25 bright ideas for energy efficiency

By: Matt Grocoff , Contributing Writer
In: Green Renovations

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has published a list of 25 Bright Ideas for Energy Efficiency. According the IEA, energy efficiency starts at home. They are inviting everyone to follow #25brightideas and @IEA on Twitter all month for helpful tips to save energy at home.

The first step is to track your monthly energy costs. If you take this suggestion as seriously as you would take the cost of your mortgage or rent, you'll track your 30-year energy costs. Accounting for inflation, the average American household will spend over a half million dollars for energy for their home and car. Paying attention to this list could save you tons of money and help you make choices about where to invest in home improvement.

Here's a sample of some of the ways you can save at home. Send me a Tweet and let me know some of your Bright Ideas.

  • Insulate and seal the "envelope" of your home. That means insulating every wall. floor or ceiling that connects to the outdoors. Good insulation also helps reduce noise.

Zero energy building tip: Old homes are perfect targets for adding insulation. Many old homes have zero insulation. Almost all of them are under-insulated. Watch this video about what we did to insulate our historic Victorian and achieve net zero energy.

  • If you're building a new house, maximize comfort and energy savings by positioning the house with a long wall facing south. This helps capture sun in winter to warm your house. Then make sure the windows are shaded when the sun is high in the sky in the summer.

Zero energy building tip: Better yet . . . Don't build a new house. Find a wonderful old home with great bones and make it more efficient. There are some great deals on old homes that are in need of efficiency upgrades. You can take the savings in purchase price and do a deep energy retrofit. During the worst housing market ever, we were able to restore our Victorian and still come out almost $100,000 above water after the cost of the rehab.

  • For your existing home, follow these simple steps to save energy:

Set your thermostat to 68F in the winter and 72F or higher in the summer. These are healthy temperatures for your family. Your water tanks should not be set higher than 120F. In fact, higher water temperatures can cause scalding.

Zero energy building tip: You can improve the performance of your heater and air conditioner by 25 percent by buying the new breed of Smart Thermostats like an Ecobee or Nest. Listen to my story on Public Radio about smart thermostats.

In winter, keep your curtains closed at night to keep heat in. In summer, keep your windows open to flush the house of the hot air and bring in the cool night air.

Buy some caulk and go nuts. Seal all the gaps around doors and window panes to eliminate draft.

Wrap your hot water pipes to keep them hot. Wrap your hot water tank in an insulating blanket available at the hardware store. It'll pay for itself in a few months.

  • When renting or buying a home, condo or apartment, look for buildings with a LEED, Energy Star or Living Buildings certification.
Homes that meet these strict certifications are healthier, more cozy and cost much less in energy bills.
  • Get the best performance out of your appliances, heater, and air conditioner:

Have your furnace and A/C serviced every year and consider a service plan to keep tabs on all your appliances. This will help it last for many years and keep your bills lower and keep you cozier.

Zero energy building tip: Consider upgrading your old heating system to a modern and ultra-efficient geothermal heating and cooling system. It will cost a bit more up front. But, it's so much more efficient that it will pay for itself many times over in comfort, energy savings, and cost savings.

Read the full list of 25 Bright Ideas for Energy Efficiency on the IEA website.