Taking the Home Energy Scoring Tool a Step Further
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) puts a great deal of focus and concern into the area of weatherization. An abundant amount of recovery act funding went towards weatherization and in return the reduction of energy consumption. In an attempt to make the auditing and assessing aspect of weatherization readily available and understood by both experts and consumers alike the DOE has created the Home Energy Scoring Tool.
This tool is available online for free and unlike similar tools, such the Energy Star Yardstick, the Home Energy Scoring Tool does not take your actual bills or consumption into account; instead it takes the information about your home gathered by an assessor and provides you with a rank. The walk-through needed to gather information for the free online tool collects data from 45 different points. Once completed the tool will calculate your score and compare your home to other homes in your area. The tool is designed to measure the home itself, not how the home is used. To substitute for the home’s actual use it makes the assumption that it is occupied by 2 adults and 1 child and that the thermostat is set at a certain level depending on the time of year.
Upgrades and improvements are then generated by the online tool and listed so they can clearly be seen and considered. The potential savings are also generated to show users how much they could affect their costs by making the improvements. The tool calculates a score of 1 to 10 which shows how your home is currently performing; the higher the score the better the performance. After this initial ranking it compares how it currently is performing to how it could perform if all of the potential upgrades were made.
If you plan to invest in home improvements this is a great tool to help you judge which improvements will result in the biggest savings. The upgrades pointed out by the audit will result in significant savings by improving energy efficiency. But, keep in mind that these readings do not take into consideration your actual use. Your home may be completely efficient, but your bills may still be high. If you are scoring high on the Home Energy Scoring Tool but your bills are still higher than you think they should be it may be time to look at how you use energy.
A home energy monitor provides a glimpse into your real-time daily energy use habits. Using this tool you can narrow in on waste. The average home has over 30 devices that are always using electricity, whether it is a charger that is still plugged in or a device in standby mode. Some devices in standby mode use as much electricity as in the on mode. The first step in changing your habits is to detect these always on “vampire” loads and stop them. A quick glance at the monitor occasionally will assure these loads are still off. Without continuous monitoring these vampires will sneak back slowly but surely, which is why continued monitoring is required. Using the monitor to maintain these devices can result in significant savings. One device by itself does not create a significant vampire load, but 30 or more devices combined can equal a lot.
Should I Repair or Replace?
Energy monitoring is a great tool for detecting inefficiencies in your home. One of the biggest ways that it aids users is by allowing them to discover their usage habits. Small changes in your usage can result in significant savings. Monitoring also allows you to find energy vampires that are constantly left on or plugged in. What can it do for the large appliances that take up the largest portions of energy usage? Once you see the usage for these devices how do you know if it needs immediate attention? A simple answer is to look.
Once you have dialed in on your energy hogging units it simply becomes a matter of analyzing. A quick online search for the exact model you have should result in finding energy information or specifications about the device. Once you have obtained this information you only need to compare your current usage to the recommended usage to find out how your equipment is running. Another way to tell if your energy hogging devices are using too much is by observing how often they cycle, or turn on. If your refrigerator or freezer is cycling very frequently it may need to be replaced or repair.
The National Association of Home Builders completed and released a study documenting the average lifespan of your home devices. It may be interesting to note that the standard refrigerator only lasts 13 years and the average washer and dryer only last 10. This doesn’t mean your devices will stop working it simply means they will begin operating extremely inefficiently. It is important to note that a device will begin performing poorly depending on its usage and maintenance, simply because a device is getting old doesn’t mean it will run inefficiently. If age may be a misleading guide then how can you easily decide if it is time to replace or repair your large energy consuming devices?
Real-time energy monitoring allows you to dial in on your large devices. Once you observe their usage and compare it to user manuals or information online you should also consider its age. If the device is not very old and is running inefficiency you should consider a repair, if the device is old and running inefficiently it may be better to replace the old device. Energy monitoring allows you to know when to repair and when to replace. Once you gain this information look into rebate programs from your local utility and government. Saving energy and money becomes an easy decision when you have real-time information.
Hidden Energy Using Devices
Small things can make a huge difference; this includes your energy consumption. Many of us have heard about energy vampires, the devices that still draw energy when not in use, but a lot of us figure one charger left plugged in isn’t going to kill me, and it is such a pain to unplug it. Energy vampires go beyond just a single charger, according to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) there are over 30 always on devices in your home right now.
The best suggestion for these devices, plug them all into power strips that you can easily turn off in a matter of seconds, or that are smart enough to tell when the device is not in use. If they are plugged into the wall behind the dresser you are not going to want to crawl back there and unplug it when it is not in use and then plug it back in when you want to use it. It’s just not going to happen. The best way to save energy, and money, is to make it work with your lifestyle.
The next thing to do is get real-time energy monitoring. Real-time energy monitoring allows you to see when you are using energy and how much. If you believe everything is off but you are still using more energy than you should; then you have a hog or a vampire somewhere in your system that you need to flush out. If you are monitoring your energy and you aren’t sure where to look consider these sneaky energy hogging culprits.
First on the list is the digital photo frame, everything is going digital and photo frames are no exception. If each American in the country owned one of these, running is around the clock, it would take 5 power plants just to power the frames alone according to EPRI. Your entire entertainment center is bleeding you dry, especially if you have a cable box, DVR and a gaming system, combine that with a large plasma TV and surround sound and you have several of the largest energy vampires in one location. All of these systems can easily be combined into one easy to turn off power strip. Other devices include coffee makers, printers, air purifiers, dehumidifiers, the always evil incandescent light bulb, and, believe it or not, aquariums.
Monitoring your real-time energy consumption allows you to find and stop unexpected energy using devices. Cutting these vampires may help your energy bill a lot and can be extremely easy to do if you combine everything into a few power strips. All you need to do is flip a switch and watch the savings start coming in. Depending on how many vampires you have you may see savings of 4-8%. For the average home that could be up to $200 in savings annually. Start monitoring today and find your energy vampires.