HOME ENERGY OPTIONS

Conserving heat
for winter ahead

The Home Energy Saver was the first Internet-based tool for calculating energy use in residential buildings.

The project is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), as part of the national ENERGY STAR Program for improving energy efficiency in homes.

The project also received previous support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the US Department of Housing and Urban Development's PATH projgram, and the California Energy Commission's Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program.

Link: http://hes.lbl.gov/hes/vh.html


Other home energy saving tips and information can also be found at this U.S. Dept. of Energy link below:

www.energy.gov/yourhome.html


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Energy expert offers ideas
for conserving electric power

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. –– Homeowners and businesses often waste power because they aren't aware of all the steps that can be taken to reduce their electricity consumption to lower bills and help ease strain on the nation's power grid, says a Purdue University expert.

"We need to help consumers more than we do," says Athula Kulatunga, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering technology and a certified energy manager. "Studies have shown that people want to be more conscientious of their energy usage but don't know how they can make a difference."

Kulatunga says simple actions such as installing a digital thermostat, insulating water heaters and adding insulation to a home's attic and walls can result in significant savings. There also are new technologies being used and researched by utility companies that can go even further.

Most utility companies offer rebates and energy audits, and some offer voluntary programs in which households can opt to have "smart" devices hooked into the home's electrical supply that will provide near real-time readings on usage, power outage notifications and power quality. Some devices will even shut off power in times of peak usage.

Kulatunga says that in the future, consumers may be able to disconnect partially from the power grid and use other energy sources, such as wind or solar, to power select high-energy appliances such as refrigerators or clothes dryers. These alternate sources of energy would be integrated into the home's electrical supply but would not put a strain on the centralized power grid.

"Our nation's power grid is relatively old, and it is showing signs of weakness," Kulatunga says. "There is a limit to what our grid will tolerate, so we have to find ways to minimize the consumption while the grid is being upgraded."

Kulatunga oversees Purdue's International Rectifier Power Electronics Development and Application Lab, known as IR-PEDAL, which focuses on energy-efficiency-related applied research in three main areas: motion controls, power conversions and audio amplifiers.

Current projects include working with American Electric Power to study how large power transmission fuses and capacitors behave and why they fail, developing devices to detect and communicate the failing components in the power grid, and researching how to improve the efficiency of brushless, electronically controlled DC motors that could eventually replace mechanically controlled motors.



Household efficiency
relieves high summer costs

Washington, D.C. –– Summer may long over; however, U.S. households did feel the strain of early summer heat waves and cooling costs, high gas prices, and consumer price increases due to inflation.

Last summer, for example, households paid about 30% more for gasoline, 20-40% more for food staples like milk and eggs, and 5% more for electricity compared to the previous year.

According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), low-cost efficiency investments can help defray these costs for U.S. households.

Hidden inefficiencies in home central cooling equipment can add 20-30% to annual cooling costs.

"To keep bills down, households should have a professional technician inspect, clean, and tune their central air conditioners or heat pumps every 2-3 years," said Harvey Sachs, Director of the Buildings Program at ACEEE.

Correcting the level of refrigerant in the system and checking the airflow over the indoor coil, for example, may improve efficiency by up to 25% for older systems.

Even well-tuned systems, however, can be plagued by inefficiencies in the ductwork. Properly sealing and insulating ducts, especially those exposed in the attic, may be the greatest savings opportunity in houses without basements.

ACEEE offers their other top recommendations for saving money this summer:

Insulate your attic.
With the hot sun beating down on your roof, a lot of heat can be absorbed into and get trapped in your attic. This hot air will leak into the rest of your house if your attic isn't properly insulated.

Turn off or replace inefficient appliances and light bulbs.
Inefficient appliances, incandescent light bulbs, and electronics not only use a lot of energy, but also give off excess heat. Installing compact fluorescent light bulbs throughout your house can shave $100 off an average home's annual electricity bill.

Keep the heat out.
Use window shades to manage heat gain during the day and airflow at night, and consider more reflective, light-colored roofing and siding products. These measures can reduce your peak cooling demand by 10-15%.

Increase your comfort range with fans.
With fans that create breezes, you will probably be comfortable with the thermostat set at about 78°F (unless humidity is high). For each degree you are able to raise the thermostat, you will save 3-5% on air conditioning costs.

Just remember that fans cool people, not rooms, so turn them off when you leave. Whole-house fans that bring in cool night-time air can "pre-cool" the house and reduce energy use during the daytime, if the daytime heat is kept out by closing the windows and shades.

ACEEE provides numerous tips for households who are looking to recover some of their energy costs. Visit www.aceee.org/consumer for more information.

About ACEEE: The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing energy efficiency as a means of promoting economic prosperity, energy security, and environmental protection.

For information about ACEEE and its programs, publications, and conferences, contact ACEEE, 529 14th Street N.W., Suite 600, Washington, D.C. 20045 or visit www.aceee.org.