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Rainwater Harvesting for the Home
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Make Your Own Rain Barrel
Save Money When Remodeling
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25 Money Saving Tips for the Home


Identify home energy wastersReplace Energy Hogs

Remodeling provides the opportunity to evaluate the performance of those appliances and systems that may be both draining your wallet and wasting valuable resources. HVAC systems, refrigerators, water heaters, dishwashers, and other mechanical devices not produced in the past five years are probably using much more energy than comparable units built today.

If your project involves an expansion of living space, your current HVAC system may be inadequate to efficiently handle the additional space. And, if the unit is several years old, an upgrade is probably in order. Heating systems, especially in colder climates, consume more than half the energy used in a traditional home, and are responsible for releasing a billion tons or more of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually. Upgrading to a more efficient HVAC system can both reduce your utility bills and harmful emissions.

Heating systems vary by region because of the available energy sources and local climatic conditions; therefore, there is no single recommendation for a “best” or “most efficient system.” I have listed some of the more common types below:

Gas or Oil Forced Air
Electric Resistance
Heat Pumps
Wood Fired

The key is to consult with a professional HVAC contractor and to discuss the options that fit your budget, design criteria, and energy needs. Then, choose the most efficient system possible that works in your situation.

One of the least understood yet most used appliances in a home is the water heater. Water heaters are the second largest consumer of energy in a home, following heating and cooling. The general life-span of the average water heater is about 10 years, and while many may last beyond that, their efficiency decreases with age.

One of the latest innovations in water heating is the “tankless” version. Although they have been in use for many years, their popularity has grown in recent times in conjunction with rising energy costs. The tankless models have the additional advantage of having a lifespan approximately double that of a conventional water heater. Tankless water heaters do cost more to install than conventional models, but the long-term savings significantly surpasses the initial costs. Consult with your plumber to determine if a tankless heater will work for you.

If, however, your choice is a conventional water heater, you can still reap savings. The newer models are significantly more efficient than their older counterparts. You can also increase the efficiency by installing an insulation blanket around the water heater; however, check the specifications of your particular model, as some newer “superinsulated” water heaters recommend not adding the blanket, and to do so voids the warranty.

Size the water heater to fit your average needs; don’t oversize. Doing so wastes significant amounts of energy. Try to locate the water heater as close as possible to the areas of highest use. It is also recommended to set the thermostat to 120 degrees which both conserves energy and reduces the risk of scalding.

Another potential energy hog is the dishwasher. Inefficient dishwashers waste both water and energy, and many older models do a poor job of cleaning. Buy one with an EnergyStar® rating. The upgrading costs will usually be recouped in less than five years.

Older refrigerators also consume dramatically more energy than newer ones, and if your renovation calls for a new refrigerator, purchase one with the EnergyStar® rating. If your old one is at least ten years old, the new refrigerator could allow you to reap 40% or more in energy savings. While it’s common to buy refrigerators larger than we need; it’s better to analyze your needs before purchasing.

Washing machines and dryers are also major energy consumers, and the new front loading washers use significantly less water and energy than older top loading models. While the initial costs is greater, the savings can be substantial. Again, if your plans call for the purchase of a new washer or dryer, make sure the one you purchase carries the EnergyStar® seal.


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