Reducing your energy use can pay off—both economically and environmentally. Follow these four easy steps to start saving.
1. Conduct a home energy audit and make a list of potential projects to reduce your household energy use. Many utilities will send out a technician, often for free, to assess your home’s efficiency and provide a report and recommendations for efficiency upgrades. If you’re off the grid, or your utility doesn’t offer audits, you can hire a pro to perform an energy audit or do it yourself, using the online Home Energy Saver program (see Access).
2. Estimate the cost, energy savings, time and degree of difficulty, and greenhouse gas reduction for each project. For this article’s projects, financial savings in fuel in the first year are based on the projected kilowatt-hours (KWH) saved, and multiplied by $0.079 per KWH—equivalent to my cost for propane, which we use to heat our home. The projected 10-year fuel savings assumes a 10 percent rise in fuel prices each year. Converting all nonelectrical forms of the energy to KWH will allow you to compare energy savings for electricity, transportation, and heating projects on the same basis. To estimate greenhouse gas savings for each project, I used the calculator at www.infinitepower.org.
Some handy conversion factors:
1 KWH = 3,412 Btu
1 gal. of propane = 92,000 Btu or 27 KWH
1 therm of natural gas = 100,000 Btu or 29.3 KWH
1 gal. of gasoline = 125,000 Btu or 36.6 KWH
1 gal. of heating oil = 139,000 Btu or 40.7 KWH
3. Prioritize projects according to CO2 savings, and time, budget, and skill constraints.
4. Keep a file of your utility bills to review, so you can see what progress you are making. The bills also can be used to demonstrate your home’s improved energy efficiency if you plan to sell it, and may be needed to claim rebates or tax credits.
The combined result of 100 million American families, each targeting a 20-ton reduction in CO2 emissions, would reduce total U.S. CO2 emissions by about 25 percent.