Posts Tagged ‘Energy Efficiency’

How to Cut Energy Costs During the Coldest Days of Winter

A Warm Greenwood Wood Boiler Home

Winter may usher in the holidays and beautiful, snowy scenery, but it also brings soaring energy costs. As the mercury sinks like a stone, it becomes more and more difficult to keep your home comfortably warm. It’s tempting to reach for the thermostat and crank it up, but first, you may want to consider a few more environmentally friendly tips. When the winter weather gets you down, turn to the following options to keep yourself warm without racking up huge heating bills.

Install a Greenwood Boiler

Oil, natural gas and electricity may be popular heating options, but they aren’t the only game in town. A wood-fired boiler is a fantastic renewable heating alternative, and Greenwood’s central heating systems are specifically designed to maximize efficiency. The Frontier Series boiler uses wood gasification technology to burn wood with startling efficiency, resulting in virtually no smoke, ash or creosote. By converting nearly 90 percent of the wood’s energy into heat, the Frontier wood boiler may reduce home heating bills by up to 70 percent. A pellet boiler, meanwhile, offers fully automated burning of wood pellets or in some models agro-pellets and grains for unparalleled convenience. Their high-efficiency operation can cut your heating bills in half when connected to a radiant or forced-air heating system.

Use a Smart Thermostat

Perhaps the easiest way to save on heating costs is to use only as much heating energy as you need. While it’s possible to do this on your own, a smart thermostat makes the job far easier and more efficient. In fact, according to a 2016 study, thermostats are the most popular smart technology product to be installed renovating homeowners. Once this device is synced up to your wi-fi router, you will have remote access from a computer or app. This way, you can be away from home and still have the ability to specify exactly what temperature settings you’d like to use at any given time for up to seven days in advance. As the thermostat uses its “smart” software to learn your energy usage habits, it will automatically turn on and off based on your schedule. This allows you to cut down on wasteful heating when no one is home without sacrificing your personal comfort, resulting in up to 12 percent savings on your monthly heating costs.

Enhance Your Insulation

It’s unfortunate that even the most effective and efficient heating won’t do much good in a poorly insulated home. A tremendous amount of heat is lost through walls, roofs and floors that aren’t properly insulated, which means outfitting your home with new insulation may lead to some serious savings. In fact, the EPA estimates that insulating the typical home could give back as much as a 20 percent savings on total heating and cooling costs. While completely insulating a home may seem like a significant investment, the cost is generally recouped via energy savings in as little as five years.

Spring for Energy-Efficient Windows

Along with inadequately insulated walls and roofs, another major point of heat loss is outdated or inefficient windows. Up to a quarter of a home’s heat loss comes from the windows, but upgrading to newer energy-efficient windows can keep far more of that precious heat where it belongs – inside your home. If you suspect your windows may be a culprit behind your home’s excessive energy use, look for new windows that bear the EPA’s ENERGY STAR label. This certifies that the windows are specially constructed to resist heat transfer and are ready to save you 12 percent or more on your energy costs.

Get an Energy Audit

Do you know how much energy your home actually uses and where that energy goes? Few people do, which is why a home energy audit is a highly recommended step in cutting down on energy use. An energy audit conducted by a professional will help you analyze precisely how much energy your home uses, while also identifying air leaks and other inefficiencies that could be costing you money. Many utility companies offer free or discounted energy audits to their customers, and any associated costs are well worth gaining the knowledge needed to maximize your home’s efficiency.

With rising energy costs and mounting environmental concerns, it’s no surprise that nearly everyone is on the lookout for new ways to reduce their energy use. The bitter chill of winter only makes this process more difficult, but it also presents an opportunity to improve the efficiency of your home and identify potential areas of concern. Follow the simple tips above and you can stay toasty warm all winter long without dreading opening that next utility bill.

Special thanks to Kate Voss for this blog post. Based in the Windy City and fueled by coffee and chocolate, Kate’s an MSU alumni with a passion for recycling and refurbishing old furniture. Her favorite Girl Scout Cookie is the trefoil.

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4 Ways to Instantly Make Your Home More Energy-Efficient

green home

The trend toward energy-efficient homes and green energy solutions is gaining momentum, but not just because it makes people feel better about their energy use.  Eco-friendly homes create a significant savings and don’t take a huge investment to put a big dent in your energy bill. Here are four ways to make your home more energy-efficient in a matter of minutes:

1. Replace Your Light Bulbs

The average American home uses about 12% of energy cost in lighting. Even replacing your five most-used light fixtures with LED or CFL light bulbs can save you $70 per year – and they last 10-25 times longer than regular incandescent bulbs.

2. Seal Your Windows and Doors

Older homes tend to have gaps or leaks in the doors and windows. Any air produced inside your home (hot or cold) gets sucked out through those gaps and thus your system has to struggle to replace that air. By putting weather stripping around doors and windows and sealing unused windows can reduce your heating and cooling bills by as much as 10 percent.

3. Replace Wasteful Shower Heads

Unless you’ve very recently replaced your shower head, it’s likely that it’s wasting a lot of water. The average family uses about 40 gallons of water per day for their showers, so replacing your shower head with a WaterSense-labeled product can save your home 2,900 gallons per year — now that is a great idea!

4. Perform a Home Energy Audit

Whether you hire a professional or perform an energy audit yourself, taking a complete walk through of your home can help identify problems and prioritize future energy saving upgrades. However, hiring a professional can help you determine whether or not your electric furnace or natural gas system is keeping you from energy savings and independence.

Many homeowners have found dramatic relief to their energy costs by upgrading to a Greenwood Frontier Series Indoor Wood Boiler. It’s state-of-the-art design means a highly efficient, near-zero emissions solution to everyday home energy needs. To learn more about Greenwood or to schedule an appointment to see one in action for yourself, use our Installer Locator to get in touch or visit us online.

It’s THAT time. AGAIN.

You hear that? ‘Tis the sound of my heart shattering into a million pieces at the thought of the summer of 2014 drawing to a close. The warm embrace of the summer wind that would wrap itself around me when I stepped outside, will soon be replaced by the icy winds of Jack Frost. I shudder at the thought of his long, sharp, icicle-like fingers raking across my back.

Ok. Ok. It might be that I am a little over-dramatic about winter coming. But in all seriousness I not only dread the cold –  I also dread paying bundles of money to heat my house.

Before Sir Frost shows his hideous face let’s take a look at this video clip here on Home Energy Savings from our friends at This Old House.

 

Ways to Reduce Your Need for Heat

Keeping your home warm throughout the winter is always a cause for concern. If there is an exceptionally bad month, your heating bills could be unbelievably high. Although there are eco-friendly ways to produce heat, such as wood or solar heating, there are some cost-effective ways to reduce how much you need. How do you combat the cold in the winter by reducing your need for heat?

1. Weather Strip – There are many homes that have gaps in between doors or windows and their frames. It is common for older homes to have these gaps from simply regular use and age. For a few dollars, you can go to any hardware store and pick up a role of weather stripping. This strip of foam sits in between the door or window and the frame. This strip fills the gaps that are allowing cold air to seep into the home. Most hardware stores sell a variety of styles, so you can easily find the right size for your needs.

2. Windows – During the winter, your home will lose a great deal of heat through its windows. Today’s double-paned glass can greatly reduce the amount of heat that escapes the house. If you are unable to afford the installation of double-paned glass, then there are plastic sheet kits that you can buy for relatively cheap. These kits work very well in protecting your home from the cold-producing window while allowing light to pass through. Once winter is over, these sheets can be safely removed from the window and stored for future use.

3. Insulation – Adding insulation to the walls and ceiling of your home will keep your home warmer. Perhaps the biggest impact can come from adding insulation in your attic, reducing the amount of heat that is lost on cold winter days. Try adding some insulation over rooms where you spend the most time and you will see the difference immediately. Another creative idea is to use a thermal barrier paint additive such as Insuladd. Paints like these reflect heat back into the room, greatly increase the efficiency of your existing insulation.

4. Living Wall – The use of foliage and plants is an increasingly popular way to shield your home from the heat of summer and the cold of winter. If done properly, a living wall will create a layer of natural insulation during the winter months. Although the vines may die or hibernate, they still provide extra protection for the home and create a windbreak reducing the effects of winter storms on the insulative characteristics of your walls.

Although many of these ideas are very easy to implement, some make take a bit more effort. Small steps, like those mentioned here may reduce the amount of power and/or gas you consume. Although this may not concern those with eco-friendly heating systems like a wood boiler, it is still a good idea to practice efficient methods to keeping your home from losing heat during the winter.

This is a guest post by Liz Nelson from WhiteFence.com. She is a freelance writer and blogger. She may be reached at: liznelson17 @ gmail.com.

$300 Tax Credit Reinstated for High Efficiency Wood Boilers

With the passing of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, the tax credit for biomass stoves (i.e wood furnaces and wood boilers) has been retroactively renewed through the end of 2013. So, any qualified equipment purchased from January 1, 2012 through December 31, 2013 is eligible for this credit. The tax credit is now set at $300 for high-efficiency biomass stoves that use “plant-derived fuel available on a renewable or recurring basis, including agricultural crops and trees, wood and wood waste and residues (including wood pellets), plants (including aquatic plants), grasses, residues, and fibers)”.

To learn more about the tax credit and what is eligible please visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE). The tax credit is also limited to a $500 “lifetime limit”, so you will want to consult with your tax preparer. The federal tax form required is located here.

It may be helpful to understand the differences between a tax credit and a rebate. Perhaps the best way to illustrate the difference is use an example:

Let’s say that you purchased a wood furnace that cost $10,000 and the appliance had $300 rebate. Rebates are often provided at the time of sale, so your effective price would be $9,700. Contrast this with a $300 tax credit for the same $10,000 appliance. You would pay the full price for the appliance and then complete form 5695 and send it with your federal tax return. The $300 would be applied against your tax bill, increasing your return or reducing the amount you need to pay the IRS.

Either way, it is more money in your pocket.

Finding and Repairing Home Air Leaks

Over  the past winter, you likely noticed that there were some spots in your house that were a bit cooler than you would have liked. These drafts are often most noticeable around windows and doors, but don’t think these are your major sources of wasted heat and energy. Rather, in most homes, the most significant air leaks are hidden in the attic and the basement.

Where do air leaks occur in your house?

You may already know where some air leaks occur in your home, such as an under-the-door draft, but to find many of the smaller culprits, the Department of Energy recommends that you get an energy audit that includes a blower door test. A blower door test, depressurizes your home and reveals the location of many leaks.

If you don’t want to opt for a professional energy assessment or blower door test, the DOE suggests a number of less costly approaches that also provide meaningful and actionable results:

  • DIY Depressurization Test – On a cool windy day, turn off all fans, blowers, exhausts, furnaces in the house and shut all windows and doors. Use a wet hand (cool with a draft) or an incense stick (wavers in drafty area) near suspected leak areas.
  • Flashlight Test – At night, shine a flashlight over potential gaps while someone observes the house from outside. Large cracks will show up as streams of light. This method does not work well small cracks.
  • Paper Test – Shut a door or window on a piece of paper. If you can pull the paper out without tearing it, you’re losing energy. This method does not address other air leak culprits.

Once you find air leaks many are rather straightforward to repair. Energy Star provides a good DIY guide to repairing common home air leaks including, recessed lighting,  plumbing vents, and wiring holes.

The nice thing about energy-saving investments is that they can show results quickly and can often pay for themselves in two heating seasons or less.

Residential Retrofit Guidelines

The Department of Energy announced the release of the new Workforce Guidelines for Home Energy Upgrades.  Energy improvement programs and homeowners can adopt these guidelines to increase the consistency and effectiveness of energy upgrades, and training providers can use them to improve course curricula and training materials.  These guidelines were developed through a collaboration between energy efficiency contractors, building scientists, health and safety experts, technicians and trainers in the weatherization program, and other professionals in the building and home energy upgrade industry.

The Workforce Guidelines include standard work specifications required for high-quality work, a reference guide for technical standards and codes, analysis of the job tasks involved in completing various energy efficiency improvements, and the minimum qualifications workers should possess to perform high quality work.  Identifying the knowledge, skills and abilities required to perform efficiency upgrades represents an important step in developing a nationwide framework for training program accreditation and worker certification.

No More Easy Green for Homeowners

Anyone contemplating a big home improvement project to make their homes more energy efficient has missed a rather significant window. Beginning January 1st, the federal government slashed the tax credits for energy efficiency home upgrades from 30 percent to 10 percent and reduced the total available credit to $500. For more check out the 2011 Federal Tax Credits for Energy Efficiency.

As a manufacturer, we like to stay on top of these developments and are also interested in how these changes in incentives will change buying behaviors. Suzanne Shelton, a contributor to Fast Company magazine, summarizes the impact as, “approximately one third of the population who made their home more energy efficient would likely not have acted or would not have purchased the more efficient unit if it weren’t for the incentives offered.”

I guess that leaves it to creative marketers, manufacturers and local utilities to create the proper motivation for purchasing greener appliances.

10 Easy Ways to Cut Your Energy Use in Half

Green America recently published a list of ten ways that a homeowner can reduce their energy use by 50% (and thereby also cut their energy bill as well). The list includes some obvious choices — turn off your lights, wash your clothes with cold water and using a programmable thermostat.

Click Here to See Green America's List for Cutting Home Energy Use

What makes the list more interesting is that also includes “the easy” fixes, but also more “advanced” fixes for those that want to really attack their energy use. Unlike other lists of this type, the Green America list also provides a sense of how much energy you will be saving by making the recommended improvements.

One that stood out for me was. “Install Ceiling Fans” — I would not have imagined that running a fan would save 19% of my home energy use. Thinking about it more, it does make sense, but I had not connected the dots.

Take a look at the poster that summarizes the list and see if you are also surprised by what small changes can do for your pocket book.

Let’s Talk Home Energy

Have you ever wondered what uses more energy in your home — heating, cooling, lighting, or powering electronics like TVs, computers, and refrigerators?

No surprise it is heating. I bet you are not too surprised, after all, Greenwood is a renewable heating company. However, what may surprise you is to what extent it outpaces other energy use in your home.  As a homeowner, the U.S. Energy Information Administration presents a rather compelling picture for home improvement.

Two-thirds of the energy used in your home is for heating. Time to upgrade the windows, add insulation, pull out the caulk gun and (here it comes) look at cheaper forms of heat like a high-efficiency wood boiler. Sales pitch aside, the biggest dent you can make in your monthly energy bill is take a bite out of the heating gremlin.

Happy caulking!

 
 
 
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