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Your Impact on Energy Use:Tip #5 Smart Heating + Cooling

 Construction during a home remodel in Bryan / College Station, by Stearns Design Build. Isolation is being added to the home to promote smarter heating and cooling.

Construction during a home remodel in Bryan / College Station, by Stearns Design Build. Isolation is being added to the home to promote smarter heating and cooling.

How can you affect the 29% +17% of Heating and Cooling energy use?  

Tip #5 Smart Heating & Cooling: This is the biggest chunk of your energy usage, so it’s important that you make sure this area of energy is being used wisely.

  • Keep your heating temperature at 68 degrees and your cooling temperature at 78 degrees to save energy and money. If this is a little cooler/hotter then you are used to, don’t panic—dressing in warmer clothes during the winter and lighter clothes in the summer when you’re indoors will help you adjust. (Drinking hot chocolate & eating popsicles might also help as well!) Remember to adjust your thermostat by a degree or two when you’ll be gone from home for the day.
  • Be aware of how your heating and cooling system is working. Have it serviced regularly and if it’s becoming archaic, think about having it replaced with a more efficient model if your budget allows. There are even rebate programs offered for this type of upgrade.
  • Replace your Return Air Filter once a month.
  • Make sure weather-stripping around doors and windows are in good shape and repaired if necessary. Any penetration of your home envelope (plumbing, venting, etc.) should be properly sealed. This will help prevent heat/cold from escaping or entering depending on the season. Preventing the leakage of air from your home (or into your home) is a major way to increase the efficiency of your Heating & Cooling system.
  • Use blinds and curtains to control sunlight in spaces of your home. Remember direct sunlight brings heat, which may be welcome in the winter, but not in the summer.
  •  One way that you can become more aware of changes you can make in your home is to have a Home Energy Audit. The audit includes certain tests that identify problem areas that need to be addressed to increase your home’s efficiency. Better insulation, more efficient windows and Heating & Cooling systems, as well as sealing gaps or cracks in your home with spray foam insulation are all building related improvements that can be suggested by a home energy audit.

We hope you’ve found this blog series informative, and that it helps you discover adjustments you can make to save energy. If you have any comments or questions, please share them. We at Stearns always value and appreciate your input!

Your Impact on Energy Use: Tip #4 Conserve Water

 Bathroom remodel in Bryan / College Station, by Stearns Design Build. Every bathroom we remodel has water conservation on our mind.

Bathroom remodel in Bryan / College Station, by Stearns Design Build. Every bathroom we remodel has water conservation on our mind.

How can you affect the 14% of energy used for Water Heating in your home?  

Tip #4 Conserve Water: Firstly, become aware of your overall household water use, and conserve water with low flow fixtures. Hot water is mostly used for showers, laundry and dish washing– focusing on efficient water use in these areas will help to reduce your energy spent on heating water.

  • Try to shorten your shower by a few minutes if possible.
  • In accordance with yesterday’s tip about appliance use, try to wash a majority of your clothes with cold water, reducing the amount of water heated. Adjust laundry load sizes to also help monitor the amount of water used.
  • Wash only full loads of dishes on an economy setting if one is available.
  • Explore water heating options that are more efficient! The traditional tank water heater, which has a store of water it is constantly reheating, isn’t the only option. For example, tankless/instant water heaters directly heat water on demand, on an as need basis. A solar water heater is a different option that uses sunlight to heat water. These can be active (with a pump) or passive. Solar water heaters are often used in conjunction with traditional tank heaters, which are a back up system for cloudy days as wells as a storage system.

Conserving water is on all of our minds, especially with the drought we’ve been going through in the Brazos area. Water conservation is actually one of College Station’s green goals –find out more about it here.

These are the average annual percentages of energy use in a home in case this is your first glance at the blog series:

29% Heating

17% Cooling

14% Water Heating

13% Appliances

12% Lighting

4% Electronics

11% Other (external power adapters, telephones, set up boxes, ceiling fans, vent fans, home audio, ovens, microwaves, small appliances etc. Basically all the little things plugged in around your home)

Your Impact on Energy Use:Tip #3 Savvy Appliance Use

 Kitchen remodel in Bryan / College Station, by Stearns Design Build. It features old and new appliances.

Kitchen remodel in Bryan / College Station, by Stearns Design Build. It features old and new appliances.

Once again, here’s the breakdown of average annual energy use in a home: 29% Heating

17% Cooling

14% Water Heating

13% Appliances

12% Lighting

4% Electronics

11% Other (external power adapters, telephones, set up boxes, ceiling fans, vent fans, home audio, ovens, microwaves, small appliances etc. Basically all the little things plugged in around your home)

How can you affect that 13% of Appliance energy use?

Tip # 3 Savvy Appliance Use: Upgrading your appliances to energy efficient models is of course the most ideal thing to do. Energy Star labels and CEE tiers (this is the Consortium for Energy Efficiency certification with III being the most efficient) can help guide your choices. But if new purchases aren’t in your budget for the time being, the careful and conscious use of your appliances can help you reduce your energy use and save you money.

  • Use cold water for a majority of your laundry loads (which reduces the energy needed for heating water). Also make sure that you select the appropriate size load for a sufficient but not excess water level.
  • Although wrinkle free settings on dryers are seemingly smart ideas, they cause the dryer to continually turn on/off if you don’t remove your laundry after the cycle ends. Turn these settings off to avoid this energy waste.
  • Only wash full loads in your dishwasher and choose an economy setting if it’s available. Turn off the heated dry on the dishwasher and let your dishes air dry. Your dishes may take a little longer to dry, but it saves.
  • During the summer, try to stick to countertop appliances (crock pots, griddles, etc) to do your cooking instead of ovens. These use less electricity and also produce less heat that you’re a/c has to counter balance.
  • Remember not to leave your refrigerator door open while you’re doing other things. Also, opening your freezer just to cool yourself off isn’t a very energy conscious habit. (I only mention this because I’m guilty of doing this in the past! Maybe some of you can sympathize).

We hope you found this tip and accompanying suggestions helpful. Don’t forget to read our blog tomorrow for tips about water heating and water use!

Your Impact on Energy Use: Tip #1 Plug Loads

 Kitchen Remodel in Bryan College Station, by Stearns Design Build. All appliences are selected to reduce plug loads.

Kitchen Remodel in Bryan College Station, by Stearns Design Build. All appliences are selected to reduce plug loads.

There was a recent article in the Environmental Building News that discussed the need for occupants (you!) to understand how they impact the energy use and the efficiency of their homes and businesses through their day to day choices. Design of a home can allow for opportunities and an environment for green living to take place, but it’s really up to you as a home owner to make the most of those opportunities through your choices. This is especially true for energy efficiency and the lower energy bills that come as a result. To help you understand how your choices affect the efficiency of your home, lets take a look at a breakdown of annual energy use in an average home (these percentages are found on the EnergyStar website):

29% Heating

17% Cooling

14% Water Heating

13% Appliances

12% Lighting

4% Electronics

11% Other (external power adapters, telephones, set up boxes, ceiling fans, vent fans, home audio, ovens, microwaves, small appliances etc. Basically all the little things plugged in around your home)

How can you affect that 4% + 11% of Electronic energy use?

Tip #1 Plug Loads: This 15% of energy usage can be summarized as plug loads. You can decrease your overall energy use in this category by unplugging items that are not in use or using power strips so that multiple electronic devices can be “unplugged” at once. This decreases “phantom loads” in your home, or in other words eliminates the energy that is drawn by products when they are not in use but still plugged into the wall. This is an easy tip to help reduce your energy bill. All you have to do is get into the habit of unplugging electronic devices!

For more detailed information about phantom loads and plug loads, read one of our previous blog entries about Cutting Useless Energy Use. We’ll also be giving you tips throughout the rest of the week concerning the other major uses of energy in your home. Be sure to keep on reading!

Learning from the Past: Adaption & Simplicity

 Kitchen remodel in Bryan / College Station, By Stearns Design Build. This custom kitchen was designed to accomadate a client in a wheel chair.

Kitchen remodel in Bryan / College Station, By Stearns Design Build. This custom kitchen was designed to accomadate a client in a wheel chair.

Let’s take a look at another vernacular house design and think about ways it relates to green home building for Bryan-College Station. Today’s building style under examination is the shotgun house.
This building was a long narrow house normally built in urban areas of the South where lot size was also long and narrow. The structure was one room wide and several rooms long, with a small front and back porch. Sometimes there was also a porch along one of the sides as well. There was no hallway in the house, but all the doors lined up with each other so that when open a breeze would bring cool air through the spaces. Normally, the front space was a living room and the back space was a kitchen, with bedrooms in between. Occasionally, a partial second story was added to the back of the house. Overall, it was a very “no-nonsense” structure.

What are some green home ideas that we can glean from the shotgun house?

Firstly, we can take the idea of the importance of adapting a home to a specific site location. The narrowness of an urban site prompted the shape of the shotgun house. Similarly, green homes designed today should mold to their sites. Another idea to hold on to is the encouraging of airflow through spaces. Whether this pertains to natural breezes, air conditioning, or both, the intentional directing of air will make cooling and heating more efficient. Although the layout of rooms in a shotgun house may not seem very private, it brings up an interesting idea about zoning. By grouping rooms with similar needs and uses together, we can make a home more functional and reduce construction materials. For example, connecting or stacking locations such as laundry rooms, kitchens, and baths (which all use hot water) eliminates the need to pipe water all over the house.

With the shotgun house there is also a call to simplicity. Simplicity poses the question of how we can reduce excess space (thereby conserving space) without reducing comfort or privacy. This question is definitely one to ponder when considering building a new home and/or remodeling.