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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Twenty Percent Home Energy Reduction Challenge – Summer Update

I conducted a DIY Energy Audit using the using the Energy Star Home Energy Yardstick to determine my home’s Energy Performance. My home energy performance grade was Below Average with a score of 3.7 out of 10. The Yardstick suggested I cut my electricity and natural gas consumption by 20%. I decided to do it.

I gave myself the additional goal to make the reductions as sustainable and inexpensively as I could, meaning that things like changing habits, light bulbs, and sealing air leaks with caulk and insulation were in. Replacing everything I own with the newest most expensive Energy Star equivalent or installing an array of solar panels on The Condo were out.

“It can’t be done!” many people cried, “You need to replace those three-year-old appliances with Energy Star equivalents! You need to install solar, wind, geothermal to get low green energy bills!” (Personally, I’d love to install such alternative technologies but it’s not going to do much good until I reduce our energy consumption first.)

So how am I doing? Pretty darn good. The Condo’s electrical use is down for January through July of this year, in some cases I cut our electrical use by 50%.


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This is for a home that uses electricity for all kitchen and laundry appliances. Lighting and to power to electric fan in our gas furnace. We also have central air conditioning.

The Condo uses natural gas for heat, hot water, and a gas fireplace. My gas usage is a little disappointing for January and February because our natural gas usage actually increased in 2008 from 2007. Oops.



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The higher January and February gas usage made me to look at our natural gas heating habits. I checked that the hot water heater was set at 120 degrees (F) (it was), put a blanket on the hot water heater, turned off the pilot light to the gas fireplace that we only used when the electricity goes out, sealed air leaks around outlets, windows, doors, and the fireplace, and checked the settings of the programmable thermostat. I found that lowering the settings on the thermostat from the default settings helped lower our gas usage quite a bit.

However, the real energy savings came from examining Columbia Gas’ billing practices. Turns out that my gas company only takes an actual gas meter reading every other month. The other months they estimate their customer’s gas usage. In addition, after looking through past bills, they like to estimate our usage high. Fortunately, on estimate months, Columbia Gas allows their customers to read and report their own meters. Once I started doing my own meter reads on estimate months in March (the same month we got a huge freak snowstorm that dumped 10 inches of snow on us ), I noticed that our natural gas use went down. That’s very encouraging.

Do you have any energy saving tips to share? I’d really love to know!

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