Monthly Archives: March 2014

Best Ways To Save On Home Heating Costs

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 12.02.14 PMSeattle solar power use and radiant heat is higher than the national average, but the amount of money spent on heating and cooling our homes still makes up the majority of our energy bill. Heating and cooling account for 56 percent of the energy use in a typical American home, according to the Department of Energy. Aside from regular HVAC maintenance, there are a number of things you can do to reduce your home heating costs and save you money.

1. Insulate. Insulation is your home’s all-purpose force field against high energy bills. It minimizes heat transfer in winter and summer, provides ventilation to control moisture and makes your home more livable. Bringing your attic insulation up to code for your region is one of the most cost-effective ways to winter-proof your home. Before you blow insulation, be sure to seal all ductwork, plumbing and cable TV penetrations. Leaky ducts can account for 10 percent to 30 percent of heating and cooling costs.

2. Adjust your thermostat. You can save 10 percent on your winter heating bills by adjusting your thermostat 10 to 15 degrees cooler for the eight hours you’re at work, according to the Department of Energy. Cut it back an additional eight hours when you sleep and you might save 20 percent.

A programmable thermostat helps you easily adjust your home’s temperature and is a wise investment.

3. Reduce the temperature of your hot water. The Department of Energy estimates that water heaters account for 14 percent to 25 percent of our monthly energy bill. Water heaters are often factory-set at 140 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to scald. The Department of Energy says most of us can live comfortably with 120-degree water. You can save 3 percent to 5 percent on your water heating costs for every 10 degrees of setback.

To save even more, you can reduce hot water use with low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators, jacket the heater and wrap hot water pipes to minimize stand-by heat loss, and install a timer to take advantage of cheaper off-peak power. For greater savings, ditch the tank entirely and invest in an energy-saving on-demand tankless water heater.

4. Insulate your windows. Many homes lose costly heat the old-fashioned way: through outdated windows. Double-pane thermal windows arrest the heat transfer by inserting dead-air space, a poor conductor, between two panes. Unlike single-pane windows, which can lose more heat in winter than they let in, energy-efficient windows enable homes to take advantage of free solar heating during chilly weather.

As a make-do plan, create your own energy-saving dead-air space by affixing clear plastic sheeting over the interior opening of unused windows.

5. Winterize your chimney. Although your chimney probably has a working damper, it’s unlikely to be airtight. Poke your hand up inside the flue and you’ll probably feel the draft. Because masonry retrofits can prove costly and chimney caps are cumbersome during fireplace season, most homeowners opt to place fitted glass fireplace doors over the fireplace.

Other tips:

  • Reverse your ceiling fans: It will help circulate rising heated air down to where you need it.
  • Close heating vents and doors to little-used rooms.
  • Insulate outlets and light switches with inexpensive switch insulators
  • Replace the light bulbs you leave on longest with CFL, or compact flourescent light, bulbs. They use 75 percent less energy and save $40 in energy costs over their lifetime.
  • Take advantage of federal and state tax rebates, including Energy Star appliance upgrades.
  • Have your home’s HVAC system serviced yearly.
  • Clean and replace filters on your furnace once a month or as needed to permit better air flow through the house.

Top Reasons to Choose Solar Energy

House with solar panels.Using solar energy to heat and power your home has many benefits.  Whether economic, environmental, or personal, all of these benefits are fueling the Seattle solar power boom.  Installing solar panels or photovoltaic systems, commonly called “pv systems”, are increasingly popular.  If you look around, you’ll probably notice that more and more of your neighbors are installing solar panels on their homes.  Here are the top reasons why you should choose solar energy, too:

Considerably reduce your electric bills.
Electricity costs can make up a large portion of the overall budget for your home or business. With a solar panel system, you’ll be generating free power over your system’s 25-30 year life cycle. Even if you don’t produce all of the energy you consume, your utility bills still will be much smaller. Either way, you’ll be saving a lot of money.

Solar energy is a great investment.
Solar panels aren’t an expense. They’re an investment that pays handsome returns often rivaling those of more traditional investments such as stocks or bonds. Substantial savings as well as the potential in some areas to generate revenue result in ROIs of 20% or more, making solar one of the best ways to invest your dollars.

Protect yourself against rising energy costs.
Because energy prices are so unpredictable, they make managing your budget very difficult, especially for businesses or homeowners whose cash flow fluctuates from month to month. By making these costs more predictable, solar power systems have the added benefit of improving a home or business owner’s expense management capabilities.

Increase your home’s value.
Studies have found that buildings and homes equipped with clean energy systems have higher property values, selling twice as fast and at a premium of 3-4% over similar homes in the same neighborhood.  This is especially so in Seattle where home buyers are green-energy savvy.  Appraisers are increasingly taking solar installation into consideration as they value the home at the time of a sale. As appraisers and consumers become more educated, homes or commercial properties equipped with solar panel systems will be more in demand and may even get even a higher premium.

Decrease dependence on foreign oil.
Solar energy is a pathway to achieving U.S. energy independence from foreign oil. Because we consume far more oil than we produce (25% vs. 3%), the U.S. is not only dependent on foreign sources for our oil, but we’re also transferring billions of dollars from our economy to oil producing countries, many of which have links to funding global terrorism.

Protect the environment.
Solar panels, or photovoltaics, produce clean energy and its one of the biggest reasons why homeowners are choosing solar to heat and power their homes.  Buildings are responsible for close to 35% of all carbon emissions in the U.S. and going solar can decrease that number significantly. According to the EPA, the average household emits approximately 20 metric tons of carbon pollution each year. By installing a solar power system, a typical two-person household eliminates between 3 and 4 tons of carbon annually—roughly the equivalent of planting over 100 trees every year.  To increase your sustainability practices, look for a made in Washington photovoltaic panel for your Seattle Solar Panel needs.