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Sunday, 22 September 2013



I am now going to voice my opinion on a topic that is something I am passionate about. Namely housing energy. I have heard sooo many people tell me that they would love to have their houses 'off the grid'. After being in the housing industry for over 15 years, the biggest step toward getting off the grid is to increase the efficiency of the systems already in place. Increased efficiency translates into decreased waste. Decreased wasted energy is more money in your pocket.

A perfect example of this would be central heating/cooling system. Hot air goes up, while cool air is forced down, or falls. So the balancing of a central heating system is very important to maintain, depending on the season. In most conventional houses, the air blows out of strategically placed(usually) registers, and returned to the furnace or A/C unit via floor/wall returns. The return vents are usually the large grills. In the more modern houses, wall returns are also present, usually at the highest point of the house. The idea is to maintain the temperature of the air to relative required comfort levels. In the summer we close the floor returns, so we don't lose the cool air, and we keep the wall returns open, to recycle the warm air. In the winter, we would like to keep the warm air, so we close the wall returns, and plug the floor returns. Warm air rises and cool air falls.

  We can also streamline a heating system by balancing the main supply duct of a heating system. The main ducting coming out of a furnace has branches. The number of branches is usually dependent on the size of the house. Somewhere along each of the branches is a 'damper'. It will be inside the large duct. You can adjust it by turning the nut or bolt on the outside of the duct. By fully opening, or partially closing these dampers, airflow can be directed through the home. If you can reduce the number of times a heating/cooling system turns on in a two hour period, you are saving money.

 We can take advantage of the natural properties of air temperature differentials. So, for the summer, we would really like to get rid of the warm air. Here is another idea. If you have a pretty good idea of the prevailing weather patterns of where your house is, add some small windows toward the top of each story, and position them so a breeze can help vent some of that excess heat.

 Another area that can always be improved is a hot water system. The water coming into your house from the ground is at approximately 55 Deg F. You are then warming it up to between 140- 170 Deg F. By adding a holding tank that brings the water up to room temperature BEFORE it enters the water tank,you can save quite a bit on a heating bill. Using pipe insulation on hot water lines to reduce heat loss is also a good idea. Turn down the operating temperature of your hot water tank. Wash your laundry in cold water.

 There are dozens of different techniques for saving on your energy bill. Most municipalities charge a premium for energy consumption during peak hours. Usually between 8 am and 5 pm. So altering your lifestyle can also help to save. Do your dishes, laundry and showering during the hours that cost less for power. Upgrading old appliances may also bean option ( I have mixed feelings about this). You may use less power by upgrading an old appliance, but will the cost of the new appliance outweigh the potential savings? If given enough time it can, but lets face it, most new appliance will not last long enough to offset the cost.  In quite a few cases, energy efficiency does not mean a better machine.

 Maintaining the temperature of your home, rather than shutting down a cooling system is also more cost effective. If you leave your house in the morning and shut down you A/C, when you return and crank it in order to cool off your house, you are not saving money and you are straining your A/C unit. Closing the curtains on south facing windows, during the hottest parts of the day will also reduce the cost of cooling your home. Conversely, leaving these curtains open during daylight hours in the winter can also help reduce the cost of heating. Make sure your attic hatch is well sealed during the cold months.

 Every single house has it's own 'personality'. Some of the contributing factors to this are; 1) Position of the home vs prevailing weather patterns. 2) Presence of shade trees. 3) Position/ condition of windows vs local weather. 4) Age/ condition of interior systems. 5) Ventilation. How well you know the personality of your home can be a big advantage in streamlining your energy consumption. If you can reduce the amount of power that is wasted in your home, you can get a more comprehensive idea of what kind of power requirements you truly have. If you know how much power you need for your home, you will have a GREAT idea of the requirements of any 'off the grid' system.