My Green Home Project…

As I mentioned in my prior blog, we purchased, remodeled a home, and for the most part moved into it.  We had three priorities in selecting what to do for remodeling.  As it was an older home, our first priority was doing what had to be done to modernize it.  The second priority is doing what we wanted to do per our tastes and lifestyle, and the third priority was to make our home as energy efficient as practical and cost beneficial.  

Our remodel started with a lot of learning and planning.  For me it was a project and my wife and I played dual roles as project manager and team member depending on what we were deciding upon.  For the most part we generally knew what we wanted to do and as I said in my last blog my wife and I continually made a revised scope of items based on what we learned but the third priority of energy efficiency (and conservation) did make for a more rounded out discussion and changed our decision on several items.

As our new home was an older home we knew other than the existing wood flooring (that we liked) everything was subject to change.  The kitchen looking like the cover of a 1970’s Better Homes and Gardens magazine needed a complete remodel so in selecting appliances we looked for the most energy efficient.  They all now have that tag of ‘Energy Star’ label which is an international standard for energy efficient consumer products. 

We replaced all exterior single pane windows with triple pane ones that have three pieces of glass with an argon gas in between that mirrors close the insulation a structural wall provides.

The existing air conditioner was a ten year old SEER 10 rated unit.  ‘SEER’ stands for ‘Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating’ and the bottom line is he higher the SEER rating the less it’s going to cost you to run it.  Currently a SEER 13 is the minimal efficiency sold and we purchased a 16 SEER unit which although you can go up to a SEER 21 seemed the most cost effective / beneficial for our needs.  In most homes your AC/Heat pump uses the most energy annually so a good first consideration.  Currently in the United States there are some tax exemptions that also help.

We also added ceiling fans in every room and replaced all lighting with CFL (Compact Fluorescent Light) which provide the same light brightness for about 20% of the power (a 65 watt CFL bulb uses the same power a 13 watt incandescent light does).

We replaced all the electrical switches and outlets from those old ivory colored ones to the bright white decorator style.  In doing so we sealed with spray foam above the junction box in the wall, put insulation on the cover, sealed around the cover, and placed plug stops in all the unused plugs (same parents with infant children use to help child proof the home.

Our existing water heater was fairly new so we had the unit serviced, turned down the operating temperature, installed heat traps and insulated the piping and the outer tank with a blanket.  In most homes your water heater uses the second most energy annually so best to optimize it.

Lastly, for energy savings, we reinsulated the attic to R39.  The ‘R #’ means that it will take about that many hours for the temperature on one side to be the same on the other side.  So ‘R39’ meant 39 hours.  Higher ‘R’ is always better.

Keep in mind we repainted, modified bathrooms & closets, and did a lot of other aesthetic work but for the most part we incorporated good energy savings intelligence to all that we did.

As a result based on information provided by the prior home owner and the utility company I’ve calculated a reduction from 60.0 to 43.5 average kWh (kilo watt-hours) used.  Additional I changed my on peak/off peak billing usage with the utility company to better fit our schedules.  In summary the ‘energy efficiency’ spending was $13,000 USD or about one third of the total cost.  I calculate I saved ~ $850 USD per year on my electric bill and taking into inflation expected increased utility costs about a 13 year payback.

This was good but we were not done.  As we had reduced our electrical utility cost of the ‘bottoms up’ approach it was next to look at reducing our utility bill from the tops down.  To that end, we investigated a home solar power system and purchased PIF for 20 year lease.  The solar power system will reduce our daily kWh on average by 21 kWh therefore our daily kWh consumption is ~24.  This equates to anther $1060 USD per year saved and the ROI (Return On Investment) is about a 6 year payback.   

Though this personal project is about completed I’ve learned a lot about ways to reduce my utility bill with this green home project and keep looking for new products and methods to further increase my savings.  What’s been an unexpected benefit is my wife’s interest and new found expertize that she shares with her friends.  This situation constantly keeps me always in answer mode but it’s good to pass on knowledge and experience for the benefit of others.  I hope this blog also contributes…