Editor’s note: With Earth Day approaching on April 22, we asked Solar Smart Living, LLC owner Larry Perea to give us some simple tips on how we can make our homes more energy efficient. Learn more about his local energy consulting company at SolarSmartLiving.com.
Sustainable living is possible through concepts we’re familiar with: reduce, re-use, and recycle every day and in every way possible.
When it comes to energy, focus on your home, as it is one of the recurring bills that we have to pay and ultimately keeps us from using our money for other expenses. The good news is that we do have control of how much energy our homes use. When you use electricity in your home, you’re only being delivered about 30% of the energy burned to create that electricity that you are paying for. That means that 70% of the burnt coal and natural gas goes to waste, and it’s priced into your electric bill every month. The electricity that comes from nuclear power plants have greater efficiency, but they’re a lot more expensive to operate and to de-commission at the end of their use.
The first steps to reducing your energy bill is to control its use. Use programmable thermostats for your heating and cooling. Turn off the appliances and lights you don’t need and begin to convert the lights in your home to LED lights. In the summer there is no better energy-saving investment than to install solar screens on the east and west facing windows in your home; they’ll improve the indoor comfort of your rooms and significantly reduce your air conditioning operating cost. Don’t install skylights in your home, because they let a lot of heat in during the summer months and heat out during the winter. If you still plan to use skylights, invest in the most energy-efficient model you can afford.
The second step is to install ceiling fans in your living spaces and be sure you use them. Do not switch your refrigerated air-conditioning fan on to circulate air in your home – it’s extremely expensive to do so. If you have a flat roof, consider coating it with a highly reflective white elastomeric coating. This material will reduce the amount of heat absorbed by your roof. If you have shingle roofing, be sure that the next time you get to select a color, you choose the lightest color possible to keep the roof from absorbing heat. Next is to see if you can add additional insulation to your attic, ceiling and walls.
Once you have made your home as energy efficient as possible, consider installing a solar electric system. Solar electric systems have become affordable, and there are many loans available that require no down payment. In addition, they are eligible for a 30% federal income tax credit that will reduce your overall investment cost.
Furthermore, residential solar will get you closer to energy independence and will put the security of your home’s energy supply in your hands.