Recommended cost effective ways to become more energy efficient?

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Recommended cost effective ways to become more energy efficient?

I did do a search on website and did not see any specific information.

Im curious if there have been any previous topics and/or recommended websites regarding ways to be come more energy efficient vs. costs. At this point I can't afford to make my home 100% solar, but know there are plenty of alternatives to contribute to electrical bills.

Also, what about propane alternatives due to rising costs over past 3 years ?

Briefly: My home is 5 years old, I live in country, acreage, well/septic. Propane serves my central heat, waterheater, stove.

Again, not looking to start another topic if this has been talked about; please send the link over. thanks!!

 

 

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Re: Recommended cost effective ways to become more energy ...

Here's a link to the consumer info page put up by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.

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Re: Recommended cost effective ways to become more energy ...

Some things that have worked for me. I have reduced my electrical usage from over $300 a month to $75.

Insulate- Another layer of insulation is extremely cost effective. Use of radiant barriers in the attic and garage are excellent as well. Consider using window tint to rject UV and radiant heat. Some tint also doubles as a security barrier with 24 hour guarantees against forced intrusion through the window. I used that type.

Seal- Doors, windows, can lights, electrical outlets and central heat and air vents(seal between the drywall and the object that is protruding through the drywall)

Equip- Change lighting from current bulbs to LED and CFL mix. (LED can use as little as 1.5 watts, CFL use 14 watts, normal bulbs 45 to 100   watts) Change your electronics usage to less passive consumption. A coffee maker with caraf and wind up alarm clocks for example. Items that would normally be left plugged in (TV, DVD player, microwave, stereo etc) can be put on surge protectors with master on/off switches. Buy battery powered items to use in the event of complete power outages, wind up LED lanterns and rechargeable batteries for flashlights, headlamps etc. Consider on demand systems for water heating, use true inflationary data for cost benefit analysis, not only current costs for LPG or Nat Gas. Use an attic fan during high temperature months, have a thermostat control on it.

Modify- Your behavior. Get in the habit of turning off the master power switches for items that you are not using, like the TV. For rechargeable items, only charge them during off peak hours. We have a robot vacuum cleaner that runs during peak electrical pricing hours and recharges after 9pm. Lighting is decreased by using headlamps for individual activities. I get ready for work at 4 am so I use a red lens headlamp to prevent disturbing my wife while she sleeps, instead of turing on a light. The headlamp batteries are rechargeable from a small solar battery charger. I wear a uniform for my job so the possibility of choosing mismatched clothing under red light is decreased. We open the windows in the house and use one fan to blow in cool air in during the evenings. In the morning, if the day is going to be hot, we close the windows and shades and run the air conditioner to get the house extra cool before swicthing everything off before noon. Leave bathwater in if it is cold out, as the hot water will slowly release its heat into the house, as opposed to sending the warmth down the drain.

My .02.

 

 

 

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Re: Recommended cost effective ways to become more energy ...

My HVAC friend highly recommended doing the radiant barriar with my home. Since its new construction (5 years old), I have high attic space. I just put in attic fans. Did you installed radiant barrier yourself?

thanks for other imput.

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Re: Recommended cost effective ways to become more energy ...

Jager,

Great list!  Very doable, too.

Nate

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Re: Recommended cost effective ways to become more energy ...

Yes, I purchased the radiant barrier insulation on line and bought my own staple gun, latex gloves and utility knife. I recommend using lots of talcum powder before going into areas insulated with fiberglass, or when installing fiberglass insulation on your own. The talcum powder blocks your pores and prevents the glass from making you itch. A nice paper filter mask prevents inhaling the fibers as well.

The radiant barrier insulation works best when there is a space between it and the exterior wall or roof, so it might make sense to let it hang from the rafters, draped between studs in some places.

Thanks Nate....maybe I should have put "My $225 worth..."

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Re: Recommended cost effective ways to become more energy ...

Good thread. Powder is an excellent word of advice, as is the insulation and CFs! Our new home we did with 6" walls, wish I had know about earth rammed homes which use 24" walls. My next project is building a water tank, stuffing a copper coil in it and pumping fluid into the attic in the summer and back into the coil, this will preheat the hot water we use and cool the attic. In the winter we'll build a solar panel for it as the attic is cold. We might use a loop in the wood stove.

Hot water heating is typically 1/3rd of the utility.

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Re: Recommended cost effective ways to become more energy ...

Thanks Jager; great tips on all aspects.

Within rising propane costs, Im not sure what I can do there rather than make my home air tight to save propane for winter months. I have some leaks around my furnce that my HVAC friend just sealed and made air tight.

I like the double layer of insulation, low $$ and easy to add. I've also considered spray insulation down the road, but like the radiant barrier better to possibly start with.

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Re: Recommended cost effective ways to become more energy ...

Good thinking Davos... I have been considering the wood stove pre- heater idea. Have you seen any plans for this type of modification? I had not thought of using the attic heat also as a pre heater. I was considering a solar water heater using the hillside adjacent to my home. Green house window panes over a framed 6'x30' box with black pvc pipe and black painted interior.

Bcc- As for the propane costs, the on demand water heater would reduce the costs, and if you can find one, eliminate the need for electrical start up. A wood burning stove is a great way to reduce costs, if it is efficient enough. If you live in an area without sufficient forest for firewood, you might want to consider another alternative. Either way a wall sized solar heat exchanger would be an improvement that might be worth looking into as well.

If you go with spray in insulation, do not use the radiant barrier until after. Once the barrier is covered, either by insulation or dust, its effects are greatly minimized.

 

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Re: Recommended cost effective ways to become more energy ...

Jager: from your experience, in terms of $$ costs vs.savings, would you recommend the radiant barrier with current insulation (add double layers in certain sections)   OR   redo everything with spray ?  My thought for now is radiant since it appears affordable and can save anywhere from 20 to 30% on bills.

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Re: Recommended cost effective ways to become more energy ...

I think I started my own fixes with the radiant barrier first. I am not sure what the cost benefits would be if you compared radiant with another standard layer of insulation, side by side.

One of the best bangs for the buck was sealing the interior. For the cost of a tube of silicone and two cans of expandable foam spray plus a few strips of rubberized door seals I cut my heating down to five sticks of firewood per day, at about 37 deg. F average outdoor temp. I don't have a way of quantifying the A/C savings since this year is so much cooler than the last few years.

I would start with a budget if I was going to do it all over again. For $45 you can seal the cracks, For $150 you can replace your alarm clocks and coffee pot and install surge protectors on other electronics, For $250 you can replace your light bulbs with LEDs, For $400 you can purchase radiant barrier insulation, for $5,000 you can install a wood burning stove, for $15,000 you can buy a small battery based solar system that will provide just enough juice after you have made your improvements.

I almost forgot, my first step was to have solar survey and usage assessment. I realized after I got the report that I could spend $7,000 on upgrades that would save me $50K on solar generating costs, and that wasn't taking normal power savings into consideration.

Doing it all over again,( just to be redundant), I would do the cheapest thing first, give myself a budget of maybe $500 a month, plus the realized savings from my utility bills.

I hope this helps. Best of luck!

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Re: Recommended cost effective ways to become more energy ...

Great topic here!!

Regarding the interior (disclaimer: Im not the contractor type unfortunately, I try!!! but just doesn't seem to be my niche :) where should I analyze potential openings for air to use the silicone and spray foam spray?

Where does one get a solar survey and usage assessment?

Thanks again.

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Re: Recommended cost effective ways to become more energy ...

Take off a light switch cover from your wall. You will need a smallish flat tip screwdriver. Now, under the switch cover you will see the switch and the basic electrical wiring for the switch, contained inside of a box that is most likely made of plastic. You want to use either silicone, or spray foam to seal the space between the drywall, which is the chalk layer that has your interior paint on it, and the box itself. The larger the crack between these, the more likely you are to need the expanding spray foam.

For your HVAC system, look at the registers, these are the vents that blow the heated or cooled air back into your rooms when the system is on. Take the appropriate screwdriver and remove the vented cover. There should be a metal tube or rectangular structure leading to a metal tube immediately behind that. There should also be a gap between the drywall or sub floor (if your system is ran in the crawspace beneath your home) and the vent tubing. Seal that gap up tight. Do the same thing for outlets, light fixtures, plumbing under your sinks and behind your toilets, and exhaust vents in bathrooms and over stoves.

See wasn't that easy?

For solar system requirements, call a local solar installer or supplier, more than one if available, and tell them you would like an estimate for a battery back up, grid tied system. They will need to have access to your utility bills for probably the last year or so, and be able to access your roof, or the location you would like the solar array installed. You should have an idea of what your baseline usage is from their report and installtion estimate.

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Re: Recommended cost effective ways to become more energy ...

Thanks for taking the time Jager:

My HVAC system is in my ceiling, so I imagine just do the same, but with the ceiling correct?

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Re: Recommended cost effective ways to become more energy ...

I am happy to be of service, and yes it is the same if your system is run through the attic or roof crawlspace.

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Re: Recommended cost effective ways to become more energy ...
Jager06 wrote:

Good thinking Davos... I have been considering the wood stove pre- heater idea. Have you seen any plans for this type of modification? I had not thought of using the attic heat also as a pre heater. I was considering a solar water heater using the hillside adjacent to my home. Green house window panes over a framed 6'x30' box with black pvc pipe and black painted interior.

Bcc- As for the propane costs, the on demand water heater would reduce the costs, and if you can find one, eliminate the need for electrical start up. A wood burning stove is a great way to reduce costs, if it is efficient enough. If you live in an area without sufficient forest for firewood, you might want to consider another alternative. Either way a wall sized solar heat exchanger would be an improvement that might be worth looking into as well.

If you go with spray in insulation, do not use the radiant barrier until after. Once the barrier is covered, either by insulation or dust, its effects are greatly minimized.

 

Link wood stove exchanger

Tons of water/solar projects

The one I'll do, but my panels will be much different, let you know if they work this fall I hope

On the attic heat I didn't save the link, but I saw a guy in Pittsburgh PA who went up in his attic in the summer and then jumped in his cold pool and said to himself if only I could take the heat out of the attic.....so he did, was just a pump, pipes, and a radiator with a fan.

There is another guy in Canada who did parabolic, and I think that is the solar way to go. Otherwise it is just too resource intensive and too darn expensive. There is a Netflix video on this method and it is amazing. Only downside is no sun at night. LOL.

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Re: Recommended cost effective ways to become more energy ...

Cool project Davos!

I always thought the outdoor wood fired furnaces seemed excessive. Are you using one? We have an indoor airtight wood stove, which allows for easier cooking and more direct heating. We burned through two cords of oak and 1/2 cedar last winter and spring.

If you are using an outdoor system, how much wood do you consume per year? At what average temperature in winter? What kind of maintenace does it require? Don't you hate it when there is back to back questions?

Parabolic is awesome, I would love to build a tracking steam system. I will probably do like I have with many other projects, print the instructions, buy the materials and store them together for when I have less work or more time.

 

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Re: Recommended cost effective ways to become more energy ...
Jager06 wrote:

Cool project Davos!

I always thought the outdoor wood fired furnaces seemed excessive. Are you using one? We have an indoor airtight wood stove, which allows for easier cooking and more direct heating. We burned through two cords of oak and 1/2 cedar last winter and spring.

If you are using an outdoor system, how much wood do you consume per year? At what average temperature in winter? What kind of maintenace does it require? Don't you hate it when there is back to back questions?

Parabolic is awesome, I would love to build a tracking steam system. I will probably do like I have with many other projects, print the instructions, buy the materials and store them together for when I have less work or more time.

 

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Re: Recommended cost effective ways to become more energy ...
Jager06 wrote:

Cool project Davos!

I always thought the outdoor wood fired furnaces seemed excessive. Are you using one? We have an indoor airtight wood stove, which allows for easier cooking and more direct heating. We burned through two cords of oak and 1/2 cedar last winter and spring.

If you are using an outdoor system, how much wood do you consume per year? At what average temperature in winter? What kind of maintenace does it require? Don't you hate it when there is back to back questions?

Parabolic is awesome, I would love to build a tracking steam system. I will probably do like I have with many other projects, print the instructions, buy the materials and store them together for when I have less work or more time.

 

This is our stove, I put it in with a metalbestos flue so I don't have to worry about fires/chimney fires as much. We have an 1800 sq foot home and I don't know how much wood we went through because I was gathered it during the late fall and into the winter. I know it was at least 4 oak trees, 2 of which were good size.

This link here is about the best one I have found for parabolic solar. I found my other spreadsheet of all the stuff I parsed with respect to solar. I bought and read a photovoltaic pdf but pv seems insane imo. Not to say I wouldn't make a small panel to run my motors but it is just weak. I'm certain with some tweaking his parabolic system could heat oil and generate steam.

As far as buying vs. making, we built our own house. I prefer to do it myself, that way I can fix it and build it so hopefully it'll last.

and here is a total collection of the older stuff I parsed.

 _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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Re: Recommended cost effective ways to become more energy ...

email [email protected] if you want that list, it rejected the post

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Re: Recommended cost effective ways - Rocket Stoves?

 

I've been reading a lot about rocket stove mass heaters and how they are supposed to cut down on wood/sticks usage to about 1/5th to 1/10th the traditional usage by burning extremely hot and thoroughly so there is no creosote left. thermal mass would include benches, beds, and even a water heater.

What do you guys think of that? Below is a link to a diagram and video on what they look like, and even on construction.

http://www.richsoil.com/rocket-stove-mass-heater.jsp

Poet

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Re: Recommended cost effective ways - Rocket Stoves?

Thats pretty cool.

Sounds like it work like a turbo-charger, reburns the fumes created by the initial combustion. Cool find. Thanks

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Re: Recommended cost effective ways - Rocket Stoves?

Poet,

Rocket stoves are awesome, but I have some serious safety concerns.

The diagram and info in the link say that steam and CO2 are the only by product. This is incorrect. Hydrogen and methane are two primary by products of this level of burn. The reason it is so efficient is that it has a secondary burn of these gasses. Another byproduct is carbon monoxide, which can kill in about three breaths, and has no odor or other detectablility. IN order for a complete burn to happen, the secondary burn chamber must reach at least 1800 degrees F. The type of metal used is not suitable to long term temperatures that high. A 35 gallon barrel will burn through in short order I suspect. When the first few pinholes start appearing, gas leaks occur into the living quarters. There is no warning system to save you at that point, unless you a CO2 and CO alarm in the immediate area and are willing to trust your life with it's reliability.

I am very interested in this, as much as I am in gasification for use in internal combustion engines. I am deeply concerned about the potential for an exhaust leak into the living environment, resulting in death.

In my way of the thinking the potential for catastrophe and the ability to mitigate those results are not worth the risks.

Using this type of system as a primary heat source for water recirculation or a stirling engine might be something I would want to try.

 

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Re: Recommended cost effective ways to become more energy ...

Hi,

I've put some effort into developing a systematic plan to reduce energy and carbon use and to do it in the most economically effective way. 

When we started back in 2006, our going in aim for ourselves wat to cut home and car energy use by 50% -- we have managed this and then some: propane use is down 57%, Electricity use is down 82%, and gasoline for the car is down more than 50%.  We used 23 projects in all to do this -- some of them offer really outstanding returns.  They are all detailed here: http://www.builditsolar.com/References/Half/Projects.htm  I've tried to document energy and carbon saving, inititial cost, and rate of return for each of the projcts.

Of course, these projects are probably not the best ones for you -- there is a "Plan" to help try and identify the best projects for your situation.  We have come to call the whole thing the "Half Plan" -- the main page for it is here: http://www.builditsolar.com/References/Half/Half.htm

I'm thinking about overhualing the section on the Half Plan to make it easier to use and to appeal to a wider audience -- any ideas would be appreciated. This is not a commercial deal -- I don't sell anything -- its basically a retirement hobby.

You mentioned reducing propane use.  I think that for most people the best way is to upgrade your home's thermal envelope -- work on better insulation, better air infiltration sealing, duct sealing, thermal window treatments.  You can look at some of the projects we did and see that the rate of return on these kinds of projects is generally quite good.   If you have an old furnace, it might be worth going to a more efficient (any maybe smaller) one.  If you have a good location for it, solar heating can be cost effective -- especially if you are willing to do some of the building.  One somewhat odd project that did well for use was to use electric mattress pad heaters (not electric blankets) -- these allow a somewhat greater night time temperature setback while still maintaining toasty warm comfort -- the cost saving numbers for this are surprisingly good.

 

Gary

 

 

 

 

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Re: Recommended cost effective ways to become more energy ...

Hi Gary: I clicked on the top link and it didn't load (error). Can you verify the link, I'd like to really check it out.

So clarifying, this is a list that you put together based upon your experiences and projects ?

My home is only 5 years old, so everything is newer. I recently had work completed on my furnace/ducts to make air tight. Im going to expand this based on some of the other recommendations earlier in the post.

Sorry if this sounds dumb, but what exactly is thermal window treatments? Tinting ??

 

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Re: Recommended cost effective ways to become more energy ...

Jager: Most of my house is recessed lighting, how can I tell if I need to seal these better? I've read this is an area of loss heat/air.

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Re: Recommended cost effective ways to become more energy ...

Looking for advice on getting the energy analysis/audit...I've called a couple companies, not sure what to ask for, etc. do they all provide same type service, etc?

Any advice from people who have had them done before?

thanks!

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Re: Recommended cost effective ways to become more energy ...
bcc87 wrote:

Looking for advice on getting the energy analysis/audit...I've called a couple companies, not sure what to ask for, etc. do they all provide same type service, etc?

Any advice from people who have had them done before?

thanks!

I had one done about two years ago and it was quite informative, but I'll bet you can get the same advice free on the net, mostly right here at CM.com. Dig a little deeper around here and find a treasure of valuable info and lots of helpful folks. Here's just one recent thread on this topic. There are lots of others here, too. This is another site I found helpful a while back.

Good luck!

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Re: Recommended cost effective ways to become more energy ...

The biggest problem we hade were our old south facing windows heating up the living room. We could't afford to replace them so we found that installing window tint on these windows helped. Take a look at SnapTint windows tint kits. They were affordable and easy to install and alot cheaper than new windows.

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Re: Recommended cost effective ways to become more energy ...

from doing research, it seems that cost vs. return with payback/savings is possibly poly spray foam insulation, Plus with rebates out there in each individual county, seems very viable w/out cost of solar system.

Anybody out there have poly spray insulation ?

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Re: Recommended cost effective ways to become more energy ...
hrrduncan4 wrote:

The biggest problem we hade were our old south facing windows heating up the living room. We could't afford to replace them so we found that installing window tint on these windows helped. Take a look at SnapTint windows tint kits. They were affordable and easy to install and alot cheaper than new windows.

Whoaa.......!  I must intervene here, as this is my area of expertise.  WINDOWS are absolutely the core problem with houses that perform badly thermally, but what you do with them is UTTERLY dependent on the CLIMATE where you live......

Yes, if you live somewhere hot, by all means tint your windows, though ANY windows that face the equator would be better off shaded by some device, otherwise you will get very little winter warming from them.  Doesn't your house have eaves Duncan?

Tinting is very good at stopping direct insolation going through windows, and if you live somewhere really cold, that's the last thing you want, you need to trap any heat that does come into your house, which is where double glazing comes in handy.

The single most important strategy for dealing with unwanted summer heat and trapping needed winter heat is curtains and pelmets. Install curtains with pelmet boxes where practical. Windows are generally the area of greatest heat loss. Solid topped pelmets with heavy double lined drapes which touch the walls at either side of the window and also touch the floor are a very effective way of reducing that heat loss to a trickle.

The opposite works as well BTW, hot air created between the curtain and window rises, comes out the top, sucking cooler air at the bottom, basically reverse cycling what this diagram shows...

Mike

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