Thursday, November 09, 2006

Cut your energy bill this winter

I just spoke with Jim Sargent, a Waxahachie home builder who's spent years buiding and designing attractive and effecient zero energy homes.
Sargent was the first builder in the nation to receive the Master Builder designation for building energy efficient homes from the Energy & Environmental Building Association (EEBA).
He began his custom home building business in the 1970's. During the oil embargo and ensuing energy crisis he realized the necessity for building energy effecient homes. After three years and little luck Sargent went back to building homes like everyone else.
But in 1985 he said he realized again that there was a need for building better homes.
"I was building gas and energy guzzlers that would be gas and energy guzzlers for the next 100 years."
So he's spent his time since building and designing energy effecient homes. He also
began the practice of monitoring the energy consumption of each home he built, a practice he continues today.
Sargent gave several key tips for cutting your energy costs down this winter (or anytime).
  • Get rid of air leaks
    "The biggest problem is air leaks in the house," Sargent said. "If air is blowing into the house it blows out the warmed air. Every cubic foot of air that blows into your house, blows out a cubic foot of treated or warmed air."
    A typical house, built 10 years ago or more probably has a turnover of air approximately 5 times an hour.
    "You want to cut that down."
    You're heating the same space five times an hour as the air cycles through your house.
    "When that cold air comes in it pushes treated air out."
  • Cover single pane windows
    If you have single pane windows you can replace them with double pane windows but often putting shades on the windows will help with the transfer of heat to the outside.
  • Clean air filters
    Be sure you're using clean air filters and if its needed, tune up and clean your older furnace.
  • Turn the temperature down on your water heater
    If you're scalding yourself with your hot water, keep in mind that you're wasting electricity to keep your water that hot all the time.
  • Wrap water pipes
    If you have a pier and beam house it may be a good idea to be sure your hot water pipes are insulated under the house.
  • Wear a sweater
    I asked Jim what people should do who are living in rental properties (i.e. my loft) and can't make a lot of changes to their apartment or rental unit. He said it's more of a smart a-- answer, but he said, "Wear a sweater." You can put on extra layers easily and not run your heater as much.

    "Air leakage is going to be your biggest problem," Sargent said. "Our new homes in the Dallas area don’t heat at all and people don’t turn on the furnace. And that's because we've killed all the air leaks not added more insulation."
  • 1 comment:

    Fred said...

    vThis is a good post. It is quite informative. It sounds like Jim Sargent knows a lot of solutions. Can you amplify the air flow solutions?

    We have already added thermal pane exterior windows to existing thermal panes. What else can be done to decrease air leaks? Where else should we look besides windows? Is there a good way to find more air leaks? Is there a device or method available to consumers or do we need to hire a specialist? I know that feeling hot or cold drafts, depending on the season, will indicate air exchange between the inside and outside. Does the leak need to be felt to be large enough to be an energy waster?