Take Action on Conserving Energy
Heating and Cooling
We live in an area where the most significant usage of energy is for heating and cooling. Your air conditioner and furnace are the most important appliances to think about when looking into how to conserve energy.
Air conditioners are now the largest single contributor to peak electricity demand. Air conditioners account for one-sixth of the nation's electricity consumption each year. On a typical hot summer afternoon, they gobble up 40%of the power during peak periods.
Steps You Can Take to Reduce Air Conditioning Costs:
* Turn your thermostat up to 78 degrees in the summer. Dress appropriately. Each degree you turn up the thermostat saves roughly 3 to 5% on air-conditioning costs. Turn air conditioners off all together when the building is not occupied.
* Install a programmable thermostat. Turning the air conditioner off during the day while you are not at home does not force the unit to work harder to catch up and cool the house in the evening. Program your thermostat to turn the air conditioning off during the day when your home is not in use and to turn it back on in the evening when your home is occupied.
* When visiting businesses tell them when you feel cold.
* Open the windows and use attic fans during cool evenings. This is an especially useful option in the spring and fall when average temperatures are lower.
* Use a personal fan or ceiling fan to cool you directly. A fan can make it feel several degrees cooler while using much less energy.
More About Air Conditioning:
When replacing a central air conditioner, select one with a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) rating of 13 or higher and an Energy Efficiency Rating (EER) of 11 or higher. Window unit air conditioners should have an EER of 11 or higher. Heat pumps should have a minimum SEER of 13 and a minimum Heating Season Performance Factor (HPSF) of 7.7. New federal regulations scheduled to take effect in 2006 will set the minimum SEER at 12.
When purchasing a new cooling unit, check out the Laclede Gas Energy Wise Dealer Program that finances the purchase of high efficiency natural gas appliance at competitive interest rates.
Do not oversize the air conditioner. In addition to the higher cost for the equipment, it will run for shorter periods which may increase electricity use and decrease the overall efficiency, costing you more and causing more pollution. An oversized unit can also cause humidity problems and potential indoor air quality problems.
Steps You Can Take to Reduce Your Heating Bill:
* During heating season, turn your thermostat down to the coolest comfortable level and dress appropriately. 68 degrees is a good target during the day and 55 degrees at night or when the building is not occupied. Lowering your thermostat setting by one degree in the winter can save as much as 3% of the energy used by your heating system. While there are many factors that affect heating costs and fuel usage, reducing the temperature by six degrees will save about 20% in the Gateway region.
* Turning down the thermostat and supplementing with a small space heater can be effective when only one room is being used. But only use a space heater when safety can be assured - never near small children, pets, clothing, curtains or bedding.
* Install a programmable thermostat that you can set to change the temperature to match your typical daily and weekend schedules. These are low cost, easy to install yourself and can quickly pay for themselves.
* Close the registers or vents to shut off heat to rooms that are not normally used, if this
* Make sure the heating system gets an annual tune-up for peak efficiency.
* For larger buildings, such as office buildings, apartments, and factories, an Energy Management System (EMS) can provide more sophisticated controls such as sensing when rooms are unoccupied and matching heating and cooling to outside air temperature For details, see the web site for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).
* Clean or replace air filters regularly. Every month or two is recommended.
* If you have an old oil-burning furnace, a flame retention head may save 15-25% and quickly pay for itself.
More About Furnace Heaters:
When comparing gas furnaces and boilers, look for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) ratings of 90% or higher. Examples include those with a secondary heat exchanger, sometimes called condensing furnaces, or pulse models that mix gas and air and ignite it with a spark, similar to a car engine. Sealed combustion chambers that use outside air keep warm air from being sucked out of the building.
When purchasing a new heating unit, check out the Laclede Gas Energy Wise Dealer Program that finances the purchase of high efficiency natural gas appliance at competitive interest rate.
Don't oversize the heating system. It should be sized to run almost continuously on the coldest day of the year. When replacing a system, don't just use the same size as the old system. Perform a heat loss analysis based on measurements of walls, ceiling, windows, insulation and weatherization features.
Electric resistance heating is normally the most expensive and least efficient option for heating a building. While all the energy is used locally, transmission losses and the inefficiency of the power plant must be taken into account.
When replacing appliances, look for more energy efficient options. The Energy Star label and energy usage stickers for major appliances are a good starting point. Lower energy use means lower expenses for many years.
Steps You Can Take to Save Energy:
* Most hardware stores provide free brochures listing the airflow and power use of Hunter and Hampton Bay fans. Fan efficiency is greatly affected by motor design and the use of curved blades.
* Buy an energy-efficient light kit with a fluorescent light instead of incandescent bulbs.
* Turn the fan and light off when nobody is in the room.
* Set the fan direction to blow down in summer and up in winter.
* Refrigerators older than eight years may use so much energy that replacement with a more efficient unit may justify the cost of immediate replacement instead of waiting until the old unit fails.
* The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers has rated energy usage of refrigerators based on model. Home Energy magazine's web site has a page listing the energy ratings for automatic defrost refrigerators built before 1996. These should only be used as a starting point since real usage can range from 20% to 300% higher depending on the problems an individual unit might have.
* Compare the energy rating of the old unit with the rating stickers of potential replacements to compute the annual savings.
* The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) publishes a list of energy efficient refrigerators and other appliances. Don't buy a refrigerator that is larger than you need or with features, such as ice and water dispensers, that you won't use.
* Don't keep the old refrigerator running as a spare in the basement or garage. Turn it off except when needed for parties or safely dispose of it.
* When eliminating a refrigerator because of poor energy efficiency, make sure it is recycled for parts instead of being resold by a used appliance store where the high energy costs will be passed on to the next owner.
* For an older water heater, add an insulating blanket. This can pay for itself in less than a year.
* Set the thermostat to the lowest temperature you need. 120 degrees is high enough for general use. If your dishwasher has a booster heater, use it instead of raising the water heater temperature.
* "Demand" water heaters that don't try to keep a tank of water hot can save energy by only heating water when needed. These are also called instantaneous or tankless water heaters. Because they don't keep a reserve of hot water, the flow they produce is limited and might not be sufficient when hot water is needed for multiple simultaneous or high-volume uses. If the demand for hot water is limited, this can be a great option. Energy savings are limited for gas-fired units if they have a standing pilot light.
* When buying a conventional gas-fired water heater, look for a sealed combustion unit that uses outside air to supply the fire and look for an energy factor greater than 0.65. For conventional electric water heaters, look for an energy factor greater than 0.95.
* Solar water heaters are expensive to install, but can save a lot of energy and money over the long term. They are normally used to preheat water while a conventional water heater finishes the job and covers cloudy days. For more information on solar water heaters, check out the US Department of Energy web site.
About Other Water Heating Options:
* Heat pump water heaters use one-third to one-half as much energy as a conventional electric resistance water heater.
* Space-heating add-on coil water heaters that are added to a home/business heating boiler are generally inefficient because they require the main heating system to operate year round just to heat water, constantly cycling on and off. These are also called tankless water heaters, but are very different from the stand-alone units.
* Indirect water heaters also use the main heating system, but include a storage tank so the boiler doesn't need to cycle as frequently. With an efficient boiler this can be the least expensive way of providing hot water.
* Turn off computers and monitors at night and on weekends. Remember that these machines generate a lot of heat - they can cause an air conditioner to run more.
* Configure the system so the monitor will go into power saving or "sleep" mode instead of flashing a fancy screen saver.
General Resources on Appliances:
* The US Department of Energy has information on an Appliance Standards Program and environmental and economic benefits of efficient appliances.
* The Environmental Protection Agency and DOE maintain the Energy Star web site which features information on specific products and their energy use.
* American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) produces several publications available at local libraries. Information from their Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings and a list of Most Energy-Efficient Appliances are available on their web site.
* The Appliance Standards Awareness Project is dedicated to increasing awareness of and support for national appliance and equipment energy efficiency standards.
Fluorescent lighting has moved beyond store and office fixtures to a wide range of applications with Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL). With electronic ballasts and smaller sizes, problems of the past have been reduced, and prices have dropped. CFLs now last up to 10 times longer and use up to 75% less energy than incandescent light bulbs. Estimates are that you can save at least $25 over the life of each CFL bulb that replaces an incandescent bulb. If every household in the United States made their next light bulb an Energy Star CFL, the reduction in air pollution would be the equivalent of taking 1.2 million cars off the road for one year!
Steps You Can Take to Save Energy:
* Change the light bulbs that are turned on the longest to compact fluorescent light bulbs.
* Even with compact fluorescent light bulbs, it is still important to turn off lights when not needed for more than 15 minutes.
* Turn lights off when leaving a room. Businesses may benefit from energy management systems that sense when rooms are empty and turn the lights off automatically.
* Consider installing dimmable switches and bulbs which use less energy.
* Consider natural light in the design of new construction or renovations.
ENERGY STAR products offer businesses and consumers energy-efficient solutions -- helping to save money while protecting the environment for future generations.
Steps You Can Take to Save Energy In the Home or Other Buildings:
* When building or renovating, make energy efficiency a major design consideration. A small increase in design and construction costs now can result in significant savings for years to come. Areas to consider when renovating include:
o Reduce air infiltration. Be sure to put weather-stripping around windows and doors; caulk window and door frames and window glass; and caulk around pipes, outlets and other openings.
o Increase insulation, particularly in ceilings and outer walls.
o Use light-colored, reflective roofing when it is time for replacement. A highly reflective roof can cut cooling loads as much as 20-30% in hot climates. The Energy Star web site has a list of Energy Star Roof Products Program partners that carry reflective roof materials.
o Include energy efficient and natural lighting in the design.
o Employ an architect that is experienced in energy efficient and environmental design. Consult the US Green Builders Council or the St. Louis Regional Chapter of the Green Builders Council for recommendations.
* Design ideas for improving energy efficiency:
o Reduce the size of the building by using space more effectively.
o Simplify the building floor plan to make the building more compact for the same volume, reducing surface area.
o Stack the same floor space into a two-story design instead of one story to reduce the roof and foundation losses.
o Where appropriate, use 24-inch stud spacing instead of 16-inch.
* When considering window options, look for the National Fenestration Rating Council sticker or their Certified Products Directory. In addition, Efficient Windows Collaborative provides information on selecting energy efficient windows for different regions of the US along with links to other resources.
About Energy Audits:
The US Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Network's (EREN) Home Energy Saver web site estimates the annual energy bill for an average house in your area, and then allows you to 'customize' your house to compare ways you can reduce energy costs.
The Alliance to Save Energy's Home Energy Checkup allows you to test 14 kinds of energy efficiency choices, see how much money and pollution you can save, find out where to get energy efficient products, and get tips on how to act on your choices.
An energy audit can range from a Do-it-yourself evaluation using web sites, using a book from the library, to a complete evaluation by a professional energy auditor.
A complete energy audit by a professional auditor will include:
1. An Interview with the residents and owner.
2. A Survey of the building and evaluation of its components.
3. Computation of payback for options.
4. Discussion of the results.
An energy audit should cover the building itself, HVAC systems (heating/ventilating/air conditioning), appliances, industrial equipment, etc. A professional audit may use a thermal imaging infrared scanner to find warm/cold spots, a blower door to find air leaks, and a flue gas analyzer to check the temperature and composition of flue gasses and compute overall furnace efficiency. The evaluation can include measurements of the building size, windows, etc.; check for vapor barriers; insulation levels; cracks and leaks; HVAC maintenance and efficiency, etc.
Energy audits are available in this area through Services Toward Empowering People (STEP).
Another possibility is to contact the National Association of Energy Service Companies (NAESCO).
* The Residential Energy Services Network web site has information on energy-efficient mortgages and Home Energy Rating Systems.
* HOK, Inc. is a St. Louis-based architectural firm that is the second-largest in the world as ranked by World Architecture magazine in January 2001. They have produced a Guidebook to Sustainable Design that is helpful for architects, builders and anyone who wants to improve the built environment. If you think it's too hard to bring sustainable design ideas to a project, then read their list of 10 simple things you can do without sacrificing budget, schedule or program considerations.
* Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH) provides information on technological advances in housing.
* Sustainable Building Industry Council (SBIC) works to advance energy performance and environmental soundness of residential and commercial buildings.
* Energy & Environmental Building Association promotes energy efficient and environmentally responsible buildings and communities.
* Building Performance Network provides information for building performance contractors including a bulletin board and on-line training.
* Environmental Building News is a monthly newsletter on environmentally responsible design and construction. The web site includes product reviews, links, and news.
* DOE Office of Building Technology State and Community Programs has many links to energy related software tools for buildings.
Solar and Wind Power
Solar (photovoltaic), wind and other energy sources are available to everyone, but their cost effectiveness varies depending on the region and your individual situation.
In this region, energy costs tend to be low, so there is little economic justification for solar power systems, unless the energy is needed some distance from the public utility grid. But, there are still environmental benefits to cleaner power sources. Some experts feel that passive solar hot water heating can be beneficial in our region. For more information check out the US DOE web site.
* There are currently two main forms of PV cells, crystal wafer and thin-film. Thin-film is less expensive to produce, but has lower efficiency, so the cost is about the same.
* Environmental negatives: While the main ingredient is the silica from sand, hazardous chemicals and significant energy are used in the manufacturing process. Heavy metals are also used in the PV cells and batteries.
* Environmental positives: Reduces pollution over the life of the system when the alternative is coal, oil or nuclear-produced electricity. There are many other benefits, visit the Institute for Solar Living or some of the links below for more information.
* Costs can be lower than running utility lines to remote regions.
* Links to more resources on photovoltaic options are listed on the PV Power Resource Site.
* Financial incentives for developing solar power are available from many sources, such as the Million Solar Roofs Initiative.
Consistent winds are needed to make this option practical. Coastal regions, deserts, and open plains are good candidates. Unfortunately, most sites in the Gateway region don't have the constant winds needed to make the equipment economical at this time.
Renewable Energy Resources:
* National Renewable Energy Labs (NREL) develops and promotes renewable energy technology.
* Solar Energy Lab (SEL) develops practical applications for solar energy.
* The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is the national trade association of solar energy manufacturers, dealers, distributors, contractors and installers.
* The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) is a national trade association that represents wind power plant developers, wind turbine manufacturers, utilities, consultants, insurers, financiers, researchers, and others involved in the wind industry.
* The Clean Energy section is just a small part of the resources that the US Environmental Protection Agency has available on energy conservation, generation, pollution and other topics.
Other Thoughts on Energy Conservation
The well known slogan "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" may not seem related to energy, but reducing and reusing means energy is not needed to produce new things. Manufacturing items from recycled materials generally takes less energy than producing goods from virgin materials.
* Our Take Action on Wasted Resources page is a good starting point for recycling information.
* Transportation decisions also affect energy usage and pollution. Our Take Action on Transportation page has several suggestions.
* Our series of Simple Steps for the Environment contain more information about recycling and waste reduction for individuals, businesses, schools, and faith communities. These documents can be accessed via our Publications page.
Many common devices use more energy than we might think:
* Copiers and laser printers that don't have an automatic power saver mode are energy hogs. Most Xerographic devices must constantly heat the fuser drum, though some small units avoid this. If the device must "warm up", then it is using energy whenever it is ready to operate. Without a power saver mode, the only option is turn the unit off when not being used.
* Water bed heaters can be a large user of electricity in the home. Energy use can be easily reduced by using a timer so the heater is only on when needed, making the bed with a comforter each morning, and insulating the sides of the bed.
* Spas and hot tubs can use a tremendous amount of energy. When not in use, keep it covered with a tight-fitting insulated cover.
* Circulating pumps for hot water are designed to have hot water available without letting the faucet run to draw water from the heater. Energy is used to run the pump and is lost from the water circulating in the pipes. Make sure the pipes are well insulated and the pump is on a timer to turn it off when demand is normally low.
* Electric blankets -- consider just using more layers of traditional blankets instead.
Resources for Saving Energy:
* Services Towards Empowering People Incorporated (STEP).
* Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis.
* Heartland Renewable Energy Society promotes the use of environmentally safe, renewable energy and energy efficiency in buildings, industry and transportation for a sustainable future. We will do this through public education, professional development and advocacy.
* Gateway Center for Resource Efficiency, a division of Missouri Botanical Garden. They run the demonstration EarthWays Home.
* Alliance to Save Energy has information for consumers, educators, media and energy industry professionals, as well as a large list of other energy related web sites.
* Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance is a regional network of organizations collaborating to promote energy efficiency.
* Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation invests in clean energy development and land preservation efforts, working with communities and citizens to improve environmental quality in Illinois.
* Home Energy magazine covers heating, air conditioning, lighting, insulation, air infiltration, and other energy topics for individual and multifamily dwellings. Their site includes a list of Midwest and national training programs for home performance professionals.
* Alternative Fuels Data Center by the US Department of Energy. Information and links covering biodiesel, electric, ethanol, hydrogen, methanol, natural gas, propane and solar resources.
Twenty states have created a variety of public benefits funds that support residential energy conservation or renewable energy projects. The Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE) is a comprehensive source of information on state, local, and utility incentives that promote renewable energy. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy web sites have information on public benefit programs in individual states.
* The Missouri Energy Center's Energy Loan Program finances low-cost loans for energy efficiency projects for public K-12 schools, and local governments, and public higher education. The program provides applicants with technical and financial assistance to implement cost-effective energy-efficient upgrades. The fund was established in 1989 and has helped save over $5.5 million in energy costs along with environmental and health benefits.
* The Low-Income Weatherization Assistance Program provides federal and state funds to local agencies and organizations for permanent, cost-effective, energy-efficient weatherization improvements.
* The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity includes the Bureau of Energy and Recycling to provide Illinois citizens and businesses with technical advice, financial assistance and research support to develop and demonstrate promising technologies in energy conservation, alternative energy, recycling and waste reduction.