From the Archives: Energy Savings for Your Home
This article orginally appeared in the Glencoe Anchor in March of 2020.
Our homes are addicted to energy. Electricity is constantly drawn by appliances, lights and electronics. Natural gas is almost always burning - warming water and heating the air. Over the course of a year a home generates quite a carbon footprint. In 2016, homes accounted for 19 percent of U.S. greenhouse emissions. Using energy wisely in your home will save you money and help improve our environment.
The immediate return on being energy conscious may seem not worth the bother, but it is. An Energy Star rated furnace is estimated to lower heating bills by $94 per year. The furnace in my house lists at $3,800. That $94 reflects a 2.4 percent savings to cost return - compare that to today's T- Bond yield!
LED light bulbs are more expensive than incandescent bulbs, but on average LEDs last 25x times as long as incandescent bulbs, use 75 percent less electricity and unlike CFLs, have no mercury. But there is more! Under Illinois' Future Energy Jobs Act, Com Ed is now performing free home energy use assessments. As needed, Com Ed will replace lights, thermostats and showerheads at no cost.
Bottom line, energy eï¿½ƒcient products have an immediate impact on your daily expenses and Com Ed is offering to assist for free.
If that's not reason enough to sharpen your energy game, consider the downstream benefits. If less coal is burned, there is less air pollution. If less power or gas is consumed, there is less coal/gas extracted from the earth. If less is mined or extracted, there is less point of origin pollution - in 2017 coal mines (active and abandoned) accounted for 9% of U.S. methane emissions. Water pollution, especially from surface mining, is a well-known issue.
So, what to do? The largest energy consumers in a home are its appliances, HVAC and water heaters. Short of replacing these items, you can assure that your systems are properly set up - replace filters, wrap water heaters in insulation, assure ductwork is insulated and has no gaps.
Windows have an enormous impact on energy use - heat leaking out of ineï¿½ƒcient windows can account for 10 to 25 percent of your heating bill. If you already have energy eï¿½ƒcient windows, periodically check to assure that the latches are set so that windows are fully sealed. I took a break from writing this, checked the windows and found two open latches. Grrr.
Several energy savings ideas can easily be found on the internet. Easy to implement, low- or-no cost, high impact things you can do include:
- Put a stake through vampire power suckers: Electronics, battery chargers and appliances can draw power even when you think they are oï¿½€. The EPA estimates that idle electronics consume the equivalent of 12 power plants. Where possible put electronics on a smart power strip so that multiple "vampires" can be turned oï¿½€ at once.
- Turn oï¿½€ your computer: Modern PCs can be turned on/oï¿½€ 40,000 times - powering down will not hurt the lifespan.
- Lower your thermostat's temperature a few degrees in the winter, turn it up a few in the summer. Lower the temperature setting on your water heater.
- Small steps taken by many people will lead to big results. Combining lower power usage with the increasingly available renewable power options we can all build towards Illinois's improved environmental future.
If you are interested in taking such a small step to save energy and the opportunity to connect to the community and the rest of the world during these challenging times, consider joining Earth Hour on March 28 and turn off your lights between 8:30 and 9:30 p.m.
Started by the World Wildlife Fund as a symbolic lights-out event in Sydney in 2007, Earth Hour is now one of the world’s largest grassroots movement for the environment, engaging millions of people in more than 180 countries and territories. Join this positive environmental impact and have a candlelight dinner, turn off all lights and electronics for a conversation in the dark, read a book by the light of the open fire or play hide and seek in the dark. More information and inspiration can be found on earthhour.org. Share your Earth Hour photo with us on Instagram using the hashtag #SustainabilityStar!
Submitted by Glencoe Sustainability Task Force Member Larry Reilly