Today we are ever improving our methods of building better green structures and building green is becoming more main-stream. In the near future, we can fuel our homes and cars on mostly or only clean and renewable energy. This is exciting and very important but it is just not enough. Living green is such an important factor in the equation. Whether you are building, remodeling or neither; the way you live has a direct impact on the environment, your energy usage and your pocket book.
Most Austinites are savvy to recycling, using compact fluorescent light bulbs and such but let’s take this a step further. The energy usage in your home can be categorized into heating and cooling, lighting and appliances. The types of systems, fixtures and appliances we use and how attentive we are to maintaining them and turning them off when not in use can certainly make a difference in our energy consumption.
Using a home energy management system, “smart panel” or “smart grid” can be essential in monitoring and managing how you use energy in your home. If you know how much, where and when you are using energy, imagine how powerful that can be. It is like the newer vehicles that have gauges that show your miles per gallon as you are driving. It makes you realize that you can let off the gas pedal and coast a little more often. Knowledge = Power!
Scott Moser, a System Designer with F2 Technologies LLC, shared some information about the products and services that his company offers. F2 Technologies is local electronic systems and low voltage contractor. In years past they focused their services in the media and entertainment industry installing in home media systems in high end homes. As they have evolved into the sustainable industry, they offer the Home Energy Manager (HEM) to homeowners with a wider range of budgets.
The HEM, once installed, can manage your HVAC, lighting and outlets, appliances and irrigation as well as a host of entertainment and media features in the home. The HEM can track your energy usage in real time to help you see where and when you are using power. It can learn your living habits to turn on and off systems as you are accustomed to using them. It can also be controled remotely by connecting through the internet.
In my Solar Power – Change is Good newsletter, I wrote about a device called “Kill-a-watt” that can help you find your phantom load. You plug it into the outlet then plug your appliance into it to show the amount of power you are drawing whether or not the appliance is even turned on. Again, this knowledge is powerful because the typical home phantom load is about 25% !! But then what? You know all these things you have plugged in are costing you money, but how inconvenient will it be to plug and unplug each device each time you use it? Will each member of your family be dedicated enough to do that? I think this is where the HEM can offer the biggest payback. It can be set to control power to each outlet in your home. In a bedroom, for example, where the alarm clock and phone base are the only things that really need power 100% of the time, outlets that other appliances are plugged into can be turned off so they do not draw power at all until you walk into the room or when you have programmed them to. The HEM can also control the amount of power to a fixture or outlet. Lighting can have 90% power and still be operational and you wouldn’t notice the difference. A 10% savings is one that will add up over time.
There are many great advantages of a home energy management system. For a moderate sized home of about 2000 s.f., a full HEM system controlling your HVAC, lighting and outlets, appliances and irrigation will cost roughly $2000 installed. A good starter system controlling HVAC, and most lighting and outlets can be under $1000. Your energy savings averages 15% which for some of us can be as much as $500.00 a year!
Green Living Tips!
I welcome inspirations from your home to put into future newsletters. Email them to me; Cammi Klier. Thanks!!
Have you cleaned out your garage lately?? I’ll bet you have some old paint cans, aerosol cans and other hazardous chemicals that you don’t need. You probably have some used batteries in there as well. Pile them into your car and take a quick drive to the City of Austin Solid Waste Services Household Hazardous Waste Facility just East of I-35 near Ben White and Todd Lane. I dropped off my garage waste a few weeks ago and it was very convenient. They are set up with several drive-through lanes and many smiling faces. I was there for less than a minute and a helpful person unloaded all of the things out of the back of my car, told me a funny joke and I was on my way!! I am not sure if the joke is necessarily part of their standard operation but it was a nice bonus! Please pay them a visit!
Disposable and rechargeable batteries, used compact fluorescent bulbs and old mobile phones can be taken to any Home Depot for recycling.
ALSO…visit the Hornsby Bend Bird Observatory in the coming months for their high season! It is located near Austin, Texas at the Austin Water Utility’s Hornsby Bend Biosolids Management Plant. The water activity at the plant attracts migrating birds and it is a fascinating place to visit.