With Halloween approaching and seeing all the spider web decorations, it has gotten me thinking of home performance and how tangled of a web your home actually is. Then I read an article a couple weeks ago about how a dual flush toilet could save on your energy bills. You read that correctly, not your water bill, you energy bill. In the home performance industry, it is taught or known that the house is a system and it works together as a sum of all its parts. And as home performance professionals we try to educate our customers and clients that by changing one thing in a home such as air sealing to close some of the air leaks will have a positive effect on your utility bills & reduce the potential for moisture issues, but could negatively affect the indoor air quality if sealed too much and is not addressed.
So I am going to dig a little deeper and not focus on the big energy savers such as air sealing and insulation. But the little things in the home such as your ever running DVR or cable modem. Did you know that the box sitting below your TV is affecting both your gas and electric usage when it comes to heating & cooling your home? Most by now should know about vampire loads (the continuous use of energy even with the units off), and of course they vary by product. But any devise in your home that uses electricity also generates a small amount of heat.
Even when off the DVR is drawing power & producing heat.
As you can see from this infrared image of a DVR and cable modem. This unit is off and it is still at 90 degrees. So it is warm to the touch. Now this obviously benefits your home in the winter time as it heats your home, but in the summer time it is producing heat that needs to be removed from the home. One of my design clients experienced this after renovating their upper level of their Cape Cod home (Pictures) when they super insulated the kneewalls and ceiling. Their gas bills went down because it held the heated air in the home better, but their electric bill went up because it trapped the heated air in the home which needed to be removed. WHAT!?
Now if you are a mechanical engineer working on commercial buildings, this is no surprise There is a point where the primary cooling load on the building is not the actual conditions outside, but all of the equipment and people inside that are generating heat and moisture. But this goes well beyond the DVR, think of your refrigerator. In the winter when you typically lower the house temperature when leaving for work (Well you should be), it is reducing the temperature difference between the inside of the fridge and the interior of the home, so it runs less. However it has the exact opposite affect in the summer time when we let the temperature rise in the house when we are not at home. Because now the temperature difference is much higher, so the fridge runs more. That is why the electric company does not like to see refrigerators in garages as they typically can’t keep up with the extra heat in the summer time, it is best to keep your extra fridge or freezer in the basement as it is typically cooler and at more of a constant temperature. For you numbers geeks, check out this article on GreenBuildingAdvisor.com about seasonal electrical loads. Therefore if you go around your house you can find many items that generate heat such as incandescent light bulbs, phone chargers, TV’s & video game systems to name a few that provide small amounts of heat that can affect your heating and cooling bills. And yes, your toilet can cool your home.
However I am looking forward to the next couple of months in my house as it is a heavy baking/cooking season, so that extra heat to bake all those cookies and dinners, along with the extra bodies in the house for the holidays are going to help heat my home and reduce my gas bill.
Now I know, some of this is small and insignificant and quite random of a topic. But that is the way my brain works and as I do energy models every day and watch my customers usage jump up and down as I plug in all the different systems my brain just starts wandering. So I really just needed to share, because quite frankly I think my wife has already suffered from information overload, especially since she originally did not know what was involved with our application into the 1000 home challenge and we will be taking these loads into consideration as we move forward. So thanks for listening!