Jump to Main Content

energy tips ...

You are convinced that we need to save energy for all the right reasons, but how do you start? Well, the goal of this site is to provide you the information and resources to do just that.

1) Check your PNM bill and use your current usage (KWHrs and Therms) as a baseline.
2) Try any or all of the tips below.
3) Get an Energy Audit for more information.

5 Easy Tips to do Today

SwitchplateStop Air Leaks ...

A simple, inexpensive way to stop" paid for" heat from escaping is to install outlet insulators (foam sealers) on exterior walls. Home Depot and Lowes have the top ones but not the bottom ones (which are the style we have). It is possible to special order them at both stores ($3.19/pack of 6 or 8), plus we just ordered a case so contact us if you want this type. (ITEM#06668 - MD Building Products)

We also cut up a foam mattress to block our fireplace leaks. Closing the damper doesn't cut it. After measuring the flue and cutting the 4" foam to fit, we wrapped it in a garbage bag to provide an air barrier (foam allows air through it).

water heater blanketWater Heater Blanket ...

Maybe it is time to get a water heater blanket. See what size tank you have before going. Blankets save 2+/- therms (gas heat) per month which equals 23 lbs. CO2 emissions.Now that our water heater is cozy with its little blankie, we got to turn it down another notch...huge surprise that it made that much difference!!

Caulk and Weather strip your doors/windows ...

While you are at Home Depot, Lowes or Samons, pick up caulk (clear) and weather stripping (vinyl lasts longer than foam) for your doors and any leaky windows. Why pay to heat outdoor air that is leaking into your home? Save money and energy the easy way. IMPORTANT: Look for clear, paintable caulk. Some caulks will cause bubbling or peeling if painted.

lightbulbReplace 4 regular bulbs with compact fluorescents or LEDs...

Home Depot and Lowes have a wide selection. What is so amazing is that a 60W bulb is equal to a 14W regular bulb in energy use. BIG CO2 savings here. Lasts 9 Years!!! You might want to change out the bulbs that you use frequently and not worrying about closets, etc.

TED Power MonitorGet a Power Monitor ...

I purchased a TED power monitor (left) and have already seen lower electric bills. It is on my desk and if I see a spike, I hop up and seek out the culprit. I have also learned which lights/appliances use the most energy. You will need help with installation so there is a cost over the price of the unit. The TED is not portable but comes with great software to track your usage.

 

 

Now for more in depth information. Our own journey has shown us that there are just two places to look to save energy..... YOU and your home. Funny, but the way you live or your energy style is as important as the home you live in. We saved 300 KWHs/mo. by making a few changes. It was painless and almost fun.

what YOU can do....

So many tips and so little time. The amazing thing that happens, when you decide that you want to conserve energy and have a little help in knowing what to do, is that you start with one thing and find another and another. Trust us. It will be easy and fun. Just click on the orange bars.

It is a myth that it is bad for the computer to power up and down. If you are taking a lunch break and have a lot passwords to enter to start up again, at least turn off the printer and other unneeded peripherals (scanner, computer speakers, etc.) with a power strip before leaving the room or if you are not using them at the moment. Turn off everything at night by using a single power strip.

Computer energy use is no trivial matter. Microsoft reckons that a PC using an old-style cathode-ray tube monitor, if left awake around the clock, results in the emission of over half a ton of carbon dioxide a year just during the time when it's not in use. At a typical electricity cost of roughly nine cents per kilowatt hour, that translates to over $70 wasted per year per machine. Computers with flat-screen LCD monitors, which are more energy efficient, still drain almost $56 a year for sleepless idleness.

Equipment Type Power Draw (Watts)

Idle Active
Copier 6 400
Personal computer 62 62
Video Monitor 62 62
Laser printer 80 200
Fax machine 14 30
_______________________________________________
Totals 222 752

 

Takes some practice but provides major savings. It is amazing how you will more easily "see" the lights left on by other family members. Remind each other and appreciate the reminders you get. Or try a light switch sensor to make it painless.

(We had recently gone to Halogens under the mistaken idea that they were more efficient...well, lightbulbthey are only slightly better than incandescents), but fluorescents last for 10,000 hrs vs 1000 hrs for an incandescent and use 1/5 the energy. LEDs are even better. Start with the areas that are on for longer periods of time...your office, reading light, living room, or kitchen. Closets are not a high priority area. What is so amazing is that a 60W bulb is equal to a 14W regular bulb in energy use. BIG CO2 savings here. Use the 40W in a porch light or where there are multiple lights going down a hall. Use solar for outdoor lighting where possible.

Lighting accounts for 10-20% of the residential electricity consumed in the United States. Common incandescent bulbs are very inefficient and waste 90% of their energy producing heat instead of light. This waste heat also contributes to the cooling bill in the summer. Making an inventory of your home's lamps is a relatively simple process. Walk through the home room-by-room and make a list of the different lamps used in the fixtures. Group the lamps by their Wattage as well as their hourly use per day.

To calculate your savings use this formula: Lamp qty (#light bulbs) x Lamp Wattage (60W or 100W or 40W) x Hours/day x 30 days/month ÷ 1000 = Average kWh (check your PNM bills for your KWh consumption per month) x $.09/KWh. Calculate changing out five100 watt Incandescent bulbs with 40 watt CFLs and see what you save. Hint: 100watts-40watts = 60watts x 5 bulbs x 5 hrs (average usage per day) x 30 days per month / 1000 (KWhr) x .$.09(PNM rate per KWhr) = $4.05 per month. Not too bad for 5 little bulbs." That's $48.60 per year and these bulbs last much much longer. I could think of something a little more fun to spend the money on than PNM bills.

Quantity of Bulbs Bulb Wattage Daily Usage (Hrs)
2 100 5
3 75 4
8 60 4
2 40 10

Src: Saturn Online, an excellent online educational provider for Energy Efficiency Training.

One note: We replaced many of our regular light switches with dimming switches to add control but also energy savings. The problem we found later was that some fluorescents/LEDs DO NOT work with dimming switches and you will pay more for those that do.

Phantom loads are appliances that are consuming energy all the time even when they are OFF. Anything that has a transformer box or plug is drawing energy while plugged in. That includes your cell phone charger, cordless telephone, telephone recorder, cordless keyboard and mouse, and hand vacuums or tools that are plugged in for convenient use. If you know you will need them, plug them in an hour before.transformer box

Transformer boxes are the square black boxes that take up all the room on your power strip or outlet. Eliminate as many as you can. We only leave the cell phone charger plugged in when charging the phone. One of our extra cordless phones in the kitchen was replaced with a corded phone so that it did not draw energy and provided an emergency phone during blackouts.

Other Phantom loads are clock radios, microwaves with clocks, garage door openers, appliances with "instant on" or remote controls (TVs, VCRs, lights) and even gas furnaces. Eliminate what you can by putting these units on a power strip and turning them off over night or when you are are going to be away from home. There are small travel alarm clocks that can replace your plug in alarm clocks that are continually drawing power.

An old "free" refrigerator is NOT free. A refrigerator that was purchased before 1993 is energystaran energy hog. Buy the smallest, not the biggest refrigerator that meets your needs. Side by side refrigerators are less efficient than models with the freezer on top. Conveniences like lighted water dispensers also use more energy. (We rationalize that since we drink a lot of water, we are saving energy by not opening the door to get ice or cold water, however, the light is a complete waste.) While the Energy Star Rating is a starting point, there are big differences in energy efficiency between different models. Do NOT depend on sales people to help....they do not know very much. It is above their job grade. Look inside the doors for info tags. The new front load washing machines save on water AND energy and get your clothes cleaner to boot.

Microwave or grill outside instead of heating up that oven in the summer to prevent extra cooling costs. Cooking stats:

Oven Type Cost
Electric oven 17 cents
Electric convection oven 12 cents
Gas oven 10 cents
Electric frying pan 7 cents
Electric toaster oven 8 cents
Electric crockpot 6 cents
Electric microwave oven 3 cents

 

Only wash full loads of clothes. Buy extra socks (or whatever) that cause you to wash more frequently. Hang heavy items (towels, jeans) up to partially dry and then fluff if necessary, rather than drying the whole load for a longer period.

Consider a clothes line for Spring/Summer drying and that wonderful fresh smell (extra benefit: sunlight/UV kills germs/microbes, etc.).

Dry your dishes by opening the door after the wash cycle or at a minimum use the energy dry cycle. Dishwashers actually use less hot water (energy) than washing dishes by hand.

Thanks to encouragement from Alan Zelicoff, we shaved off 2 therms from our water heater blanketgas bill by turning down our water heater and are saving water to boot as we no longer have to mix cold water with the hot to get the temperature just right. We turned our heater down a second notch after putting on our insulating blanket.

Consider a tankless variety like Renai or Solar Thermal. Robert Mallory reported a significant savings with his on-demand water heater ($1250 at Home Depot or Lowes). However, Larry Gorman cautions that these heaters require a larger exhaust hole than a standard water heater so if it is located indoors in a non-sealed off space rather than the garage, you may be losing some of your paid for heat with the exhaust.

Re: Solar Thermal (hot water) - Our PNM bill indicated that only 4-7 therms/month @ $2.37/therm were being used by our gas water heater (located inside the house) after turning it down to an acceptable level and getting a blanket so the payback may be a little long on a solar thermal system at $6000.

As always, it is important to look at your utility bills carefully and get the most efficient hot water heater possible.

Check your refrigerator/freezer temperature with a $5 small thermometer (NOT a mercury thermometer). Your refrigerator only needs to be 38-40 degrees and your freezer only needs to be 0-5 degrees. Anything under that is a waste of money and energy. coil brush

Vacuum the coils to remove dust buildup so that they are not insulated. The energy savings may be small but it will also save on maintenance costs. A coil brush for coils that are hard to get to works well.(Also works for hard to reach cobwebs.)

Get rid of those old garage refrigerators or freezers for the extra beer. Big energy hogs.

In the winter, open blinds and drapes during the day on southern windows for solar gain. Sunbender by ZomeworksClose at night so the heat does not escape. While skylights provide "daylighting" and help to reduce the need for lights, they also allow heat to escape. Thermal skylight blinds will help as well as triple glazing and thermal break frames.

 

We were absolutely thrilled that we were able to reduce our electrical usage (KWh on PNM bill) easily by just these small changes. We went from 653KWh/Mo. down to 550KWh by just being aware and turning off lights, TVs and computers more frequently. After an energy audit by Dr. Alan Zelicoff, we went down to 440KWh with the cooler on and 318KWh without. While not terribly significant on our electric bill, our carbon savings are HUGE. After getting TED (energy monitor), we are down to 350KWh/Mo. And we could now consider a smaller solar system to offset the balance.

your home ....

Click on orange bars for more info.

After analyzing our gas bills, we found we were ABOVE the thermostataverage for gas usage in Albuquerque. Since we had already invested in programmable thermostats which had made a BIG difference in both our comfort level and gas usage, we were not sure what we needed to do next. (We have H20 baseboard heating and an adobe home, which like radiant heating has a lag time.

The programmable thermostats allowed us to program the heat to come on before we got up and go off long before we went to bed. It will also allow you to turn it down while you are at work and back up before you get home.) We still haven't found a good evaporative cooler programmable thermostat yet and have returned a couple.

For most homes, the most cost effective job you can do is weather stripping and caulking windows and doors to seal leaks. Various sizes and thicknesses are available at all of the home supply stores. We also tried the plastic storm window kits that shrink to almost clear after warming with a hair dryer. While they worked reasonably well for a short time, our tape soon peeled at the corners leaving gaps.

Try thoroughly cleaning and drying the areas to be taped first. Tip: Check around windows and doors with a candle or a light piece of thread on a windy day to determine where drafts are. This will reveal problem areas in need of immediate attention.

ErwinSince our home was built in the 80's (adobe is charming but not exactly square), we noticed considerable leakage in our doors and had them replaced. A local contractor that specializes in the installation of doors and storm doors is Erwin Hellman, Exquisite Installations who did a very professional job. We also needed to have them stained (General Coatings, Ron Lucero 975-1950) and the stuccorepaired (Imperial Plaster 836-2223). Can't wait to see if those therms (gas usage) goes down.

It is MUCH more cost effective to use weather stripping if possible, however, there are cases when doors or windows simply need to be upgraded.

Our windows were already wood double pane and in most areas it was possible to weather strip imperfect seals. If you are replacing windows, keep in Serious Windowmind that aluminum is a great conductor of both heat and cooling so it is important that you look for windows with a sandwich membrane to prevent the metal from conducting. We called Josh at Cardinal Construction (505-268-2738) to buy weatherstripping for our older Marvin windows. He also sells good quality wood, metal and vinyl replacement windows and was a delight to work with.

Consider Low-E glass and at least double glazing. Remember, the lower the U-value, the better the insulation. Select windows with air leakage ratings of 0.3 cubic feet per minute or less.

Windows - Other Options

One of our windows was problematic since it was near a workspace (home office) where we spent a considerable amount of time and felt cold in the winter. One solution was to get a small electric heater so that it was not necessary to turn up the thermostat for the whole house. However, there are three other solutions to try. Exterior storm windows are always a possibility, but do not work on all homes and can be unattractive with some styles of homes. We found an INTERIOR storm window at Energy $avr that has promise. Smith and Noble has triple cell Honeycomb window blinds that are their most energy efficient product, however, with gaps around the sides, could still allow a draft.

Energy auditors specialize in finding leaks in your "building envelope" using Blower Door, Duct Blaster and Infrared technology. Air leakage is often more important than insulation since you are paying to heat and cool the outside air. We discovered that we had significant air leaks in our three fireplaces, exterior outlets, laundry room area, door trim (caulking), windows (top of double hung windows) and more.

First, make a list of obvious air leaks (drafts). Check for indoor air leaks, such as gaps along the baseboard or edge of the flooring and at junctures of the walls and ceiling. Check to see if air can flow through these places:

  • Electrical outlets - (Insulated slip-in templates available at home supply stores)
  • Switch plates - (Same as above)
  • Window frames - (Caulking/weather stripping)
  • Baseboards - (Caulking)
  • Weather stripping around doors
  • Fireplace dampers - 3-4" foam cut to size and wrapped in plastic as air barrier works well.
  • Attic hatches (Insulation)
  • Wall- or window-mounted air conditioners. (Insulation)

Also look for gaps around pipes and wires, electrical outlets, foundation seals, and mail slots. Check to see if the caulking and weather stripping are applied properly, leaving no gaps or cracks, and are in good condition.

Check the insulation in your attic or walls (remove electrical outlet plate and use a flashlight without poking around the socket or OUCH!!). Make sure you have the best insulation you can buy...especially in the roof areas as that will make the most difference since heat goes up. Also make sure it is evenly distributed with no gaps. .

Only 20% of homes built before 1980 have good insulation so if your home is older, this is an area to explore. Recessed light fixtures have been a popular item recently (we have put in several) and unfortunately can be a major source of heat loss due to the fact that the insulation around them can not touch the cans. R-Values are a measure of resistance to heat loss and the higher the number the better. Most homes in Albuquerque are being built with R-13 in the walls and R-19 to R-38 in the ceilings, although some Green Builders are going higher.

energy costs ....

 

Energy prices are going up. Homes put more CO2 into the air than cars due to the fact that electricity is often generated by coal. Energy Efficiency just makes sense!!

The Land of Rising Conservation - Japan is the most energy-efficient developed country on earth, according to most specialists, who say it is much better prepared than the United States to prosper in an era of higher global energy prices. And if there is any lesson that Japan can offer to Americans, they say, it is that there is no one fix-all solution to living with oil above $50 a barrel.

More Info (Click on Tab)

Energy Audits ...

Go Green, NM LLC - Santa Fe, NM (505) 474-3627 - Go Green, NM is dedicated to supporting New Mexico's home builders in achieving high performance residential building and provide services in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos. We are a RESNET certified Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Energy Rater and provide third party plan review and thermal bypass verification of your building envelope that comply with the local building codes and residential energy programs such as LEED, Build Green NM or Energy Star.

Walker Energy Services - Albuquerque, NM. Adam Walker, 505.385.8838 - Walker Energy Services provides home energy audits, certified H.E.R.S ratings, as well as mechanical design in accordance with Manual J, S,D and T by a licensed mechanical engineer. adam@walkerenergyservices.com

 

Audit Info...

While not critical, starting with an Energy Audit...is always very informative and provides additional motivation. We, of course, thought that an energy audit would tell us how our home needed to be altered to be more energy efficient. We were considering a very expensive solar system (more on that later) and leaky door replacement. What we found out was...that WE had the power to significantly decrease the energy we consumed by small little changes in the way we lived. Whoa, what a concept.

We first contacted local energy expert, Alan Zelicoff, M.D. Alan has a great online book, "Saving Energy without Derision" that started us on our energy saving journey. Dr. Zelicoff has made it his mission to help save energy by writing and doing energy audits. Before he came out, we provided him information on our PNM bills for the last couple of years. Al analyzed our solar bid and encouraged us to consider this option by showing us the wonderful payback for the system based on PNM and tax incentives. However, he also analyzed our ENERGY USAGE and had many suggestions that would provide instant savings and reduce the size of the solar system needed.

Online Energy Audits ...

PNM has an online energy audit software program that provides useful information.There are meters availabe that measure the output of your electrical devices. Before getting solar, we used a TED device and learned which light fixtures were the hogs in our house. You can always just try the energy saving tips and check your progress by looking at your PNM bill (KWhs & Therms).

Rebates/Tax Credits ...

PNM Tax Rebate Program offers rebates on many energy efficient items like programmable thermostats, water heater wraps, insulation, sealing air leaks and more after completing their online energy audit. As always, keep your receipts and read the details first.

Federal Energy Tax Credits are available for insulation, water heaters, furnaces, storm doors, solar water heaters, Energy Star Air Conditioners, heat-reducing metal roofs and more. "A tax credit can provide significant savings. It reduces the amount of income tax you have to pay. Unlike a deduction, which reduces the amount of income subject to tax, a tax credit directly reduces the tax itself."

Other Resources ....

Environment New Mexico - An organization dedicated to the promise of a new energy future.

U.S. Department of Energy offers a publication called, "Energy Savers, Tips on Saving Energy & Money in the Home".