Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Audits, Part 4: Lighting

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Conducting a four-part do-it-yourself home energy audit can help you find ways to cut cooling costs and save money off your electricity bill this summer. Once you've completed the first three parts of a DIY home energy audit — detecting and sealing air leaks, checking your home's insulation and inspecting your HVAC equipment — you're ready to move on to the final step: lighting.

Evaluate the Type of Lighting You Use

Since lighting your home accounts for up to 10 percent of your monthly electricity bill, it's important to take a closer look at the type of lighting you use.

Incandescent Bulbs

Incandescent bulbs are cheapest, but you're going to go through a lot more of them. Additionally, incandescent bulbs are incredibly inefficient and do a far better job of producing heat than making light.

Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs)

CFLs can be four or five times the price of equivalent incandescent bulbs, but they can last eight times longer and use 75 percent less electricity to produce the same brightness. Drawbacks include environmental concerns — CFLs contain mercury — and shorter lifespans when turned on and off frequently and used in humid parts of the home, such as bathrooms. CFLs are also knocked by some for taking a short time to reach full brightness. Check out these tips for getting the most out of CFL bulbs.

Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs)

LED lights are clearly the future champ of home lighting. While they're the most expensive to buy, they consume 20 percent or less of the electricity used by incandescent bulbs and last up to 25 times longer — without any of the drawbacks associated with CFLs.

For more information, check out our post comparing the money-saving benefits of CFLs and LEDs.

Upgrade to Energy-Efficient Lighting Where You Can

Where you can, you should upgrade to energy efficient lighting. Not only will the bulbs pay for themselves in a short time — because you'll save electricity every time you turn on an energy-efficient bulb — but once the bulbs are paid for you'll start saving real money on your electricity bill. To make upgrading even more attractive, some utilities even offer retail discounts on energy-efficient bulbs to customers in their area.

When Shopping for Energy-Efficient Bulbs, Use Lumens, Not Watts

It's important to note that watts are not a measure of a light bulb's brightness. Instead, brightness is determined by something called lumens. When shopping for an equivalent CFL or LED, use the bulb's lumens rating – printed on the packaging – to find a similarly bright bulb.

Develop an Overall Lighting Strategy

There are certain things you can do to increase the lighting efficiency of your home that go beyond upgrading your light bulbs, like using more task lighting or using a brighter-colored paint for walls and ceilings.

For these and other additional lighting tips, check out our post on energy-efficient home lighting.

You can also browse our glossary of energy-efficient lighting terms to help you navigate your options when it comes to lighting and bulbs.

Review the Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Audit

There are four steps to a fairly comprehensive do-it-yourself home energy audit. Here are the other three parts, in case you need to review them or if you missed one earlier:

Part 1: Detect Air Leaks

Part 2: Check Insulation

Part 3: Inspect HVAC Equipment

Part 4: Lighting

Sources

U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, "Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Assessments."

Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Audits, Part 3: Inspecting HVAC Equipment

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Conducting a four-part do-it-yourself home energy audit can help you find ways to cut cooling costs and lower your energy bills this summer. Once you’ve completed the first two parts of a DIY home energy audit — detecting and sealing air leaks and checking your home’s insulation — you’re ready to move on to part three: inspecting your HVAC equipment.

The efficiency of your home’s air conditioning system, also known as heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) equipment, plays a critical role in your ability to cool your home and maintain your comfort during hot summer days while keeping electricity bills from breaking the bank. To help your AC system run as efficiently as possible, you’ll need to inspect your equipment, check for leaks in your ductwork and insulate your ducts.

Inspect Your HVAC Equipment

It’s important that you inspect your HVAC equipment at least once a year. Twice a year — once before summer and once before winter — is ideal. For a summertime checkup, you’ll want to focus on your AC system.

AC Air Filters

Checking air filters and changing them out when they’re dirty is the most important maintenance task you can perform for your AC system:

  • Clogged or dirty air filters restricts normal air flow, which can make your AC system work harder to cool your home
  • Dirt that bypasses an air filter can make its way to the evaporator coil where it can reduce the coil’s ability to absorb heat
  • Clean air filters can lower your energy consumption by 5–15 percent

For central AC systems, air filters are generally located somewhere along the return duct. Filter locations can include walls, ceilings, furnaces or the air conditioner itself. If you have a room air conditioner, the filter will be mounted in the grill facing into the room.

You should clean or replace your AC system’s air filters every month during the hottest summer months, when you run your AC a lot, and about every month or two during months in which you run your AC less frequently.

AC Coils

Your AC system’s evaporator coil and condenser coil will collect some dirt over time. Even if you change out your air filters regularly, the evaporator coil will eventually collect dirt over months and years of service. Dirt that does collect will reduce air flow and insulate the coil, which will in turn reduce the coil’s ability to absorb heat. Outside condenser coils can also become dirty over time, especially if the outdoor environment is dusty or you have a lot of foliage around your unit.

Fix problems by cleaning your evaporator coil once a year before peak summer months and keeping dirt and debris near your condenser coil to a minimum. For best results, keep the area around the condenser coil clear of debris and trim foliage back at least 2 feet to allow for adequate air flow.

Coil Fins

The aluminum fins on evaporator and condenser coils can bend easily when you’re cleaning the coils, which can result in blocked air flow. Make sure to take care when cleaning your coils and consider using a fin comb (supplied by AC wholesalers) to remove dirt from the coils.

Condensate Drains

To clean your condensate drain, which can clog with dirt and debris and prevent an efficient reduction in humidity, pass a stiff wire through the unit’s drain channels. For best results, clean your condensate drains every two months.

Checking for Duct Leaks

Leaky ducts can reduce the efficiency of the air flow through your AC system and can also introduce dirt to the air flow after air has already passed through the system’s air filters. The best way to find out if your air ducts are leaking is to inspect them for dirt streaks, especially near the seams. Dirt streaks indicate air leaks. Thankfully, you can seal them easily enough with duct mastic.

Insulating Air Ducts

Insulating air ducts is a good, affordable way to preserve cooled air as it passes through ducts, especially ducts that maneuver their way through uncooled parts of your home, like your attic. Insulated air ducts will also help maintain heated air as it passes through the ducts in the cold winter months. When insulating your air ducts, make sure to use insulation with an R-value of 6 or above.

Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Audits: Air Leaks, Insulation and Lighting

Make sure to read up on the other steps involved in a four-part DIY home energy audit:

There are four steps to a fairly comprehensive do-it-yourself home energy audit. Here are the other three parts, in case you need to review them or if you missed one earlier:

Part 1: Detect Air Leaks

Part 2: Check Insulation

Part 3: Inspect HVAC Equipment

Part 4: Lighting

Sources

U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, “Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Assessments.”

U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, “Maintaining Your Air Conditioner.”

Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Audits, Part 2: Checking Insulation

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When conducting a do-it-yourself home energy audit as part of an effort to cut your cooling costs this summer, the first thing you want to do is detect air leaks and seal them. After you’ve done that, you’re ready to check your home’s insulation, which plays a critical role in your home’s overall energy efficiency.

If your home is older or has insulation levels that are less than today’s recommended minimum, you could be losing cooled air through the attic, ceiling and walls at a relatively rapid pace. To help shore up your insulation and prevent heat loss, you’ll need to check the insulation in your attic and walls.

Checking the Insulation in Your Attic

When checking your attic for proper insulation, make sure to inspect the hatch; openings for pipes, ductwork and chimneys; vapor barriers; areas around vents and electrical boxes; and the attic floor.

Attic hatches should be at least as heavily insulated as the attic itself and should also be sealed with weather stripping so it closes tightly.

Gaps around openings for pipes, ductwork and chimneys should be sealed tightly with an expanding foam caulk or other permanent sealant.

A vapor barrier is critical for reducing the amount of water vapor that can pass through your ceiling, which can reduce the effectiveness of insulation and cause structural damage over time. Check underneath your attic insulation for typical vapor barriers such as a layer of tarpaper, Kraft paper attached to fiberglass batts or a plastic sheet. If you don’t have a vapor barrier you’ll need to add one. If it’s in bad shape, you’ll need to replace it.

Areas around vents and electrical boxes need to be sealed tightly. Use flexible caulk to seal any gaps or cracks, from either the living room side or the attic side. And make sure that attic vents are not being blocked by insulation.

Your entire attic floor needs to be covered with at least the current recommended amount of insulation, which is based on your home’s material construction and the part of the country in which you live. For more information, check with a professional insulation contractor.

Checking the Insulation in Your Walls

Checking the insulation in your walls is a little more difficult than checking it in your attic. For the best DIY results, just follow these simple steps:

  1. Choose a wall to check
  2. Turn off the circuit breaker or unscrew the fuse for any electrical outlets that are in the wall
  3. Test to make sure the outlets are not “hot” by plugging in a lamp or some other device and turning it on — if it doesn’t work, the outlet is “cold” and isn’t getting any electricity
  4. Once the outlets have been tested and verified cold, remove the cover plate from one outlet and gently probe into the wall with a thin stick or long screwdriver — if you feel resistance, there is some insulation in your wall; repeat for other outlets on the same wall if desired 

Ideally, each wall should be entirely filled with insulation. Unfortunately, the DIY method for testing wall insulation described above can’t tell you if the entire wall is insulated. For that, you’ll need to swallow your DIY pride and hire a professional home energy auditor to perform a thermographic inspection.

A Word on Caulking

When sealing air leaks with caulk, make sure to choose the right kind of caulk and read up on how to apply it correctly.

Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Audits: Air Leaks, HVAC Equipment and Lighting

Make sure to read up on the other steps involved in a four-part DIY home energy audit:

Part 1: Detect Air Leaks

Part 2: Check Insulation

Part 3: Inspect HVAC Equipment

Part 4: Lighting

Sources

U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, “Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Assessments.”

U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, “Attic Insulation.”

Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Audits, Part 1: Detecting Air Leaks

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As the weather starts to really warm up and you begin to run your AC more often, you probably also start thinking about how that will impact electricity bills this summer. That's why now is a great time to think about your home's energy efficiency and the different ways you can lower your cooling costs.

The first thing you'll need to do is conduct a home energy audit, which will give you a better idea of what kind of energy efficiency improvements you can make. You can always hire a professional to perform the audit. But, if you're like us, you'd rather take the do-it-yourself approach. Thankfully, a DIY home energy audit is a pretty simple and straight-forward, four-part process.

5 Steps for Detecting Air Leaks

There are five steps you can take to complete a thorough DIY air leak inspection:

1. Make a list of obvious targets for indoor air leaks

Grab a piece of paper, a clipboard and a pencil. Make a list of obvious places inside your home that have potential gaps or cracks that can allow air to flow in and out:

  • Attic hatches
  • Baseboards
  • Electrical Outlets
  • Fireplace dampers
  • Mail slots
  • Pipes
  • Switch plates
  • Wall- or window-mounted AC units
  • Weather stripping around doors
  • Window frames

2. Perform a visual inspection

A quick visual inspection of the potential problem areas on your list should be able to reveal significant air leaks. Make sure that all caulk and weatherstripping is applied properly, in good condition and without gaps or cracks.

If you see daylight around a door or window frame, then there's definitely a leak. Also, try and rattle your windows and doors. If you can move one by shaking it gently, then there's probably an air leak.

Seal any gaps that you can see with calk or weather stripping. If your doors and windows are old, you may want to consider upgrading to new, energy-efficient doors and windows.

3. Fine tune your search for air leaks

Once you complete a visual inspection for obvious air leaks you can fine tune your search for the leaks that aren't as obvious. You can do this by conducting a basic building pressurization test, which makes leaks easier to detect:

  • Close all exterior doors, windows and fireplace flues
  • Turn off all appliances with pilot lights, such as gas water heaters and gas-burning furnaces
  • Turn on all exhaust fans, such as those in the kitchen and bathrooms

Then, light a stick of incense and hold it next to the locations on your list. If the smoke is sucked in or blown out, then you know you have an air leak.

Caulk is usually your best choice for sealing these smaller leaks.

4. Take your search for air leaks outside

Next, take your clipboard and pencil and search for air leaks on the outside of your home. As a general rule, you want to check any part of your home where two different building materials meet:

  • Areas where the foundation meets the bottom of exterior brick or siding
  • Exterior corners
  • Places where pipes, electrical outlets and wiring enter the home (through brick mortar, siding or the foundation)
  • Where siding and chimneys meet

You're going to have to rely more on a visual inspection (since a pressurization test won't work outside, for obvious reasons) to check for exterior air leaks. For best results, make sure that all external areas are appropriately sealed. If not, or if you can see gaps or cracks in the mortar, siding or foundation — even if they're not around things like pipes or wiring — seal them with the appropriate material.

5. Beware of indoor air pollution and appliance backdrafts

Sealing your home up tight is a good idea, but, if no air is able to get in or out, you'll create a potential hazard from indoor air pollution or appliance backdrafts (when an exhaust fan pulls combustion gasses from gas-powered water heaters and furnaces into the living space).

When sealing air leaks, make sure combustion appliances have adequate air supplies. As a general rule, one square inch of vent opening is required for each 1,000 Btu of appliance input heat.

If you have questions about sealing air leaks and combustion appliances, play it safe and contact a professional ventilation contractor or your utility company.

A Word on Caulking

When sealing air leaks with caulk, make sure to choose the right kind of caulk and read up on how to apply it correctly.

Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Audits: Air Leaks, HVAC Equipment and Lighting

Now that you know how to detect and repair air leaks, make sure to read up on the other steps involved in a four-part DIY home energy audit:

Part 1: Detect Air Leaks

Part 2: Check Insulation

Part 3: Inspect HVAC Equipment

Part 4: Lighting

Sources

U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, "Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Assessments."

Did You Know? Saving Water Means Saving Energy

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You may not think about it, but every time you use hot water in your home, you’re also using energy. After all, that water has to be heated by something, which usually means your electric or natural gas water heater has to go to work. Water and energy use in your home is so interconnected that if you’re looking to cut energy costs, decreasing your water use may be one of the easiest ways.

Every time you use hot water in your home — for things like showers, laundry and dish washing — you also use electricity or natural gas. In fact, water heating is the second largest energy expense in your home, accounting for about 18 percent of your utility bill.

Average Hot Water Use

 

Here’s a breakdown of the use of hot water in an average U.S. home:

Activity

Average Use

Shower

10 gallons per day

Clothes washer

7 gallons per day

Dishwasher

6 gallons per day

Kitchen faucet

2 gallons per minute

Bathroom faucet

.05 gallons per minute

Total Daily Average

64 Gallons

 

Water (and Energy) Saving Tips

There are plenty of ways to cut back on the amount of hot water (and energy) that you use, and increase the efficiency of heating your water:

Improvement

Average Water Heating Savings

Install low-flow showerheads and aerators in your kitchen and bathroom faucets

25 to 60 percent (and about 7,800 gallons of water per year)

Repair leaks

Variable, but a leak of one drip per second can cost $1 per month in hot water costs

Upgrade to an energy-efficient dishwasher

About 50 percent over older models (an additional 7 percent energy savings can be gained by using a “no-heat” drying cycle)

Wash clothes with cold water

Variable, but since 85 to 90 percent of the energy used to wash clothes is spent heating water, the savings can really add up

Set back the thermostat on your water heater to 120°F

From 3 to 5 percent for each 10 degree reduction in water temperature

Install a heat recovery system

Variable, depending on how it’s used

Install a whole-home tankless water heater

About 30 percent each month, compared with gas water heaters (more when compared with electric water heaters)

Install a solar water heater

Variable, depending on several factors

Install heat traps on your water heater tank

About $15–$30 off water heating costs each month

Insulate your water heater tank

If your tank’s R-value is less than R-24, about 4 to 9 percent

 

Sources

Flex Your Power, “Showerheads.”

U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, “Install Heat Traps on a Water Heater Tank for Energy Savings.”

U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, “Insulate Your Water Heater Tank for Energy Savings.”

U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, “Lower Water Heating Temperature for Energy Savings.”

U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, “Reduce Hot Water Use for Energy Savings.”

U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, “Tips: Water Heating.”

Top 7 Tips for Energy-Efficient Home Lighting

Tips for Energy-Efficient Home LightingThere are countless ways to reduce energy costs, but few are as easy as changing your home’s lighting. In fact, lighting consumes about 10 percent of the average home’s electricity use, and using energy-efficient lighting strategies can reduce the average home’s lighting costs by up to 75 percent. To help you get started, here are seven tips for saving money by making your home lighting more energy efficient.

1. Use more direct “task” lighting

Task lighting is direct, overhead lighting for desks, kitchen cooking areas, tool benches, craft tables and other areas. In cases like this, you don’t need to light the whole room to accomplish your task. You can just light the area you need illuminated, thereby preventing waste and cutting lighting costs.

2. Install energy-efficient light bulbs

Energy-efficient light bulbs are designed to provide the same amount of light while using less electricity:

 --Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) will provide the same quantity of light as incandescent light bulbs while using about 75 percent less electricity. They also last from about 8 to 10 times longer. And don’t forget to check out the special CFLs that are compatible with dimmer switches.

 --High-efficiency halogen lighting is a good option if you don’t like the look of CFLs. You can replace a 100-watt incandescent bulb with a 72-watt or 70-watt halogen bulb or replace a 60-watt incandescent bulb with a 42-watt or 40-watt halogen bulb and still get the same amount of light.

 --Light emitting diode (LEDs) bulbs are the most energy-efficient and long-lasting types of light bulbs. You can replace a 60-watt incandescent bulb with a 12-watt LED that will last more than 20,000 hours, or about 10 years.

3. Shop for lumens, not watts

Remember to shop for light bulbs using lumens, not watts. Lumens describes the amount of light a bulb produces, while watts determines the amount of electricity the bulb uses. Energy-efficient light bulbs will produce the same lumens but use fewer watts (which is how a 12-watt LED, for example, can produce as much light as a 60-watt incandescent bulb).

3. Consider changing the surface color of your room

The way interior surfaces reflect light can be a major player in lighting efficiency. Since lighter colors reflect more light than darker surfaces, you should consider repainting your walls and ceilings with lighter colors and choose lighter colors for your floors and furniture. Conversely, darker colors will absorb more light and require you to use higher wattage bulbs to create the same level of illumination.

4. Use fewer, higher-wattage bulbs

If your home has lamps and light fixtures with multiple sockets for two or more incandescent bulbs, you should consider using fewer, higher-wattage bulbs instead of filling all the sockets with lower-wattage bulbs. Doing so will actually allow you to produce more light. A 100-watt bulb, for instance, produces 50 percent more light than four 25-watt bulbs but uses the same amount of energy. And that’s just for incandescent bulbs. If you use CFLs or LEDs in a similar fashion, your electricity use will be dramatically lower.

5. Locate lamps in corners of rooms

When possible, you should place or install floor, table and hanging lamps in the corners of rooms rather than against a flat wall. Doing so will allow the light from the lamp to reflect off of two wall surfaces instead of one, providing you with greater illumination from the same bulb(s).

6. Clean your lighting fixtures regularly

Make sure to dust and otherwise clean your lighting fixtures regularly. Any dirt or grime that gets on bulbs or reflectors will decrease lighting efficiency.

7. Use multiple circuits for large areas

In the case of large areas that use high levels of lighting some of the time but not all of the time, such as family or living rooms, consider installing fixtures on two or three circuits. That way, you can control the lighting of separate areas of the room (similar to the way that task lighting works, but on a larger scale) without having to light the entire area.

How have you managed to cut you home lighting costs? Let us know what you’ve done and how it’s worked for you.

Sources

Edison Electric Institute, “More Than 100 Ways to Improve Your Electric Bill.”

U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, “Lighting.”

How Connecticut Homeowners Can Qualify for Low-Interest Energy-Efficiency Loans

Tuesday May 29, 2012
Posted at 08:55

Residents of Connecticut, if you’re thinking about investing in home improvements to cut your energy use and save money off electricity bills, you may be able to get attractive financing for your improvements through the Connecticut Housing Investment Fund, or CHIF. CHIF’s Residential Energy Efficiency Financing Program offers low-interest loans for a wide variety of energy efficiency improvements, from insulation to ENERGY STAR–certified heating and cooling systems. Here’s how it works:

Basic CHIF Eligibility Requirements

To take part in CHIF’s Residential Energy Efficiency Financing Program, your residential electricity must be delivered bythe Connecticut Light & Power Company (CL&P) or the United Illuminating Company (UI).

Before you can apply for a low-interest CHIF loan, you’ll need to schedule a professional Home Energy Solutions (HES) Energy Assessment from an approved HES contractor to test your home’s efficiency and recommend energy-efficient improvements. An HES Energy Assessment can be scheduled by calling 877.947.3873.

After you have your assessment, you’ll need to getan estimate from an approved CHIF contractor and apply for your CHIF loan online at www.CHIF.org or by phone at 800.992.3665.

Amount of Loans

All energy efficiency loans that homeowners apply for under CHIF’s Residential Energy Efficiency Financing Program must be between $2,500 and $20,000.

Program Categories, Interest Rates and Terms

Program Categories and Interest Rates

CHIF’s Residential Energy Efficiency Financing Program offers two main categories of programs, which qualify for one of two interest rates, either 2.99 percent or 4.99 percent. When you bundle qualifying improvements or equipment upgrades from both categories, the entire package qualifies for the lower 2.99 percent interest rate.

A third category specifically for residential electricity customers of CL&P offers market-rate loans to help cover the cost of installing geothermal heat pump systems.

Loan Terms

CHIF offers unsecured, fixed-rate loans with repayment terms up to 10 years. There are no fees or prepayment penalties. The homeowner assumes the loan and CHIF pays the contractor directly. Repayment begins 30 days after the work is complete. UI customers make monthly payments directly via their utility bills. CL&P customers can choose to make monthly payments to CHIF or directly via their utility bills.

Improvements that qualify for 2.99 percent financing include insulation, ductless heat pumps, heat pump water heaters and tankless natural gas water heaters:

 -High efficiency insulation must meet current HES rebate requirements

 -Ductless heat pumps must meet the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund’s ductless heat pump criteria for the $1,000 incentive level; ductless heat pumps must be installed in a zone that has electric resistance heat as the primary source of heat

 -Electric heat pump water heaters must have an Energy Factor (EF) of 2.0 or greater

 -Tankless natural gas hot water heaters must have an EF of 0.082 or greater

Improvements that qualify for 4.99 percent financing include central air and heat pump systems, air to air heat pumps, natural gas furnaces and boilers, and replacement windows:

 -Central air and heat pump systems must meet equipment early retirement criteria and utilize heating and cooling system rebates and the QIV rebate program; they must also have minimum ratings of 14.5 SEER, 12 EER, 8.2 HSPF

 -Air to air heat pumps must be used to replace electric resistance heat; they must have minimum ratings of 14.5 SEER, 12 EER, 8.2 HSPF

 -Natural gas furnaces must be CEE TierII–certified with a 92 percent AFUE rating and have an air handler performance level of 2 percent or lower

 -Natural gas boilers must have a 90 percent AFUE rating and feature temperature reset or purge control

 -Replacement windows must meet HES program eligibility and replacement criteria and must be used to replace single-paned windows

 -Geothermal heat pump systems may be eligible for financing under the CHIF Residential Energy Efficiency Financing Program at standard market interest rates. To qualify, homeowners must be residential electricity delivery customers of CL&P and homes must meet current geothermal program guidelines.

ENERGY STAR–Certification Requirement

All new or upgraded equipment, including replacement windows, must be ENERGY STAR–certified to qualify for a low-interest loan under CHIF’s Residential Energy Efficiency Financing Program.

For More Information

For more information about the CHIF Residential Energy Efficiency Financing Program and qualifying improvements, download the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund’s Residential Energy Efficiency Financing brochure or call the Connecticut Housing Investment Fund at 800.992.3665.

Sources

Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund brochure, “Residential Financing.”

Connecticut Housing Investment Fund, “Residential Energy Efficiency Financing Program.”

DSIRE, “Connecticut: Energy Efficiency Fund (Electric and Gas) — Residential Energy Efficiency Financing.”


Sales Tax Holiday for Energy-Efficient Appliances Comes to Texas May 26–28, 2012

Tax Free Shopping 2012This Memorial Day weekend, Texans can save on sales tax on ENERGY STAR appliances using the state’s fifth annual sales tax holiday.

The state-wide promotion runs from May 28–30 and will help residents cut energy costs by allowing them to purchase one of the following ENERGY STAR–certified appliance upgrades without having to pay a single cent in sales tax:

--Air conditioners, up to $6,000

--Ceiling fans

--Clothes washers, but not clothes dryers (ENERGY STAR doesn’t label clothes dryers because most use about the same amount of energy)

--Dehumidifiers

--Dishwashers

--Light bulbs, incandescent and fluorescent

--Programmable thermostats manufactured up to December 31, 2009 (ENERGY STAR no longer rates programmable thermostats, but any ENERGY STAR–rated programmable thermostats manufactured before January 1, 2010 that are still in stock are eligible) --Refrigerators, up to $2,000

What if I Want to Buy Online or Through a Catalog?

You can shop online or through a catalog and still qualify for the sales tax exemption as long as the ENERGY STAR–certified appliance is paid for and the retailer accepts the order between May 26–28. In such cases, the appliance may be shipped after May 28.

What About Out-of-Stock, Backordered and On-Order Appliances?

If the ENERGY STAR–certified appliance is backlogged, temporarily out of stock or on order by the retailer, you’ll still qualify for the sales tax exemption as long as you purchase the appliance between May 26–28.

How Does the Sales Tax Holiday Work With Layaway Plans?

You’ll be able to qualify for the sales tax exemption as long as you complete your order and the ENERGY STAR–certified appliance is accepted into layaway between May 26–28. You can also qualify for the sales tax exemption on an ENERGY STAR–certified appliance already in layaway if you make your final payment between May 26–28.

Are Delivery Charges Tax Exempt?

Some delivery charges will qualify for the sales tax exemption. Several factors determine the tax-exempt status of your order — including if you have a mix of eligible ENERGY STAR–certified appliances and non-eligible items and whether you are charged a flat delivery fee or not — so make sure to ask your retailer for more information on delivery charges before you place your order.

Are the Installation Charges for My New Appliance Also Tax Exempt?

Whether or not the installation of ENERGY STAR–certified appliances qualifies for the sales tax exemption is somewhat complicated and depends on several factors like the type of installation and the nature of the jobsite. For more information on the tax-exempt status of installations, contact the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, your installer or contractor.

Sources

Window on State Government, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, “ENERGY STAR Sales Tax Holiday Information for Sellers Memorial Day Weekend: May 26-28, 2012.”

4 Ways to Make Your AC Run More Efficiently This Summer

How to Increase AC Efficiency in the SummerIt’s May, which means summer is right around the corner. And that means folks across the country are going to start using their air conditioners a lot more.

If you’re like us, then you’re not looking forward to the prospect of your AC cranking away during brutal summer afternoons when you can actually see the heat rise off the pavement. After all, it’s expensive. And when your AC is working overtime, small unseen problems have a tendency to become big-time headaches.

Here are four things you can do before the heat arrives to ensure that your AC is in good shape and running efficiently this summer.

1. Change Your Air Filter

Probably the easiest way to improve the efficiency of your AC this summer is to replace your AC filter with a clean, new one. Keeping a relaxed airflow through your AC system — as opposed to a restricted airflow from dirty, clogged filters — will help keep your AC equipment from working harder than it needs to in order to cool your home. That means not only a more efficient AC, but also lower electricity bills.

Clean filters will also help keep dirt and other particles from collecting on critical parts of your AC, which will help prevent performance–related inefficiency and damage to your cooling system.

For the best results, you should replace your AC filter now and then every month heading into the summer. During the warmest months, when your AC works the hardest and pulls the most air, you may want to replace your AC filter more often than each month, depending on how often your AC system kicks on and what type of filters you use.

2. Have an HVAC Technician Inspect Your Equipment

You should have an HVAC technician inspect your AC equipment at least once a year. In parts of the country that depend heavily on air conditioning, the best time to get your AC inspected is now, before summer hits and repair wait times grow. The technician will make sure your equipment is in tip-top shape and running as efficiently as it can. If your equipment has issues, you’ll get a heads-up about what the problems are. And, if you get your system inspected now, you’ll have time to fix them before summer heat has a chance to turn small issues into bigger problems.

3. Check Your Air Ducts for Leaks

The ducts that carry air into and around your home are an important feature when determining the efficiency of your AC. Just think of your AC as your home’s heart and the air ducts like its arteries and veins and you’ll understand how critical they are.

If your ducts have holes on the way to your AC system, dirty air can find its way to your equipment, hurting its efficiency or even damaging it. If your ducts have leaks on the way to vents in your home’s living spaces, cool air can seep out before it gets to you. In either case, your AC system’s efficiency will suffer. Pro tip: Don’t close the vents in unused rooms to try and save a buck. Not only does this not work, but the increased pressure it places on your ducts can cause leaks.

You can have an HVAC technician check for leaks or you can do it yourself. To check yourself, inspect the ducts for tears or holes and then take a close look at each exposed duct joint. If you see dust or lint near a suspected problem spot or feel cool airflow while your AC is running, you know you have an air leak. You can seal these kinds of leaks easily with mastic sealant or metal tape. Avoid duct tape, as it doesn’t last very long. For bigger leaks, or larger duct problems, you might have to hire a professional.

4. Keep Your AC Equipment Clean

Dirt, grime and obstructions make your AC equipment work harder than it needs to, which can cause your electricity bill to climb alongside rising summer temperatures. To increase your AC unit’s efficiency, and avoid equipment damage from dirt-buildup on individual components, follow these cleaning tips:

-Once a year, sometime before summer, hire a duct cleaning service to thoroughly clean your ducts.

-Routinely check your outside AC unit to make sure that it’s clear of obstructions. Trim back shrubs, plants and other greenery that get too close.

-Once a month, use a shop vacuum to suck the dirt out of your ducts and clear dirt from around AC equipment.

Sources

National Geographic, “How to Increase Efficiency of a Central Air Conditioner.”

Did You Know? Cool Roofs Help You Save Energy and Money

Wednesday May 16, 2012
Posted at 09:40

It’s May, which means it’s time to start thinking about things you can do to cut your energy use this summer and save money off utility bills. If you’re into energy-efficiency, then you probably already know about how you can save energy by installing energy-efficient lighting or washing your clothes in cold water. But there’s also something you can do to your roof that can have a big impact on your cooling costs, and we’re not talking about installing a radiant barrier.

We’re talking about cool roofs, those white-painted roofs you may have seen if you’ve ever been to the Mediterranean or watched a program about it on television. Cool roofs have been used to cool homes since ancient times in places like Greece and are becoming popular here in the U.S. in places like New York, California and Hawaii. Cool roofs offer several benefits:

  • Reduce your monthly electric bills by decreasing the need to use your air conditioner to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature
  • Improve the comfort of spaces in your home that aren’t air conditioned
  • Extend the life of your roof by decreasing its average operating temperature

But making your roof cool isn’t just about painting it white. In fact, there are all sorts of ways to turn your home’s roof into a cool roof, as well as a few questions you should ask to make sure a cool roof is right for you.

For more information about whether you should upgrade to a cool roof and what your options are, contact a cool roof professional in your area.

Do you already have a cool roof? Drop us a line in the comments below and let us know what you did and how it’s working for you.

Sources

U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, “Cool Roofs.”