10 Summer Energy Saving Tips from Eco Performance Builders

Infrared photos of attic insulation

1. Schedule an energy assessment
This is the first step in improving your overall home performance. A technician will test your home and build an energy model of the home and a report of all the findings. From there they will recommend cost-effective upgrades, show you how to turn your home into a net-zero energy home or just a high performance comfortable home. An Infrared camera can be used to see where heat is infiltrating into the home (see photo). Find out more about energy assessments.

2. Use your windows – passive cooling
If it gets cool at night, turn off your AC and open your windows. Close them again in the morning, and close the blinds/drapes. This way, you will trap cool air in the house, and keep the warm air and warming sunlight out as long as possible. You can also install window coverings to deter heat gain or low-e films to reduce solar heat gain.

 

ecobee thermostat3. Use your thermostat efficiently
Set it to 75-78 while at home during the day, and 80-83 while away from home. These settings achieve the best balance between comfort and conservation. Setting your thermostat colder than normal will not cool the house quicker, and will result in wasted energy. Program your thermostat to fit your schedule or install a thermostat that can be controlled by an app on your smart phone.  After a home is retrofitted by us we usually recommend setting your temperature back a few degrees and not letting your home get warm.  With homes that aren’t set up correctly or haven’t been retrofitted correctly we would recommend a larger set back.

4. Be aware of peak energy use times
On those really hot days, energy is in high demand. During those peak times, energy actually costs more money (depending on your utility provider), about twice as much per kilowatt-hour, or 3 times as much as it does during an “off-peak” time. To account for this, turn everything off during the day when possible. If you’re leaving the house, double check that all fans and lights are off, all unused appliances and chargers are off/unplugged, etc. If you’re going to run the oven, dishwasher, or washer/dryer, do it at night or early morning, to avoid peak times and avoid warming the home.

5. Fans
Ceiling fans can make a room feel cooler (when blowing down), due to wind chill, and can allow you to leave your thermostat on a higher setting, while retaining comfort levels. But remember, fans cool people, not homes. Turn off fans when you leave the room to avoid wasted energy.
Solar attic fans are an amazingly efficient addition to your home during the summer. They generate air flow in your attic when it is needed most, and cost no energy. They reduce the temperature in the attic and slow heat conductance into the home.

6. Lights – LEDs and CFLs to stay cool!
Incandescent bulbs emit a lot of heat. Switch to compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) to save energy and keep the house cooler. Also, aggressively turn off lights, especially during those peak energy demand times! Use daylight to provide some light, but avoid direct sunlight, as it brings too much heat. Double check all lights and appliances are off when you leave the house.

7. Other Appliances
You may not realize it, but modern displays (TVs, monitors) and computers can generate quite a bit of heat. Make sure computers go into sleep mode when not in use, and displays are turned off. Buy energy saving products such as Energy Star certified refrigerators, and other appliances. Old refrigerators can be very inefficient and also give off a lot of heat. Also, it is very common to see the least efficient refrigerator placed in the garage. During the summer, a garage can heat up quite a bit and cause the fridge to use significantly more energy to keep it’s contents cool.

8. Hot water
Turn your water heater down to the warm setting (120 F). Save energy, lower heat gain, and avoid scalding your hands! Water heating can account for a large portion of homeowners’ base load energy use, and this can usually be reduced easily. Find out more about “on demand” efficient water heating recirculation systems (not to be confused with “on demand” tankless water heaters). Also, if you have a pool, reducing your pool pump’s activity per day can save a ton of energy. The best way to do this is to install a variable-speed pump.

9. Clean/replace filters
This will improve the efficiency, system durability and noise levels of your system. If you haven’t looked at your Furnace/AC filters or your attic fan in a long time, it’s definitely worth doing. A clogged or dirty filter will cause the fan in your furnace/AC system to work hard to try to pull air through the filter. On average, HVAC contractors put in very oversized ACs and furnaces. So your fan is probably already working harder than it needs to. It doesn’t need a clogged filter to make the problem worse. Other things that can cause an AC to be inefficient or function poorly: 1) refrigerant leak or AC is in need of a refrigerant charge, 2) the outdoor AC unit has dirty fins or cannot dissipate heat effectively,  3) the AC is too large for the needs of the home and cool air distributed poorly by the duct system, 4) the AC is older and has a low SEER/EER efficiency rating.

10. Upgrade your Air Conditioner
Remember, the word “upgrade” doesn’t necessarily mean “go bigger.” In fact, most furnaces and AC units are oversized for the home they are installed in, because most HVAC contractors don’t do heating/cooling load calculations, and duct engineering. They simply slap in something too big, and call it a day.
Having an oversized AC will actually cause a huge efficiency loss, and decrease comfort levels, as it cycles on and off. There is no substitute for a properly sized unit with a properly engineered duct system. When done right, and combined with air sealing and insulation, the difference is profound, in terms of both comfort, air quality, noise levels, and of course, energy bills!

Consider a heat pump system. They heat and cool all in one and have a much higher efficiency potential than a standard furnace/AC system.

 

Call (925) 363-4498 or e-mail info@epbuilders.com to speak to a technician or schedule an energy assessment.

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