Tips on energy savings this summer
We have solar panels on our roof, so a lot of people ask me about them as they consider how to decrease their electric bill. As much as I love solar panels, most people should not install solar panels until they have done a lot more energy conservation in their home first. That way, if they do end up installing solar panels, the sun will power a much greater percentage of their electricity usage.
So where do you start? With my parent's home, which was built in 1973 and remodeled in 1997, I started with two major energy hogs that are easier to replace than furnaces: refrigerators and lights.
For refrigerators, there is an online calculator to estimate your annual savings from replacing an old refrigerator. I plugged in a top/bottom model made before 1980, and the savings would be about $1,600 per year (at Minnesota utility rates). A high-end new Frigidaire Energy Star rated fridge/freezer costs $2,300, so the payback is 1.5 years. (For local Xcel Energy customers, Xcel will rebate homeowners $35 for replacing their fridge and take the old one away!)
For lighting, they have many recessed 60-100 watt cans. Aesthetically, you can't just pull out the bulb and replace it with a CFL. I'm a huge fan of LEDs, because not only is there no mercury, but LEDs are much more efficient even than CFLs. So, they are replacing the entire recessed can with 12-watt LED retrofit cans. The lights are dimmable and produce a nice, warm, diffused light. If a room of ten 100-watt lights is replaced, assuming the lights are on for one hour a day, that equates to a savings of 321 killowatt hours per year.
Both of these suggestions require some investment, but they do not require any other sacrifice. Of course, if you want to sacrifice your comfort, just don't turn on the air conditioning!
Melissa Rappaport Schifman Melissa provides sustainability consulting services for businesses in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Melissa is also the founder of Green Intention LLC, where she writes and blogs about her experience in getting her own home LEED Gold certified--and then trying to live more sustainably in the home. She chairs her congregations Task Force for Sustainability, has her MBA, Master's in Public Policy, and is a LEED AP for Homes. www