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Monday, August 12, 2013

Energy questions from a new friend

When people find out I work in green energy technology, I’m immediately bombarded with questions. “How can I cut down on my utility bills?” is the one I get the most. Well, the other day, I made a new friend. We went out for lunch and got a chance to know one another better. Turns out, she and her husband are looking to buy a new house, and they’re concerned with energy efficiency and being “eco-friendly,” as she put it.

Here a couple of questions she asked:

What are some specific warning flags to look out for when taking a tour of a house?

Realtors usually try to show you the parts of the house they want you to see. Make sure you ask them about the air conditioning and heating systems. How old are they? How much energy do they consume during peak months?
Outside, take a look at the landscaping. Are there native plants? Do they require a lot of water? Is there a sprinkler system? If there is, make sure you check for leaks.

If you get the opportunity, ask the previous owners if you can take a peek at their utility bills. How much water and electricity does the house consume on a daily, monthly, annual basis?
Although going green is always easier when you’re starting from the ground up and building your own home, you can always make upgrades to greatly increase an older home’s energy efficiency, not to mention your property’s overall value.

What upgrades can I make if I do decide to buy a less-than-efficient house?

Tons! Here’s a quick breakdown of the easiest do-it-yourself upgrades you can make, but trust me, there are many more:
-      Replace old windows with energy-efficient versions.
-      Using duct tape, seal air leaks around doors and windows.
-      While you have the tape, grab a ladder and seal the air ducts too.
-       Add more insulation.
-      Swap out water-thirsty plants in the yard with ones that require as little water as possible. Cactuses are nice and prickly.
-   Install barrels to collect rain runoff. The water can be used to irrigate your landscape and lawn, so you won’t have to use the hose.
-      Replace incandescent light bulbs with more efficient fluorescents.
-      Check the EPA's Energy Star rating and replace your old appliances. Go ahead, you deserve it! Throw out that old coffee maker. Better yet, donate it. Then go out and buy yourself something nice. Spend a little now, save a lot later…

What’s the most important piece of advice you can offer an energy novice like me?

Stayed informed! Watch the news. Read. Instead of wasting time online with mindless games, Google your environmental and energy questions. Stay inquisitive. Check out the EPA's Energy Star website, Get acquainted with calculators and other useful tools that can help you manage your carbon footprint.

For example, you might not think of your home as a carbon-emitting source, but it is! It’s a major contributor, in fact. The energy you use for cooling, heating, lighting, and general power are, more likely than not, connected to a dirty main source. A coal-burning facility. A nuclear power plant.

To start, visit We’ve got a slew of green energy projects in development that are sure to change the way the world looks at energy. Waste-to-fuel gasification. The polycrystalline SH-Box generator.

The future of energy independence is coming. We’re ushering it in. 

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