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Wednesday, January 04 2012

Washing clothes by hand and hanging them to dry is the most energy-saving approach to laundry in terms of electricity. But let’s get real. Most of us don’t have the personal energy to hand-wash and air-dry all of our clothes!

You most likely spend hundreds of dollars per year on electricity to wash and dry your clothes, but it’s easy to save electricity in your laundry room with some simple tricks. In addition, you’ll also make your clothes last longer.

Wash Right

  • Use cold water. Did you know that about 90% of the electricity consumed by your washing machine is used simply to heat water? Given that, you can save a lot of electricity by washing your clothes in cold water. This also keeps colors bright, reduces wrinkling and won’t set stains.


  • Although you may find that regular detergent is sufficient, try out cold-water detergents that are specifically formulated to work in cooler temperatures.


  • Run a full load. The machine will use the same amount of mechanical energy, regardless of how full it is. If you don't run a full load, be sure to set the water level for the amount of laundry you are running.


  • Use energy-saving settings. Avoid the excessively hot “sanitary cycle,” but do choose the “high spin” option to cut down on drying time. And don’t wash for longer than you need to – some loads only need 10 minutes of washing.


  • Set your water heater to 120 degrees F (instead of the usual 140 F) so you can save energy even when washing clothes in hot or warm water.


    Get Smart about Drying

  • Sort similar fabrics together, starting with a load of fast-drying fabrics, and do back-to-back loads to take advantage of residual heat.


  • Clean the lint filter after each dryer load to improve air circulation and cut down on drying time.

  • Use energy-saving settings. Select low temperature for delicates and medium for most clothes. Choose auto-dry instead of timed-dry to prevent over-drying, which causes shrinkage and static electricity and generally wears clothes out.


  • Get a drying rack for “almost-dry” clothes, delicates and silks. Fabrics like wool should be laid flat to dry.


  • Throw in a clean, dry towel or tennis ball to dry clothes quicker. The towel absorbs moisture, while the tennis ball helps circulate air between clothes.



  • Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
    Tuesday, September 06 2011
    Address the energy efficiency issues weighing down your utility bills, with help from an energy audit.

    Homes are supposed to breathe. But some inhale excessively from the outdoors and exhale too much from inside. The result: Drafty rooms, high utility bills, dirty and leaky ducts, and a bigger-than-necessary carbon footprint. If you think your home could be more energy efficient but aren’t sure where its leaks live, an energy audit can diagnose your energy issues and help you decide which to tackle.

    Audits identify a mixture of major and minor air leaks. So if you’re budget-minded, you might opt for inexpensive fixes like adding caulk or insulation at leak points and installing weather-stripping. If you’re embarking on a remodel, you can make bigger investments, such as adding insulation.

    The question is whether to hire a pro or conduct a free do-it-yourself audit guided by online tips. There are pros and cons to either approach.

    Paying for a pro

    Professional audits aren’t cheap: They run from $150 (visual) to $400-$600 or more (diagnostic). But the information they reveal can help you make targeted repairs that lower energy bills by 5% to 30% annually, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. With energy bills averaging about $2,200 annually, according to Energy Star, following an auditor’s recommendations could save you up to $660 within a year.

    Paying for an audit may not make sense if you have a newly-constructed home, which likely follows the most up-to-date building codes. Energy audits should also take a back seat to urgent home issues that compromise safety, such as old or faulty electrical or structural issues, like roof or foundation problems. So if you own a fixer-upper, it’s worth addressing safety issues before optimizing energy issues.

    DIY audits

    A do-it-yourself audit may help you make an educated guess about how airtight your home is—or isn’t—and point you toward fixes. A typical DIY test: Hold up a lit candle to windows, doors, and electrical outlets to see if a draft blows the flame.

    But be aware that when you fix a problem you uncover yourself, you could err. For instance, you might pay for new windows when you need to insulate existing window frames instead. You could also over-seal your home, creating indoor air quality issues (dirty air, mold) that compromise your health.

    Services of a professional audit

    Pro audits give you access to high-tech tools that pinpoint the exact location of duct leaks; exactly how airtight your home is (and should be according to local code); gas leaks; and which direction drafts are blowing. Draft direction can alert an auditor that your attic is greedily sucking up your warm air, for instance. They also ferret out drafts between insulated and less-insulated (garage, basement/crawlspace, attic) portions of a home and assess the performance of heating and cooling systems.

    Two types of professional audit

    A visual inspection (like a home inspection, but focused narrowly on energy issues) might be sufficient if you have semi-finished or exposed spaces (unfinished basements, exposed ducts, crawlspaces, and attics). A diagnostic inspection includes visual work, but also employs tools and devices to pinpoint air leaks.

    • Blower door tests use high-powered fans to depressurize a home so that a technician can measure draft levels.
    • Thermal or infrared scanning measures surface temperature variations along walls to spot exact locations of air leaks or insulation lapses.
    • Smoke puffers release a form of “dust” during a blower door test to reveal the direction drafts are blowing.
    • Duct blasters inject and measure air pressure, air flow, and leakage in ducts.
    • Gas leak detection devices help assess indoor air quality.

    These technologies provide far more specific information about a home’s issues than a typical DIY audit.

    Common energy issues

    A technician should be able to tell you how much total air leakage exists in your home (10 sq. ft. is like having a door open all the time), where it comes from, and how best to address it, says Robert Stockmann, of Pinnacle Home Inspections in Bellingham, Wash. The most common issues he finds are:

    • Ducts in uninsulated areas (crawlspaces, attics, unfinished basements), which need cleaning, insulation, re-sealing
    • Moisture in crawl spaces and basements
    • Air that’s entering or exiting the home via range hoods, attic trap doors, and poorly sealed doors

    Hire an auditor, smartly

    Energy audit is a loose term these days, so when hiring an auditor, ask questions. Make sure the auditor doesn’t work for a window company; has a professional affiliation with or training from an auditing organization such as RESNET or the Building Performance Institute; and can provide a written report. If you need diagnostic advice, ask if the auditor can use tools that assess what’s going on behind walls and inside ducts. Your local utility company may offer audits or be able to recommend auditors.

    Because an audit is a precursor to further spending for repairs, if your DIY audit indicates you need extensive, expensive, or hard-to-do repairs, consider a paid audit as a kind of second opinion. Likewise, any paid audit that indicates you need only minor fixes may seem unnecessary—but if you consider that small fixes may keep you from overspending on major ones, the money may be worth it.

    Jane Hodges has written about real estate for publications including, Seattle Magazine, and The Seattle Times. In 2007, she won a Bivins Fellowship from the National Association of Real Estate Editors to pursue a book on women and real estate. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, CBS’s BNET, and Fortune. She lives in Seattle in a 1966 raised rancher with an excellent retro granite fireplace. Latest home project: Remodeling a basement bathroom.

    Read more:
    Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
    Friday, January 14 2011

    Reporting from the 2011 International Builders Show, Erica Christoffer for HouseLogic

    What do home buyers want today and in the future? The answer: smaller, more energy-efficient homes.

    The average size of a new single-family home in 2010 was 2,377 sq. ft., down from 2,438 sq. ft. in 2009 and down from the peak of 2,520 sq. ft. in 2007 and 2008, according to U.S. Census Bureau data presented yesterday at the International Builders’ Show in Orlando by Rose Quint, assistant vice president of survey research for NAHB.

    And the trend will only continue, Quint said, with the 2015 new home size currently projected at 2,150 sq. ft. with fewer bathrooms and smaller garages.

    It’s hard to say whether home sizes will decline to 1970 levels of 1,500 square feet. But Quint says she believes smaller sizes are here to stay based on demographics. The U.S. population was 310 million as of April 2010. That’s expected to rise to 322 million in 2015 and up to 422 million by 2050. The population is also getting older and more diverse. In 2010, 25% were over the age of 55, which is expected to grow to 31% by 3050.

    This rising segment of older home owners who won’t want to care for a huge space, Quint said, and then you have Generation Y buyers who are very energy conscious. “People are coming to realize, ‘Let’s buy what we need,’” said Quint.

    The Census Bureau data matches NAHB’s findings that builders expect to build smaller homes with more green features in the next five years. Low-energy windows, water-efficient features, engineered-wood beams, joints, or trusses, and Energy-Star ratings for whole home are expected to be more prevalent.

    Builders also expect an increase in living room size as well as more planning for universal design features with homes more easily adaptable for future improvements.

    Jill Waage, executive editor with Better Homes and Gardens, also presented her magazine’s 2011 consumer preferences survey, which was taken the first week of December. According to Waage, the top three improvement priorities home owners want were a laundry room, additional storage, and a home office.

    “The connection to outdoor living space is also really important,” Waage says.

    Other trends included in the Better Homes and Gardens study: built-ins, media space for flat screen TVs and gaming systems, and areas wired for technology. Buyers also want combined kitchen, family room, and living room open space. Universal design features, she said, will be incorporated in much more subtle ways.

    Read more:
    Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 09:41 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
    Thursday, September 30 2010

    Adding a wood stove is an energy-efficient, money-saving way to bring a cozy feeling to your house, if you’re willing to spend time stoking the fire

    Although wood stoves might conjure up images of a smoke-belching potbelly in a backwoods cabin, today’s models are up to 80% efficient, meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency emission guidelines, and reduce heating bills by nearly half when energy prices are high.


    The best use of an energy-efficient wood stove is to supplement an existing heat source, such as electricity or gas. This method, called zoned heating, ensures all your rooms are toasty. Wood stoves aren’t good at heating entire houses with many small rooms and long hallways.

    Feelin’ the heat

    • Wood stoves can heat 400 sq. ft. to 3,000 sq. ft, depending on the layout of your house and the size of the stove.
    • Prefabricated chimney pipes let you install them practically anywhere—even in front of an existing hearth.
    • Optional fans circulate air around the firebox and into your room, spreading warmth and eliminating cold spots.

    What do they cost?

    • A good wood stove from a reputable company averages about $3,000 to $4,200, including the stovepipe and installation.
    • Small wood stoves may cost as little as $1,000; elaborate, stainless steel models can stretch the price to $10,000 or more.
    • You may recoup some costs when you sell your home. In his market, appraiser Gordon Lucks in Asheville, N.C., says you’ll get back $2,000 on a $3,000 unit.

    Cost of wood fuel

    If you intend to use of an energy-efficient wood stove as a supplemental heating source, expect to burn two to five cords of wood each heating season. However, heat output varies widely according to the type of firewood you’ll burn.

    You can expect to pay between $150 and $350 for a cord of hardwood delivered and stacked. To save money, pick up your own loads directly from the wood lot.

    Your money won’t go up in smoke

    Using an energy-efficient wood stove for heating can save a bundle, potentially 10% to 40% of annual heating costs of with an electric, fuel oil, or gas furnace. With average annual heating costs of $638, according to Energy Star, your yearly savings could range from $64 to $255.

    Tax credits for wood stoves

    If you’re buying a wood stove, you’re in luck—until the end of calendar year 2010. There are federal tax credits of up to $1,500 available for wood stoves (referred to at Energy Star as biomass stoves). However, those credits go away after December 31, 2010.

    Douglas Trattner has written extensively about home improvement topics for, DIYNetworks, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. During the 10-year stewardship of his 1925 Colonial, he estimates that he burned through 15 cords of wood. Most, he promises, was properly seasoned hardwood.

    Read more:


    Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 12:33 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
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