MGG’s energy efficient investment: new windows!

So, we did it!  We made our first major energy efficiency investment by purchasing new windows for our home… and despite having spent some cash, I’m actually very excited.

ht escapeHome heating can account for approximately 27% of our carbon footprint and 25% of a  home’s heat escapes through windows… pretty significant, I’d say.  Our installation technician told us that he’s had customers that literally saved half on their home heating bill after installing new windows.  Sure, the windows that had to be replaced were probably a disaster(!) but I’m excited to see what kind of savings are in store for us.  It’s hard to forget that heating bill of $533 not so long ago.windows

We always put the most productive heating and cooling tips in place, (for my best home cooling tips click here or my best home heating tips click here) but I believe this is the final significant step of putting it all into place. The windows are Energy Star, Argon-filled, Double Glazed Low E glass and although those are a lot of fancy-schmancy terms, their combined definition is “efficiency!”

tx creditWith the tax credit we’ll receive and projected annual heating and cooling savings, I’ve figured that the windows should pay for themselves in about five years.   In addition, we purchased from a local owned and operated manufacturer so a minimal footprint was created to get those windows as well. I’m feeling mighty green today!

So, have you ever made a major replacement to “conserve”? What was the result? I’d love to know!

Keeping warm… while staying green.

Mother Nature has been furious lately. It’s been cold, blustery, snowy and frightful all around the country.  Even southern heat lssstates canceled school because of a quarter inch of the white stuff!

The downside (aside from the obvious) is that it’s giving all global-warming/climate change naysayers fuel and ammo for saying that “it” doesn’t exist.  I will leave that portion of the conversation out of this post and it will have to suffice to say that climate change creates the EXTREMES!… whether it be sweltering or freezing, blizzards or severe drought… THAT is the effect it creates.

Anyhow, it’s also fairly likely that furnaces are being cranked up all around the country as well. That in turn means extra energy consumption which snowballs into a lot of extra pollution too.

So, keep these tips in mind for keeping warm… while staying green:

  • Actually USE storm windows – make the time to install that extra layer of glass and it’s like you have triple panes. It can increase energy efficiency by up to 45%!
  • Adjust the thermostat – just one degree lower in the winter can save 3% on your usage.  That adds up!
  • Arrange furniture away from heating ducts and exterior walls – it allows for better circulation of heat.
  • Check out tax credits to help fund needed improvements.  See what’s available here.
  • Close the damper on your fireplace – leaving it open is equivalent to leaving a 48 inch window wide open in your home all winter long!  This can amount to hundreds of dollars in heat loss in a season.  Also consifirplceder glass doors on your fireplace as opposed to screens.
  • Cover floors – hardwood and ceramic look fantastic but they actually cool a room.  Add area rugs, even if only temporarily.
  • Do the “feel test” – feel around windows and doors.  If you feel the cold coming in, the heat is also going out.  Buy some weather stripping and put a rolled towel at the bottom of drafty doors.
  • Give your furnace a “check-up” – just like anything else, they sometimes need a little fine-tuning to run most efficiently.
  • Give ventilation fans some time off – a kitchen or bathroom vent fan can expel enough warm air to fill a whole house in only ONE hour!
  • Heat only the rooms you use – shut the door, close and seal the vent and stop heating vacant rooms.
  • Insulate, insulate, insulate – if you can afford one improvement, add insulation.  The heat that escapes due to lacking or improperly installed insulation is outrageous! (This one qualifies for tax credits too!)
  • Open blinds and curtains in the daytime and close them at night – the sunlight can help warm our home and covering windows in the evening can help insulate them.
  • Properly seal ducts – statistics say that up to 30% of heat can be lost through improperly sealedthermostt duct work!
  • Replace your air filter and clean vents and ducts – too much build-up prevents the heat from even reaching your rooms.
  • Reverse ceiling fans – heat rises, so run them on low in reverse and bring the warm air that rises back down to where it’s needed.
  • Turn down the thermostat when you’re away from home for an extended period or during overnight hours – if you have a programmable thermostat, put it to work.

So “fight the freezies” and “battle the brrrr”, but just make sure to “check the checklist” to keep it green. And if all else fails to keep you toasty enough, grab your favorite sweater and snuggle up! (A bottle of nice organic wine does wonders too!)

Prep your home for “away” before vacation “play”!

lampSometimes it’s easy to get so consumed with planning and preparing for a vacation that we forget about the home we’re leaving behind.

Before you leave, your house needs some special attention so it doesn’t continue to over-consume in your absence.  When you think about everything that’s drawing energy on a daily basis (and the things that an empty house doesn’t need), it’s time for a checklist.

Here are a few simple (and possibly overlooked) ideas to keep your home green while you vacation:

  • Turn off your air conditioning or, in the winter months, turn the heat to 55 degrees.
  • Make sure ceiling fans are turned off.fridge
  • Unplug nearly everything… computers, TVs, appliances, microwaves, lamps, coffee makers, all of it!  Look at every outlet in your house and most things can be unplugged in your absence.
  • Install timers on a few lights so your home still appears lived-in but they won’t glow 24 hours a day.
  • Dial down the temperature or switch off the breaker on your water heater.
  • Clear out as much food as possible in your refrigerator and freezer.  Less content means less to cool.

That’s all it takes.  A checklist and a little extra time and you can keep it green while you play away!

Are you keeping up with “The Greens”?

I’ve never been someone who loses sleep over “keeping up with the Joneses”… or “The Greens”, for that matter!  I’ve made that perfectly clear when I admitted that I have gnarly trees in my yard (that I refuse to cut down) and how 42-19599600my lawn is not nearly as pristine as the one next door since we’ve stopped chemically fertilizing and weed killing and refuse to clear our backyard of trees so the lawn can be greener!

But what if you WERE compared to your neighbors?  What if your utility company said you “weren’t being as green as your neighbors”?  What if you got a letter, with a frowning face, that said you were being wasteful?  GASP!  Who me?

As crazy as that sounds, it’s actually happening.  Utility companies in some cities, including Sacramento, CA, and Austin, MN, are sending homeowners assessments of their energy consusmiley-not-facemption that compare them to neighbors with like-sized homes and energy supplies.  If you rank lower than average, you get a “smiley face”… if not, a big “frowny face!”  And amazingly, it’s working.  They are actually seeing a reduction in energy use by those who receive a dreaded negative rating!

smiley-faceI really think I would go nuts if I found out my “tree chopping” neighbor consumed less energy than me.  Sure there are a lot of factors to consider, but still!… it lends itself to the whole psychology of being compared to someone else, and that just might light a bigger “green” fire under me! I would consider it a huge challenge to keep up with the “smiley face” neighbors!

So where do you think you would rate? Would you want to know?

Heat loss… energy waste… and a bill to break the bank.

thermostatThis post was inevitable.  And it felt like a punch in the stomach when I received our latest home heating bill… $533 and the intense sensation of wanting to vomit.

Eighteen dollars a day to NOT shiver and shake in our home.  Not only does this hurt the wallet, but it wastes energy… and then has that ugly snowball effect of what excessive energy consumption creates: excessive air pollution.

There are plenty of things we can do to cut back on our usage, from properly insulating our homes, to replacing windows and doors, to purchasing a more efficient system, but these can be expensive choices.  If they aren’t an option for you, there are still inexpensive and even cost-free changes that can be made:

Close the damper on your fireplace – leaving it open is equivalent to leaving a 48 inch window wide open in your home all winter long!  It can amount to hundreds of dollars in heat loss.  Also consider glass doors as opposed to screens.
Adjust the thermostat – just one degree lower in the winter can save 3% on your usage.  That adds up over a season.
Open blinds and curtains in the daytime and close them at night – the sunlight can help warm our home and covering windows in the evening can help insulate them.
Actually USE storm windows – make the time to add that extra layer of glass and it’s like you have triple panes.heat-loss-logo
Heat only the rooms you use – shut the door, close the vent and say ‘no heat for you!’
When you’re away from home for an extended period, turn down the thermostat – this is a no-brainer, but sometimes we all forget.  If you have a programmable thermostat, use it!
Forget vent fans – a kitchen or bathroom vent fan can expel enough warm air to fill a whole house in only ONE hour!
Do the “feel test” – feel around windows and doors.  If you feel the cold coming in, the heat is also going out.  Buy some weather stripping.
Arrange furniture away from heating ducts and exterior walls – it allows for better circulation of heat.
Replace your air filter and clean vents and ducts – too much dust build-up prevents the heat from even reaching your rooms.
Cover floors – hardwood and ceramic can be beautiful but it actually cools a room.  Add area rugs, even if only for the season.
Reverse ceiling fans – heat rises, so run them for a 5-minute blast and re-circulate the warm air.

If you want to know all things energy-related, visit the U.S. Department of Energy but in the meanwhile, if you’re feeling the urge to vomit like I am, turn some tips into actions!