; and, in a couple cases, adding solar panels. Reductions in energy use ranged from 7% to 70%. Participants continue to report successes in energy reduction.
According to the U.S. Green Building Guild, buildings consume 70% of the electricity consumed and contribute 39% of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. A typical business wastes 30% of that energy (EPA), and waste in households is almost as bad. Energy savings of 35% in most buildings, residential or commercial, is easily accomplished. If just 10% energy efficiency improvement was made in commercial and industrial buildings, Americans would save about $20 billion annually and reduce greenhouse gases equivalent to emissions from 30 million vehicles (EPA estimates).
What You Can Do To Save Energy At Home
Use less energy for lighting
- You may have more light bulbs burning than are needed. Use daylighting instead of electric lighting when possible. De-lamp fixtures where possible. A lighting audit can measure light levels and inform you of optimal lighting levels for various areas. Use task lighting rather than overhead lighting where appropriate.
- Replace incandescent bulbs with fluorescent or LED bulbs to save up to 70% of the energy used for lighting.
Eliminate extra appliances
- Many of us have extra refrigerators, some of which are chilling only a few cold drinks. Unplug these extra refrigerators if they are used only when company arrives, and plug them in as needed. Better yet, recycle the extra chiller and get a rebate from Xcel Energy for doing so. Your remaining, fuller refrigerator will be more efficient because a full refrigerator or freezer does a better job of keeping things chilled than does an empty one.
- When you replace an appliance, shop for Energy Star rated equipment. Energy Star appliances use at least 15% (and sometimes as much as 75%) less energy than standard models.
Seal your building envelope
- Many homes lose 50% or more of the heating and cooling energy produced by their furnaces or air conditioners. Sealing the spots were leakage occurs can save significant amounts of energy.
- Obvious areas to seal are windows and doors. Use weather stripping and caulk. For a comprehensive analysis of your home’s leakage, have a home energy audit to quantify and locate your leakage sites. Once measured, the improvement achieved through sealing and other measures can be quantified and may qualify you for rebates on your work through Xcel Energy.
What You Can Do In Your Place Of Business
- Are lights left on when workers leave? Are computers on 24/7? Simple changes in habits and office culture can save significant amounts of energy. In many cases, timers or occupancy sensors can control the use of lights so they are on only when being used.
- Create a Green Team in your place of business to encourage a culture of energy savings and waste reduction.
- Lighting retrofits are typically the quickest way to improve a commercial building’s energy efficiency.
- Use daylighting where possible. When designing your office space, consider access to daylighting to maximize energy savings as well as enhance productivity.
- De-lamp and use task lighting rather than overhead lighting where appropriate.
- Replace incandescent bulbs with fluorescent or LED bulbs to reduce energy used for lighting by up to 70%.
- Dirty filters, ducts and registers hinder energy efficiency and indoor air quality. Create a maintenance plan/schedule for your mechanical equipment and assign responsibility for following it.
- Replace inefficient equipment with Energy Star rated equipment when equipment reaches the end of its useful life.
Discover Energy Savings in Your Home or Office
There is money buried in our homes and retail or office buildings. It’s in the electrical wires, appliances, walls, attic, furnace room, fireplace, kitchen and bathrooms. An assessment or audit of the energy use in your buildings can help you discover where your money is hidden; where energy is being wasted and where you can realize savings that will liberate cash for other uses.
A utility bill analysis offers initial clues to locations of wasted energy. By examining a year or two of utility usage data, an energy auditor can identify excessive heating, cooling or base (lighting, hot water, appliances) usage and can estimate the savings possible through energy efficient upgrades. With an inspection of ducting, thermostat set points, water temperatures at the faucet, and other items included in a building assessment, it can become very obvious that an old hot tub is sucking up dollars or that the furnace or water heater is not delivering on the fuel it consumes. A 65% efficient furnace, for example, sends $.35 of every $1.00 spent for fuel up the chimney. If the ducting is leaky, the loss is even greater.
An energy audit can also reveal a building’s “phantom loads.” Phantom loads are the largely invisible pirates of a building’s energy. The dimmer switch for your dining room lights, for example, may be stealing the energy that is not demanded by the light bulb and converting the unwanted power to heat behind the switch plate. Your office building’s computer system may stay powered up 24/7 in order to receive updates which actually occur at a predictable hour once a day. An audit or building assessment can recommend simple solutions including Smart Strips, timers, occupancy sensors and updated dimmers which regulate the flow of energy in coordination with actual demand.
Another hidden source of wasted energy is incandescent light bulbs. Incandescent light bulbs use 75% more energy than compact fluorescent or LED light bulbs. For every incandescent light bulb replaced with a more energy efficient bulb, you can save $.75 of every dollar spent on electricity for lighting. In office buildings, replacing old T-12 fluorescent tube lighting with more efficient T-8 and T-5 tubes can realize significant savings and increase cash flow for other business purposes.
Your walls, windows, attic and roof are also full of buried treasure. The money lost through air leakage and heat transfer due to holes in your walls, poorly fitting windows and doors, and insufficient insulation in walls and attics could be money in your pocket. An energy audit uses blower door and infrared camera equipment to locate air leakage sites and evaluate windows, doors and insulation. The EPA estimates that households can save up to 20% on their heating and cooling bills by air sealing and adding insulation.
Xcel Energy rebates for energy audits and building improvements make right now an excellent time to schedule an energy audit of your home or small commercial building.