Importance Of The Systems Inside Your Energy Efficient Home.

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The following is a guest post by Nan Fischer, a Certified EcoBroker specializing in green real estate in Taos, NM. Check out her website, and follow her on Twitter for a daily green news feed, Nan writes about green building, solar energy and the environment on her blog,

When it comes to saving energy, the systems inside your home are just as important as the envelope. You save money and energy with less air infiltration through the envelope, then you save again with efficient systems, lighting, renewable energy and water conservation.

HVAC – Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning

  • You need proper air movement in your home for comfort and efficient heating and cooling. The systems must be sized properly and according to the type of fuel used.
  • An air-tight home needs ventilation in the form of a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) or energy recovery ventilator (ERV). Indoor air is exchanged with outside air at least .35 times per hour, moving out stale and bringing in fresh air without compromising your heating or cooling. It’s not like cracking open a window and watching the heat flow out!
  • Energy Star equipment should be used for the most savings. All ductwork needs to be sealed to eliminate leakage.
  • If you install radiant floor heat, the tubing should be spaced close enough together to prevent cold spots.
  • Passive solar heating reduces daytime heating needs, and thermal mass radiates stored heat out at night. Thermal mass works year-round taking heat out of the air in summer, too.
  • Ceiling fans are also an inexpensive and effective way of distributing heat in winter and drawing in cool air in summer.

Water heating

  • Since I have solar hot water, I’ll praise it here! I cut my gas bill down to $15 a month with solar thermal. My installer and I crunched the numbers, and figured the payback would be about 5 or 6 years.
  • On-demand, or tankless, water heaters are very efficient, too. Water is heated as it is used, passing through and being warmed instantly by the heater. There is no 40 gallon tank to keep warm, which is the main cost of hot water.
  • If you need to have a standard water heater, compare the yellow energy labels that are posted on them. Buy a size that is right for your needs. Cover it with an insulating blanket, and insulate all water lines.

Lighting & Appliances

  • Allow for as much natural daylight as possible to reduce the need for electric lights. Install and properly place windows, solar tubes and skylights.
  • Use CFLs (compact fluorescent bulbs) or LEDs (light emitting diodes) instead of incandescent bulbs. CFLs are four times as efficient as incandescents, and last ten times longer. They offer quality light, not the fluorescent of old commercial building. They are most effective in rooms where lights stay on a lot, since they use more energy being turned on and off, instead of just burning.
  • LEDs are more expensive, but they last ten times as long as a CFL. They are cool, durable and free of mercury, one drawback to a CFL.
  • Energy Star fixtures and appliances use 10-50% less energy and water than standard models. Check their website for information about refrigerators, washers and dryers, dishwashers and air conditioners.


Try and generate some of your own energy through:

  • Solar thermal for domestic hot water and/or heating.
  • Solar PV – off-grid or net-meter
  • Wind power
  • Geothermal

Look into incentives in the form of tax credits and rebates at the Database of State Incentives for Reneweables & Efficiency

Water efficiency

  • You can save water by putting all of your plumbing lines in a wet wall. Bathrooms can be back to back, or one can be adjacent to the kitchen. Upstairs plumbing is most efficient directly above downstairs plumbing. This is less distance for hot water to travel, uses less material and creates less waste.
  • As mentioned earlier, on-demand water heaters save energy, but they also save water, because you are not running the water until it gets hot. It is hot right away.
  • Showerheads and faucets should be rated at 2.5 gal/min or less to save up to 50% on your water heating and consumption bills. Toilets are low-flow (1.6 gal/flush) by law, and dual-flush toilets use even less water!
  • Catch water and filter it for indoor use. Direct gray water to plantings indoors or out.

Read about energy efficiency outside the house – how you can have an eco-friendly landscape.

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  1. I think this is a great post for the reason that it highlights the fact most people overlook: that saving energy begins in your own home and there are many things you can do BEFORE you decide not to change your lifestyle but instead go out on a charity run. Lead by example!

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