Topic: Energy Efficiency For Your Home or Business
Date: July 24, 2009
Lena Kim: Fossil fuels. That's where 85 percent of the energy consumed in the United States comes from. The combustion of coal, oil, and natural gas also produces carbon dioxide or "CO2", the dominant greenhouse gas, which is why alternative and renewable energy is gaining more appeal.
Hi, I'm Lena Kim of the Environmental Protection Agency's Mid-Atlantic region, and welcome to Environment Matters, our series of podcasts.
Alternative and renewable energy comes from sources such as solar panels, wind turbines, hydropower, and geothermal power which comes from the heat within the earth. Although the market for these alternative and renewable energy sources is growing, it still represents a small percentage of the energy consumed in the United States. That's why using energy efficiently is so important in our homes and businesses.
Now is the best time, for homeowners and business owners alike, to be more energy efficient because there are new tax credits available.
I'm here with Andrew Kreider of EPA's ENERGY STAR and Clean Energy Programs. Andrew, what is the first thing home and business owners should do to make their building more energy efficient?
Andrew Kreider: Well, the first thing that should be done is an energy audit. And, it can either be done by a professional or by the owner. An audit can help you assess how much energy your home uses and evaluate what measures you can take to improve efficiency.
Lena Kim: Let's say someone can't afford a professional energy audit. Are there some low-cost things they can do to be more energy efficient?
Andrew Kreider: Sure. The simplest and least costly step – that many homeowners and business owners can complete themselves – is weatherizing your building. Use caulk, spray foam, and weather stripping to seal the small spaces and any cracks along your home's outer walls, ceilings, windows, doors, and floors. You can also add insulation to your attic to help keep your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Also, seal leaks and repair disconnections in your home's duct system. This should be done before you consider replacing your heating, ventilation and air conditioning units.
Lena Kim: What else does EPA suggest you do to increase energy efficiency when it comes to heating or cooling your building?
Andrew Kreider: Well, as folks prepare for warmer weather and begin to use their air conditioning, we recommend checking your forced air ducts. Often, 30% of the air on the way to your vents is lost, requiring more energy to make up the difference. Make sure you properly seal your ducts to prevent that loss. Also, change your air filters, at least every three months.
Lena Kim: What's the next step towards making your building energy efficient?
Andrew Kreider: The next step could be replacing your windows and doors. ENERGY STAR labeled windows, for example, are twice as efficient as the average windows manufactured just 10 years ago. They help cut your heating and cooling costs and can make your home and business more comfortable without compromising cost, comfort, versatility, or style. Tax credits for these improvements are listed at www.energystar.gov/taxcredits
Lena Kim: I went to that website and found that homeowners can be credited for 30% of the cost, up to $1,500 and sometimes more. For business owners, a tax deduction of up to $1.80 per square foot is available for commercial buildings that save at least 50% of the heating and cooling energy of a building. How else can EPA assist home and business owners as they make this transformation?
Andrew Kreider: EPA is a partner in the ENERGY STAR Program, which is a joint endeavor between the EPA and the Department of Energy to encourage energy efficiency in homes and businesses through the use of ENERGY STAR labeled products and savings practices. All of these save you money on energy costs and also protect our environment. The ENERGY STAR partnership offers a proven energy management strategy that helps in measuring current energy performance, setting goals, tracking savings and rewarding improvements. Businesses especially have found our free energy benchmarking tool – called Portfolio Manager - very useful.
Lena Kim: So, once you've successfully weatherized your homes, EPA has tools that can help them continue toward even greater efficiency?
Andrew Kreider: Absolutely. ENERGY STAR products are the next natural step. For example, dishwashers that are ENERGY STAR qualified are at least 40% more efficient than standard new models. And ENERGY STAR labels a host of other products, including ceiling fans, programmable thermostats, and room air conditioners. Also, you could switch to ENERGY STAR qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs. CFL's save 75% of the energy compared to a traditional incandescent light bulb. Just make sure you dispose of them properly after use.
Lena Kim: Any other advice?
Andrew Kreider: Well, thousands of Americans have set some energy efficiency goals for their home or business by taking the ENERGY STAR pledge at: www.energystar.gov/changetheworld. And remember: before considering any alternative forms of energy for your home or business, you should make sure it's as energy efficient as possible to avoid spending money on a system that's more than you need.
Lena Kim: Thanks for joining us on Environment Matters, EPA's series of environmental podcasts. For more information about energy efficiency visit www.energystar.gov For information about other environmental topics visit us at epa.gov