Small Steps to Save Energy can add Up

By Rick Goldstein, MOSAIC Group [Architects and Remodelers]

We hear the phrase “go green” all the time, but do we really know what it means?

A recent poll by the Shelton Group, an advertising and research agency that focuses on motivating consumers to make sustainable choices, found a correlation between the number of improvements made and the resulting energy savings. It usually takes about five energy-saving improvements to make a noticeable difference to the bottom line.

Making your home energy efficient is a multistep process. Even the smallest individual changes can add up to a big change for the better. Changing our energy consumption practices can help make our impact on the climate essentially “neutral.” And future generations will thank us for our efforts!

Here are some small steps to move you in the right direction.

1. Choose a programmable thermostat. If you have a manual thermostat, move the temperature up to 82 when you leave for the day. When you return, turn it down to 78.

2. Evaluate your insulation. Insulation is labeled according to its R-value. “R” is resistance to heat flow. Higher R-values provide greater insulation. Make sure your windows and doors are sealed so you don’t waste energy. Add foam inserts to electrical outlets and switches on exterior walls to prevent drafts.

3. Lower the thermostat on your water heater to 120 degrees. This can save as much as $45 per year. Next to heating and cooling, water heaters use the most energy in a household. Wrap your heater with an insulation blanket. This can reduce its energy use by 10 percent to 15 percent.

4. Set your thermostat a few degrees lower in the winter and a few degrees higher in the summer.The average home spends about half of its energy dollars on heating and cooling. If you have a lot of windows, keep the drapes or blinds closed when you’re not at home.

5. Replace light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. CFLs use 70 percent less electricity than regular light bulbs, give off five times more light, emit 90 percent less heat and last 10 times longer. A fluorescent light bulb will save about $50 in electricity costs over its life. Clean your lamp shades and light bulbs because dust can reduce lighting levels by as much as 50 percent.

6. Turn off lights and appliances when not in use. You also can use a “smart” power strip that senses when appliances are off and cuts “phantom” or “vampire” energy use.

7. Wash clothes in cold water whenever possible. As much as 85 percent of the energy used to machine wash clothes goes to heating the water.

8. Take a shorter shower and install a low-flow showerhead. They don’t cost much, and the water and energy savings can quickly pay back your investment.

9. Use a water filter to purify tap water instead of buying bottled water. Not only is bottled water expensive, but it generates large amounts of container waste.

10. Clean or change your air conditioning filter once a month. A clogged filter makes your unit(s) work harder. Also remember to gently vacuum off your refrigerator’s condenser coils about every three months.

Rick Goldstein is a registered architect and co-owner of metro-Atlanta based MOSAIC Group [Architects and Remodelers], a design / build firm with Indoor and Outdoor Living Divisions.