The food pyramid is the familiar triangle with grains at the bottom, fats and sugars at the top. Modeled on the food pyramid, the conservation pyramid is a guide for home improvements that will conserve energy and save you money. Like the food pyramid, the conservation pyramid reads from the bottom up, so start at the lowest level and work your way up because the improvements at the bottom of the pyramid are far more cost-effective than those at the top. Don’t proceed to a higher level until you’ve made the simpler improvements below that level. You will save money by starting at the bottom rung because the measures at the top of the pyramid include the most expensive improvements. Remember that the rules of the energy conservation pyramid are flexible — they are not set in stone because every house is different. Different climates, for example, call for different strategies in energy conservation. Here are the ten steps to the basic hierarchy of the conservation pyramid, with number 1 being the bottom:
1. Denver home energy audit
The information you need is best obtained through a certified home energy audit. This determines your current energy usage. It then figures your energy waste with state-of-the-art technology for blower-door testing, combustion area zone testing and infrared thermal imaging. The next step is to reduce energy waste wherever possible before improvements are made, then a recommendation is made as to which improvements should be made and in what order.
2. Low-cost measures
Turn things off! Most wasted energy is due to inattention and laziness, but this step can yield significant savings. If you want a lower electric bill:
- Turn off the lights every single time you leave a room.
- Turn off all appliances unless you’re using them.
- Always unplug chargers for cell phones and other gadgets when you’re not using them.
- Put televisions and other appliances on a plug strip, and to turn off the plug strip when you’re not using that appliance.
This is simple and the most cost-effective: make sure your house is free of incandescent lighting. In kitchens and basements, instal fixtures for linear fluorescent tubes.
4. Identify drafts
Air-sealing is best done by an experienced contractor equipped with a blower-door test apparatus for air sealing. Remember, air sealing work is not the same as caulking.
Now you should move on to your appliances. Are your major appliances — your refrigerator, dishwasher or washing machine — are more than ten years old? It’s time to replace them with more efficient models.
Find out the R-value of your insulation. It is well worth improving, especially in colder climates. Install R-60 insulation in your attic, or ask your contractor about dense-packed cellulose insulation. For basements the walls can be insulated with rigid foam insulation.
7. Water heater
If you have an old water heater, consider replacing it with a new high-efficiency water heater.
8. Heating and cooling equipment
If your home’s heating and cooling equipment is old enough to replace, it is wise to invest in the most efficient equipment on the market. BUT, energy-efficiency experts advise having a home energy audit completed first. If you replace the equipment before air sealing and insulation improvements are made, you could easily waste money on oversized heating or cooling equipment.
9. New windows
We are now nearing the top of the pyramid. New windows will reduce energy consumption, but they are unlikely to be cost-effective if you haven’t taken the previous measures at the bottom of the pyramid to conserve energy. Storm windows are actually more cost-effective than installing brand new windows, but if cost is not an issue be sure that your new windows have low-e glazing.
10. Renewable energy equipment
At the top of the pyramid is the installation of a photovoltaic system (solar panels), or a wind turbine. There are many reasons to have PV panels or a wind turbine installed, but it makes no sense to invest in an expensive solar panel system until after you have made the other improvements listed on the pyramid.
To develop a concrete plan of action to lower your energy bills, first contact a certified professional and schedule an energy audit. Not only are we experts in the industry, but we are Colorado’s best energy audit specialists. Call us today to request a consultation!