Energy-Efficient Escapes

by Mindy Toran | May 13, 2015
Energy-Efficient Escapes …From the pages of House & Home…

Solutions that will save money and energy around the home

Are you too cold when you sit in your den to watch TV at night or too hot when you head upstairs to sleep in the summer? An uncomfortable home is the first sign that your house may not be energy efficient. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to correct these issues, conserve energy and save money when it comes to your home utility costs. Some of these solutions can also help to make your home “greener” and reduce your home’s carbon footprint.

Finding problem areas
A top-to-bottom assessment of your home can help determine where your house is losing the most energy and where you need to concentrate your energy-saving efforts.

“It’s important to look at your house as a whole when [trying] to make your home more energy efficient,” says Ed Baumann, head of the Home Performance Department at Bovio, an HVAC contractor and home energy auditor.

“Homeowners need to look at their utility bills to determine how much energy they’re using, discuss their family’s habits and needs and identify any comfort issues in the home. Too often, homeowners are trying to overcome comfort issues without addressing why those issues are occurring. It’s important to look at insulation in the home, identify areas where leakage could be occurring, evaluate the efficiency of the home’s heater and/or air conditioner and water heater, look at the condition and efficiency of windows, and assess any moisture or air quality issues,” he explains.

“At least 42 percent of your home’s energy loss is through the attic and basement,” says Peter Burley, CEO of Home Energy Upgrades USA. “When we’re looking for ways to help homeowners save money and conserve energy, we typically start by assessing how well their attic and basement are insulated. One of the ways in which to do this is through an energy audit.”

An energy audit or assessment is often the first line of defense in identifying your home’s energy efficiency. “The audit looks at all of the systems in your home to determine why energy bills are high and what needs to be addressed to reduce those costs. Areas of concern include leaks around doors and windows, poorly insulated attics and walls, inefficient heating and air conditioning systems and water heaters, and outdated appliances,” says Burley.

“An energy audit provides a roadmap of how to make your home safe, efficient and comfortable,” says Donald Powell, owner of Powell Energy & Solar. “The audit typically consists of a general inspection of the home, including identifying safety and performance concerns and looking for opportunities for insulation and air sealing to address leaks; HVAC combustion testing to assess the condition of the heater, air conditioner, hot water heater, stove or oven, clothes dryer and other appliances; and a blower door test to determine areas of air leakage around windows and doors, in addition to attics, ducts and crawlspaces. Once the audit is complete, we can make recommendations for improvements, repairs and/or service.”

In many states, including New Jersey, residential audits are government subsidized and tax credits and rebates are available for energy-efficient home improvements.

“The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, under its Clean Energy Program, offers a variety of programs to help offset the costs of making your home more energy efficient, including rebates of up to $5,000 and interest-free financing for 10 years for up to $10,000 to complete energy-efficient upgrades throughout your home,” says Powell.

In Pennsylvania, PECO Energy offers various rebates for homeowners looking to upgrade older, inefficient appliances and heating and cooling equipment in their homes. In addition, the PECO Smart House Call program provides residential electric customers with both energy assessments and energy audits that can help homeowners identify areas where their home is losing energy and costing them more money, in addition to providing solutions on how to fix these problems.

Dutch Schwertner, president/owner of Green Stone Energy, LLC, an approved PECO Smart House Call contractor, assists homeowners in identifying areas of their homes that require energy efficiency improvements. “The comfort level of your home is the No. 1 indicator of energy efficiency problems,” says Schwertner. “We look at what measures a homeowner can take to weatherize their home and make it more comfortable, including caulking and weather-stripping around windows and doors, adding insulation and air sealing in the attic, installing replacement windows where old ones have deteriorated, and sealing pipes and wire penetrations in the basement or crawlspace.”

Upgrading for efficiency
In addition to adding curb appeal to your home, upgrades to energy-efficient roofing, windows and siding can also increase your energy savings.

“New windows can significantly reduce your energy bills,” says Adam Parnes, vice president of marketing at Global Home Improvement. “The replacement windows available today are far more efficient than the aluminum windows of the past or even the vinyl windows of a few years ago. Window technology continues to improve, and new ratings going into effect for 2016 will create even higher standards for energy efficiency. The fiberglass windows we are using today are rapidly rising in popularity due to their incredible energy efficiency and require far less energy to produce than vinyl. In addition, Low-E II glass reflects heat away from the home, keeping it cool and comfortable.”

Larry Landes, owner of Renewal by Andersen of Metro New York/New Jersey, Long Island, San Francisco, Orange County and Los Angeles, says, “Comfort is one of the many reasons why people upgrade their windows and doors. Low-end vinyl windows are just not suitable for this geographic area.” Renewal by Andersen, the replacement window division of Andersen Windows, provides homeowners with Fibrex composite material windows designed to be more energy efficient, strong, durable and aesthetically appealing.

Another aesthetically appealing, energy-efficient solution available to homeowners today is the metal roof. “Metal roofing is designed to reflect heat in the summer and retain heat in the winter,” says Parnes. “On a hot day, an energy efficient or ‘cool roof’ can lower the temperature of your roof by up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, while reducing peak cooling demands by 10 to 15 percent. A metal roof can keep your home more comfortable by reflecting incoming solar radiation and decreasing the amount of heat transferred into your home and attic.”

When it comes to energy-efficient ways to cool your attic, one environmentally friendly way to do so is with a solar-powered attic fan.

“These fans are run by the power of the sun, as opposed to electricity, which saves energy and costs nothing to run,” says Tammy Vargo, customer service representative at Solar Reflections. “Solar-powered attic fans are healthy for the environment because they reduce pollution and the carbon footprint. Similar to electric attic fans, they circulate air in the attic to reduce heat build-up in the summer and prevent damaging condensation from forming in the attic during the winter. An active ventilation system keeps your attic cool and dry, which prolongs the life of your roof, keeps you home interior comfortable and saves money and energy.”

Solar power is also catching on when it comes to making your home more energy efficient. “By installing solar panels on your roof you can significantly offset the cost of electricity you purchase from your utility company, in addition to generating cleaner, more affordable energy,” says Powell. “In addition, utility companies purchase solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) from homeowners to offset their non-renewable energy production, which actually generates income for the homeowner. The upfront cost of a solar system can also be offset by a 30 percent, dollar-for-dollar federal tax credit for residential systems installed by Dec. 31, 2016.”

Another “green” way to make your home more energy efficient is to install a high-efficiency or geothermal heat pump. “A high-efficiency heat pump can save homeowners up to $150 a month in energy bills, while a geothermal system can save around $200 a month,” says Marc Holden, a sales representative for Peirce-Phelps Inc., the HVAC distributor for R&D Heating & Cooling.

The most common type of heat pump is an air-source heat pump, which transfers heat between your house and the outside air. An air-source heat pump can reduce the amount of electricity you use by as much as 30 to 40 percent and can also dehumidify better than standard air conditioners, which results in less energy usage and more cooling comfort in the summer.

A geothermal heat pump, also referred to as a ground-source or water-source heat pump, achieves higher efficiency by transferring heat between your house and the ground or a nearby water source. While the cost of a geothermal heat pump is significantly higher than an air-source heat pump, ground-source heat pumps have lower operating costs because they take advantage of the relatively constant ground or water temperatures.

“Geothermal heat pumps offer the most efficient, green option for homeowners, despite their high upfront costs,” says Holden. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, ground-source heat pumps use up to 72 percent less energy per year, compared to electric resistance heating with standard air conditioning and provide efficiencies of 300 to 600 percent on the coldest winter nights, compared to 175 to 250 percent efficiency for standard air-source heat pumps.

“When considering a geothermal or high efficiency heat pump, it’s important to look at your energy consumption for heating and cooling, particularly focusing on your heating costs, budget and how long you expect to remain in your home,” says Holden. “Both systems provide a viable way to save money and improve your home’s energy efficiency. Air-source heat pumps provide high efficiency for about half the cost of geothermal systems. If you’re going to be in your home for more than 10 years and you have the budget for it, a geothermal system is a cost-effective, long-term solution. In addition, a federal tax credit of 15 percent is available to homeowners who install geothermal systems by December 2015.”

Whether you’re looking to go green or simply save money on your utility bills, these energy-saving solutions are sure to make your home more comfortable for years to come.


Sicklerville, N.J.
(856) 340-4341

Global Home Improvement
Feasterville, Pa.
(877) 711-9850

Green Stone Energy
Frazer, Pa.
(866) 274-9389

Home Energy Upgrades USA
Mountainside, N.J.
(908) 228-9300

Powell Energy & Solar
Moorestown, N.J.
(856) 380-0709

R&D Heating & Cooling
Kennett Square, Pa.
(610) 444-6421

Renewal by Andersen of Metro New York/New Jersey, Long Island, San Francisco, Orange County & Los Angeles
New York, N.Y.
(866) 586-6455

Solar Reflections
Chalfont, Pa.
(215) 997-5901

Published (and copyrighted) in House & Home, Volume 15, Issue 10 (April, 2015).
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Author: Mindy Toran


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