Today I had lunch with a friend who was starting from scratch when it comes to saving energy. Well, he's not really starting from scratch; that would be someone who is moving in to a new home and hasn't been paying for their energy. This guy (I know you're reading, I'll try not to be too rough :) ) was starting from a hole. His energy bills were about 5 times more than mine!
Now, to his defense he does have 2 kids ( I have none) and his house is twice as big. But as I told him that should mean at most a doubling of bills in comparison, not 5 times!
In speaking with him, I first mentioned the big energy users in his home. The house mainly uses energy for heating/cooling, water heating, and lighting. There are three things that are not happening in his house that are probably the main reasons his bills are so high.
- The thermostats are not being programmed
- Lights are not being turned off when not in use
- CFLs are not being used
In speaking with him, it sounds like his biggest energy savings can be realized from actually programming the thermostat! He mentioned that the thermostats are not programmed and when they go to bed (upstairs) the downstairs thermostat still cools the downstairs. I told him he was basically just paying the power company money to cool a space nobody is in. This is truly wasted energy!
I spoke to him on the advantages of CFLs over his incandescents. I did mention that there is a small amount of mercury in CFLs but it is 20 times less than mercury that was in old thermometers we all stuck in our mouths when we were sick as a kid. No mercury is released unless a bulb breaks, and if it does just dispose properly and no damage is done. I mentioned that LEDs will be the best choice in the future as soon as their costs get in line. I pointed him to my lighting cost comparison to choose the right bulb for his needs.
I also mentioned that I use the n:vision soft white CFLs and they have worked flawlessly in my home for over a year. I have over 20 of them with no problems. I get mine at home depot for like $6 bucks for a pack of four. No, Home Depot doesnt pay me to advertise (not yet at least) but I tell you this because I believe in this product. Finally I mentioned the lighting sensor in my kitchen that automatically turns off the lights when we leave the space.
Finally, I mentioned he should pick up Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution--and How It Can Renew America by Thomas Friedman to understand where the future of clean tech is going. Then, once he has an overview of why it is so important to conserve energy, pick up The Home Energy Diet: How to Save Money by Making Your House Energy-Smart. Home Energy Diet is the most thorough book I have read on how to start saving energy in your home. We also spoke about getting an energy audit (the picture at the top of the post is of a door-blower test - something that should happen at every energy audit).
But the main thing he and his family need to do is commit to saving energy. Whether you are doing it to save money or help the environment (or both like me) then commit to it. Realize how important it is. Make it fun, give away prizes, go out to dinner with the money saved, whatever you need to do to just do it!
And that's basically how to get started saving energy!