3 Devices to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient
It’s a new year filled with hopeful resolutions and occasionally horrifying revelations. One such revelation might be how much energy your home chewed through in the past year, and how much money those bills devoured as a result. So your resolution has become an active quest towards lowering that price and making your house more efficient… Now what?
Believe it or not, looking at how you’ve been heating and cooling your home is a great place to start. Many homes can be fine-tuned to make better use of the energy that you’re already paying for. We’ve identified three devices that will optimize your living space and help you accomplish those energy-saving resolutions in 2015.
Tankless Water Heaters
You’ve probably had that dreaded moment happen to you; you’re the last one to shower and mid-way through your shampoo you’re hit with a blast of never-ending cold water. Your water heater has used up its entire tank and is scrambling to heat more as fast as possible, which just isn’t fast enough. This happened to enough people that the demand spurred the invention of tankless water heaters. These units directly heat the water as it is used, with only a small reserve tank required for times of excessive use.
Why does this matter? Two reasons: first, your traditional tank water heater uses energy in infrequent and intense bursts to heat a significant amount of water all at once. The water then sits idle, ready for use, and may need to be reheated multiple times before you ever need it. This wastes a lot of energy during times when you aren’t using hot water. Second, these intense bursts put your unit through more wear and tear than a unit is designed for. Think of it as turning your car on and off constantly as opposed to turning it on and letting it run – one is significantly more strenuous on your car than the other.
Tankless heaters are designed to fit various needs, and choosing the right one depends on a few factors that come down to how much hot water you actually need. This is determined by how many appliances or showers are running simultaneously, as well as how water-intensive each application is. There are quite a few guides available to estimate how much water flow you’ll need (measured in gallons per minute or GPM). While tankless water heaters have improved efficiency, there are a few companies that are revolutionizing tank water heaters as well, bringing them up to a more efficient standard by incorporating tankless hybrid technology.
Don’t get thrown for a loop by the acronyms. These bad boys can make a significant impact on conserving energy. Energy recovery ventilators (ERVs) and heat recovery ventilators (HRVs) work to bring in fresh outside air while exhausting stale indoor air. While doing this, the ventilator passively works to transfer the heat from one air stream to another in order to eliminate unnecessary waste. In the winter, this returns valuable heat to the air being introduced inside your home with minimal waste, while in the summer, it cools the incoming air.
These ventilators provide a channel for exchange of energy without either air channel ever touching the other. Through preheating (or cooling) the air intake, heat is conserved and your system is able to efficiently bring that air to the desired temperature while using less energy overall. ERVs provide one more benefit over HRVs – they also transfer moisture in the air to prevent low humidity levels that can lead to dry skin and scratchy throats.
ERVs and HRVs can be costly to install, but have incredibly low operating and maintenance costs. They use minimal energy as passive air circulation devices, eventually saving you more money than the cost to operate. Choosing the right ERV or HRV will depend on your climate, building type, and desired installation, so discussing your options with a trusted dealer can help you make the right decision.
Mini splits are devices that you’re probably familiar with despite the unfamiliar term. They are an increasingly common fixture in apartments and condominiums. Mini splits provide heating and cooling to targeted areas of your house, and are ideal for creating multiple temperature zones or for adding supplementary heating or cooling without the need for air duct installations. This could be as simple as adding heat to a garage or unfinished basement, or adding an easy heating and cooling option to new additions to your house.
Most importantly, similar to your traditional tank water heater, central heating and cooling systems that are designed for an entire home or building may start and stop frequently in attempts to adjust moderate temperature discrepancies, even when unneeded. Mini splits enable precise control of a single zone’s temperature, and prevent a temperature change in one room from overworking a system in another room. Additionally, many mini splits use inverter-driven compressors, which, unlike those start/stop central units, run continuously while providing only the necessary heating or cooling power for your space.
Installing a mini split affords you with incredible flexibility and control over the various rooms in your house. This allows for more effective energy usage and less wasted heat while preventing excessive wear that might age your unit unnecessarily.
Ensuring that you pick a system that is sized right for your needs is essential to efficiency. We’ve created a handy mini split sizing calculator and buying guide to help you with the process.
So where should you start?
Whichever area of your home you decide to launch your efficiency crusade, know that there are many available options to suit your specific needs. While we believe these devices are a great place to begin your process, there are plenty of other energy-saving options as well, from smart thermostats to fluorescent and LED light bulbs. It is important to look around and compare models while evaluating your specific needs, because finding the right fit will make the difference between better or worse use of that precious energy.
Ben Owens is a Brand Specialist and writer for eComfort.com, a leading online retailer of heating and cooling equipment.
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