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20 steps to a greener home

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"20 steps to a greener home"

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Monday I wrote “The first five steps to a greener home are not what the NYT‘s Green Home column says.”

I was critical both of the author Julie Scelfo and Eric Corey Freed, the author of Green Building & Remodeling for Dummies. But having corresponded with Freed, it seems that his recommendations were taken somewhat out of context. He in fact provided a rough list of 20 things to do.

Illustration of a drain-water heat recovery system. Water flows from a faucet down the drain, which is wrapped with a copper coil called a heat exchanger. Cold water flows through the coil and is heated by the warm water going down the drain. The heated water in the coil then flows to the plumbing fixtures and the water heater, where it then flows through the faucet and is used as drain water to heat new clean water flowing through the system.So I asked him for his list, which he cleaned up a bit (reprinted below). I am not going to number this list because the list is not in any particular order and in any case every home is different.

The list pretty much covers the vast majority of my recommendations. I do think that for those who want a truly green home, you’ll want to get 100% renewable power from a local certified provider if you can, but that should be done in concert with the efficiency measures below. I also recommend getting your home tested for dangerous pollutants.

Finally, there is one technology I had never heard of until I hired someone to help green my home a few years ago. That is a “Drain-Water Heat Recovery” system, featured in the picture. It costs a few hundred dollars and pays for itself in a few years — and everything you could possibly want to know about it can be found here.

If you want to know more about Freed, buy his book, or even hire his services, go to OrganicArchitect.com. Here is the list:

  • Insulate and turn down your hot water heater. It only takes 123 degrees needed to kill Legionnaires Disease. You can save up to 10% off your water heating bill.
  • Insulate your hot and cold water pipes, especially the first 10 feet from the water heater. You’ll get a 5% savings off your hot water bill.
  • Install a dual flush (ie: Brondell) kit into your toilet, or at least insert a 2 liter bottle into the back of the tank.
  • Install occupancy sensors on select rooms around the house. Look for rooms where lights are left on. The California Energy Commission estimates 35-45% savings.
  • Use smart strips (or manually unplug devices) to kill vampire loads. $3 billion a year lost from Vampire loads.
  • Replace your thermostat with a programmable model. Look for EnergyStar pre-programmed model. Save $180 a year off your heating bill.
  • Seal your ducts with mastic. Most homes average 30% duct leakage. $300 a year in potential savings.
  • Install a simple greywater system, ie: Aqus or SinkPositive. Stop flushing fresh drinking water down the toilet.
  • If you repaint, use only zero (not low) VOC paints, or try earthen plaster finishes instead. The plaster potentially adds thermal mass to your wall and maintains a consistent temperature.
  • Caulk and seal around your windows and exterior doors. Most homes average a 20% air leakage. Replace leaky single paned windows with low-e, double glazed ones.
  • If you have a pool, install a solar pool heater. Save water and energy by using a pool cover.
  • Skip the sprinklers, install a drip irrigation system. Better yet, plant xeriscaping plants to avoid the need for additional watering altogether.
  • Install an ultra low flow showerhead. (ie: Evolve, Bricor or Oxygenics.) You can jump from the standard 2.5 gallons per minute down to 0.5 gpm.
  • Install a whole house water filter and never buy bottled water again.
  • Install a solar powered clothes dryer (aka a clothesline). Your dryer consumes 10% of home energy use.
  • Recycle AND compost at home.
  • Explore solar leasing programs (ie: Sungevity, Citizen RE, Solar City, et al).
  • Install a whole house fan into your attic to avoid using air conditioning on all but the hottest of days. Add a solar powered attic vent to flush the heat out. Cut AC bill by 30%. Install ceiling fans to help. Cooling is really the feeling of cooling, not cold air.
  • Insulate your attic. Be careful to not block the soffit vents. Add a radiant barrier if you re-roof. Use light colored roofing (ideally reflective) to create a cool roof. Lowers temperature at roof by 70 degrees.
  • Upgrade old appliances to smaller, EnergyStar models. Target your refrigerator, dishwasher, washer/dryer first. Move fridge away from oven. Replacing a fridge older than 1991 will pay for its replacement in less than a year.
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36 Responses to 20 steps to a greener home

  1. GFW says:

    >Insulate your hot and cold water pipes, especially the first 10 feet from the water heater. You’ll get a 5% savings off your hot water bill.

    This should bloody well be standard building code. Unfortunately, I’d have to rip open an enormous amount of wallboard to do this fully, so I only insulated from the tank about four feet to the first wall it enters.

    I like the Drain-Water Heat Recovery system. When you say it’s a few hundred dollars, is that including installation? What if the drain pipe is a long way from the hot water heater?

  2. charlie says:

    I discovered my electric bill went DOWN after I turned my hot water heater thermostat up.

    To take a hot shower before, I cranked the water all the way and probably depleted more water from the tank. Now, I have the hot water at about 25% and tank needs less electricity for heating.

    Not running the clothes dryer probably made the biggest difference for me. I haven’t noticed any savings from CFLs. In the summer, it is nice because they don’t generate so much heat.

  3. Mark Shapiro says:

    Architects, contractors, and developers should learn all these techniques, and they should compete on energy efficiency (and zero toxicity). Lift the supply curve (and the demand curve) for energy efficiency.

    We should compete on efficiency (and conservation) rather than on consumption. (How about: “My bills are lower than your bills!”)

    Energy use in buildings is probably the fattest target for lowering global CO2 emssions, from new construction and retrofits. A new home or office can now be better than net-zero: net energy positive.

    Amory Lovins has been educating us about efficiency at http://www.rmi.org for decades (I think I learned about Drain-Water Heat Recovery there a few years ago). OK, OK, so he was wrong about fuel cells in cars — no one’s perfect.

  4. paulm says:

    Low tech tip… leave the hot water in the bath till it cools right down. You can even leave the bath 1/2 full to help stabilize the bathroom temp.

  5. John Hollenberg says:

    I did an audit about 6 months ago and found almost 40 watts of vampire power being used continuously. So I:

    1) Unplugged a bunch of stuff I didn’t use much anyway that was drawing the wasted power
    2) Stopped leaving desktop computer on a lot and switched to mostly using laptop computer (with hibernate mode set for 10 minutes of non-use)
    3) Got a more energy efficient phone answering system and cordless phones
    4) Switched to CFL
    5) Opened the windows in the evening in summer instead of using AC
    6) Bought a new energy star refrigerator to replace 10 year old model
    7) Turned down water heater (side benefit–less risk of burning self)
    8) Put in a 1.6 GPM showerhead (I don’t know about those 0.5 GPM ones, doesn’t sound like a shower at all)
    9) Decided to hang my clothes up to dry instead of using the dryer

    Result: use 10-20% less natural gas (it wasn’t very high anyway) and electricity use dropped from 10 KwH per day to 3 KwH per day. Even though I signed up for 100% green power from LA DWP, my electricity bill still went down dramatically.

  6. joyce says:

    Is “earthen plaster” easily available? I’ve never seen it for sale anywhere, at least not in paint stores. I’ve read about people using it. Is it something you have to make yourself?

  7. oxnardprof says:

    Thank you for the newer list. Like others reading this blog, we already do many of these. My comments, in no particular order:

    1. rotating nozzle sprinklers (0.5 gpm) may be better than drip irrigation, since drip irrigation can leak, plug, etc. I believe some LA politician had a large water bill that turned out to be the result of some animals gnawing his drip irrigation line, resulting in an unnoticed leak. Also the nozzles provide better overall irrigation. With xeriscaping, low water need plants, water use will be well reduced from a grass lawn.

    2. test home for toxins AFTER tightening up the home as well. If you bring less fresh air inside, more pollutants can build up from natural gas, cleansers, and (perish the thought), smokers.

    3. We set the hot water heater (highest efficiency model I could find in the store) at a ‘warm’ setting. It is more than warm enough. The upstairs shower takes a long time to warm up, we we capture the water in buckets until it warms, and used the capture water to do shaving, hand washing, etc.

    4. In my part of the world, air conditioning is not a concern. Heating is minimal, and new homes (since at least 1997) have programmable thermostats. Heating only.

    5. I find that the CFL life is much less than seven years. I do not think a peer-reviewed study has been conducted on the CFL life in real world conditions, but I know that mine have suffered several early failures.

    6. We make it a habit to turn off the power strips, etc. The PC has a hot key that will put is in hibernation when I plan to be away for a period of time.

    7. Some of the ideas look interesting, such as the plaster for the walls, insulate tha attic (I should check) and so on.

    8. New appliances work better than the old ones. The front-loading clothes washer can wash more clothes at one time, and they look cleaner. The dishwasher gets dishes cleaner, and they do not need to be rinsed prior to washing.

    9. I still think we should have targets, by region, for energy consumption. I don’t know if my consumption is low enough, I suspect not, but we need goals to work towards.

  8. A Siegel says:

    Well, I don’t know about $300-$500 for a GFX heat recovery. Perhaps for new construction, but this isn’t the figure that I’ve been cited for installing one in my own home …

  9. A Siegel says:

    1. What is the reasoning behind how badly the NYTimes piece came out?

    2. What are your thoughts about what is missing from this list?

    For me, “knowledge” — e.g., energy audit / equivalent is missing.

    By the way, CFLs?

  10. paulm says:

    John Hollenberg, now work out what the world wide energy consumption would be if 1/3 of the Chinese and Indian populations were to move up to your reduced level of use!

    Could we reduce CO2 given that?

    ps I also have had several CFLs blowing within 2yrs. A couple have also broken, which I am not happy about cause I have young kids.

  11. Chris says:

    I have a lighting sensor in my kitchen (10 recessed sockets) and in works great. Unfortunately, I dont think the sensors replace 35-45% energy savings. I think the Calif. Energy Commission meant 35-45% on your lighting energy use, not whole house energy use.

    If you want to see more lighting analysis, I wrote a blog comparing life cycle costs of LED and Incandescent. This is your quickest and easiest first step!

    http://blog.mapawatt.com/2009/03/02/lighting-cost-comparison/

  12. Bob Wallace says:

    CFLs – certainly a different history.

    I bought my first one back when they were $18+. Since I’m off the grid it was worth the money. I still have that one, but it’s been moved to a seldom used lamp as it takes several minutes to reach full strength. Current ones are pretty much “instant on”.

    I don’t think I’ve had any burn out during the 10+ years that I’ve been using them.

    I did break one when I accidentally knocked over a floor lamp. But that’s hardly the CFL’s fault.

    Looking forward to affordable LEDs. A further 50% cut in energy use and incredible long life. And if they are as good as the ones in my flashlight they will take lots of crashes to the floor without breaking.

  13. John Hollenberg says:

    > John Hollenberg, now work out what the world wide energy consumption would be if 1/3 of the Chinese and Indian populations were to move up to your reduced level of use!

    If they had 100% renewable power as I have, I wouldn’t be worried about GHG emissions from them. It is the burning of coal that is the big concern.

  14. Bob Wallace says:

    Get a Kill A Watt. A simple plug-in meter that will tell you how much power your refer, TV, computer, etc. uses over time. (Measure your refer use over a few days so that you pick up the defrost cycles.)

    They’re about $20 at places like Amazon and NewEgg.

    My KillA told me to ditch my desktop and use a laptop.

    And it told me that the Energy Star rating on my refer was reliable, perhaps even a bit high.

    It let me know that my stereo receiver was an energy hog and has sent me looking for a better way to listen to news/music.

    It will tell you which devices create phantom loads – pull power when “turned off”.

    Interestingly my ASUS netbook pulls zero watts when off, only one while sleeping. No need to put it on a plug in strip.

    If you’re not doing heavy duty gaming/photo editing/etc. then a netbook with USB keyboard and moderate sized LCD monitor is a great way to cut computer power drain.

    Investigate a tankless water heater. Especially if you frequently shower some distance from your current water heater. Running a 200 vac line to your bathroom and putting in a small tankless ‘point of use’ heater might make financial sense.

    I use a tankless propane water heater and seem to use about 1/3rd the propane as someone I know who uses a tank model. (I’m not sure that his tank is properly insulated.)

  15. jonesey says:

    Eating less meat should really be on this list. It can reduce your environmental impact (greenhouse gases and water consumption) more than any of the steps on this list, and probably more than all of them combined.

    I’d love to see a comprehensive comparison here on Climate Progress of the greenhouse gas emissions from diet v. transportation v. households v. other stuff. Maybe it’s already here and I haven’t found it yet.

    Here’s a brief, recent article that skims the surface of the issue:

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16573-lowmeat-diet-could-slash-cost-of-climate-change-action.html

  16. Bob Wallace says:

    I’m on moderation?

    What gods did I offend?

  17. John Herbert says:

    > oxnardprof Says:

    > 1. rotating nozzle sprinklers (0.5 gpm) may be better than drip
    > irrigation, since drip irrigation can leak, plug, etc.

    for your garden right? 1) you can use gray water, that is water from sinks and showers – could be easy or difficult to implement depending on your piping arrange. 2) use a mat instead of sprinklers, the major of sprinkler water is lost through evaporation. And it puts the water where needed not on the drive, etc. sub soil feeding via a pipe or mat can be done day or night – be sure to meter and monitor for potential unseen leakage (http://www.maccaferri.co.nz/afawcs0121364/ID=90/SID=92496030/productdetails.html is one example)

    John Herbert
    Consultant
    Kelcroft E&M Limited

  18. John Herbert says:

    regarding the drainage heat recovery it is a good idea, but never connect it as shown in the diagram.

    Partially heating water upto 40 deg C creates a breeding ground for the potentially deadly Legionella bacteria. Use waste heat to pre-heat the cold water serving the hot water tank (biggest temperature difference = most efficient) In my house we used it differently, the shower waste pipe is buried under the bathroom providing free underfloor heating.

  19. Philip H. says:

    We long ago implemented several of these suggestyions, and we’re adding others (I start on an earthen plaster treatment for our bedroom later this week. Bought in Kensington, MD. at a store called Amicus Green) CFLs continue to be a problem – even the new soft white CFLs are not “right” according to the MRS. And she like bright light as well, so she wants 100 watts or better in every light fixture. I attribute that need to growing up in Green Bay. Bit I’m working on it. I use CFLs exclusively in the wood shop, and, installed in salvaged track lighting, they do nicely for my table saw, etc. Now, if I could just get a solar system sized right to run said table saw . . . .

  20. Bob Wallace says:

    My system runs my table saw just fine.

    But not at the same time as the washing machine is running.

    Pay attention to the surge capability of your inverter. Big motors can suck hard on start up.

    (Your wife’s problems with CFLs is most likely “psychological”. Lumins am lumins.)

  21. Ronald says:

    This conversation on what green fixes to do first is interesting, but isn’t there a better way to be discussing this to figure out which green fixes to do first.

    The conversation so far on green fixes is being done as an art done by knowledgeable people, not as science. Shouldn’t the debate be by comparing methodology and how you came to your conclusions by using accounting.

    An example, space heating is 1000 dollars a year, putting in a programmable thermostat costs 100 dollars and saves 20 percent on heating. The programmable thermostat should then save 200 dollars a year for a one year with an expected return of 200 percent.

    When writing an article for the NY Times, I get that you may have to write it out. But when two professionals are discussing which green fixes are best, shouldn’t they be comparing each others best fixes by looking at their assumed costs and benefits for each action?

    These ‘Which Green Fixes First’ comparisons might be done on spreadsheets and would list the potential benefits of the action, the ease with which the action can be done by the owner or a professional, differences in that cost and the potential return, cost difference between buying energy as heat or electrical power, etc. At the level that this conversation is at, I would think there could be more numbers, even if they vary greatly between homes and parts of the country.

  22. Steve H says:

    Bob,

    Asus now is marketing an Eee Box, essentially a low powered desktop. I hope to evaluate one of these, along with nComputing’s products which allow multiple users to share one computer, in a public internet setting in the next few weeks.

  23. Donald B says:

    I don’t know if earth-plaster is a homeowner DIY thing, but I first heard of it on the PBS NOW program a year ago:

    http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/413/index.html

    In that program, the homeowner paid her plasterer to learn how to apply it instead of the “normal” plaster. However,it is good to know that there are kits so the average DIYer can apply it in a “skim-coat” way that someone with the dexterity to smoothly frost a cake can learn quickly. The earth plasters, which are NOT to be painted, also supposedly absorb and release moisture which tends to keep the house at a constant humidity, which can help in both winter and summer (removal of humidity is a big component of AC costs). That is why the installation of an ERV (Energy Recovery Ventilator) is important, particularly for sealed-up houses (that indoor pollution problem) . See:
    http://www.taunton.com/finehomebuilding/how-to/articles/whole-house-ventilation-energy-efficient-healthy-air.aspx?nterms=61674

  24. BrooksB says:

    An alternative to replacing windows is an interior “storm window”; an acrylic panel with a magnetic seal around rim that grabs a steel track you mount around interior side of window frame.

    Not only seals air leaks but 1/8″ acrylic is R3; glass is R1.

    One brand name for acrylic is Plexiglas. Cost for materials for a medium size window is approximately $55. Two sites: magnetitewindows.com and windowsaver.com

    Disadvantage: must be removed (not hard) to open window.

    Also:
    Using a Kill a Watt I found my Macbook Pro uses about 1 amp when fully charged and shut. I love fact I just open it and in about 5 seconds all my programs are running and ready to use.

  25. aafisher says:

    I’m with Jonesey: eat less meat!

    Also, re xeriscaping: sustainable gardening using regionally native plants not only shrinks your carbon footprint and water use, but also helps rebuild the natural environment and bio-diversity of plant and animal species. Some folks pushing technological energy solutions seem to forget about the natural world. It’s turning out that not only plants store carbon: healthy soil enriched with organic materials such as compost is a great carbon sink.

  26. Charlie says:

    I gotta say, it’s sad how far we are from having solid reliable information. Yes, the list of 20 is a lot better than the list of 5, but as Joe’s first post on this said, we _really_ need sound guidance on this, and we need the list prioritized by people who are true experts.

    The best resource I know of is the Energy Star web site Home Improvement section. They are much better focused on the most important issues.

    http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=home_improvement.hm_improvement_index

  27. Jason says:

    I wanted to share something about radiant barrier. I had heard all the ads from the professional contractors in my area. I had a couple come out and wanted to charge over $1.00 per ft. I found a supplier in Texas http://www.AtticFoil.com that sells directly to homeowners for do it yourself install jobs. We spend a couple of Saturdays in the attic and the radiant barrier looks almost as good as the “pros” cost is about .15/ft. for super-strong. I can already tell a difference. We have been able to avoid turing the AC on several sunny days over 80 degrees. Good pictures on how to do it. http://www.atticfoil.com/

  28. Bob Wallace says:

    Brooks – might that be one watt and not one amp?

    One amp at 120 vac would be well over 100 watts.

  29. Hmpf says:

    Okay, I promise I won’t harp on the dryer issue again after this, but it bears repeating just one more time, especially in the light of the influx of new readers since my last dryer-related comment:

    As charlie up there says, not using the clothes dryer makes a *big difference*.

    Now, what I hear/see often in the American discussion about dryers, even among green-minded Americans, are variations of “I live in an apartment without a garden/veranda of my own” and “I have a house with a garden but my HOA won’t let me dry my clothes in the garden.” I think the point needs to be made more often and more vigorously that you can dry your clothes *in an apartment, and inside a house*; you don’t *need* a garden. You don’t even need a huge apartment to do it – I’ve been living in tiny places (one room, usually) for thirteen years and drying my clothes on a rack has never been a problem. Sure, if you live in a tiny flat with a family of four it may be a problem. But I think most Americans who make the objections quoted above probably don’t live like that.

    So, I really think more of the “green your life” types of discussions need to point that out.

  30. Pangolin says:

    I’m having very large problems with both of these lists. They miss common faults with homes that cause more energy loss and more damage than anything listed. As an actual handyman that has to repair the things other people do to houses here are my suggestions:

    1) HVAC filters are almost always too dirty. Find out what size your system needs and buy a box of them or buy several (more than one) washable filters. Then learn to change the filters every 45 days in heating season and 60 days in cooling season. Almost nobody does this. You want several washable filters so you can install the clean one, hose off the dirty one and leave it out to drip dry. Really, this is not obvious to most people.

    2) Is your water heater over 10 years old? If your water isn’t coming from a granite source then it needs to be replaced. That means if you have any mineralization on your fixtures at all. This will cost you around $1000 for a basic water heater and much more for tankless, heat pump water heat or condensing water heater. Considering the hit you are already going to take this might be a good time to install a solar hot water system.

    3) Mastic those ducts. This really is a HUGE problem in older houses. I’ve been in more than a few attics where one of the vents had a hole you could stick your hand in. While you are up in the attic checking the ducts blow some fresh insulation in over the old batting insulation. The chances of batting insulation being installed correctly the first time is practically nil.

    4) How old is your furnace and air conditioner? If over 15 years old it needs an inspection at minimum and probably a change out. If you can afford the upgrade conversion to a ground loop thermal system will pay for itself in five to seven years in most locations. It also can heat your hot water so you can bundle what would otherwise be two separate repairs into one job and get possible tax breaks on the install cost.

    5) Put storm windows on the OUTSIDE of the house. You don’t want condensation, and possible mold, on the inside with you. In hot climates get exterior window shades for any window that gets summer afternoon sunlight.

    6) If you can’t remember doing it replace your shower heads. Almost any shower head you buy will be a low-flow model. I prefer a model called something like “euroshower” that is made of all metal, has an adjustable shut off and can be easily disassembled for removal of inevitable grit. It looks like a rocket engine with a little triangular wire attached.

    7) Solar powered attic fans do almost nothing. (If you think a roof collecting 500-800 watts thermal/sq meter is going to be cooled by a 20 watt fan go for it) Shade your roof or use on reflective roof coating to keep the heat out of your attic to start with. When it’s time for a new roof get the lightest color and the lightest weight possible roof for your climate/HOA rules. Remember a lightweight metal roof is going to quit heating the house hours before a tile or asphalt roof will; less thermal mass. The perfect shade for your roof is PV solar panels.

    8) Cooling your greywater before it leaves the building is begging for problems. Low flow shower heads, shed hair, shampoo and hair gel will happily conspire to coat the inside of your pipes with a glop that has to be seen to be believed. Cooling that mess to 50 degrees is like putting a plumber on retainer. Install wire hair catchers on your shower drain and hope for the best.

    9) Whole house fans have to be covered in the winter. Otherwise they act like a hole in your ceiling. (because they are) I have hours-long rants about the evils of roof-mounted swamp coolers; just remove the things before they destroy your house. Swamp coolers are palaces of mold unless you are a handyman extrordinaire; you’re probably not.

    10) Leaving warm water in the bath is an invitation to mold unless you have VERY dry air in the winter. From the point of view of somebody like me who has had to tear out tons of moldy bathroom drywall this is just stupid. Take a shower instead and make sure you use the ventilation fan to remove moisture. Put a timer on the fan switch so that you use it and it turns off at the proper interval.

    11) Drippers on standard sprinkler pipe uprights beat the heck out of 1/2 inch drip irrigation hose. Most people mulch over the distribution hose and then chop it up with shovels later. If you can’t see your drip pipe it’s leaking somewhere. Keep it on the surface to make the yearly sprinkler inspection and repairs less painful.

    These are a start to improving a house’s energy efficiency. Your house is different from every other house so observe the interaction of building, sun, wind and weather carefully. Good luck with that.

  31. Battic Door says:

    How To Reduce Your Energy Bills / Energy Conservation Begins at Home

    Imagine leaving a window open all winter long — the heat loss, cold drafts and wasted energy! If your home has a folding attic stair, a whole house fan or AC Return, a fireplace or a clothes dryer, that may be just what is occurring in your home every day.

    These often overlooked sources of heat loss and air leakage can cause heat to pour out and the cold outside air to rush in — costing you higher heating bills.

    Air leaks are the largest source of heating and cooling loss in the home. Air leaks occur through the small cracks around doors, windows, pipes, etc. Most homeowners are well aware of the benefits caulk and weatherstripping provide to minimize heat loss and cold drafts.

    But what can you do about the four largest “holes” in your home — the folding attic stair, the whole house fan or AC return, the fireplace, and the clothes dryer? Here are some tips and techniques that can easily, quickly and inexpensively seal and insulate these holes.

    Attic Stairs

    An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add an attic stair cover. An attic stair cover provides an air seal, reducing the air leaks. Add the desired amount of insulation over the cover to restore the insulation removed from the ceiling.

    Whole House Fans and AC Returns

    An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a whole house fan cover. Installed from the attic side, the whole house fan cover is invisible. Cover the fan to reduce heating and air-conditioning loss, remove it when use of the fan is desired.

    Fireplaces

    A recent study showed that for many consumers, their heating bills may be more than $500 higher per winter due to the air leakage and wasted energy caused by fireplaces.

    An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a fireplace draftstopper. Available from Battic Door, a company known for their energy conservation products, a fireplace draftstopper is an inflatable pillow that seals the damper, eliminating any air leaks. The pillow is removed whenever the fireplace is used, then reinserted after.

    Clothes Dryer Exhaust Ducts

    An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a dryer vent seal. This will reduce unwanted air infiltration, and keep out pests, bees and rodents as well. The vent will remain closed unless the dryer is in use. When the dryer is in use, a floating shuttle rises to allow warm air, lint and moisture to escape.

    If your home has a folding attic stair, a whole house fan, an AC return, a fireplace, and/or a clothes dryer, you can easily, quickly and inexpensively seal and insulate these holes.

    Mark D. Tyrol is a Professional Engineer specializing in cause and origin of construction defects. He developed several residential energy conservation products including an attic stair cover, an attic access door, and is the U.S. distributor of the fireplace draftstopper. To learn more visit http://www.batticdoor.com

  32. Shawn says:

    Radiant barrier are an awesome and easy way to save on your energy bills for years to come. We got our from http://www.radiantguard.com and they have a lot of information on their site. You can buy online as well. I highly recommend a radiant barrier for saving money! It only took us 4 months to recoup the costs.

  33. Fred says:

    Thank you for your tips. I am always looking for ways I can save… I installed a new thing for my toilet call a SelectAFlush it works great. It’s a dual flush toilet retrofit kit and it converted my toilet into a dual flush the whole thing only cost around $39.00. I believe my water bill has gone down about $11.00 a month so it showed me some real savings. My toilet has never worked better. They also have great Saving water tips on their web site.

  34. Great article nd list of things we can all do to live greener and support energy conservation.

    Regarding attic and home insulation, our customers have had excellent results with our radiant barrier insulation, come by our website or give us a call if anyone out there is thinking about radiant barrier insulation.

  35. Dan Walter says:

    The article mentions adding radiant barrier if you re-roof. I assume the author is talking about replacing the roof decking. Radiant Barrier must be installed with an air space on at least one side in order to work properly. It can not be installed between felt and shingles. This page shows several methods to properly install radiant barrier in an attic.

    Why wait until you have to re-roof? You can retrofit an existing attic with radiant barrier foil at any time.

  36. What a great article. Most of the items on the to-do list can be accomplished by spending very little money. I agree with the last comment by Dan Walter. You do not have to wait until you re-roof to add more radiant barrier products. That is for radiant barrier roof decking products. RFoil and related products are designed to be installed in existing attic applications. Don’t stop there. Reflective insulation or radiant barriers can be used everywhere in the home from attics, to duct and pipe wrap insulation, crawlspace, and even under slab insulation. Radiant barrier house wraps are also a fairly new product on the market which covers the need for a house wrap but also doubles as a radiant barrier.