The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 26, 2009

How to lower home energy use

A grant from the Massachusetts Municipal Association brought Alicia Hunt to Town Hall last month to share energy-saving tips with Carlisle residents. The first installment of Hunt’s recommendations appeared in the June 12 Mosquito. Additional ideas appear below:

For refrigerators: Moisture in refrigerators makes the appliance work harder. Cover food. Cool foods a bit before putting them into the refrigerator. Keep the freezer and refrigerator full. [Note: fill plastic jugs with water and put these in if you have extra space.]

For dishwashers: Turn off “Heated Dry” on the dishwasher. Plastics will not get dry, but most other things will. Run the dishwasher so it finishes before you go to bed and open it to let the contents air-dry through the night.

For washing machines: Wash clothes in cold water. [Note: Some newer washers heat cold ground water to roughly 60 degrees.] Do full loads, as they are more efficient. Consider front-loaders if replacing an old top-loader machine. Front loaders spin clothes better and remove more water. They also use 40-60% less water, 30-50% less energy and 50-70% less detergent.

For clothes dryers: Drying clothes with hot air is energy intensive. Take clothes out early. Dry the same type of fabrics together, as it is more efficient. Do not mix sheets and towels, sheets are light, towels are heavy. Consider air-drying.

For ovens: Smaller ovens are more efficient than larger ones. When using the stove-top, cover pots, so that less heat escapes. Microwaves are very efficient.

To save water: Use low-flow shower heads. They are better now; the new designs suck in air and force it out, keeping the pressure up. Set a timer before jumping into the shower. It will make you more aware of how long you are in the shower and should help you take shorter showers. Look for leaks. Fix dripping faucets that no longer can be turned off all the way. Limit the hot water tank temperature to 120 degrees or less. “Keep turning down the water tank temperature until someone complains,” said Hunt. Wrap at least the first nine feet of hot and cold pipes with pipe insulation. Be sure to match the pipe’s insulation to the pipe diameter. If your water heater is more than 10 years old, do some research on energy-efficient replacements now, so when it dies, you will know what you want to buy, quickly. Consider a tankless hot water system. The plumbing costs are higher but it only heats water as needed. “There are discounts available,” added Hunt.

Heating: Turn down the heat and put on a sweater. Hunt said that by turning down the temperature by one degree for eight hours a day, one can see a 1 to 3% savings on the annual bill. Hunt highly recommended putting in electronic thermostats to turn down the heat at night. She said the new models are easy to program, even for vacation times.

Do not put furniture over or right next to air ducts. They block the heat and the furniture gets warm instead of the room.

Do a “Blower Door Test.” Energy auditors use these tests to determine a home’s air-tightness. Fixing air leakage can save energy. Hunt suggested using foam cutouts for outlets. She said pull-down stairs, bulkhead doors and attic hatches were notorious for air leakage and heat loss.

Consider air-sealing the windows and adding insulation. “Air-seal the attic and basement. It’s easy, cheap and cost-effective…Caulk with Mortite,” said Hunt. “It’s easy to put on and easy to take off and it can be reused.” Adding storm windows or putting quilted blinds over windows also limits air leakage and heat loss.

Replacing windows, at roughly $500 per window can be expensive. Hunt said it would take a long time to recoup that investment. She recommended air-sealing and insulation rather than replacing windows for the best bang for the buck. “Look to repair wooden windows before replacing them.” If you are replacing windows, get several bids and go with quality installation.

“Fireplaces are another huge air leak,” said Hunt. Dampers are a poor seal. She recommended a type of balloon that blocks the chimney. (Remove before lighting a fire.)

Hold on to receipts

Hunt said tax rebates are changing quickly. If you are already doing work on your house, save the receipts in case they can be used later for a tax rebate. Inquire about MassSave rebates for sealing and insulation. There are also 0% heat loans available for insulation, heating systems, windows and hot water systems. ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito