Understanding Home Energy Consumption

Finance, Home
on December 27, 2014
Understanding Home Energy Consumption

Every little bit counts these days. Saving energy is one way to also conserve on your electric bill. Find out the top home energy consumers and empower yourself to use energy hogging appliances wisely — or, better yet, get new energy-efficient models. The extra initial outlay is worth it in the end.

Leading energy consumers. Some of the biggest energy consumers in your home are your most needed and used appliances and electronics. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that home appliances and electronics make up about 20 percent of your electric bill. That is a big chunk of potential savings. The top energy consumers include your heating and cooling systems, clothes dryer, water heater and electronics.

Heating system. Heating your house is a necessity when weather turns chilly. Although the heating system is a big user of energy resources, there are a variety of methods to get the job done. Furnaces or boilers are the most typical home heating systems, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Efficiency on these units ranges from low to high efficiency, which is measured in annual fuel utilization efficiency, or AFUE. An AFUE rating of 80 percent (typical for a mid-efficiency heating system) means 80 percent of the energy used by the system ends up heating your home and 20 percent escapes and is lost. The U.S. Department of Energy has more detailed information that will help you manage the energy consumption of your heating system.

Alternate heating systems. Wood or pellet heaters, electric resistance heating, solar heating, radiant heating and small space heaters are additional heating options. The most expensive of all of these is the electric resistance heating unit. Radiant heating is a newer technology that can use multiple energy sources (like boilers, solar, wood and pellet fuel, and even electricity).

Cooling system. Central cooling systems are typically better more energy efficient for cooling an entire house than window or room air conditioners. If you’re only cooling a single room or two, it makes more energy sense to use a window unit. While air conditioners are not as efficient in energy consumption as the central cooling units, they use less energy overall when cooling a small area. If you’re considering buying a cooling system, be sure to get the correct size for the space. Under or overbuying is not efficient. Keep in mind that older cooling units are not as energy efficient as the newer models, which can use from 30 percent to 50 percent less energy as a similar model from the 1970s. If buying new, look for Energy Star models. These have a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) of 13 or higher — an old model cooling system may have a SEER of 6 or less.

Clothes dryer. Only dry full loads. If you are washing a small load, adjust the water level setting. Dry heavy fabrics separately from lighter-weight clothes. Dry clothes until they are just dry, as over-drying clothes is an energy hog. Clean the lint screen in the dryer after every load to improve energy efficiency and reduce fire hazard. Use the cool-down cycle to allow the clothes to finish drying with the heat remaining in the dryer. Plastic venting may clog or collapse causing dangerous blockages and lack of energy efficiency.

Water heater. Your water heater is another top home energy consumer. According to the U.S. Department of energy, water heating can make up about 25 percent of the total energy you consume in your home. Purchase a water heater that will produce the amount of hot water that you need for your home. Select an energy-efficient model, and you’ll save on your electric bill. Conventional storage water heaters are the most typical type of water heater. Demand or tankless water heaters heat water directly as needed, with no storage tank or associated heat loss — heat loss means financial loss. Speak with the appliance sales person about types of fuel and cost, what size is best for your family and which models are the most efficient.

Electronics. That powerful new computer, big flat-screen television and fancy audio system are a joy for many a homeowner. The electric use that goes with these energy consumers is less of a reason to rejoice. Limit the cost of running these electronics by turning them off when not using them. Unplugging them helps, too, as electricity is used even when the electronic is off, if it’s still plugged in. Check out the handy formula for estimating the energy consumption of appliances and home electronics at the U.S. Department of Energy and find out how much you are spending to run these energy consumers.

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