Improving Energy Efficiency
Energy efficiency is the most important tool for greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction in the energy and gas sectors, and meeting our AB 32 (Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006) goals will require, under any scenario, unprecedented levels of energy efficiency investment, according to the California Energy Commission. The Town of Hillsborough encourages its residents to become energy efficient, and a great place to start is in your home.
There are two big steps you can take to conserve energy and increase your Hillsborough home’s energy efficiency.
Step 1: Simple changes That You Can Do Yourself
- Change your furnace air filter regularly. Check your filter every month, especially during heavy use months. If the filter looks dirty after a month, change it. At a minimum, change the filter every 3 months. A dirty filter wastes energy by slowing down air flow and making the system work harder to keep you warm. A clean filter will also prevent dust and dirt from building up in the system which can lead to expensive maintenance and/or early system failure.
- Monitor your heating and cooling. Set the furnace thermostat to 68 degrees or lower.
- Replace incandescent lights with compact fluorescent lamps (CFL bulbs). Start with the porch light, it is one of the highest-used light fixtures in a home, and is the perfect place to install ENERGY STAR qualified lighting products. Many compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) will fit easily into existing porch lights. Or install a new ENERGY STAR qualified outdoor fixture that saves energy through advanced CFL technology, a motion sensor and/or a photocell that turns the light on only when someone is present or on at night and off in the morning.
- Be aware of the increasingly larger role that consumer electronics play in your home's energy consumption, accounting for 15% of household electricity use. And, in the average home, 25% of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off.
- Unplug any battery chargers (like your cell phone charger) or AC power adapters when not in use or after equipment is full charged. As many as 1.5 billion chargers are in use in the United States - that's about 5 for every person. The transformer in the AC adapter draws power continuously, even when your device is not plugged into the adapter. Unplugging the adapter, or plugging it into a power strip and using the switch on the power strip to cut power to the adapter will stop this energy loss.
- Buy devices with ENERGY STAR qualified power adapters. The total electricity flowing through all types of power supplies is about 300 billion kWh/year, and 11% of the national electric bill! Consumers are now able to purchase a growing variety of products that are packaged with ENERGY STAR qualified power adapters.
- Turn off all office and computer peripherals (printer, fax, scanner, etc.) when not in use. Using a power strip as a central “off” switch is an easy way to do this.
- Choose electronics equipment that has earned the ENERGY STAR. These devices (TVs, DVD players, etc.) save energy when off, while maintaining “stand by” features like clock displays, channel settings, and remote-control functions.
- Enable power management features on your home computer and monitor. Most home office equipment is left on 24 hours a day. Office equipment that is set automatically to switch to sleep mode not only uses less energy, it runs cooler and helps the equipment last longer. In addition, avoid using a screensaver when your computer monitor is not active (let it switch to sleep mode or turn the monitor off instead).
- Use multi-function devices. Save energy and space with an ENERGY STAR qualified multi-function device that combines several capabilities (print, fax, copy, scan). Make sure power management features are enabled for additional savings.
- Install low flow shower heads and faucet aerators. A new shower head can save up to $145 a year on a utility bill by reducing the amount of hot water used.
- Close the flue damper tightly when not in use. Otherwise, warm or air-conditioned air can easily escape from the house. A chimney is designed to remove by-products from a fire by creating a draft. The draft also pulls air from your home up the chimney-air that you've paid to cool or heat. Even without a fire in the fireplace, there still will be a draft in the chimney as long as there's a temperature difference between indoors and out. Closing the damper will keep air conditioned (or warmed) air in the living space where it belongs.
- Lower your water heater thermostat to 120 degrees or “normal”.
- Wash only full loads in the dishwasher.
- Wash laundry only when you have a full load and wash loads in cold water.
- Don't over dry your clothes. If your dryer has a moisture sensor that will automatically turn the machine off when clothes are done, use it to avoid over drying. Dry full loads, or reduce drying time for partial loads. It's easy to over dry your clothes, if one setting is used for various fabric types. Try to dry loads made up of similar fabrics, so the entire load dries just as the cycle ends.
- Clean the dryer lint trap. One of the easiest things you can do to increase drying efficiency is to clean the lint trap before each and every load. Dryers work by moving heated air through wet clothes, evaporating and then venting water vapor outside. If the dryer cannot provide enough heat, or move air sufficiently through the clothes, they will take longer to dry, and may not dry at all.
- Use the light switch. It sounds easy enough, but is often overlooked. Remember to always turn off your lights when leaving a room.
Step 2: Get a Home Energy Audit
Get a home energy audit by a qualified home performance professional. An energy audit will help you understand how your home functions as a holistic system and provides a diagnosis and prescription for fixing problems that are detected. The following are some common, high-impact prescriptions resulting from energy audits:
- Seal air leaks and add insulation. Many air leaks in homes are fairly obvious, such as around windows, doors, and electrical outlets. But others, like those in attics, around chimneys and through recessed lighting fixtures are often the more significant sources of energy loss in a home. Sealing air leaks is critical to improving the overall efficiency of your home and will make your heating and cooling system perform better. Along with air sealing, an energy audit often identifies a need for the addition of insulation. Many older homes are not well-insulated, and some have no insulation at all. In addition to saving energy, properly installed insulation in walls, floors and attics provides for more even temperatures throughout the house and results in a more comfortable living environment that is easier to heat and cool.
- Seal and insulate duct work. Ducts that move air to and from a forced air furnace, central air conditioner or heat pump are often big energy wasters. Sealing and insulating them can improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system by as much as 20% and sometimes much more. In addition to wasting energy, leaky ductwork results in poor air flow, and stuffy and uncomfortable rooms regardless of the thermostat setting. An energy audit may suggest the of sealing of your home’s heating and cooling ducts with mastic, metal tape or spray-on sealant, and balancing the duct system to optimize air flow to all rooms. Focus should first be on sealing ducts that run through the attic, crawlspace, unheated basement, or garage. Insulating duct work in attics, crawlspaces, and some basements will help keep them from getting hot in the summer or cold in the winter.
- Replace your furnace. If your furnace is more than 10 years old, it might be time to replace it with a unit that has earned the ENERGY STAR label. Installed correctly, these high-efficiency units can save up to 20% on heating costs.
- Install a programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats are ideal for people who are away from home during set periods of time throughout the week. Through proper use of pre-programmed settings, a programmable thermostat can save you about $150 every year in energy costs.
- Upgrade major appliances. Energy used for lighting and appliances can account for half of your home's total utility bill. As a result, a home energy performance contractor may recommend ENERGY STAR qualified products, such as refrigerators, dishwashers, electronic equipment, light fixtures, and hot water heating system.
- Upgrade to efficient lighting systems and install motion sensors and dimmer switches. Note that dimmers can be used with incandescent lights, including low-voltage systems, but only with new-screw-based dimmable fluorescent bulbs if using CFLs.
The following are links to additional energy saving guides and tips:
- The Energy Upgrade California Home Upgrade program helps you make home improvements that can save energy and make your home more comfortable. Home upgrade rebates and incentives reward you for addressing your home energy efficiency needs as a system instead of piece by piece.
- The U.S. EPA offers information on what you can do to combat climate change.
- The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has a useful checklist and consumer guide to home energy savings.
- Visit the ENERGY STAR website to find specific products that carry the ENERGY STAR label. These products meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the EPA and U.S. Department of Energy.
The Town of Hillsborough makes no warranty or guarantee concerning the accuracy or reliability of the materials at this site or at other sites to which this website links. Links or references to other information or organizations do not constitute an endorsement.