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ENERGY RESOURCES FOR RESIDENTS

Whether you're thinking about doing a major remodel, looking for quick and easy changes that you can make right now, or are just looking for resources to figure out where to begin, this is just the place to start!

There are several rebate opportunities (linked below) available for appliance upgrades:

TURNING OFF LIGHTS

  • Turning off lights and appliances when not in use is an easy way to save energy.  The use of power strips can further reduce energy use by avoiding vampire plug loads that are caused by unused electronics.  

  • The energy consumed by an electronic device when it is plugged into a socket is called the plug load.  If a device is plugged in, it is still using energy even if it's in standby mode. Sometimes this energy is necessary to power remote controls, clock displays, or other devices. Other times, it's just wasted energy!

  • Anything that is plugged into the wall while it's not being used is an energy vampire. The biggest culprits are typically televisions, computer chargers, cell phone chargers, video game consoles, cable boxes, and DVD players.  

  • What can you do about it?

  • Install a powerstrip. Powerstrips are easy-to-use and act as a central way to turn off all your devices at once. Use them in a kitchen for small appliances, in your home office for computer equipment, and in your living room or for your television, DVD player, and game console. There are different kinds of power strips, including those with timers, occupancy sensors, and surge protection. Our Comprehensive Home Energy Efficiency Review (CHEER) presentation has a detailed explanation of different types of smart powerstrips. 

Please review the following graphic for more information on vampire loads:

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REPLACE LIGHTBULBS

Compact fluorescent lighting (CFL) and LED (light-emitting diodes) light bulbs reduce energy costs while providing the same level of illumination as incandescents.  Most CFL and LED lights are dimmable to give even greater control of lighting.  

  • Change out your lightbulbs.

    • Changing out your lightbulbs is a great low-cost solution to reducing your utility bills and saving energy. New energy standards require lightbulbs to use 28% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs.

  • Add task lighting.

    • Provide “task” lighting (over desks, tool benches, craft tables, etc.) so that work and leisure activities can be done without illuminating entire rooms.

  • Place light fixtures appropriately.

    • When possible, place floor, table, and hanging lamps in the corner of a room rather than against a flat wall. Lamps in corners reflect light from two wall surfaces instead of one and, therefore, give more usable light.

  • Use dimmable lights and switches.

    • Where possible, consider using dimmable LED or compact fluorescent bulbs. Some compact fluorescent and LED bulbs can be used with dimmer switches. Check the package to see. 

  • Choose lighter colors.

    • The reflectance of interior surfaces has an important bearing on lighting efficiency. In home decoration, choose lighter colors for walls, ceilings, floors, and furniture. Dark colors absorb light and require higher lamp wattage for a given level of illumination. Light-colored surfaces should be kept clean to keep reflectance levels high.

SEAL LEAKS

Every opening in a building (doors, windows, pipes and electrical boxes) is a potential pathway for conditioned air to escape.  Caulking, sealants, spray foam and weather-stripping eliminate air leaks and help to regulate the temperature differential between indoors and outdoors. 

  • When a home is not properly sealed, outside air can leak into your home causing reduced comfort. Additionally, outside air mixes with air from your heating and cooling systems, which contributes to larger amounts of energy waste. A quick and easy solution to prevent such air leaks is to add weatherstripping and air sealing to windows and doors. This is cost-effective and will reduce your utility bills. Below you can find a few methods that will help you identify and seal these leaks with appropriate materials.

    • Air seal around all entrance doors and windows.

      • Weatherstripping and caulking limit air leaks that could account for 15% to 30% of heating and cooling energy requirements.

    • Seal air leaks.

      • Use caulk, foam spray, and weather-stripping around electrical outlets, cable and other wiring. 

      • Air Sealing vs Insulation: Insulation is like a fuzzy wool sweater on a winter day. It will certainly keep you warm if the air is calm. But if the wind picks up, you are going to need a windbreaker to keep the breeze from carrying away the heat. Air sealing is like adding the windbreaker. It keeps the conditioned air where it belongs.

    • Fix gaps around chimneys and furnace flues.

      • Seal air leaks around fireplace chimneys, furnaces, and gas-fired water heater vents with fire-resistant materials such as sheet metal or sheetrock and furnace cement caulk. Also, keep the fireplace flue damper tightly closed when not in use.

 

The graphic below shows common air sealing troublespots within a home. There are 19 key areas of the home where air sealing can improve a home’s energy efficiency, comfort, and building durability.

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OPTIMIZE HEAT AND LIGHT FROM THE SUN

Natural daylight is free, healthy and abundant. Controlling for glare, windows and skylights can provide adequate light for many activities. Adding a light shelf to windows uses the sun to naturally light the house, while preventing heat from entering. Open curtains, shades and blinds on south and west facing windows for heat and light, or close them to keep cooler.  

  • Utilizing curtains and window film gives you the power to control when and how much light and heat enter your home or office. They are also inexpensive and easy to install. Proper curtains and window film can reduce energy usage without requiring an upgrade!

  • Curtains can be a powerful tool for maintaining a comfortable temperature in your home or business. On sunny but cold winter days, keep curtains or shades open to allow the heat from the sun rays to naturally warm your home. Using light-colored curtains and keeping them closed will keep unnecessary heat from infiltrating your windows.

  • Save the light, ditch the heat! Installing window film on your windows will block out the sun’s heat while still allowing sunlight into your home. Additionally, this film will reduce unwanted glare. Window film is inexpensive and easy to install.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF PASSIVE DESIGN 

Plant shade trees, install window shades and adjust them to control the sun, and open and close windows to take advantage of the natural flow of air.  Your building will be more comfortable, and you will save money on electricity.  

  • Use several strategies (like curtains, window film, or landscaping) to shade windows during the summer.

    • Focus on shading east, west, and south facing walls.  

  • Install window screens.

    • Coupled with shade from landscaping, window screens can maximize shade potential for your home. Use screens with a shading coefficient of 0.76 or lower to reduce heat radiation.

  • Add awnings and overhangs to windows.

    • Awnings and overhangs need to be close to the top of windows to effectively shade the glass. A good rule of thumb is to cover half the surface of glass at the summer solstice (e.g. A 30" overhang at the header will cover the top half of a 4' tall window). 

  • Place trees appropriately to optimize solar gain.

    • Plant evergreen trees on the west and east sides of the house to keep out heat all year long. Use deciduous trees on the south side because during the winter, after dropping their leaves, the branches will filter the sun and provide desirable partial passive heating. 

  • When Building a new home or adding an additional, consider passive design features.

    • Incorporating passive design features into new construction costs little to nothing. The benefits are greatest when the entire design can be taken into consideration. The most important things to consider are site orientation and layout.

PASSIVE FEATURES: NEW CONSTRUCTION

Incorporating passive design features into new construction costs little to nothing. The benefits are greatest when the entire design can be taken into consideration. If you are looking to build an energy efficient home, the most important things to consider are location and orientation of the site, site layout, window design, insulation, thermal mass, shading, and ventilation. Each of these works together to make your whole house more comfortable and cost-efficient.

  • Site Orientation

    • If you are building a new addition, configure the space to minimize west-facing walls and windows. The long axis should be within 30 degrees of south. 

    • Focus on shading the east, west, and south facing walls of your home. 

    • The western exposure may have the best view, but it is also the most severe exposure for heat from sunlight. Carefully place and size windows, and orient the home so long walls face north and south.

    • Tip: You may have great views to the south and west, but large expanses of glass will gain heat in your home. Consider a patio cover.

  • Building Form

    • Compact floor plans keep exterior walls to a minimum, but for good cross ventilation and daylighting, L-shaped and courtyard homes that are essentially one room deep are best. Consider these floorplans below:

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  • Around the Home

    • Add trees to shade the building and outdoors.

    • Permeable pavement allows water to seep between the pavers and reduce runoff.

    • Direct roof and site water to “dry creek” landscape areas.

    • Consider removing hardscape that is not necessary. Concrete patios and walkways can become additional sources of unwanted heat, which increases your cooling load, and, as a result, your energy costs.    

    • Review graphic below.

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BUY ENERGY STAR APPLIANCES

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ENERGY STAR rated appliances use 20-30% less energy than standard models.

 

  • Every appliance comes with two price tags: What it costs to take it home and what it costs to operate and maintain it each month. ENERGY STAR-qualified appliances utilize advanced technology to use 10% to 50% less energy than standard appliances.

  • Choosing an energy efficient appliance is easy—simply look for the ENERGY STAR-certified sticker when you are shopping for a new home appliance. ENERGY STAR ratings are available for refrigerators, washers, dryers, and most other home appliances

BE WATERSMART

Being conscious of how much water you use is the first step to reducing your overall water usage. Overall residential water usage is broken down into two components: Indoor and outdoor. Outdoor water usage is more than indoor water usage for a typical residential home. By reducing your indoor and outdoor water usage, you can save both water and money.

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  • Indoor Water Tips

    • Wash only full loads of laundry and dishes. Maximizing your water use for laundry and dishes can save up to 50 gallons per week.

    • Fix household leaks promptly. By fixing leaky sinks and toilets you can save up to 20 gallons per day.

    • Spend only 5 minutes in the shower. Taking shorter showers saves up to 8 gallons each time.

    • Turn off the water while you brush your teeth. Turning off faucets when not in-use can save up to 2.5 gallons per minute.

    • Buy water-saving devices like high-efficiency toilets and clothes washers. Upgrading to high-efficiency water appliances can save 19 gallons per day. Some of these clothes washers are eligible for rebates!

  • Outdoor Water Tips

    • Water your lawn 1 to 2 days a week instead of 5 days a week. Using less water on your lawn saves up to 840 gallons per week.

    • Check your sprinkler system for leaks, overspray, and broken sprinkler heads. Doing these simple repairs can save up to 500 gallons per month.

    • Use a broom instead of a hose to clean driveways and sidewalks. Cleaning up without water can save up to 150 gallons each time.

    • Install a smart sprinkler controller that adjusts watering based on weather, soil type, amount of shade and plant type. Upgrading your sprinkler system can save up to 40 gallons per day. Rebates available.

    • Water your plants in the early morning or evening to reduce evaporation and ineffective watering due to wind. Morning and evening watering can save up to 25 gallons each time.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY PROJECT IDEAS FOR HOMEOWNERS

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​1. Shade

Add trees, awnings, lattices or vines to increase shade.  

2. Air Seal

Seal gaps and cracks in your home with foam or other sealants.  ​

3. Cool Roof

A cool roof is one that strongly reflects sunlight and also cools itself by efficiently emitting radiation to its surroundings. The roof stays cooler and reduces the amount of heat conducted to the building. Because the roof is exposed to the sun all day long, the whole assembly quickly gets saturated with heat and continues to transfer heat inside, even during the night.  Heat gain through the roof is the largest single load that the heating and air conditioning (HVAC) system has to counteract. 

Two key terms to remember when considering cool roofs are solar reflectance and emissivity. Always aim for a high solar reflectance and a low emissivity for the materials you use for your cool roof. A further explanation of these terms can be found below.

  • High Solar Reflectance: Reflectance measures how much sunlight - visible, infrared, and ultraviolet - is reflected. The higher the solar reflective value, the more efficient the cool roof is in reflecting sunlight and heat away from the building, reducing the roof temperature.

  • Low Emissivity: All materials absorb and release heat - the amount of heat that is released is measured as emissivity.  Emissivity is measured as a coefficient between 0 and 1, or as a percentage of heat that is absorbed by a material and not released.

You can get a good idea of the emissivity of a material by gauging the temperature when it has been left in the sun. Compare the black and chrome surfaces of your car when it is left in the sun. The black surfaces get hot in the sun; however, they do not stay hot to the touch as long - they absorb a lot of heat but do not release it.  This means that black surfaces have a high emissivity.  In contrast, chrome surfaces also get hot in the sun, but they stay hot much longer because they release a lot of heat. Because chrome releases more heat, it has a lower emissivity. 

 

  • What can you do about it?

    • Cool roof coatings are white or special reflective pigments that reflect sunlight. These coatings are like very thick paints that can protect the roof surface from ultra-violet (UV) light and chemical damage, and some offer water protection and restorative features. Products are available for most roof types.​

4. Windows

Windows provide our homes with light, warmth, and ventilation, but they can also negatively impact a home's energy efficiency. You can reduce energy costs by installing energy-efficient windows in your home. If your budget is tight, energy efficiency improvements to existing windows can also help.

What can you do about it?

  • Caulk and weather strip

    • Caulking and weather stripping can reduce the leakage of windows thereby increasing comfort and decreasing the load on your heating and cooling system.

  • Add window film.

    • Window film allows the sun's visible light to enter while reducing the heat gain.  It is also helpful for reducing the sun's glare and can help prevent fading.  Window film is relatively inexpensive and comes in a variety of designs.

  • Use light to your advantage.

    • Being mindful of when to open and close windows and utilizing curtains to the best of their ability can also provide weather-appropriate heating and cooling.  During hot summer weather, keeping windows and curtains closed will help keep the heat out.  In the colder winter months, keeping curtains open will allow the sun to enter the home, providing natural warmth.​

  • Upgrade to energy efficient windows.

    • If your home has very old and or inefficient windows, it might be more cost-effective to replace them than to try to improve their energy efficiency.  New energy-efficient windows eventually pay for themselves through lower heating and cooling costs, and sometimes even lighting costs.  When properly selected and installed, energy-efficient windows can help minimize your heating, cooling, and lighting costs.

Choosing new energy efficient windows

It is important to first understand the energy efficiency performance ratings of windows. In addition to energy performance ratings, an ENERGY STAR approval will indicate high energy efficiency. It is also important to remember that even the most energy efficient windows will not be effective if they are not installed properly! Hiring a trusted contractor and obtaining a permit from your local municipality will ensure proper installation.

There are three main factors that describe the efficiency of a window.

  • Solar Heat Gain the percentage of the sun’s energy that passes through the glass to heat up the interior surface.

  • U-factor Measures how easily heat passes through the entire window assembly—not just the glass.

  • Visible transmittance Measures how much air can leak through the window.​

5. Duct Seal

Sealing your home against air leakage is one of the most beneficial upgrades you can do to increase your comfort and lower your bills. Air leakage accounts for 40% of heat loss and gain in the home. Sealing and insulating your ducts greatly increase the efficiency of your home. 

What can you do about it?

  • Seal and insulate existing ducts. Start by sealing duct leaks using mastic sealant or metal tape and insulating all the ducts that you can access (such as those in attics, crawlspaces, unfinished basements, and garages). Also, make sure that the connections at vents and registers are well-sealed where they meet the floors, walls, and ceiling. 

  • Get an energy audit. Before you prepare to remodel or expand your home, find out how the home is already working. Contact an energy efficiency auditor to test how badly the air ducts leak, and consider getting a “blower door” test to see how much air leaks in and out of the house through cracks, outlets, windows, and doors.

Did you know?

A duct leakage test is now part of the Energy Code requirements in most improvement cases. State code requires duct leakage be no greater than 6%. The leakage test helps ensure the work is done properly.

6. Insulation

Air that leaks through your home's envelope − the outer walls, windows, doors, and other openings − wastes a lot of energy and increases your utility costs. A well-sealed envelope, coupled with the right amount of insulation, can make a real difference on your utility bills.

What can you do about it?

  • Add insulation to your attic. One of the most cost-effective ways to make your home more comfortable year-round is to add insulation to your attic. Adding insulation to the attic is relatively easy. To find out if you have enough before adding more, measure the thickness of the insulation that’s currently installed. If it’s less than R-30 (11 inches of fiberglass or rock wool, or 8 inches of cellulose), you could probably benefit by adding more.

  • Types of insulation

    • Rolls & batts, blanket insulation. Made from mineral fibers, such as fiberglass and rock wool, these are flexible products. These materials are best suited for standard spacings of wall studs and attic and floor joists.

    • Add loose-fill insulation. Loose-fill insulation is well-suited to install other types of insulation and is usually made of fiberglass, rock wool, or cellulose in the form of loose fiber pellets. It should be blown into spaces using special pneumatic equipment. The blown-in material conforms readily to building cavities and attics.

    • Add rigid foam, foam board insulation. Foam-in-place insulation can be blown into walls. It reduces air leakage if it’s blown into cracks, such as around window and door frames. Typically more expensive than fiber insulation, but it’s very effective in buildings with space limitations and where higher R-values are needed. Foam insulation R-values range from R-4 to R-6.5 per inch of thickness, which is up to two times greater than most other insulating materials of the same thickness. 

  • What is an R-value? Insulation is measured in R-values—the higher the R-value, the better your walls and roof will resist the transfer of heat. The DOE recommends ranges of R-values based on local heating and cooling costs, as well as climate conditions in different areas of the country.

  • Should you consider adding insulation? Consider adding insulation if any of these apply to you:

    • You have an older home and haven't added insulation. Only 20% of homes built before 1980 are adequately insulated, as insulation degrades over time.

    • You are uncomfortably cold in the winter or hot in the summer. Adding insulation creates a more uniform temperature and increases comfort.

    • You build a new home or addition, or install new siding or roofing.

    • You pay too much for your energy bills.

    • You’re bothered by noise from outside. Insulation muffles sound.

7. Heating and Cooling Units

Heating and cooling represents the highest area of energy usage in the average home.  There are a few basic things you can do below to improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system.

What can you do about it?

  • Adjust the thermostat. In the winter, set the thermostat to 68°F while you're awake and set it lower while you're asleep or away from home. By turning your thermostat back for 8 hours, you can save 5% to 15% a year on your heating bill. In the summer, you can follow the same strategy with central air conditioning by lowering the thermostat setting to 78°F (26°C) only when you are at home and need cooling.

  • Repair leaky ducts. Leaky ducts account for a huge loss of energy.  The average home loses 40% of heated or cooled air due to improper duct work.  That means for every $100 you’re spending on heating and cooling, you are wasting $40.  Common issues are holes/leaks, improper materials or insulation of ducts, too many twists and turns, and gaps in the system.

  • Install a programmable thermostat. Monitor heating and cooling times by purchasing a programmable thermostat. This is an inexpensive way of better controlling the temperature of your home. Although thermostats can be adjusted manually, programmable thermostats will avoid any discomfort by returning temperatures to normal before you wake or return home.

  • Change air filters regularly. A dirty air filter makes your heating/cooling system 25% less efficient.  Changing out the filter will not only improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system, but will also improve the quality of air you breathe in your home.  

  • Upgrade your heating and cooling system to an ENERGY STAR rated model. Upgrading your heating and cooling system to an ENERGY STAR model can save you up to 44% of energy compared to standard models.

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8. Evaporative Cooler or Whole House Fan

Evaporative coolers cool air by evaporating water and blowing that air throughout the home. When hot, dry air passes over water it cools off. Evaporative coolers work best in arid climates, making them great for the San Gabriel Valley! They are less expensive than central air conditioners, and they have lower operating costs.  They add humidity to the air in your home, which can be a healthy alternative to the dry air produced by central air conditioners.

An alternative to an evaporative cooler is a whole house fan. A whole house fan draws cool night air through the fan, which allows the collected outside air to cool the entire house. With the addition of interlocking controls, the fan can also prevent your HVAC unit from working at the same time.

What can you do about it?

  • Buy an evaporative cooler. Be sure to look for an evaporative cooler that comes with its own thermostat—as these models will shut off when the home reaches the desired temperature, making them much more efficient than standard models.

Aspects to consider before buying an evaporative cooler. Evaporative coolers should not be used in humid climates because they add humidity to the air in your home. Also, they cool your house down to a higher temperature than an air conditioner would, and they require simple maintenance about once a month. If the cooler is installed on the roof, there is some roof deterioration caused by routine maintenance trips. A sunlit rooftop cooler will be about 1°F less effective than a shaded cooler. Rooftop maintenance also requires using a ladder, which may be an inconvenience.