Single-family home energy advances?
July 13, 2012 4:36 PM   Subscribe

Home energy advances. Are there any new developments I should know about as I'm about to move into an older single-family home after 13 years of living in an apartment? It is a gas/electric home with heavy tree shade.
posted by usermac to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Time of use is getting huge - it's likely that your energy will be priced higher during the day. Get a power meter so you can see what you're using, when.

Don't consider doing solar until you've got all the boring insulation done. Get an energy audit and see where the biggest gains for your money can be made.
posted by scruss at 5:24 PM on July 13, 2012

If you supply a few more details, you might get more useful info, e.g., the age of the home, the heating system, and the water heater; type of heating system; details about A/C, and some info re existing appliances. Also, where are you located?
posted by she's not there at 7:22 PM on July 13, 2012

You haven't given us much to go on.

Generally you can get a 90+% efficiency furnace now, which means it's entirely possible you can invest in a replacement that will pay for itself, depending on your long-term plans. In the right climate -- yours may be too mild -- geothermal (i.e. heat pump) can offer big savings, but requires a huge upfront investment.

Zone heating and cooling is big, but it probably requires substantial modification of your ductwork.

Yes -- get an energy audit (often free/discounted through your utility) and find out if you have insulation/weatherstripping deficiencies. There's so much that can be done it's ridiculous and that could occupy you and your budget for several years.

Everybody and his brother will want to sell you replacement windows, but they often don't pay for themselves; the expensive ones have a very long ROI, and the cheap ones don't last. If your house is at all historic, you can ruin the look and not get much savings.

A lot of the latest advances pertain to new construction or substantial remodeling, such as Energy Star or LEED certification. Grab some books on green building at the library, or shop Taunton. I read Fine Homebuilding and they talk about these things in every issue.
posted by dhartung at 11:40 PM on July 13, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you all. To answer a few questions:
Where is the home? The home is in northern Kentucky
How old? 54 years
Heat? Gas furnace
HVAC? Gas furnace/Central Air ( very very old in fact "unknown" the inspector says" )
Home type: Tri-level North facing.
Windows: Newer insulated
posted by usermac at 10:24 AM on July 14, 2012

Ductless heat pumps are the most energy-efficient and cheapest form of heating and cooling. A single outdoor unit can drive many indoor "heads" via a refrigerant line--no duct replacement. Check for state and local rebates, too.
posted by nemp at 6:36 PM on July 15, 2012

OK, if your furnace is too old to be dated, it's going to cost a bundle to fix when the time comes. Better to spend that on a modern HE model, and try to plan it before winter. This will definitely give you the biggest bang for your buck, even in KY, although ROI will take longer.

Heat pumps, by the way, are still eligible for stimulus tax credits via the IRS.

A few other things you can consider are the age of the water heater, and how well insulated it is; the more the better, and you can add a fiberglass "jacket" for a small cost. Look into low-flow toilet and shower heads; make sure sinks have an aerator. Insulate pipes and ducts, especially those exposed to crawlspaces, attics, or exterior walls. Consider your roof venting with the help of a pro; it's easy to install a ridge vent with a new roof now, for instance. Seal up ceiling lights and other invisible routes of heat loss, i.e. the thermal bypass.

Obviously these all require an investment of some type and it's your call (maybe with a pro or an energy audit) which will help the most. Taken together, perhaps after several years of work, they will generally add up to a significant savings.

Good luck!
posted by dhartung at 2:36 PM on July 17, 2012

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