Energy Saving Tips

Do you think that your electricity bills are too high? Would you like to learn how you can make some simple adjustments and start saving every month? We at Penstar Power, want to help you reduce your energy costs. We've got some great tips to help you make your home more energy efficient–and cost effective.

Air Leakage Tips

One of the most simple and effective ways to lower your overall energy bill is to reduce the amount of air leaking into and out of your home. Of course, the air itself isn't the problem. It's the fact that you spend so much money adjusting the temperature of that air. That's why the Department of Energy estimates that you can save up to 20% on your overall heating and cooling costs through proper sealing and insulating techniques. It's not smart to rely on air leakage for ventilation because you get either too much or too little air. Instead, use controlled ventilation and seal your windows. You can use window panels to seal up for a quick storm, rope caulk for a seasonal fix, or either sealant or foam for a more permanent solution.

Seal Your Doors

Of course, the best way to stop air leaking through your doors is to close them immediately after you enter or exit. But once you and your family have made that a habit, you can also apply self-adhesive weather seal for a removable solution, or screw on some door sweeps for a more permanent one.

Seal Your Ducts

Old ducts can be a large part of your air leakage problem, and sealing them can dramatically improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system. Depending on the location of the leak, you can either wrap it with sturdy, long-lasting tape or apply mastic sealant with a caulk gun or putty knife.

Seal Your Electrical Outlets

It's common sense to think of outlets and switches as sources of electricity, but they're also sources of air leakage. So even though installing gaskets and covers will only take a few minutes, it will save you money for years to come. It will also help in moisture control, which can be a source of health problems.

Seal Your Chimney

If you've got an old chimney, there's a good chance that your chimney damper has begun to warp and might even be broken. This allows cold air to leak in and warm air to leak out. Chimney balloons are easy-to-install solutions that not only stop the air leakage, but also keep out debris and odor.

Seal Your AC Covers

During the winter, stop cold air from leaking through your air conditioning registers with tight-seal, clear-plastic draft shields. They're so well designed that you don't need tools to install them, and they're so durable that you can use them year after year.

Alternative Cooling Tips

Traditionally, when people talk about cooling systems for their homes, they're usually referring to either a one-room air conditioner or a whole-house air conditioner. The latter is usually a part of a central heating, ventilation, and air conditioning unit called an HVAC system. But these aren't the only methods for cooling your home. Ceiling fans, portable fans, and even evaporative coolers can offer alternative techniques, although some more effectively than others.

The reason that HVAC systems are so popular is that they offer a very convenient, whole-house cooling option that can be easily controlled from one or more thermostats located around the house. One of the biggest disadvantages of this method is that — if the equipment is more than 15 years old or not maintained properly — it can cause significant and expensive energy loss. Learn more at HVAC Maintenance Tips or contact an Authorized Dealer for a tune-up.

Add a Ceiling Fan and Raise Your Thermostat

One of the most effective ways to lower your energy costs is to raise the thermostat on your air conditioner. In fact, for each degree that you turn it up, you'll save 1% on your overall cooling costs. Of course, when you turn your thermostat up, your house gets a little warmer. That's where ceiling fans can help. Ceiling fans create a wind-chill effect that makes you feel cooler. In fact, by simply adding a ceiling fan, you could turn up your thermostat by 4°and still be comfortable.

Use Portable Fans for Spot Cooling

There will be some days that you'll find that you don't need to keep your whole house cool. For example, you might be cooking, doing laundry, or working out of a home office. This would be a good time to use a portable fan. It creates the same wind-chill effect as the ceiling fan, yet you can move it and position it wherever you want. There are several different styles to choose from, but whichever one you choose, make sure that — once you turn it on — you also raise your thermostat for energy savings.

Consider Evaporative Coolers in Dry Climates

Evaporative coolers are a good alternative - but only if you live in a low-humidity area. Often called swamp coolers, these units use about a quarter of the energy of conventional air conditioners, cost about half as much to install, and provide a steady stream of fresh air into your home. The downside is that they require more frequent maintenance and are only good in dry climates

Alternative Heating Tips

Furnaces and boilers are the most common methods of heating a home in the United States. The furnace heats air, which travels through ducts. The boiler produces hot water or steam, which travels through pipes or radiators. If you're considering either of these heating methods, you can compare their efficiency levels by simply checking their Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) ratings. But before you make a choice, you should consider all of your other heating options.

Furnaces can be part of a central heating, ventilation, and air conditioning unit called an HVAC system. The reason that HVAC systems are so popular is that they offer a whole-house heating option that can be controlled and monitored from one or more thermostats located around the house. One of the biggest disadvantages of this method is that, if the thermostat is not set properly or the equipment is not maintained properly, it can cause significant energy loss. Learn more at HVAC Maintenance Tips.

Consider Wood as a Renewable Energy Option

Over a century ago, practically everyone used wood to heat their homes. About a half century ago, almost no one was using wood. Today, newly-designed wood-burning appliances have started to regain popularity among those who are interested in renewable energy resources. If you choose this option, make sure that you get the right size of appliance for your home. If it's too big, you'll waste fuel and create air pollution. If it's too small, you'll be uncomfortable.

Consider Pellets as a Biomass Energy Option

Pellet-burning appliances are very similar to their wood-burning cousins in that they're newly-designed to heat more efficiently and to burn cleaner. Conventional pellets are made up of compacted sawdust, wood chips, waste paper, crop waste, and the like. However, some pellet-burning appliances are capable of burning biomass fuels, such as nutshells, barley, beet pulp, sunflowers, cherry pits, and soybeans.

Consider Radiant Heating as a Non-Allergenic Option

If you're someone who suffers from severe allergies, you might want to look into radiant heating. These systems distribute heat directly to the floors, walls, or ceilings of your home and then radiate the heat out to warm the rooms. Because no air is blown through your home, it cuts down on air pollution. And because no ducts are used, much of the heat loss during distribution is minimized. There are many variables involved with radiant heating, so be sure to do your homework before you decide.

Consider Solar Heating as a Supplement

Though solar heating is a great renewable energy option, it hasn't advanced to the point where it can provide a complete heating solution. In fact, the Department of Energy advises that solar heating is best when it's only required to supply 40% to 80% of your heating needs. That's why many choose to use a hybrid electricity system that combines the best of both solar power and wind power.

Heating & Cooling Tips

This might come as a surprise to you, but approximately half of your energy use goes to heating and cooling your home. Fortunately, there are many ways to cut that down, including insulation, air sealing, programmable thermostats and more. Of course, you should start by making sure that your heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system is working properly. In fact, it's estimated that if you just upgrade to an ENERGY STAR® HVAC unit, you could save up to $200 a year on your electricity bill!

To ensure energy-efficient cooling and heating in your home, be sure to change your filters at least once every 3 months and even more often during winter and summer. You should also have your equipment checked annually by an authorized dealer. And if your HVAC system is more than 10 years old, consider upgrading to an ENERGY STAR® system, which is specifically designed to save both energy and money.

Reduce Your Air Leakage

Air leaks through your windows, doors, ducts, chimney and even your electrical outlets. The problem is that you've spent a considerable portion of your energy bill heating that air in winter and cooling it in summer. Find out how to reduce your air leakage and cut your energy costs at Air Leakage Tips.

Upgrade Your Windows

If you want to go beyond window sealing, you might consider window replacement. It's estimated that you could save up to $501 per year, depending on your location, by replacing your old windows with new ENERGY STAR® windows that can block 70% of the solar heat in the summer and reflect radiant heat indoors during the winter. (Savings based on average annual energy use for a 2,000 square foot, single story, detached house with 300 square feet of window area, gas heat and electric air conditioning.

Insulate Your Attic

Did you know that 80% of homes built before 1980 are under insulated? Chances are that you're spending more money than you need on energy and that you're not as cool in the summer or as warm in the winter as you'd like. Find out more about energy-efficient heating and cooling to learn the basics of insulation — or contact your local authorized dealer.

Install a Programmable Thermostat

According to the Department of Energy, you can save up to 10% on your heating and cooling costs by turning your thermostat back 10-15% for 8 hours a day. What's more, there are several programmable thermostats that make this an easy and automated task, including one that you can adjust by phone.

Install a Ceiling Fan

well known that ceiling fans are a great way to cool your home during the summer and that they use considerably less energy than your air conditioning unit. But what's less well known is that they can also help warm your home in the winter by drawing the heat that's risen to the ceiling down into the room.

Use Space Heaters and Portable Fans

Your HVAC system is designed to heat and cool your whole house. However, there are days when you spend most of your time in one or two rooms. That's when you should consider lowering your thermostat and using a space heater in winter or raising your thermostat and using a portable fan in summer. It doesn't make sense to heat or cool rooms that are empty.

HVAC Maintenance Tips

Your HVAC system is just another name for your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning unit. Since it works to keep the conditioned space of your home at a comfortable temperature — in both winter and summer — it accounts for as much as half of the energy you use in a year. That's why it's so important to keep it running at its peak performance level, because just a little bit of inefficiency in your central system can have a big impact on your overall energy bill.

Once a year, it's a good idea to call a professional heating and cooling contractor to inspect your HVAC system. These experts have the knowledge and tools to keep your unit healthy and running smoothly. Of course, if your system is over 10 years old, don't be surprised if they recommend upgrading to a more efficient ENERGY STAR® model. The newer units are specifically designed to keep you more comfortable - and to save you money.

Go Over Your Checklist

Talk to your heating and cooling company before and after the inspection. Let them know that you're an informed consumer and that there are certain things you want checked. In fact, the Department of Energy has created a list of what a maintenance tune-up should include. Print it out and go over it with the technician before work begins.

Install a Programmable Thermostat

If you don't already have a programmable thermostat, you should consider asking your contractor to install one. The fact is, you can save up to 10% on your heating and cooling costs by simply turning your thermostat back 10 to 15% for 8 hours a day. What's more, there are several programmable thermostats that make this a simple and automated task that you can control from your computer or any web-connected device.

Insulation Tips

Insulation is a term used for a wide variety of materials, from fiberglass to liquid foam to mineral wool. It's used in walls, floors, ceilings, and around ducts to provide resistance to the natural heat flow in your home. In the winter, heat flows out and you have to heat your home. In the summer, heat flows in and you have to cool your home. As you can imagine, the cost adds up very quickly. But with proper insulation and air sealing techniques, you could save up to 20% on your overall heating and cooling costs. It also makes your home much more comfortable.

Your attic is one of the easiest places to insulate, especially if you're adding to existing insulation. Typically, you'd use either blanket insulation or loose-fill insulation. Blanket comes in rolls or batts and is the most common type of insulation. Loose-fill consists of small particles of fiber, foam, or other materials. It tends to be less expensive, provides more coverage, and can be used in hard-to-reach areas.

Install a Reflective Radiant Barrier

While you're in your attic, consider installing a reflective radiant barrier. It blocks heat from entering or exiting through your roof — and saves money on both your heating and cooling bills. Though there are various types of radiant barriers, one of the most effective is a high-tech coating that's simply sprayed onto the underside of the roof deck. For best results, hire a specialist.

Decide On Your Basement

There's a lot of controversy about where to insulate in your basement. Do you insulate your basement ceiling or its walls? If the walls, do you insulate on the exterior or the interior? Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to each, but whichever solution you decide on, be sure to read about the nine general rules of moisture control before you start work.

Insulate Your Exterior Walls

For exterior walls, you should first determine where you need insulation, and then how much you need to reach the recommended R-value. You can do this yourself, or you can hire an Authorized Dealer to conduct a more detailed thermographic inspection. Once you've determined the location and coverage you need, you might want to consider using loose-fill or sprayed foam insulation, in that they both can be used without disturbing finished areas of your home.

Insulate Other Areas

There are many other places where you can insulate in your home, from attic access doors to crawl spaces to floors above unheated garages. What's more, there are different types of insulation. Insulation for windows and skylights, for example, can be accomplished through awnings,blinds, or other treatments or coverings. Find out more at Solar Insulation Tips.

Landscaping Tips

Just as you'd consider daylighting as part of your overall lighting strategy, you should consider landscaping as part of your overall heating and cooling strategy. Shade from trees, shrubs, and vines can help cool your home, just as sunlight and windbreaks can help warm it. But don't count on Mother Nature to accidentally grow the greenery you need. Take a moment to learn about your climate, your microclimate, and your specific needs. Then start to design one beautiful botanical solution.

We've got roughly four climate regions in America. If you live in the Cool or Temperate Zones, you'll probably be more interested in learning how to maximize sunlight to increase heat and how to create a windbreak to lower the wind chill factor. If you live in the Hot-Arid or Hot-Humid Zones, you'll probably be more interested in shade to cut the heat. But your regional climate only tells half the story. You need to know your microclimate to truly understand your specific situation.

Consider Your Microclimate

Your microclimate is the climate immediately surrounding your home. If you live near a body of water, you might have higher humidity than the rest of your region. If you live in the foothills, you might have cooler temperatures. Once you're familiar with your microclimate, ask your local nursery or landscape architects about which trees and plants grow best near you and which would be the best for your energy-saving strategy.

Use Trees and Plants for Shade

Trees and plants grow in all sizes and shapes, so you have a complete toolbox to work with. For example, leaf-shedding deciduous trees are a good option when you want shade in the summer and warm sunlight in the winter. On the other hand, lush evergreens can cool your home with year-round shade if you're in a Hot Zone. But don't plant dense foliage too close to your home or it might create problems with your moisture control.

Create Windbreaks

Wind chill is a very descriptive name for the cold you feel when the wind blows. It can drop the outside temperature a significant amount and require increased energy to warm your home. A natural solution would be to build a windbreak with one or several dense evergreen trees and shrubs. For the best results, try to plant your windbreak at a distance of two to five times the mature height of your trees.

Renewable Energy Tips

Renewable energy is energy that comes from resources that naturally renew or replenish themselves. Sun, wind and running water are perfect examples of different types of renewable energy. In an off-grid system, people use renewable energy to replace the electricity supplied by power companies. In a grid-connected system, people use renewable energy to reduce the amount of conventional power they use. Penstar Power supplies electricity through a grid-connected system.

Consider the Sun in Hot Climates

Solar electric systems, also called photovoltaic or PV systems, use both direct and scattered sunlight to make electricity. So before you buy, have your local supplier conduct a solar site analysis for you. Then you should measure the size of your roof, determine the orientation and tilt you need and find out what permits are required. The Department of Energy points out that since the Southwest receives the most sunlight in the nation, solar systems function quite efficiently as renewable energy in Texas.

Consider the Wind in Rural Areas

If you live in a windy area, you can pull energy right out of the air. In fact, according to the Department of Energy, if you have the right site, wind power could lower your electricity bills by up to 50% to 90%. And if you live in a remote area, there are other advantages as well. You don't have to incur the high costs of extending power lines to your location and, if you live on a farm or ranch, it can help you pump water. Before you buy, consult a wind resource map and always check for zoning and permit requirements

Consider Running Water in Hilly Areas

Micro hydro power is often spelled as a single word, but the most important part of the word is "hydro". That's because the main driver of this type of renewable energy resource is running water. This system can generate up to 10 times the electricity that's needed to power a large house, a small resort, or a hobby farm. As with other alternative energy systems, you should always make sure that you check for zoning and permit requirements, but in this instance, you should also make sure you own the water rights.

Consider Hybrids for Seasonal Areas

If you live in a part of the country where both sun and wind are inconsistent, you might consider a hybrid electricity system. In the summer, when the sun is bright and the winds are down, you can use your solar system. In the winter, when the sun is hidden and the winds are blowing, you can use your turbine system. And during the spring and fall, you can use solar power during the day, wind power at night and batteries or a generator when neither the sun nor wind is available.

Solar Insulation Tips

The sun is, without a doubt, the most cost-efficient source of energy, light, and warmth. In fact, it plays a central role in both our Lighting and Landscaping Tips. But too much sun in the summer can lead to an over-heated home, which then requires costly air conditioning to cool. There are several ways to minimize this problem, including insulating the windows in your home and creating a radiant barrier in your attic. Both strategies are recommended, because both result in higher comfort levels and lower energy costs.

Install a Radiant Barrier in Your Attic

On a bright summer day, the sun's energy can make things very hot, very quickly. This is called radiant heat because the energy radiates from the sun, through the roof, and then down to heat everything underneath the roof. A radiant barrier simply blocks that radiation. This can be done with reflective foil, shingles, sheathing, or other reflective material. For best results, hire a contractor to ensure proper installation.

Upgrade Your Windows and Skylights

In the past, windows were windows. The most you had to be concerned about was keeping them clean. But today's new windows and skylights have been designed to transmit light while blocking heat. So even though upgrading is a big investment, it can turn into huge long-term savings on your energy bills. You can take a moment to learn about U-factors, solar heat gain coefficients, and light-to-solar gains – or you can count on our recommended experts to select and install what's right for you and your home.

Install Awnings and Overhangs on the Outside

If you don't have awnings or overhangs outside your windows, you may want to consider them. If you do have awnings — but they're old – you should find out about new products on the market that not only repel water, but also resist mildew and fading. Why are awnings so important? They sharply reduce solar heat gain. In fact, the Department of Energy estimates that awnings can reduce solar heat gain between 65% and 77% in an average home.

Use Draperies and Blinds on the Inside

For the inside of your home's windows, you might consider using draperies or blinds. They're both good at reducing the passage of heat through your windows. But draperies are better at reducing heat loss from the inside, while blinds are better at reducing heat gain from the outside. So close your drapes and blinds during the summer, but remember to take advantage of the sun's heat by opening them in winter when the sun is out and closing them at night to keep in the heat.

Install Other Window Treatments and Coverings

Solar screens, installed on the outside of your home, are a very effective way to reduce summer heat gain. Reflective films, installed on the inside, can do the same thing. But if you're more concerned about winter heat loss than summer heat gain, perhaps the most convenient solution would be removable window panels, which are inexpensive, easy to install, and can reduce heat loss by as much as 50%.

Ventilation Tips

There are several reasons why proper ventilation is important. First, it reduces unhealthy air pollutants, such as formaldehyde and radon. Second, it reduces excessive moisture and humidity levels, which can lead to mold growth and structural damage. And third, it reduces naturally occurring odors in the house from pets, cooking, smoking, and other everyday living activities. In fact, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recommends that a home's living area should be ventilated at a rate of roughly 15 cubic feet per person per minute.

Minimize Natural Ventilation

Allowing air to naturally flow into and out of your home sounds like the best method of ventilation, but it's actually got a lot of disadvantages. The biggest problem is that it's uncontrolled. The cracks that you depend on for air transfer are the same ones that cause your energy loss through air leakage. Open your windows for an occasional air wash, but whole-house ventilation is better for your day-to-day strategy.

Monitor Your Ventilation

Kitchen, bathroom, and ceiling fans are a smart way to ventilate a room without using your HVAC system. But sometimes there's steam or cooking smells that need to be removed after you've left the room. Ventilation monitors offer a variety of ways to do this, by measuring either time or humidity.

Consider Whole-House Ventilation

For the most control over air pollutants, moisture, and odors, whole-house ventilation offers the best solution. This method not only improves air quality, but also provides uniform ventilation throughout the house. It's also the most efficient method in regards to energy control, in that you can install a programmable thermostat and monitor the temperature even when you're not in your home.

Use Spot Ventilation Where Needed

Spot ventilation isn't an overall strategy. It's a supplemental approach to increase the effectiveness of either natural or whole-house ventilation. It consists of specially-placed exhaust fans that help in the kitchen and bathroom to remove air pollutants and moisture at their source. The biggest problem with spot ventilation is that the exhaust fans are often turned on longer than they're needed. To solve this, consider using some sort of automatic ventilation control that switches the fan off based on time or humidity.