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Efficient Home Energy

October 23, 2013

The first step in creating an energy efficient home is taking the initiative to learn how you can create a house that doesn't waste energy. Throughout the entire house, there are many opportunities to improve the quality of life while also saving money. By making a few changes, you will start to see your energy bill get smaller and your bank account getting bigger from the money you will be saving.

As you approach your new project, the most effective strategy for improving your household energy efficiency is to target your home's "envelope" which includes walls, attic, windows, and doors. Effective insulation in your walls and attic will slow the rate at which the heat flows out of the house in winter or into the house in the summer, therefore resulting in less energy required to heat or cool the house. There are many insulation options that can have an impact but a piece that is more important than the type of insulation you use is the contractor that you choose to install it. Properly installed fiberglass, cellulose, and most foam insulation materials all have an impact but the key term is "properly installed", so be sure to do your background research when looking for a contractor. When it comes to windows, if you have old and leaky windows, it's time to consider replacing them with energy-efficient models or increase their efficiency with weather-stripping and storm windows. According to EnergyStar.gov, replacing windows will save 7 to 24 percent on your heating and air-conditioning bills, but the larger savings would be associated with replacing single-glazed windows. Weather-stripping can also be applied to doors that don't close tightly thus resulting in lower energy bills by reducing drafts and eliminating moisture problems caused by holes, cracks and gaps.

The next step to efficient home energy is taking a look at your home systems such as heating, cooling, lighting and appliances. If you have an older furnace or hot water system, it would be worth it to look into how old your appliance is and what is available for the newer, energy efficient models. The Melrose Energy Commission outlines rebates available for new heating systems at melroseenergy.org. You could save up to 27% percent on your heating bills by simply switching to a more efficient model. When it comes to lighting in the house, most people don't realize that the electricity to run a light bulb costs much more than the bulb itself. You can save three-quarters of electricity used by replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). A new CFL has a relatively low cost and can last 10,000 hours and uses only about 27 watts to generate as much light as a 100-watt incandescent bulb. Appliances also play a major role in consuming energy and raising your energy costs. One example would be your refrigerator. An older fridge will cost on average anywhere from $50-150 per year in electricity compared to a new fridge that is Energy Star rated which would only cost anywhere from $30-60 per year. If you can't afford to purchase a newer fridge, be sure that you are only running ONE fridge at your home. For as tempting as it is to have an extra storage unit, the cost of running an extra fridge can drastically raise your electric bill. Another consideration to factor in when it comes to refrigerators is how they are designed. A similarly sized refrigerator with a top-mount freezer will use 20 to 25 percent less energy than a side-by-side model and often offers more usable refrigerator and freezer space.

Once you have established a plan to improve the efficiency of your home's "envelope" along with the appliances that are used, you can then consider clean energy generation such as solar or geothermal. These improvements can be a little more costly compared to the internal home improvements but with the help of a professional, you can decide if clean energy generation is the right choice for you. It would be very helpful to schedule an energy audit for more expert advice on your home as a whole. Energy auditors and raters use specialized tools and skills to evaluate your home and then proceed to recommend the most cost-effective steps to improve its comfort and efficiency, as well as the best order for doing them to take advantage of interactions. The Solarize Melrose program is a great place for Melrose residents and business owners to start.

James Oosterman is the Vice President of Melrose Bank. He can be reached by telephone 781-665-2500, online at melrosebank.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/MelroseBank.


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