Do-It-Yourself

  • 25 Simple Energy Efficiency Tips

    Making your home energy efficient may seem daunting, but here are 25 simple tips to help you get started saving money and conserving energy in your home.

    1. Limit shower length to 5-7 minutes.
    2. Install low-flow shower heads.
    3. Repair dripping faucets.
    4. Select the cold-water cycle when washing clothes.
    5. Clean your dryer’s lint trap before each use.
    6. Line dry clothes instead of using a clothes dryer.
    7. Set the refrigerator temperature to 34 degrees to 37 degrees Fahrenheit and freeze temperature to 0 degrees to -5 degrees Fahrenheit.
    8. Use a microwave for cooking when possible.
    9. Put lids on pots to help food cook faster when cooking on a range.
    10. Use hot water instead of cold water when used for cooking.
    11. Simmer foods in a slow cooker instead of on the stove.
    12. Choose the air-dry cycle instead of heat-dry cycle on your dishwasher.
    13. Replace any light bulb that burns more than one hour a day with its compact fluorescent bulb equivalent.
    14. Turn off computers and monitors when not in use.
    15. Unplug battery chargers when not in use.
    16. Purchase new or replace old appliances with ones that are ENERGY STAR® approved.
    17. Set thermostats to 78 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, 68 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter.
    18. Change HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) filters monthly.
    19. When installing new air filters, make sure they are facing the correct direction (look for the arrow on the side of the filter.
    20. Close fireplace dampers when not burning a fire.
    21. Do not close supply air registers and vents.
    22. Weather strip windows and doors properly.
    23. Insulate your attic door access.
    24. Minimize use of electric space heaters.
    25. Always operate your HVAC system fan on “auto” to use less electricity and increase your air conditioner’s ability to remove moisture.
  • Beat the Heat with these Energy Efficiency Tips

     

    As we quickly approach the onset of summer, many of us are excited about our family vacations that we’ve been planning all year long. However, some of us will be pondering ideas to create the most amazing staycations we can afford. Whatever the case may be, CAEC is here to help you be more efficient, saving your energy dollars so you can use them for summer activities.

    One of the major proponents of high energy consumption can be your heat pump. Statistics show that heat pumps account for a little over half (54 percent) of the average home’s utility costs. With that in mind, it’s a great time to look at some “no and low” cost tips to keep the cool air in and the warm air out. cooling graphic

    First, help keep your unit running at peak performance—the better it can do its job, the less energy it will use. Simply changing or cleaning your air filters at least once a month and ensuring the outside unit is clear of debris, such as leaves and lawn clippings, can help. You can go a step further by having your unit serviced by a trained HVAC technician. A pre-summer tune up can not only increase efficiency, but also help identify potential issues before they turn into a major, and costly, problem when the summer heat is on.

    Second, check out your unit’s thermostat. Make sure the fan switch is on “auto” to save energy. Leaving it in the “on” position keeps air running constantly and using energy. As temperatures rise, try setting your thermostat at 78 degrees, which will feel great compared to the 90 degree plus outside temperatures as well as help save on cooling costs. You can have even more control by installing a programmable thermostat, which will allow you to adjust the indoor temperature during the day.

    Once you have your unit running efficiently, keep that climate controlled air inside your home by checking for household leaks and make sure air isn’t escaping through any openings such as fireplace dampers, doors and windows. If you can see light around your doors and windows, it might be a good time to invest in weather stripping to better insulate your home’s interior climate.

    Cooling costs are determined by comfort, and installing ceiling fans, which use no more electricity than a standard light bulb, can help you feel cooler and use less HVAC dollars. Make sure you turn the blades in a counter-clockwise direction in the summer and turn them off when you leave—since fans are meant to cool people and not the actual room temperature.
    lighting chart
    Another way to reduce heat and increase efficiency in your home is to replace burnt out incandescent bulbs with new energy efficient CFL’s or LED light bulbs. Not only do CFL and LED bulbs use 75-80 percent less energy than incandescent and last about 10-25 times longer, they produce less heat than incandescent bulbs, which use 90 percent of their energy producing heat.

    When the whole family gets involved in the process, this will not only result in savings, it will also produce better energy habits. It is our desire to help you achieve the best value for the energy dollars you spend, allowing you to beat the heat and invest your savings in summertime family memories.

  • How to Clean Your Refrigerator Coils

    It’s an appliance you use every minute of every day, whether you’re home or not—your refrigerator. Refrigerators are a vital part of our household, but they can also be significant users of electricity. To help your refrigerator run at its optimal efficiency, you should clean its coils annually, or every six months if you have pets in the home. The coils often trap dust and hair and when this clings to the coils, it reduces your refrigerator’s ability to run at its peak performance level, thus using more electricity than it should.

    Tools:
    Screwdriver
    Vacuum Cleaner with Brush Attachment
    Warm Water
    Sponge

    Cleaning Your Fridge’s Coils:

    1. Unplug your refrigerator and pull it away from the wall for easy access.

    2. Locate your refrigerator’s coils. In older models they can often be found on the back of the unit. Coils in newer models may be located in the front on the bottom of the unit located behind the kick plate.

    3. If necessary, use the screwdriver to remove the back cover or kick plate to access the coils.

    4. Use the vacuum cleaner with brush attachment to remove any accumulated dust, hair, debris from the coils.

    5. If there is still remaining dirt or grime, use the warm water and sponge to gently remove from the coils.

    6. If removed in step three, replace the back cover or kick plate.

    7. Plug in your refrigerator and replace to its original position.

    With refrigerators comprising an average of 9 percent of a home’s energy usage, it’s important to keep it running at peak efficiency. Also, remember to keep your refrigerator’s temperature setting between 35 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit and your freezer at 0 degrees Fahrenheit to help reduce energy consumption. And if you’re looking to buy a new unit, look for the ENERGY STAR label.

  • How Renters can Fight the Winter Chill

    According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 33 percent of Americans lease their homes. Unfortunately, many lease agreements forbid major alterations to rental properties. But don’t worry, renters! Consider using these low-cost, energy-efficient tips from CAEC to improve the efficiency of your home this winter.

    Hot savings

    Heating the home typically makes up about 48 percent of your utility bill. Set your thermostat as low as is comfortable in the winter – Energy.gov recommends 68 degrees Fahrenheit to boost energy efficiency.

    During the winter months, take advantage of heat from sunlight. Open draperies and shades during the day to allow natural light to heat your home. Remember to close them in the evenings as the temperature drops and windowpanes become chilly.

    Does your home have window air conditioning units? This winter, remember to insulate the units from the outside with a tight-fitting cover, available at your local home improvement center or hardware store. This keeps heated air from escaping outside. If desired, you can remove the window unit during winter months to prevent energy loss.

    Another way to save on heating is to make sure your water heater is set at the lowest comfortable setting. Have you experienced scalding hot water when taking a shower? If so, it’s likely that your water heater is set too high – which is a waste of energy. Older models of water tanks are often not insulated, which can be easily remedied by covering them with an insulating jacket.

    Bright ideas

    Lighting is one of the easiest places to start saving energy, and savings are not strictly limited to winter months. Try replacing a few of your most frequently used light bulbs with ENERGY STAR-qualified lights, and save more than $65 a year in energy costs. ENERGY STAR-qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) use 75 percent less energy and last several times longer than incandescent light bulbs, saving money on energy bills and replacement costs. Practicing energy-efficient habits is another great way to reduce energy use. Always turn off your lights when leaving a room.

     

  • Treescaping

    A great opportunity to save energy is by properly selecting and planting trees around your home. Referred to as “treescaping,” the art of selecting and maintaining trees for a specific purpose or area, you can save up to 25 percent of your household energy consumption for heating and cooling. Tree species and proper placement are critical to energy-savings effectiveness. Below are instructions to help you in this decision-making process and steps on how to appropriately plant a tree:

    Supplies:

    Tree

    Potting Soil or Compost

    Mulch (organic materials)

    Tools:

    Shovel

    Water hose

    Tape measure

    Bolt cutters/metal snips

    Compass (optional)

    Treescaping:

    1. For maximum energy savings, plant deciduous trees (those with seasonal leaves) to provide shade and block heat in the summertime while allowing sunlight for your home during the winter. Plant these trees on the west and south sides of your home for best results.
    2. For energy efficiency in the winter, plant evergreens on the north and west sides of your home. A well placed windbreak can reduce wind velocity by 80 percent.
    3. Utilize the sun or a compass for determining the correct direction to place your trees.

    How to Plant Your Tree:

    1. Before you begin to dig, call 811 and make sure the area is free from underground utility lines.
    2. Dig a hole in the soil as deep as the root ball and twice as wide.
    3. Mix compost or potting soil with the soil removed from the hole if your soil is very heavy or sandy.
    4. Remove the tree from its container, gently freeing its roots.
    5. If the root ball is surrounded by burlap or wire, remove this before planting.
    6. Place the tree in the hole so that it sits at its original soil line.
    7. Firmly, but gently fill the hole half full of the removed soil.
    8. Water well, then fill to the top with soil.
    9. Form a shallow basin around the tree and fill it at least three times with water.
    10. Cover the ground around the new tree with four inches of mulch, keeping mulch away from the trunk.
    11. Take care of your tree – keep it well watered for the first year, twice a week is typically sufficient.

    Be sure to make safety your top priority and don’t plant near power lines. Before you dig, call 811.

  • Caulking to Stop Air Leaks

    We all want our home to be energy efficient, and according to the U.S. Department of Energy, drafts are responsible for the loss of between 5-30 percent of a home’s energy. Keeping tight seals around your doors and windows is a simple and cost-effective way to help reduce power bills.

    Supplies:

    Latex Paintable Caulk

    Tools:

    Standard Caulking Gun

    Putty Knife

    Scissors or Knife

    Towel

    Directions:

    Caulking compounds vary in strength, properties and prices. For a long-lasting seal, choose permanently waterproof, flexible, shrink-crack-proof 100 percent silicone (specifically for doors and windows), and if you are painting, try paintable silicone. For this project, we will caulk around a door frame.

    1. Before you apply the caulk, wipe down the surface with a damp cloth to remove any residue or dirt; then strip or scrape old caulk out of the gap or crack.
    2. Take the tube of caulk and cut the tip at a 45 degree angle. 
    3. Pierce the seal on the cartridge to allow the caulk to flow evenly. 
    4. Insert the tube of caulk into the caulking gun.
    5. Start applying a bead of caulking to the areas you have prepared, squeezing evenly, and with consistent pressure and speed to control the rate at which the caulk leaves the tube. 
    6. Complete a section at a time and smooth out the caulking with the tip of your finger.

    Note: The trick to a good caulking job is to hold it at a consistent angle and draw the bead continuously rather than in a stop-and-start fashion. Then release the trigger before pulling the gun away to avoid excess caulk oozing out.

    Caulk forms a flexible seal for cracks, gaps or joints less than one quarter-inch wide. Making smart choices like caulking to stop air seepage throughout your home can help you save energy and money.

     

  • How to Weather Strip a Door

    Does your home have air leaks or “drafts”? Regardless of the term you use, such conditions can significantly raise your energy bill and make your house uncomfortable.

    A common area for air leaks is found around doors. To inspect doors for leaks, see if you can rattle them – movement means possible air infiltration. If you can see daylight around a door frame, then the door leaks. You can usually seal these small openings by weather stripping them. In less than 15 minutes and $15 dollars, you can help protect your home from unwanted air. Here are the tools and supplies you’ll need for weather stripping a door:

    Supplies: Self Adhesive Foam Weather stripping Door Sweep kit (includes screws)

    Tools: Clean Towel Spray Cleaner (like the kind for counters) Scissors Utility Knife Tape Measure Screwdriver Drill

    Directions: Doors require two different kinds of weather stripping: sweeps for the bottom and self-adhesive foam for the top and sides.

    Installing Self-Adhesive Foam

    1. Clean the stop-moulding with a cleaner and dry completely.

    2. Cut self-adhesive foam to fit each side and the top of the door. Also, you may need to split the stripping into two portions.

    3. Peel the back from the foam and press it into the inside of the stop-moulding.

    Installing a Door Sweep

    1. Measure the bottom of the door.

    2. Cut the sweep to fit the door, using a utility knife and/or scissors.

    3. Holding the stop up to the door, mark where the screw holes of the stop are.

    4. Drill holes in the door at the designated marks.

    5. With the door closed, screw the sweep to the door so the bottom of the fin is in contact with the floor.

    When finished, sit back and enjoy the energy savings of stopping cold air from entering your home in the winter, and warm air from infiltrating in the summer—a year full of savings in one simple project!

  • Do It Yourself Attic Insulation

    Have you looked in your attic lately? Insulation in your attic is an essential component to help keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. While the cooler temperatures are making your attic more comfortable, it’s the perfect time of year to re-apply attic insulation before the hot summer heat arrives.

    There are numerous types of insulation to choose from, and each has a different method of installation. The example below uses cellulose–an easy “do it yourself” process.

    Supplies:
    Cellulose Insulation

    Tools:
    Insulation Blower
    Machine
    Gloves
    Goggles
    Breathing Masks

    Directions: Purchase the cellulose insulation at your local hardware store where you should also be able to rent an insulation blower. The amount you need will depend on the square footage of your home and the thickness of the existing insulation. Make sure the thickness of your insulation (including any existing insulation) is between 12 and 15 inches, which should give you an R-value of 38. You will need at least one person to assist you in applying the insulation.

    Installing Cellulose Attic Insulation:

    1. Place the insulation and the blower machine outdoors. DO NOT operate the machine indoors.

    2. Take the blower’s tube up into the attic with you (through a window or door in the house). Make sure you are outfitted with gloves, goggles and a breathing mask.

    3. Have the person (also outfitted with gloves, goggles and a breathing mask) stationed near the blower machine begin to feed it with the loose, cellulose insulation, one bale at a time. When ready, this person will also control the flow of the insulation by using an on/off switch or a lever that allows insulation to pass through.

    4. In the attic, sweep the blower’s tube in the locations where you desire the insulation. When finished, have the person stationed with the blower turn off the machine.

    On average, an 1,800 square foot house will take approximately four hours to complete at a cost of $500. Prices and times may vary due to retailers, square footage and depth of existing insulation. On a house with little or no pre-existing insulation, adding more—and doing it yourself—can help make your home more comfortable and provide some cost savings to your power bill.