Americans are spoiled by today's ridiculously low energy costs. When gas prices rose above $4.00/gal we noticed but do you realize that $4/gal is cheap compared to gas prices around the world?
Energy prices will soar again. The US government is continually raising the bar for energy efficient products. The 2009 Federal Tax Credits for Consumer Energy Efficiency forced window and door manufacturers to scramble to improve their products to meet higher standards. At My Handyman we worked with our supplier to replace new basement windows installed in April, to insure our customer received the promised tax credit.
Every American has an opportunity to reduce their energy use. The challenge is prioritizing where you invest. For most Americans, energy consumption includes your car(s), home and a growing number of appliances from traditional refrigerators and televisions to computers, Wii, cell phones and more. For this article, we'll focus on your home and the energy consumed by your home's basic electrical, plumbing and heating systems along with kitchen and laundry appliances.
Reducing Home Energy Consumption
Energy saving should always start with changing personal habits. You can reduce energy usage by turning lights off when you leave a room and don't forget to adjust room temperatures when you leave for work or go to bed. You'll save energy by waiting to run the washing machine and dishwasher until they're full. Storm doors can help reduce the loss of warm/cool air that escapes when children forget to close an exterior door. Many of these tips are obvious once you start looking more closely at how energy is used.
To help you recognize home energy usage, this chart shows where your energy dollars get used. Heating and cooling together consume 43% of your home's energy budget so reducing this budget item can have a significant impact on your annual home maintenance costs. More surprising are the high costs to light your home (11%) and provide hot water for showers, laundry and more (12%).
With this knowledge you can better assess which of the products eligible for the Federal Home Energy Tax Credits make sense for your home. Not all products are eligible for the tax credit and you are limited to a credit of $1,500 for your principal residence, once for 2009 and 2010. For each product family there are energy efficiency standards that must be met, and manufacturers are required to document these via the ENERGY STAR labels which you should save to document your investment.
You don't need to be an expert on energy standards. The terminology is difficult to understand, and almost impossible to remember unless you're using in frequently. The energy efficiency concepts are worth understanding.
- Heat loss – There are many different metrics to measure how well a product prevents heat flow (in and out). For windows, the 2 metrics required for ENERGY STAR qualification are the U-factor which measures how well a product prevents heat from escaping (<= 0.30) and the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC; must be <= 0.30) which measures how much solar radiation is getting through the glass. Insulation uses a different metric, the R-value which measures insulation’s ability to resist heat traveling through it and the recommended R-value is based on where you live (recommended insulation R-values).
- Fuel efficiency – Cars that burn gasoline more efficiently get more miles/gallon. This same concept applies to many of your home appliances. Home heating systems that burn fuel have one or more metrics, the common one being the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) and the values differ depending on the type of fuel being burned.
Ready to take advantage of the energy tax credit due to expire at the end of 2010? Start your research here with overviews of:
- Baby It's Cold In Here: How to Stay Warm (or Cool) Inside – Learn about products that reduce heat loss, that are eligible for Federal Energy Tax Credits.
- Find Energy Efficient Products that Save You Money Now and Forever – Learn about today's Federal Tax Credits can help you invest today in furnaces, hot water heaters and more, to reduce future energy demands.
- Join Energy Trailblazers Who Are Harnessing Nature's Energy – To fuel new technologies, the US government is offering 30% tax credits with no upper limit through 2016. Learn more about geothermal heat pumps, wind turbines and solar energy systems.