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January 14, 2011

Extremely Unique and Innovative Ways to Cut Energy Costs

Hi All,
   Hope all is well in your world this Friday.

   During the summer, we reflected on some "Tips to Save Money on Your Electric Bill", and now that the deep-freeze is here, I think it's time that we revisit the topic, but with an eye on some unique and innovative ways to cut costs. We spoke to some folks with some great ideas, and we'd love to share them with you.

   Javier Zuluaga of Home Repairs and Remodeling, LLC, says that he is currently running an experiment with the electrical water heater in his home. Basically, Zuluaga says that the water heater shuts off at 11PM-5AM, and again it shuts off from 10AM-4AM, as he says, "thus saving 12 hours of energy use during the day...equating to 6 months of not running your water heater in a year." Zuluaga says that they started the experiment January 3rd, so they will know by next month if they had, "a significant difference in our electric usage."

   Reggie Marston, President of Residential Equity Management Home Inspections, with 38 years experience in residential construction and home inspections, suggests that you, "Turn down the temperature of the hot water heater. Water heater manufacturers recommend that the temperature of the water not exceed 120°-125°.", and says that he regularly inspects homes, "where the temperature of the water is 140°-160° plus. Temperatures above 125° are unsafe, 160° water takes 1/2 second to scald skin, at 120°, takes more than 5 minutes to scald. People spend all that money to heat the water excessively and then hop in the shower and turn the cold water on to lower the temperature of the water to a temperature that the skin can tolerate. It wastes a significant amount of money to keep water at 140°- 160° twenty four hours a day 365 days a year."

  Zuluaga suggests that sealing up doors and windows makes a slight difference, and Marston says it is a good idea to check and see if the windows are locked and the locks are adjusted. Marston says that he inspects many homes where the owners doesn't lock the windows, which means that, "If the windows aren't locked the sashes don't get pulled together tightly and the air rushes in through the gap between the upper and lower sashes. If the locks aren't adjusted properly the top sash of the window can slip down ½- ¾ inch.", and says that since the windows are hidden behind curtains or blinds, "the owners don't realize that the top sash is open and they're losing all their conditioned air they're paying to heat out the open window."

   In speaking about ducts/heating/cooling, Zuluaga suggests changing out the duct system to a flex duct system that is well insulated, and, "sealing up with special mastic the vents where the air exits into the home to ensure the air is flowing into the living space, not attic space." Marston adds that servicing of the heating system should have been done in the fall in preparation for winter, and what the owners should do is, "ensure that they replace or clean the furnace filter on a regular basis. A clogged air filter will cause the furnace to work harder to pull air through the system. The harder the furnace has to work the more expensive it is to operate."

   Marston says that most builders of older homes and even some newer homes, "don't insulate behind electrical boxes installed on exterior walls. When it's cold that un-insulated area allows a substantial amount of air leakage. If the owners can put their hand in front of the electrical receptacles and switches on a cold day and feel cold air rushing in they should purchase those felt type receptacle/switch insulation pads and install them on all of the exterior wall electrical boxes. I recommend they shut off the electric power to the devices prior to removing the cover plates so they don't come in contact with a live contact." Zuluaga suggests removing all the insulation in the attic floor, "filling in all the cracks where you see daylight from below with foam, and then blowing in foam on the rafters. This creates a very well insulated home, one in which in the heat of the summer the temperature differential between the attic and the living space below is only 10 degree difference, not the 30-40 degree difference...which then causes the hot air above to find a way into the cooler living space below, hence the AC unit ends up working overtime."

   "Ensure that fireplace dampers are closed except for when there's a fire burning", says Marston, and that, "Most people that have fireplaces don't check their fireplace dampers to make sure their closed. It the damper is left open it just allows all the conditioned air in the home to escape." Further he adds that, "With the popularity of these pre-fabricated gas fireplaces the owner should check the compartment below the firebox where the gas line enters to ensure all the holes around the gas line and wiring have been sealed appropriately. Most of the fireplace installers/builders don't seal the holes in the prefab fireplace and cold air rushes in. I've done inspections for folks who have told me that if they leave a glass of water on the prefabricated fireplace hearth in the winter overnight the water will freeze in the glass."

   Michael D. Greaney, CPA, MBA makes a suggestion that might not, "work for everyone", but he says that, "if you have an apartment or condo with a southern exposure — let the sun heat it up during the day, and turn the lights ON at night after drawing the drapes.", and adds that he has lived in a condo with a southern exposure for ten years and have never had to turn on the heat." "Installing Solar Tubes", suggests Zuluaga, "which is basically a tube that allows sunlight to come into a bathroom, kitchen, family room...natural lighting." to help you avoid turning on the lights.

   Author Shel Horowitz says that, "Most homeowners can save significantly on energy, materials. and water costs, by thinking strategically and holistically.", and suggests that you purchase some, "inexpensive outlet protectors (the kind to keep babies' fingers out) and insert them in your outside-wall sockets that don't have plugs." Horowitz also recommends plugging "computers, AV equipment, copiers, etc. into power strips, and turn the whole strip off when not in use. These appliances waste a lot of power in off-but-ready mode.

   Horowitz says that, "Thinking differently - like every time you bake a casserole, throw in a few potatoes that you can bake for free at the same time.", and, "Next time you need a printer, buy a duplexing one (prints on both sides). They've come way down in price, and mine paid for itself in saved paper within a few months. This indirectly saves energy, since enormous amounts of energy are consumed in paper production."

   Additionally, Zuluaga suggests planting a "patio", or a "shade tree" in front of south and west facing walls/windows., since that, "In the summer the shade put simply keeps the suns rays off the windows and exterior wall thus reducing the amount of work the AC unit has to put out to keep that area cold" and suggests switching, "regular light bulbs to CFL bulbs...even better, switch to LED lighting and save over 50% on energy costs for lighting."

   In closing, says Marston, "As a home inspector I inspect many homes and find numerous issues that home owners can do to help save energy costs that cost little to nothing to accomplish, normally these issues are just oversights on maintenance type issues."

Do you think these tips will help you save on energy costs? We'd love to hear your comments!

Have a Great Weekend, and Happy Rent-to-Owning !
Rob Eisenstein
HomeRun Homes Blog http://blogging.lease2buy.com
HomeRun Homes Website http://www.lease2buy.com

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