Greening Your Home »Albuquerque Journal

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – For many of the millions of Americans who have worked from home for nearly a year, worrying about energy use at home has never been easier.

Many have never been so familiar with every square inch of their home.

Whether homeowners are saving electricity bills each month, morally worrying about reducing their energy usage, or just wanting to make their home more attractive to potential buyers, there are a number of steps – some of them are easy and inexpensive, others expensive and involved.

Windows

According to Lee Dutcher, co-owner of Dutcher Construction, people who want to reduce their energy consumption in their home have a clear starting point.

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“Windows are by far the greatest source of energy,” said Dutcher, who also teaches carpentry and directs the Advanced Manufacturing / Skilled Trades program at Central New Mexico Community College.

Tempered glass doesn’t do much to keep the heat in or out of a home, but there are steps homeowners can take.

DIY: The easiest and cheapest option is to apply a peel-and-stick window film that will block the heat in or outside the home. It’s not as effective as double-glazed glass, but it makes a difference. Dutcher says homeowners can pick up the product at most hardware stores, and it doesn’t take long to use – especially after the first window.

Call a Pro: The most effective solution for panes of glass with a pane – as is common in older homes – is to simply replace them. Homeowners can switch to energy efficient double pane windows. Non-toxic argon gas between the two panes acts as a buffer, and while turning windows off is significantly more expensive than the peel-and-stick options, it’s also far more effective, according to Dutcher. Homeowners can also opt for windows with a “Low-E” coating that acts as a shade and blocks ultraviolet rays.

insulation

A Garrity employee blows insulation into an attic.

Proper attic insulation also keeps out the cold or hot air. Jose Resendiz, General Manager of Garrity Insulation, compares this to “putting a blanket over your house” or otherwise layering it.

“If you don’t have insulation, the heat just goes out of your house,” he said. “… It has no resistance at all.”

Garrity Insulation plumber Jose Castillo uses a blower to insulate an attic in a home in Albuquerque on Feb.11. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis / Albuquerque Journal)

Uninsulated or under-insulated duct systems can also cause problems with cooling systems, Resendiz said.

“Your attic will be 140 degrees in the summer,” he said. “… The channel guidance is therefore 140 degrees.”

Heat loss can make a huge difference in terms of energy and costs.

Advanced DIY or calling a pro: Resendiz’s crews use machines to blow insulation in attics. Large hardware stores today will rent these machines out to homeowners looking to do their own insulation. It’s a technique, and Resendiz said anyone doing their own attic work should be careful not to fall through the roof and get an estimate from a professional – when all is said and reimbursed the cost may be be comparable.

Homeowners considering switching from sump coolers to air conditioners should take special care of their insulation and seals. Resendiz is supposed to envision driving in 100-degree heat with the air conditioning on – it’s just not as effective for air to enter through the windows.

Jose Castillo, an insulation contractor for Garrity Insulation, works in an attic in Northeast Heights on Feb.11.

“You closed your windows,” he said. “The tighter you are, the cooler you are inside.”

Solar

Call a Pro: Residential solar panels are still the number one priority for many New Mexicans. Marlene Brown, a retired Sandia National Laboratories employee who teaches photovoltaics at CNM, said the cost of solar energy for average consumers has dropped dramatically since it started on-site.

Kurt Nilson, sales advisor at Solar Works Energy in Albuquerque, said the state last year approved a 10% tax credit for taxpayers who buy and install a solar thermal or photovoltaic system. This is in addition to the federal solar tax credit, which currently offers taxpayers a tax credit of 26% for solar systems.

“It’s good for the environment, it’s good for your home, it adds to the value of your home,” he said.

Doors

The sealing of the doors is an important part of reducing energy consumption. The weather peeling off the edge of an outside door eventually wears off and stops recovering.

DIY: Dutcher recommends replacing the weather strips on the most frequently used door in a house about every five years. It’s not too complex and can be achieved with a few basic supplies like a battery powered screw gun and razor – or even just a pair of scissors.

installation

Insulating plumbing in different parts of a house can also make a difference.

DIY: With a little research, homeowners can buy and install covers on their water heaters and insulation around their plumbing, Dutcher said.

Call a pro: For those looking to take a bigger step, a plumber can install a hot water circulation pump, according to Dutcher. The devices make hot water accessible from the tap more quickly by circulating water that has already been heated in the pipes.

A plumber can also install instant water heaters that heat water via a pilot to provide “almost instant” hot water at the tap. Dutcher said the heaters save both water waste and gas consumption.

Etc.

Updating lights, locking electrical outlets, purchasing energy efficient appliances, and purchasing a smart thermostat can also all help reduce energy consumption.

DIY: how many homeowners does it take to change a lightbulb? Just one – and switching from halogen bulbs to LEDs is a simple step that should result in a rapid decline in energy use and bills, Dutcher said.

Homeowners can also use sealant sealant to prevent air from entering around light switches and outlets, Resendiz said.

According to Dutcher, energy-efficient devices can also make a difference.

Advanced DIY: Replacing manual thermostats with a programmable device can allow homeowners to keep their heat low while they are away, but settle to a comfortable temperature half an hour before they return, Dutcher said.

Call a pro: upgrading your internal lighting to motion sensor technology can save you energy too. Dutcher said he recommends calling a professional for installation as it involves wiring and replacing fixtures.

CNM student Phoenix Thompson uses a meter to check a power box in a CNM photovoltaic course. February 10th Solar industry experts say that the demand for home solar panel installation has increased recently.

CNM student Ashlee Simpson tightened a solar panel on February 10 in a CNM photovoltaic class.

CNM students Ashlee Simpson (left) and Phoenix Thompson in the photovoltaic class at CNM February 10 (Jim Thompson / Albuquerque Journal)

Solar panels installed by Solar Works Energy tower over a house in southeast Albuquerque. (Courtesy Solar Works Energy)




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