Homes in the United States have also grown about 30% larger since 2000 while using just 2% more energy, thanks to much-improved materials and electrical equipment designed for efficiency. Here are four of the Department of Energy’s recommendations for achieving the same results in your own home:
4. Loose-Fill Fiberglass Insulation
Insulation is installed within walls, floors, and up in the attic to stop the exchange of heat with the outdoors; this helps us all keep our homes warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. However, not all insulation is made equal, and once the DoE discovered that standard loose-fill fiberglass insulation was losing about 50% of the heat in the winter, they challenged the insulation manufacturing industry to find a better alternative. After changing the design, almost 75% of US homes use the new insulation, resulting in a 5-10% savings.
3. Electric Heat Pump Water Heaters
After the DoE was founded during the 1970s, their Building Technologies Office dedicated themselves to bettering residential water heating system. By the late ’90s, they were working on electric heat pump water heaters, and by 2009, they had released the GeoSpring water heater, along with GE, into their line of ENERGY STAR products. The GeoSpring uses 62% less energy than standard water heaters.
2. Energy-Efficient Refrigerator Compressor
Much like houses, refrigerators have gotten bigger and better but use less energy than they did in 1975, thanks in part to the work of the DoE. Early in developments, researchers designed a fridge compressor that was 50% more efficient than standard models and helped consumers save $6 million between 1980 and 1990. Now, refrigerators only use 480 kWh of energy every year.
1. Beyond Double-Pane Window
Low-emissivity coatings are the key to preventing heat from escaping through the windows. They let light pass through the pane without letting heat out as well. Recently, Berkeley Labs also realized that putting an insulating gas between the panes trapped even more heat inside buildings.
It’s too bad that the path toward saving money also involves spending money. However, if you can get your hands on the start-up costs, checking and upgrading appliances and windows can lead to some big savings down the road.
Image (c) Roy Kaltschmidt, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab