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Winter Home Energy Efficiency

Home energy efficiency is not an exact science. For instance, many experts will endlessly debate whether one type of insulation product is better than another. Every product has positive and negative aspects.

There are, however, some easy product decisions in improving your home energy efficiency this winter. Each of these begins with looking for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR label whenever possible.

Televisions, Computers, and Home Office Equipment

Are you thinking of buying a new TV or computer for the holidays? ENERGY STAR rates these products and many others on their website. ENERGY STAR labeled televisions are, on average, over 20 percent more efficient than conventional models.

According to the EPA, if every home office product purchased in the United States this year met ENERGY STAR requirements, we would:

  • Save more than $100 million in annual energy costs
  • Prevent 1.4 billion pounds of greenhouse gases, equivalent to emissions from 125,000 cars
  • Save more than 900 million kWh of electricity

Water Heaters and Furnaces

What about if your water heater or furnace dies suddenly this winter? This can put you in an emergency type of situation in which you might not have much time to make a product decision. Look at the ENERGY STAR website to help you make your decision and to know that you are purchasing products that at least meet a certain minimum energy efficiency threshold.

If your current furnace or water heater is 15 years old or older, you might want to plan ahead to get an idea of what products you would replace them with if the need arises.

There are many types of water heaters. High efficiency tank style units can be energy efficient as long as they are reasonably sized. You don’t want to be heating 100 gallons of water all of the time if you only really need 50 gallons. Bigger tanks are not as efficient and more expensive, so definitely try to minimize the size as much as you can. Choosing an ENERGY STAR qualified gas tank storage water heater instead of a standard model can save about $30 a year. That’s about a $360 savings over the 13-year lifetime of the water heater. Larger families can save even more money.

Two other energy efficient options rated by ENERGY STAR are condensing and tankless water heaters. Condensing storage (tank style) water heaters capture some of the waste heat from venting the combustion gases to aid in heating the water. This can be a good option for some homes. Tankless water heaters do not constantly heat water, but rather only use very high powered heating elements to heat the water only when you want to use it.  And don’t forget the possibility of using the sun to heat your water by installing a solar thermal hot water system. Getting an analysis from a reputable company who specializes in solar hot water is the first step to see if this is feasible for your home.

Heating and Cooling Equipment

Finally, if you have to replace heating (or cooling) equipment this winter, be sure to look for the ENERGY STAR label. These furnaces will be up to 16 percent more energy efficient than baseline models and can save an average of $94 in energy costs per year. Also be sure to ask the contractor you will use to do a calculation (also known as Manual J) to see if the unit is sized properly for your home.  This calculation takes into consideration how much insulation, window surface area, window orientation, how tight your house is, and some other things.  If the equipment is sized too big, it will not perform as efficiently and you will not be as comfortable in your home.

So, in summary, when buying products for the home, whether fun electronic gadgets or other home system products, look for the ENERGY STAR label and be a good consumer to improve your comfort and save money in your home!


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