Posts Tagged ‘DOE’

Fans Only Cool People… what?

July 17, 2014

My House - New Orleans - Kitchen 2010.jpg
In these hot summer months we love our fans of all kinds, desk fans, ceiling fans, clip on fans, the list goes on.  Naturally, if we are in a warm room we turn on the ceiling fan to help cool the room.  When we leave the room, we leave the fan on so it can continue cooling.  If it cools us, it will cool the room, right?  Wrong.  Fans have fooled us all.  The U.S. Department of Energy reminds us that fans cool people, not rooms.  How?  They create a wind chill effect by moving air over our skin.  As far as the room goes, the fan will actually create more heat in the room because of its motor.  Not only that, but by leaving it on, you are increasing your electric bill.  Sounds pretty counterproductive, doesn’t it?

You aren’t without options though.  Sure, cool off with a fan while you are in the room and turn it off when you leave.  That would be using fans efficiently.  Or, get an energy audit to see why that room is so warm in the first place.  This would help you to use your home more efficiently.

Feel free to share with your fellow homeowners, we can’t let anyone else get fooled by the fan.

Thanks for stopping by!


Picture Source:  “My House – New Orleans – Kitchen 2010” by Alex CastroFlickr: My House – New Orleans – 2010. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

GreenHomes wins a Century Club Award, again!

November 5, 2012

It’s nice to be recognized.  This is the third year in a row in fact.   The EPA and the DOE have recognized GreenHomes America –  Syracuse with the Century Club Award.   An award that goes to the contractor that has improved the energy efficiency of more than 100 homes in the past year through Home Performance with ENERGY STAR.  Home Performance with ENERGY STAR offers homeowners a comprehensive whole house approach to improving energy efficiency and comfort while saving money on utility bills and helping to protect the environment. 

Our Syracuse location, a leading contractor in central New York and part of the national GreenHomes America network, improved well over 400 homes last year!

Congratulations to Syracuse!  It is great to know that as a network we are charging along across the country in states that participate in the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program as well as states that don’t.  Look for a GreenHomes America location near you! 



LED Lighting Facts: New Consumer Label for Lighting

February 13, 2012


Expect to see LED light bulb packaging sport a new label this summer.  The intent is to introduce some transparency in the market and guard against exaggerated claims in lighting performance.  

This should lend some clarity on lumens, (a measure of the light output) how many lumens per watt, helping us better understand the bulb’s efficiency as well as the light color.  One of the arguments against migrating away from incandescent has been the quality of the light.   Hopeful labeling will help shed some light on this subject (sorry I couldn’t resist). More here at



Does Daylight Savings Time Save Energy?

November 5, 2011

Tonight (or Sunday morning at 2am if you happen to be up then) Daylight Saving Time ends, and we turn our clocks back an hour.  (I still have to repeat “Spring forward, fall back” to remember which way it goes.)

Ostensibly, we use DST to save energy.  Some will cite a U.S. DOE study that suggests DST saves 0.5% electricity.  As this Scientific American article says, though, the studies are decidedly mixed.  Some studies conclude that DST actually increases energy consumption, exactly the opposite of its intended affect.  Does anyone have a coin to toss so we can settle this?

We do know a few things, though.  Farmers tend not to like it because it messes with their schedule.  I surely do NOT like it in the Spring which I lose an hour of sleep.  On the other hand, it’s been a very busy couple of months, and I’m very much looking forward to the extra hour of sleep tomorrow morning.  I’ll probably dream of air-sealing during that time.  Ah, relaxation!

Sleep well!

The Average American’s Energy Consumption

October 11, 2011

Interesting graphic from

ENERGY STAR “Most Efficient” Recognition

August 14, 2011

ENERGY STAR Most Efficient 2011 LogoLast month, the U.S. EPA and U.S. DOE announced an extension of the ENERGY STAR program which will recognize the most energy-efficiency products.  The ENERGY STAR “Most Efficient” pilot will ID those models that are in the top 5% for efficiency in their categories.

Now, it’s even easier to find the most energy-efficient refrigerators, clothes washers, televisions, etc.!  This makes it even harder to justify buying a hog.  And wehn comparing apples to apples, “Most Efficient” will pay long term dividends.   Simple, smart, easy.  Gotta like it.

EnergyGuide label for TVs due out this spring.

December 29, 2010

The newer generation of TVs–from LCD to plasma to other technologies–vary widely in their energy consumption.  And it hasn’t been easy for consumers to figure out which use what.  That should start to change this spring.

You’ve likely seen the yellow EnergyGuide label on new appliances, from clothes washers, dishwashers, refrigerators, and freezers to  air conditioners, furnaces, water heaters and more.  OK, I admit I’m an energy geek–I actually look for, read, and consider the energy use when I’m buying things like this.  Of course, I look for the other features, too.  But I try to make smart energy consumption a factor in the decision process.  Although most people don’t do this, it’s really pretty easy. 

Anyway, back to the main point–later this year, these labels with be required on new TVs according to the FTC.

Sample of an EnergyGuide label for televisions.

Beginning in May 2011 the FTC will require manufacturers to provide consumers this information about different models of televisions and how much energy they use.   Of course, the Energy Star label still provides a simple indicator of relative efficiency.  But I like have good information to make a more informed choice.


New homes “can” be energy efficient–but you don’t have to buy a new home to lower your bills!

October 26, 2010

According to a NY Times article, home builders can build more efficient homes than they used to.  Go figure! 

“Rapid advances in building technologies and appliances have made it easier to build more energy-efficient homes, but builders are only just beginning to promote the savings for consumers, said Liz Verna, the president-elect of the Home Builders Association of Connecticut, and developer of the Willows, a 65-house development in Wallingford.”

Of course, they could have been building more efficient homes for decades.  Now builders and developers would like you to buy a new home to replace your less efficient home.  Sure, you can do that if you’d like to.  However, “new” doesn’t automatically mean “energy-efficient”.  We fix a lot of newer homes.  And a good assessment of your current home, combined with quality energy and money savings improvements, can make your home perform as well as most newly built homes.  This is the “home performance” approach being touted by EPA, DOE, and many state and local programs.  And the approach that’s transformed so many of our customers homes.

You don’t have to build a new home to save money!


The Feds on Air-Sealing

October 23, 2010

This Spring, DOE released a guide “Retrofit Techniques & Technologies: Air Sealing” that explains the practices used along with some related considerations.  It dives into the weeds, but it’s a good resource for anyone who wants to understand more about one of the common things we at GreenHomes do to improve homes–and why. 

As they point out, the air leaks in many homes can add up and have the same effect as leaving a window wide open all year long.  And thus, it’s no surprise that

By sealing uncontrolled air leaks, you can expect to see savings of 10% to 20% on your heating and cooling bills, and even more if you have an older or especially leaky house.

For those considering taking a stab at climbing up into the attic and taking care of air leaks on their own, definitely reread Kathryn’s post on “DIY Insulation” from last month.  In it you’ll also see mentioned the ENERGY STAR “Do-It-Yourself Guide to Sealing and Insulating“.  It gets into a lot of the important details critical to safe and effective air-sealing with some additional illustrations and photos.

Neither publication covers everything, but they do hit on some of the important basics.  And both point to some important health and safety considerations.  The DOE guide does a better job explaining the importance of combustion safety and ventilation–and how a good “test-in/test-out” approach helps address these issues.

If you’re thinking about insulating your home, remember, you should air-seal first.  The guides help explain how and why.  Both are worth a read.


Furnace Efficiency—the DOE label only tells part of the story

September 20, 2010

The “AFUE” (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) rating that DOE requires on a furnace indicates how efficiently the equipment is burning natural gas, propane, or oil and turning it into usable heat.  This rating takes into account heat normal lost up the chimney, through the cover of the equipment, and as the unit cycles on and off.  (See “Scorched Air” and sizing.)

Recommendation:  95 AFUE in cold and mixed climates; 90 AFUE in hot climates

Checking the efficiency of an older furnace.

For starters, we generally recommend at least an ENERGY STAR labeled furnace.  For gas or propane, in mixed and cold climates, we recommend 95 AFUE or better—and most of our customers agree.  95% efficient is much better than the older furnace we often find operating at less than 75% efficiency—and better than a “standard” 80% efficient furnace.   Even in hot climates we recommend at least 90 AFUE, or 90% efficient.  We prefer these in hot climates not just because of efficiency but also because they are “sealed combustion”, meaning the combustion air isn’t drawn from the house and they’re much less affected by pressure changes within the house.  

Recommendation:  Variable speed, or “ECM”, motor

The AFUE rating is just the starting point.  This number does not consider electrical energy.  And furnace with conventional blower motors can use more electricity than even an older refrigerator (let alone a newer ENERGY STAR refrigerator). 

A new 95 AFUE, two stage furnace, with an efficient motor. New higher-efficiency furnaces--with more efficient motors--can help you avoid wasting money on utility bills.

We see furnace fans which draw between 500 and 1,000 watts of electricity.  And depending on both the wattage draw of the fan, and the run times, electricity use can be 600-700 kilowatt hours (kwh) per year.  If you run the furnace fan continuously, either to improve air mixing or in conjunction with advanced filtration or air cleaners,  annual electricity use will be much higher.  [Note, if you run your fan continuously, any duct or house leakage gets greatly magnified and the energy and money you’re wasting.]

Since inefficient fans generate waste heat, this is even worse in cooling climates since the air-conditioner battles the fan and you pay twice!

When you buying a new furnace, follow our AFUE recommendations above.  But also look for one with a fan that’s run an electronically commutated motor (or “ECM”). Such motors use significantly less electricity than conventional motors. 

Even better news.  These ECMs are typically used in multistage units which can better match the output of the furnace to the needs—like feathering the gas pedal rather than stomping on it.  This increases comfort. 

Improve your comfort and stop wasting money—that makes sense to me!


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