Posts filed under ‘Learn Do Teach workshops’
Check out the recent press we received at a workshop we conducted in Northeast Central Durham. Kudos to our two volunteer trainers, David Charters and Jim Wisner, for doing such a great job!
Listen to what a neighbor had to say about a workshop in Watts-Hospital Hillandale recently:
I wanted to share some of the home energy-saving tips I learned at the DIY Energy-Saving workshop at Liz Sappenfield’s home. We talked about how energy is lost in the home with simple, easy-to-understand explanations, and then made actual repairs around Liz’s home. It was a great way to learn how to limit waste!
Proper insulation in the attic is one of the biggest ways to save energy in the home, but we also learned that one large source of energy waste comes from air leaking in and out of the house through cracks in the wall and around windows, doors, and access to the attic. We also learned that one very easy in-home fix is purchasing a programmable thermostat, which will control the temperature of your home automatically to save energy.
Thanks to the volunteers, to Liz for being a generous host, and to everyone that came to provide their own energy-saving tips.
- Doug Garrison, Hands-On Workshop Attendee
A couple weekends ago we closed out our first series of 3 workshops in the Lochside neighborhood. We met homeowner David Bradway at the Durham Farmer’s Market last summer. David was already an energy conscious guy. He uses The Energy Detective (know as “TED”) to track his home energy use in real time, and he has two energy tracking software programs on his laptop. Still, he was interested in learning some new energy saving techniques, and was enthusiastic about opening his home to his neighbors and inviting them to learn along with him.
Clean Energy Durham staff and volunteer Super Trainers got the benefit of watching TED in action. David got several energy saving projects done in his home, the neighbors shared supplies and support, and neighbors went home and did their own weatherizing projects after the workshops. One of these neighbors has also volunteered to host the next Lochside workshop, thereby keeping the neighborhood learning going!
Now for the exciting conclusion to our previous post on thermostat strategies…
If you have an electric heat pump you need to take special care when adjusting your thermostat in the WINTER only—this does not apply to summer air conditioning use.
Most standard Energy Star rated programmable thermostats are set to have the heat pump’s back-up heat (a.k.a. ‘emergency heat’, ‘heat strips,’ ‘auxiliary heat,’ etc.) turn on when the thermostat temperature is more than 2°F than the current temperature in the house. Simply put, this means is that if you turn your thermostat up 3°F or more the back-up heat will kick on—we will call this the “2°F rule.”
So what? Isn’t having a back-up a good thing?
It is in terms of comfort it is a good thing because this 2°F rule was created because a limitation of heat pumps is that they usually take longer for a home to heat up than an equivalent gas furnace—so the back-up heat helps get your house warmer faster. But, the back-up heat uses 2-3 times more energy than a heat pump alone—meaning that you will pay 2-3 times more to heat up your home on the back-up heat (you are paying a lot more for speed and comfort). Also, heat pumps quickly lose their efficiency below 32°F, so the back-up heat is necessary to supplement the heat pump on very cold nights and days.
What this all means is that if you turn your thermostat down to 60°F when you go to work, but have it kick on one hour before you come home to 70°F, then your heat pump will use the back-up heat from 60° to 68°, and then at 69° it will use the heat pump alone. This usually means that you spend more money re-heating your house than if you had left your house at 70°F all day!
So, how can I have a heat pump and not pay 2-3 times more for heating than my cousin who has a gas furnace?
- One way to deal with this is to set your house down 2°F below what you like it at when you are home. To continue the example above, you would want to set the thermostat down to 68°F during the day and then back up to 70° for when you get home.
- Another strategy is to turn it down a few degrees more and then have it come back up in 2°F increments. For example, you could have the thermostat go down to 66°F during the day, have it come up to 68° an hour before you come home, and then when you get home make the thermostat 2°F higher than the current temperature in the home.
- You can have a heating technician disable your back-up heat. However, you may find that you have a hard time keeping your house at a comfortable temperature—especially on very cold nights.
- You can also buy a special thermostat that allows you to disable the heat pump’s default 2°F differential rule (one that has an “adjustable deadband” or “differential” for the back-up heat strips). They usually cost 2-3 times more than a standard thermostat, but can make a huge difference in your heating bill.
There are different types of heat pump thermostats:
- Most allow you to manually enable/disable the back-up heat at the thermostat.
- Some allow you to control the 2°F rule to make it any temperature difference you choose (“differential” control can be set to 4°, 5°, 6°F, etc.).
- Some allow you to control the 2°F rule by giving the house a chance to heat up on its own without the backup heat for a given amount of time (this is sometimes called a “stage timer” setting), and if the heat pump has not successfully heated the home within that time period then the back-up heat strips will kick on.
- Others have a remote sensor outside that allows the back-up heat to come on only when it is below a certain temperature outside (usually less than 30-40°F)
The easiest thing you can do is to keep your thermostat at a relatively constant temperature. Keep in mind that the lower this temperature is the more money you will save!
But to maximize energy savings, you might consider buying a special heat pump thermostat (Globe EnerSaver 59025 is the best example, see pg. 46-48—it can be bought here) and play around with the 2°F rule settings and until you get a good balance of COMFORT and ENERGY-EFFICIENCY. Also, check out this great blog entry about one man’s heat pump programmable thermostat adventure and the source of the recommended thermostat above.
Is it more energy-efficient to turn your thermostat down while you are out of the house during the day or while you are asleep at night?
Doesn’t it take more energy to heat the house back up when you are home than it does to maintain a steady temperature?
These questions often come up at our workshops. At a recent workshop in Old North Durham, we trained neighbors in installing a programmable thermostat. Installing a programmable thermostat is one of the most energy-efficient upgrades you can make in your home, and you can do it yourself!
Generally speaking it is more energy-efficient to set your thermostat down when you leave the house for the day or when you sleep at night than it is to keep the temperature constant. If you keep the temperature constant, the furnace is working all day long making heat, and the cracks in the house are sucking that heat into the great outdoors. When you turn your thermostat down, your furnace does not have to work nearly as hard to produce heat. You can program your thermostat to start heating the house an hour before you arrive home from work so that it is nice and toasty when you arrive.
For every 1° you turn down your thermostat during an 8 hour work day, you are saving on average 1% on your heating bill. If you adjust your thermostat down 5° for an 8 hour work day and an 8 hour night of sleep you are saving on average 10% on your heating costs.
There is one important exception to this rule—if you have an electric heat pump, it is not a good idea to adjust your thermostat more than 2° at a time. Stay tuned to a future post on what to do in this situation.
Residents of Northeast Central Durham started another series of Learn, Do, Teach, Track home energy workshops to ring in the New Year on January 15th. Thomas Russell hosted neighbors in his home, where they learned how to fix energy-wasting air leaks. Thomas’ neighbors were surprised at how easy and inexpensive it was to fix these air leaks, and they were excited about the next workshop.
Thank you, Thomas Russell, for being an energy leader in Northeast Central Durham!
Durham has expanded its successful water-saving toilet rebate program. Rental, multifamily, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers are now eligible for the program. In addition, additional rebates are available to residential customers who have already participated in the program―so more than one toilet can be replaced per residence. The program, sponsored by the City’s Department of Water Management, offers rebates valued at $100 for qualified water customers who replace their existing toilets with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) WaterSense-labeled, high-efficiency toilet models (using on average less than or equal to 1.28 gallons-per-flush). This saves on average 20% over standard 1.6 gpf toilets. See the program’s site for more information.
Stonehill is one of the latest neighborhoods that Clean Energy Durham has brought on board to host home energy workshops. Residents of the neighborhood were excited about learning the low-cost/no-cost do it yourself projects at Cynthia Bernard’s home. Neighbors learned several different ways to address a “coldest room in the house” problem and are looking forward to the next two workshops in the series.
Partners Against Crime District Two (PAC2) held its monthly meeting on Monday, November 8 to discuss neighborhood concerns. Sa’Maad Bynum, the Clean Energy Durham Community Outreach Intern, attended the meeting to inform PAC2 residents about the free household energy workshops Clean Energy Durham provides for homeowners. After the meeting, a few of the attendees stayed to chat with Sa’Maad and learn more about attending or hosting the workshops in their neighborhood. If you are interested in hosting a free in-home energy workshops contact us.
Workshop number two in Forest Hills was a great success! We started with a treasure hunt for incandescent bulbs, replacing them with CFLs. The hunt was followed up by a discussion about safety and quality topics that relate to CFLs.
A neighbor shared a great story about cleaning under his refrigerator coils. Cleaning the fridge coils made his fridge run so much more efficiently that the next day he had to increase the temperature dial because his food was freezing!
Everyone who returned to the workshop had done projects at home since the first workshop. There were 3 neighbors in attendance who were there for the first time. Way to go Forest Hills!
The next Forest Hills workshop will be Nov. 30. We will be teaching weatherstripping, sealing the attic hatch, and cleaning the dryer vent. If you live in Forest Hills and want to come to the workshop, contact Jenny. If you live anywhere in Durham and would like to be a workshop host in your neighborhood, you are also welcome to contact me.