How to lower the cost of electric water heating

This decision is an important one when building a new house: how can you manage the costs if you decide not to use a water heater fuel as natural gas or oil. If you decide that your house will have an electric water heater the increase in your monthly bills can drive you crazy, believe me.

Voltex® Hybrid Electric Heat Pump 80-Gallon Water Heater
Voltex Hybrid water heater tank (AO Smith)

First of all, you have to look for Energy Star systems, that can save you money because they have different functions. The Voltex® Hybrid Electric Heat Pump, for example (A.O.Smith) reduces water heating cost by up to 58% through an innovative design that pulls environmental heat while dehumidifying and cooling the ambient air at the same time.

It delivers good savings by generating heat through the heat pump technology instead of the heating elements. These tanks also offers user-friendly display, vacation mode to save money while you are away, and a heavy duty anode that protects your tank for 10 years. this model also has two heating elements that help the water heater recover quickly during periods of high demand. The tank has a 80-gal capacity, pretty nice number if you like to use your tub frequently.

If you are thinking about take advantage of the new solar panel credit program available by the government this can also help you in terms of electrical bill costs. Between financing and incentives, customers are usually cash-flow positive in their first year, and the system itself can be paid off after 3-5 years on average (depending on a lot of factors, of course – some some systems only break-even after 10 year, be aware of that).

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Solar panels and energy bills: you can save a lot with them

Massachusetts has one of the strongest solar incentive programs in the country. In addition, federal tax credits and low-interest solar loans contribute to a positive cash flow. You can also sell some energy in the market, and have positive incomes that helps you decrease your bill expenses.

 

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Solar energy: problems to be solved

During the last 5-10 years we are listening that solar will become the cheapest source to produce power in many countries. Unfortunately this is not the reality yet here in the USA, despite many states are trying to push hard the system. California, for example, is thinking about a law that will put an obligation for every new home to have a solar panel system to generate energy. I can image how home builders there are afraid of this proposal – and probably the price for customers there to buy a house will jump more.

Image result for solar panels
Photo credit: https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov

I am a big believer in solar energy, and in my opinion this has to be a matter of study. Nevertheless the panels are still very expensive, and even with some government incentives it takes a lot of time to have your money back. In Massachusetts, depending on your house will be built, you just will have your money back in no less than 7-10 years, depending on the amount of panels you installed.

Gas continues to be the cheapest way to move in terms of energy, even in the New England region (where the prices are among one of the highest in the US). But I think that if you can afford the price it is worthy. I have them here in my home (12 panels) and for a house of more than 3,000 sf I pay no more than 150 dollars per month during the summer time. Also, every quarter, I have a deposit of 250 dollars in my account, because of the energy that can be sold in the market. But when I remember that I’ve paid of it around 18,000 dollars I also remember that the investment will take some time to break-even (around 8 years in my case).

As I mentioned I am a strong believer of solar panel energy, but I think the companies and the government has to continue to put efforts to find the best way to provide customers a more affordable price.

Water spending: You probably don’t know the numbers

Water is a big problem in some regions of USA because of a lack of lakes and water treatment related with conservation rules. So it is quite frequent for a lot of houses to have a water well.

Pie chart of our water use

Many people underestimate the amount of water they use. Here you have some interesting numbers related with that:

  1. Dishwasher: can use up to 16 gallons of water per cycle (old models). EnergyStar ® models use 6 gallons or less per wash cycle and also save electricity.
  2. Shower: A low-flow shower-head uses about two gallons a minute, or 20 gallons for a 10-minute shower. A standard shower-head uses 2.5 gallons a minute, or 25 gallons for 10 minutes.
  3. Toilet: water use can vary significantly. Older toilets can use 3.5, 5, or even up to 7 gallons of water with every flush. Federal plumbing standards now specify that new toilets can only use up to 1.6 gallons per flush (GPF), and there are high efficiency toilets that use up to 1.28 GPF.

In Massachusetts the estimated average of water use per person per day is around 75 gallons. For a family of 4 they have to be prepared to use 300 gallons per day of water (if you don’t have a large garden with an irrigation system).

Think about these numbers if you are installing a new well in your house.

Water use and population growth chart
Source: EPA website

Insulation: the best ones to control your house temperature

Insulation is anything that blocks the movement of heat. Heat flows when molecules with more energy (more heat) bump into molecules with less energy (a colder place has a low movement of the molecules). We have a lot of ways to control this movement, and insulation is the building process that can do that. The simplest way to block heat conduction is the creation of an empty zone that has no matter. Unfortunately it is not possible to create vacuum in your walls. Because of that we have to install some material that will help our goals to block the heat exchange.

SprayFoam photo Wise Home Building
Spray foam application (Photo credit – http://www.techomebuilder.com)

The following are the most common types of materials used for insulation

  1. Batt insulation
    • Fiberglass batts and blankets
    • Rockwool Batts and Blankets
  2. Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs)
    • Polystyrene SIPs
    • Polyisocyanurate SIPs
  3. Loose-Fill Insulation
    • Loose-Fill Fiberglass
    • Loose-Fill Cellulose
  4. Spray foam
    1. Open-Cell Polyurethane Spray Foam
    2. Closed-Cell Polyurethane Spray Foam

You can do some of the batt insulation by yourself, but ask for a pro if you are thinking about a spray foam system.

 

The 5 pillars of super-efficient houses

Energy efficiency is becoming a very important topic to be addressed in home building. Here you can find the 5 principles that guide this practice:

  1. Localize your energy source in your house – you normally live one room at a time, so if yo can plan your air conditioning system independently is a good idea.
  2. Insulate your house efficiently – roof areas and cool basements are important area to have a good insulation system for your home to be efficient. Some choices like insulated concrete prefab systems can help you on that.
  3. Design glass and shading for maximum benefit – the location and size of your windows are important factors that can affect your energy efficient proposal. You have to ideally plan the arrangement of all windows before buying them, and also try to work with systems that can help you avoid the inside-outside thermal changes. A good landscape design (considering tree shade positions) is also helpful
  4. Minimize air leakage and control ventilation – a window or door that is not correctly installed can be an important air leakage area that will damage the efficient index of your house. Also it will cost you a lot of money in electrical bills.
  5. Always select high efficiency appliances – more recently a lot of brands are working better with energy efficient devices. We recommend you access the Energy Star website clicking here

5 ways to lower your electrical bill

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To save money is a huge task in the modern years. In our house we have a lot of stuff that can drain our savings. Here you have some tips that can help you save money:

1.Check your HVAC air filters regularly: Dirty air filters clog free flowing air, and make your AC work harder. We recommend to check them (and clean it up, of course) every other month at least. When you have to purchase a new filter, it should have a recommended time when it’ll need to be replaced. Some need to be changed monthly, while others can last up to six months.

2. Buy energy star appliances: Keeping your old freezer in the garage from your mother is guzzling down money compared to top quality and energy efficient appliances nowadays. Every appliance today has a Energy Star feature, so next time you will buy another one check this information.

3. Change your bulbs: Switching to energy efficient light bulbs are a great start point to saving on your energy bill. Not only will that reduce the amount of watts used, but they last a lot longer too. LED bulbs are ideal for that, and some of them also can be bought in colors (save money and have fun also)

4. Run dishwasher full loads: Always run your dishwasher full loads. Full loads use the same amount of energy and hot water as smaller loads. If you just have 2 or 3 pieces to wash, remember that your faucet in the island is not a decorative piece in the kitchen.

5. Plant shady landscape: Shady landscape will protect your home from scorching heat which will reduce your air-conditioning costs in summers and block high winds that will reduce you heating costs during winters. Looks like a small thing, but can make a huge difference in your bills year after year