While of course no two houses are the same, Phoenix’s housing stock does have similar construction traits and installation practices that are often the cause of high energy bills, temperature differences within rooms and poor indoor air quality. In this blog series, I would like to highlight some of the most common construction defects I find and what you can do to really transform your home for a better quality of life through lower utility bills, better air quality and even better sound-proofing.
Before we explore the wonderful world of your attic, we need to first get into the mind-frame of looking at your house as one system made up of interdependent parts. So your air conditioning and heating system is no longer a separate system that only affects your comfort and how warm you stay in the winter, but it can also affect your health and safety. The way builders typically build houses is this: the framer would erect the frame of the house, then the HVAC, plumbing and electrical trades would come in and do their separate trades, etc – and none of these groups would really talk with each other… and that’s were we get these inefficiencies from. Sometimes inefficiencies are from just laziness, like where an insulation contractor just laid fiberglass batt insulation on top of the attic studs because the drywall crew did not want to hit any staples when laying their drywall… oops. There are a number of reasons why homeowners are paying too much for their utility bills or experience different temperatures in their homes and that’s what energy auditors do, identify those deficiencies and make recommendations on how they can be fixed.
This series is going to be broken up into easily digestible sections, and peppered with energy saving tips and self-checks. Each recommendation I make will detail the good and bad effects it can have on your home, using the house-as-a-system approach we just discussed, and what you need to be aware of before deciding to do work on your home. We will go into detail about duct leakage and sealing, insulation performance, your home’s heat gain, how a 2-story home differs from a single story home, water heating and many more topics, so stay tuned!
Being a Phoenix energy auditor is not just all about crawling around in insulation, measuring duct leakage, and sizing solar electric systems for homes. We are all about reducing your utility bills, yes, but there are many other benefits to being energy efficient, such as a more comfortable home, a home with less dust, and a quieter heating and cooling system. We recommend both conservation and efficiency upgrades to reduce your APS or SRP electric bills. Conservation recommendations are if it is cold in your home, rather than turning on the heater, you put on a sweater. Efficiency upgrades have to do with upgrading your insulation, ductwork sealing and window treatments, so your home is more comfortable and you don’t have to change a thing.
Here is a recommendation we don’t always talk about, but many homeowners may find useful, and that is what you can do with open, unwanted gifts or extra stuff lying around your home. Lots of us have old books and other knacks we never use and you may not want to go through the effort of a garage sale. With the web, there are many places where you can sell your old stuff rather than the trash. www.amazon.com is a great place to get rid of old books as is www.ebay.com. If you aren’t getting any takers on those websites, try www.swap.com. For your old gadgets try www.gazelle.com and for your cell phones www.recellular.com or try your local women’s shelter. Have old Apple iPod or a used iPhone? www.tunecycle.com is a great place to sell old iPhones and Apple products.
We hope you have a great holiday season and if you enjoyed this blog, please leave a comment or like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/aGreenID.
Here in Phoenix, our heating and cooling bills can account for half of our total utility bill. Learning how to choose and set your thermostat properly can save you hundreds of dollars a year on your utility bills. The new Nest thermostat, developed by ex-Apple employees, learns on its own and can be controlled from a Smartphone. We recently retrofitted a home that had two Nest thermostats, and my crew thought it was the coolest thing they had ever seen. It is very fun to play with and it saves you money too! The cost? $250! It is now available at Lowes, and I expect the cost to come down as competitors like Honeywell and Johnson Controls enter the market. Honeywell also came out with a smart thermostat, which is cheaper ($175) and has remote temperature sensing available.
While the rest of the market catches up with Nest, here are some great videos guide to help you choose a programmable thermostat that's right for your lifestyle and schedule. There are also helpful tips on how to set the thermostat during the day and night. The second video is from SRP and shows how to install a programmable thermostat. An SRP energy auditor will also be able to tell you if your thermostat settings are best suited for your home. APS also gives some helpful advice here.
Your thermostat should be turned up while away, or during APS and SRP's peak hours, which are double the normal rates during the summer. Pre-cooling your home is a smart way to manage your on-peak hours by setting your thermostat several degrees below what you normally keep it at, just before peak hours start. Here is a general guide to what your thermostat should be set at while away. Then during peak hours, turn up the thermostat to avoid having the AC kick on. If your windows are shaded and your insulation has been properly inspected and installed, your home should hold a nice cool temperature for the duration of the peak hours. If it rapidly heats up, then it's probably a good idea to have an energy auditor check out why that's happening.
You can also view an article on what temperature you should raise your thermostat up to at this link. Find more information about APS time-of-use plan and SRP-time-of-use plan here.
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