Lots of Little Carbons
One of the biggest contributions made directly by individuals to greenhouse gas emissions in our society is from energy use within the home. Here in Boulder, we recently voted to tax ourselves on energy usage and to use the income to fight global warming. One of the items this income is being spent on is home energy audits. We decided this was a good idea for our household, and recently had an audit.
The audit cost us $150 after the subsidy (which was $125). The energy auditor came to our house on a recent morning and spent about two hours performing the various tests and measurements, and going over the results with us. They also provided us with a written report a few days later.
What did we find?
- We heat our house and water and cook with natural gas. Our gas usage is significantly below average.
- Our house is very well sealed (actually it is tighter than recommended).
- We installed excellent windows throughout our house when we first moved in.
- We installed a very high-efficiency furnace a couple years ago.
- However, there is room for improvement
- Our attic insulation is very hodgepodge, good in some places, completely missing in others. Redoing the insulation would give us a good savings.
- Our water heater is nearing its end of life. The next step would be to go with a tankless heater instead of a standard tank. This would be a significant investment, and the payback would be several years.
- Our electricity use is significantly higher than average.
- Cutting our usage down to average would save us the cost of the audit in the first year.
- We've already done some of the easy stuff, like replacing light bulbs with more efficient compact fluorescent bulbs.
- There is a pretty high base draw even when we aren't doing anything.
- We have three home offices (we both work from home, plus our home computer). That's three computers, printers, phones, etc., that are always drawing power. Turning them off at least at night, or using hibernate mode, should help significantly. Of course, the several minutes each time you turn off and back on one of these computers is a significant trade-off, and we'll have to see where that ends up.
- The equipment in our home gym is plugged in and drawing power even when we're not using it. We installed a power strip, plugged everything into the strip, and now we leave everything unpowered except when we're using it.
- The entertainment system in our home gym was drawing power all the time even when not in use. We plugged everything but the cable box into a power strip and turned that off as well. Now when you are going to work out you just flip on two power strips and you are ready to go.
- The entertainment system in our family room is also constantly powered. That will take a bit more work. We unplugged the VCR (duh!) and the broken DVD player. The cable box and TiVo need constant power, but the rest should be able to live on a power strip with a bit of rewiring. However, that probably won't be as clean, as I think the amplifier gets a bit confused when it loses and regains power.