Taking steps to reduce your energy use can pay off—both economically and environmentally—by reducing your utility bills and cutting your household’s greenhouse gas emissions. 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 perform an energy audit 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 10 cents per KWH—my cost for utility electricity. The projected 10-year fuel savings assumes a 10 percent rise in fuel prices each year. Converting all nonelectrical forms of energy use to KWH will allow you to compare energy savings for electricity, transportation, and heating projects on the same basis.
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
To estimate greenhouse gas savings for each project, I used the calculator at www.infinitepower.org/calc_carbon.htm.
3. Using the results of your evaluations, list all the projects that have good payoffs—both economic and environmental. Prioritize projects according to CO2 savings, and budget, time, and skill constraints.
4. Keep a file of your utility bills to review, so you can see what progress you are making. The bills can also 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.