Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Energy Conservation

Greetings! John here!

This is my very first blog post ever! I was recently asked by Curiosity Killer to guest post on occasion. My wife, C has been trying to get me to blog for months, but to no avail. Why did I agree to blog for CK? Finding "green" alternatives has always been an interest of mine. I'm a farmer that has been on the leading edge of environmentally friendly agriculture since I was a kid.

For my first post, I'd like to talk about saving as much energy as you can at home. Before you can start saving energy, you need to know what you're using it on and one way is to use a monitor such as the PowerCostMonitor. You might find it surprising what uses the most power in your home. By doing your daily routine, you can see how much power you're using by the hour. Even when you think you have everything off, you may still be consuming energy. For example, your TV is in "warm" mode, meaning it comes on faster. Your computer, if you do not unplug it, is on "stand by" mode. Even your phone (if yours is one with extra features that plugs into the wall like our fax/phone) consumes energy.

The biggest energy users are things that "heat" or have a motor. Your oven, when turned on uses a lot of energy. Electric hot water heaters and clothes dryers, heated waterbeds, hot tubs or even your electric blanket (if you use one) consume quite a bit of energy.

Some Tips for Saving Energy:
-For a hot water heater, put a hot water blanket around it for insulation. This will give you less heat loss.

-For clothes dryers, maybe hang your clothes outside. You can do this year-round, but in the winter it's a little harder because the clothes freeze dry.

-If you must use your electric blanket (if you have one), turn it to a lower setting and turn it off when not in use.

-For heating your house, lower the thermostat at night or when you're not in the house. If you have trouble remembering to lower the heat, get a programmable thermostat.

-Lighting: go to compact fluorescents. You don't have to have all your lights on. Light only what you need. Turn your lights off when you're not in the room. You get the idea.

There are many more things such as insulating your home properly or using better quality windows that can help conserve energy use. These are just a few ideas to start with.

Back to the Power Cost Monitor, when you know how much power you're using, most people can make a few changes that can save you a lot of energy and money.


Curiosity Killer said...

AWESOME POST, Farmer John!! Thank you so much for this honor to host your first post in this blog!

I have always been concerned with the exact amount of energy that I use around the house, and thanks to you... now I know there's such a thing as powercost monitor. Finding "green" isn't easy without pioneers like yourself. Thanks again and hope to read more in the near future!

C. K. said...

btw, farmer john - I have a water heater in my bathroom - it's a very old traditional one... would you happen to know how I can conserve heat with it? I don't know if putting a hot water blanket would be hazard when showering?

Uncivil said...

Great job for your first post John! Excellent ideas!

You can throw away the electric blanket ,and let chance get in the bed with you and C to keep warm!

It's always a Two dog night here at my house!LOL!!!!
Ab & Em keep me toasty!

C said...

LOL! Uncivil, we don't have an electric blanket. I didn't even know those things still existed, until my students from South Korea brought them over. The South Korean students can't seem to sleep without them! Frankly, I think they are a huge waste of energy AND not to mention fire hazards! I just don't trust those things! Our electricity bill skyrocketed when one of the students brought his blanket over and NEVER turned it off! I went in one day and it was on full blast! OMG! I outlawed electric blankets in our house after that.

John won't let Chance in bed with us, but the kittens have managed to sneak into the room at night. It's really funny. They sleep on John's head and bother him all night! LOL!

Farmer John said...

A hot water heater blanket would not be a hazard, unless the hot water heater is gas and you block the vents. Any hot water heater blankets that I have seen are simply an insulated blanket that goes around the heater to reduce heat loss. The other part is to insulate the water pipes. These steps will save on energy usage. The best way is to turn down the water temperature by a notch or two on the water heater. This is the most effective as long as you don't find yourself running out of hot water to often.

Farmer John said...

Thanks for the comment!
I've never used an electric blanket. Extra blankets have always done the job. I like my sleep too much to let the dog sleep on me! Chance is a pretty active sleeping dog (if you know what I mean).

Thanks, Honey!

Curiosity Killer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Curiosity Killer said...

Hong Kong buildings don't have heating systems, that's why we use blankets and portable heaters. It's kind of backwards if you ask me. But whatever.

My water heater is a big bulky 25 litre electric water heater and I don't get to have more than 3 minutes of even temperature hot shower. Ugh. I LOVE MY LONG HOT SHOWERS! I have to take extra short shower - or else I'll get a cold. I'm sniffling already as we speak. Hot showers are a luxury now.

C said...

I guess I should say that it wasn't only the electric blanket that consumed a lot of energy. I think it was also the fact that the kids always left their lights on in their rooms (even when they weren't in the room...or even in the house!!!). I think it's just something they were not accustomed to doing.

C. K. said...

Yeah, since we don't have indoor heating - I know my electricity bill is nowhere near my Toronto heating bills. But it's never that cold here in HK like it was in Canada. LOL

Fancy said...

Thanx for posting John, I am so gonna check out that website!!!

batticdoor said...

How To Reduce Your Energy Bills / Energy Conservation Begins at Home

Imagine leaving a window open all winter long -- the heat loss, cold drafts and wasted energy! If your home has a folding attic stair, a whole house fan or AC Return, a fireplace or a clothes dryer, that may be just what is occurring in your home every day.

These often overlooked sources of heat loss and air leakage can cause heat to pour out and the cold outside air to rush in -- costing you higher heating bills.

Air leaks are the largest source of heating and cooling loss in the home. Air leaks occur through the small cracks around doors, windows, pipes, etc. Most homeowners are well aware of the benefits caulk and weatherstripping provide to minimize heat loss and cold drafts.

But what can you do about the four largest “holes” in your home -- the folding attic stair, the whole house fan or AC return, the fireplace, and the clothes dryer? Here are some tips and techniques that can easily, quickly and inexpensively seal and insulate these holes.

Attic Stairs

When attic stairs are installed, a large hole (approximately 10 square feet) is created in your ceiling. The ceiling and insulation that were there have to be removed, leaving only a thin, unsealed, sheet of plywood.

Your attic space is ventilated directly to the outdoors. In the winter, the attic space can be very cold, and in the summer it can be very hot. And what is separating your conditioned house from your unconditioned attic? That thin sheet of plywood.

Often a gap can be observed around the perimeter of the door. Try this yourself: at night, turn on the attic light and shut the attic stairway door -- do you see any light coming through? These are gaps add up to a large opening where your heated/cooled air leaks out 24 hours a day. This is like leaving a window open all year round.

An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add an attic stair cover. An attic stair cover provides an air seal, reducing the air leaks. Add the desired amount of insulation over the cover to restore the insulation removed from the ceiling.

Whole House Fans and AC Returns

Much like attic stairs above, when whole house fans are installed, a large hole (up to 16 square feet or larger) is created in your ceiling. The ceiling and insulation that were there have to be removed, leaving only leaky ceiling shutter between the house and the outdoors.

An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a whole house fan cover. Installed from the attic side, the whole house fan cover is invisible. Cover the fan to reduce heating and air-conditioning loss, remove it when use of the fan is desired.

If attic access is inconvenient, or for AC returns, a ceiling shutter cover is another option for reducing heat loss through the ceiling shutter and AC return. Made from R-8, textured, thin, white flexible insulation, and installed from the house side over the ceiling shutter with Velcro, a whole house fan shutter cover is easily installed and removed.


Sixty-five percent, or approximately 100 million homes, in North America are constructed with wood or gas burning fireplaces. Unfortunately there are negative side effects that the fireplace brings to a home especially during the winter home-heating season. Fireplaces are energy losers.

Researchers have studied this to determine the amount of heat loss through a fireplace, and the results are amazing. One research study showed that an open damper on an unused fireplace in a well-insulated house can raise overall heating-energy consumption by 30 percent.

A recent study showed that for many consumers, their heating bills may be more than $500 higher per winter due to the air leakage and wasted energy caused by fireplaces.

Why does a home with a fireplace have higher heating bills? Hot air rises. Your heated air leaks out any exit it can find, and when warm heated air is drawn out of your home, cold outside air is drawn in to make up for it. The fireplace is like a giant straw sucking the heated air from your house.

An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a fireplace draftstopper. Available from Battic Door, a company known for their energy conservation products, a fireplace draftstopper is an inflatable pillow that seals the damper, eliminating any air leaks. The pillow is removed whenever the fireplace is used, then reinserted after.

Clothes Dryer Exhaust Ducts

In many homes, the room with the clothes dryer is the coldest room in the house. Your clothes dryer is connected to an exhaust duct that is open to the outdoors. In the winter, cold air leaks in through the duct, through your dryer and into your house.

Dryer vents use a sheet-metal flapper to try to reduce this air leakage. This is very primitive technology that does not provide a positive seal to stop the air leakage. Compounding the problem is that over time, lint clogs the flapper valve causing it to stay open.

An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a dryer vent seal. This will reduce unwanted air infiltration, and keep out pests, bees and rodents as well. The vent will remain closed unless the dryer is in use. When the dryer is in use, a floating shuttle rises to allow warm air, lint and moisture to escape.

If your home has a folding attic stair, a whole house fan, an AC return, a fireplace, and/or a clothes dryer, you can easily, quickly and inexpensively seal and insulate these holes.

Mark D. Tyrol is a Professional Engineer specializing in cause and origin of construction defects. He developed several residential energy conservation products including an attic stair cover, an attic access door, and is the U.S. distributor of the fireplace draftstopper. To learn more visit www.batticdoor.com