Residential Energy Use with Michael Blasnik: Lower Priorities
On Friday I shared with you some of Michael Blasnik’s advice on the best ways to save energy at home. But a lot of what I found most interesting about the lecture was how much oft-repeated advice is wrong. For instance:
- Blocking off registers to unused rooms may actually make your furnace work harder and waste energy.
- Cleaning refrigerator coils regularly may not save energy at all. Blasnik said heat exchangers are so big now that it makes little difference.
- Running a ceiling fan counterclockwise in the winter to circulate the warm air at ceiling level doesn’t actually translate into energy savings. (Darn—I was really trying to believe that one.)
- A house would have to be really drafty for caulking and weatherstripping to translate into much energy savings. Attics and basements make up 50–75% of air leakage: plumbing stacks, walls without top plates, ceiling height changes, chimneys, soffits, knee walls, recessed lights, and foundation walls. Even then leakage only represents 30% of energy use.
- Tankless gas water heaters take just 1/3 off your hot water load and can cost twice as much as regular hot water heaters. Blasnik says the best buy is an indirect-fired unit.
- Cool roofs are just silly in cold climates. They may be good for the Earth’s albedo, but not for energy savings. Good insulation works just as well to keep a home cool.
- Single pane windows with storm windows perform almost as well as energy star windows, and a layer of plastic can be just as good as a layer of glass.
- Use carafe instead of coffeemaker warmer – costs $0 – $5/yr
- Cook with lids on pots – costs $0 – saves $2–10/yr
- Turn off heat in unused rooms – costs $0 – saves $0–200/yr?
- Clean fridge coils – costs $0 – saves $0–10/yr
- Change furnace filters monthly (vs. once per season) – costs $0 – saves $0–5/yr
- Unplug cell phone charger – costs $0 – saves <$1/yr
- Close fridge door quickly – costs $0 – saves <$1/yr
- Keep fridge full – costs $0 – saves <$1/yr
- Ceiling fan in winter – costs $0 – saves $0/yr?
- Close drapes on winter nights – costs $0 – saves $0/yr?
- Hot water pipe insulation (after first few feet) – costs $20? – saves $1?
- Replace old furnace w/92% efficiency (avg. use) – costs $3,200 – saves $250–400/yr
- Replace old dishwasher – costs $400+ – saves $25-40/yr
- Caulk/weatherstrip windows/doors – costs $50–600 – saves $10–40/yr
- Seal basement ducts (unless big holes) – costs $50–600 – saves $0–50/yr
- Insulate attic (some existing insulation, no seal) (DON’T DO THIS—SEAL BYPASSES!) – costs $700 – saves $30–60/yr
- Insulate basement ceiling (1000 ft^2) – costs $1,200 – saves $30–100/yr
- Cool roof – costs $1,000 – saves $10/yr
- Tune up gas furnace (annual) – costs $150 – saves $0?
- Tankless gas water heater – costs $2,500 – saves $60–120
- Replace 15 old windows – costs $10,000? – saves $50–150/yr
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Blasnik has a web site where he shares the sources of all these numbers, so before making any serious decisions based on his seminar, I’d do more research. As a professional consultant, maybe he’s not of the information-should-be-free mindset.
One year ago: Stress = Waste