Save money on home energy costs – help the environment and the economy at the same time

Few people realize how much energy is wasted at home which affects the environment and makes us more dependent on foreign oil. They also don’t understand that they can quickly reduce their energy costs substantially through a variety of cost-effective conservation efforts.

Obama gets it

President-elect Barack Obama has announced that energy conservation is a new strategic way to help reduce energy costs for low-income households. He has promised to provide conservation contractors for the poorest 1 million households to reduce energy consumption and lower energy costs. This would represent a historic shift in the government’s emphasis on lowering people’s energy bills instead of helping pay them. At the same time, he will create tens of thousands of jobs for contractors helping with conservation improvements to these homes. This will be part of the new president’s plan to create new jobs, lower consumer energy costs, and at the same time make us less dependent on foreign energy sources.

global climate change

The scientific community agrees that rising CO2 levels are contributing to global climate change. But not all of this CO2 comes from industry and transport, as many people assume. Households are responsible for one fifth of the energy consumed in the United States. A little more than half of the energy used in our homes is in the form of electricity. The rest comes from natural gas, coal and oil. All this CO2 takes its toll on our environment. For example, the average home produces more than twice the greenhouse gas pollution of the average car. If you add the emissions produced by power plants that generate electricity, plus those from appliances that run on oil and gas, the average home is responsible for the release of 22,000 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) each year. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), this compares to 10,000 pounds of CO2 per year from a typical car.

Conservation and use of energy

In many homes, we don’t even benefit from much of the energy that we end up paying for. Unnecessary lights, old appliances, poorly maintained heating and air conditioning systems, drafty doors and windows, and insufficiently insulated attics, walls, floors, and basements all reduce the energy bill in nearly every home. Studies have also shown that two families living in IDENTICAL homes can have energy bills that vary by as much as 100 percent; This means that occupants’ energy-efficient habits and appliances can double (or halve) their energy bills.

Many people are reluctant to upgrade their home’s energy efficiency when they could move in a few years, or think the costs will be too high for conservation efforts. But published research is clear that energy efficiency investments are often relatively inexpensive, extremely profitable, and also lead to higher home resale values.

A study published in The Appraisal Journal found that the market value of a home increases by $10 to $25 for every $1 decrease in annual fuel bills. The study was conducted by ICF Consulting with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency. The research was carried out on a sample of more than 16,000 housing units across the country.

What you can do right now

Schedule an audit from your home energy efficiency inspector. My client’s report of $300 net annual energy savings after implementing cost-effective efficiency recommendations from my audits. I offer my audits at no cost if I am doing a new home inspection. In addition, many utilities sponsor free or reduced-cost energy efficiency inspections. Additionally, utility companies often have a web-based self-audit that the owner can complete to develop their own energy efficiency plan. Most utility companies also offer rebates on the purchase of new EnergyStar-qualified efficient appliances and other conservation materials and services. Contact your local utility provider for more information. In California, visit the Energycheck website to find a qualified energy efficiency inspector in California.

A quick and cost-effective way to reduce electricity costs is to replace your current incandescent bulbs with the new generation of energy-saving CFL bulbs. Local utilities often provide incentives to retailers (including Cost-Co) to sell these bulbs at very low cost. I recently found these bulbs for sale at various retailers in California for less than $1 per bulb. Using these CFL bulbs can reduce your electricity usage and bill by up to 20%. There has been some misinformation about CFL bulbs emitting mercury during operation. These claims about the danger of mercury are false. However, if a CFL bulb breaks (as it has a very small amount of mercury), it should be placed in a plastic bag and disposed of at the appropriate facility where paints or batteries are located. CFL technology has been greatly improved – they light up faster and last longer. However, they have not yet been perfected for dimmer lighting controls.

So be smart about making your home more energy efficient at the same time: you’ll save money, help the environment and the economy, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

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