Energy Efficient Holiday Gifts

Energy Efficient Holiday Gifts

If you or someone you know breaks into a sweat each time an email with the subject line “your bill is ready” is received, choosing energy efficient gifts could reduce the amount of energy consumed and wasted. Here are our picks for energy efficient holiday gifts for every man, woman, and child on your list.

For the Foodie

Do you know someone who doesn’t have an Instant Pot yet? Hint, hint! There are different options but the most popular, according to Amazon reviewers, seems to be the six-quart with seven functions. One pot can literally replace seven appliances! This appliance also uses up to 70% less energy, cooking the receiver’s favorite dishes in a fraction of the time, than conventional cooking methods. For example: Pot roasts can be put on the dinner table in 30 minutes, where it ordinarily would have taken four hours in the oven. This gift idea can be found online and at most any retailer.

For the Audiophile

Whether they like listening to music or audiobooks, Bluetooth speakers are a can-never-go-wrong option. They can be used at home, the lake (look for one that features water resistance), or even while traveling. You will quickly find that there is a wide range of speakers available, from pocket-sized to large-scale, but what they all share is portability. Most also offer superior sound quality, incredible battery life, and energy efficiency. Many are compatible with other smart devices as well. Tech Radar rates the UE Boom 2 as “the best Bluetooth speaker.”

For the Homeowner

Okay, you caught us; we’re including you in our energy efficient holiday gift guide. After all, you are equally important. One of the best gifts you can provide yourself, that will keep on giving, is the gift of insulation and air sealing. Together, these services help provide home comfort, regardless of the season. Ensuring the right R-value for your climate (level of thermal resistance) is installed in your attic, walls or floors will also help you save money.

For the Tech Lover

It’s never been easier to maintain a comfortable temperature and save on heating and cooling costs. Smart thermostats include a related app that the intended recipient can use to monitor and adjust temperatures from anywhere, anytime. There are also more advanced thermostats that rely on sensors to detect whether anyone is home. These thermostats learn their comings and goings in short order, changing to the pre-programmed Home and Away temperatures. These products are also compatible with some of the most sought-after smart speakers.

For the Health Conscious

If you’re shopping for someone who suffers from asthma or allergies, give the gift of clean air. Air purifiers filter indoor air, removing particles, such as dust and pollen. They aid in promoting a healthier living environment. Air cleaners are available in a variety of sizes and are generally quite portable. In the spirit of healthy living, an indoor air quality monitor is another great gift idea. These devices can provide the giftee with a good picture of their indoor air quality. The best devices monitor temperature and humidity as well as PM2.5, CO2, and other toxins/chemicals.

Happy Holidays!

~ From your friends at Banker Insulation

Fall Home Maintenance

Fall Home Maintenance

As summer turns to fall, you will want to maximize your home’s energy efficiency, driving high heating bills down and occupant comfort up. Fall home maintenance is a great way to prepare for longer nights and cooler weather. Here are four projects to add to your fall home maintenance checklist.

Start with an Energy Audit

Home energy audits are useful for determining your home energy consumption and which energy efficiency measures are best. They are the first step towards saving energy and thus money! An auditor performs a series of tests, such as a blower door and infrared imaging, as well as examines your HVAC equipment, insulation, and windows during the assessment. This is usually completed in three to four hours.

Once complete, he/she will provide you with a list of recommended energy efficiency improvements. These are generally listed in order of importance. Banker Insulation participates with both SRP and APS to provide professional home energy audits throughout the greater metro area. We can also complete many of the improvements needed to reduce your monthly utility bills.

Upgrade Your Insulation

Adding to or upgrading insulation is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce energy loss. When insulation, with the right R-value for your area, is properly installed to a building’s envelope it helps prevent the transfer of heat. The highest benefits are achieved when you combine insulation with air sealing. Fiberglass, cellulose, and spray foam are three products to consider.

Grab Your Caulk Gun

Caulking and weatherstripping can help reduce drafts and high heating or cooling bills. Remove old caulk and weatherstripping and replace with new materials purchased at your local hardware or home improvement store. Follow all manufacturer directions. Try and complete this project when humidity is low for best results.

Clean the Gutters

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This quote, originally made by Benjamin Franklin, is applicable when it comes to your homes gutters. With a ladder or telescoping tool, regularly remove leaves and debris from the gutters, and thoroughly rinse out with a hose. This will prevent costly foundation or roofing damage. Consider adding gutter guards to minimize the frequency of gutter cleaning.

Banker Insulation is a full-service insulation and energy conservation contractor. In business since 1977, we provide professional insulation, energy audit, sound control, and fireplace services to residents and commercial clients throughout the greater metro area. Contact a Banker Insulation expert today at (602) 273-1261.

Home Energy Audits

home energy audits

Home energy audits help residents answer the question: How efficient is your home? They are the first step towards saving energy and money. During an energy assessment, an auditor will perform a series of tests to assess how much energy your home consumes and recommend ways to make it more efficient.

Audits are often recommended before making improvements to the home.

Making efficiency improvements identified during the test can lower energy bills, improve home comfort, increase property values, and even protect the environment by lowering your emission of greenhouse gases. Continue reading to learn more about home energy audits and why you should schedule one today.

Cost of Home Energy Audits

The Salt River Project (SRP) and Arizona Public Service (APS) are two of Arizona’s largest public utility providers. These companies subsidize the cost of ENERGY STAR® Checkups. Through them your cost is just $99 (a $400 value). The tests must be completed by a participating contractor.

What to Expect

Plan three to four hours for the audit. Once the auditor arrives at your home, s/he will analyze your recent energy bills; complete visual safety inspections; and use highly complex equipment – such as a blower door and an infrared camera – to detect where and how energy is being lost.

The auditor will examine your HVAC equipment, insulation and windows, as well as test for drafts. The technician may also provide you with a home energy efficiency score. This is based on your home type, floors, number of occupants, size in square feet (finished rooms only), age, and location. The score ranges from one to 10.

After the audit, the auditor will also pinpoint needed efficiency improvements based on his/her findings. These are usually listed in order of importance. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “you could save an estimated five to 30 percent on your energy bill by making efficiency upgrades identified in your home energy audit.”

The Auditor’s Toolbox

Blower Door: A blower door is a powerful fan that mounts into the frame of an exterior door. This is used to check for air leaks. The fan starts blowing, pulling air out of the house, and thus lowering the air pressure inside. The higher outside air then flows in via unsealed holes, cracks, and other openings in the building’s envelope. The auditor will then use a special tool to pinpoint these openings, so that they can be sealed.

Infrared Camera: This camera is used during thermography or infrared scanning. It measures surface temperatures to determine whether insulation is needed. It can reveal areas in walls, ceilings, and attic spaces where insulation was improperly installed as well. Infrared cameras are commonly used while the blower test is being conducted to aid the auditor in identifying areas in need of air sealing.

If your electricity bill is high, a home energy audit can help you not only determine why, but also help you save money after needed improvements have been made. Banker Insulation participates with both SRP and APS to provide professional home energy audits to residents throughout the greater Phoenix metro area.

3 Energy Efficiency Myths Debunked

energy efficiency myths

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), “a quarter of the energy consumed in Arizona homes is for air conditioning, which is more than four times the national average.” This shouldn’t come as any surprise to Arizonans as 100+ degree days are common during the months of June through August.

In fact, most residents turn their ACs on beginning in May.

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is good both for your wallet and the environment. However, there are many energy efficiency myths out there, which may interfere with your energy efficiency measures. Here we debunk three of the more popular energy efficiency myths.

Myth #1: Fans Cool a Room

Ceiling fans, table fans, and floor fans do not cool off a room. They do, however, circulate the air in a room to create a draft that works to cool off the room’s occupants. This will allow you to turn the thermostat up as much as 4˚F without compromising comfort.

Myth #2: Closing HVAC Vents Saves Energy

Your HVAC system’s blower is designed to deliver cooled air against a certain amount of pressure. This is specific to your home’s square footage. Closing off air vents causes the blower to push against a higher pressure, which interferes with your energy-efficient measures, and ultimately costs you more. It’s also possible to damage your system.

Myth #3: Setting the Thermostat Lower Cools Your Home Faster

Cranking the thermostat down isn’t going to cool your home any faster. This action can also cost you to pay more. Instead, install a programmable or learning thermostat, which can store and repeat up to six different settings. When you’re asleep or away from home, set it to 78˚F to help save money.

Myth #3: Leaving the Lights on Uses Less Energy Than Turning Them On & Off

This is a very common energy-saving myth. The operating life of LEDs is not affected by turning them on and off. Getting into the habit of turning them off when you leave a room can save you money. In addition to turning them off manually, you may want to consider using sensors, timers or smart LEDs.

Optimize Home Comfort with an Energy Audit

A home energy audit, or home energy assessment, will show you how much energy your home consumes. It will also provide you with cost-effective solutions to air leaks, poor insulation, and indoor air quality problems. During audit, a professional will analyze recent energy bills, and use specialized equipment to detect sources of energy loss.

Making recommended upgrades can save you 5 to 30 percent on your energy bill (Energy.gov, 2013). Banker Insulation is a full-service insulation and energy conservation contractor. We can perform your energy audit and offer a variety of products and solutions to help improve your home’s energy efficiency.

Best Applications for Spray Polyurethane Foam

Spray polyurethane foam

Spray polyurethane foam (SPF), available in either open-cell or closed-cell, provides stellar insulating performance. It expands to fill gaps, cracks and holes, creating a thermal barrier around a building’s envelope. This results in reduced air and moisture infiltration.

There are many additional advantages to sprayed insulation as well. For example: Energy efficiency, sound dampening, and durability. Homeowners will also benefit from reduced heating and cooling costs.

SPF Types & How It Works

There are three primary types of SPF: High-density, medium-density, and low-density.

Medium- and high-density, also called closed-cell foam has a higher R-value per inch (6.5), making it an ideal choice for exterior roofing, interior wall cavity fill, and unvented attic applications.

With a lower R-value per inch (3.5), low-density, or open-cell foam is often used for interior wall cavity fill and unvented attic applications. Both open-cell and closed-cell require professional installation.

A basic understanding of R-values is helpful when comparing any insulating material. R-value measures the insulation’s ability to reduce heat flow through a building’s envelope. The higher the value, the better. For recommendations, visit ENERGY STAR.

Source: “Recommended Home Insulation R-Values,” ENERGY STAR.GOV, 1999.

Spray polyurethane foam is made by mixing and reacting two liquids – “A” and “B” – to create foam. Mixing takes place on site using truck-mounted equipment. A professional insulator contractor then sprays it into place using special tools.

SPF expands on contact to form air and moisture barriers. This helps ensure a consistent temperature year ‘round – ultimately creating a comfortable living or working environment.

Where is Spray Polyurethane Foam Used?

Attics

Adding SPF to the attic is cost-effective. Because it expands, spray foam can effectively fill even the smallest gap, crack or hole in attics and crawlspaces. Combined with attic air sealing, it can also provide a moisture barrier, reducing the risk for mildew or mold growth.

Roofing

Spray polyurethane foam is often used in combination with protective coatings and other materials in the construction of a cool roof. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, cool roofs can save homeowners money on cooling costs in hot climates, but may increase costs in colder climates.

Interior Wall Cavities

Spray foam can be installed in a home’s wall cavities during new construction or renovations. There it can fill small cracks. The benefits for this project include sound proofing, energy efficiency, and increased comfort.

For more information on this and other types of insulation, contact Banker Insulation at (602) 273-1261 for a free quote.

Summer Cooling Bills: Don’t Sweat Them

summer cooling bills

In the Sonoran Desert, with temperatures already hovering in the high-90s, it’s safe to assume summer is here. A time for lazy days, warm nights and new experiences, summertime is great. It would be even better though if all you got between the months of May and August were tan lines. However, there are also summer cooling bills to consider, unless you’ve resolved to live at 80+ degrees 24-hours a day.

Did you know? According to the U.S. Department of Energy, air conditioners use about six percent of all the electricity produced in the United States, at annual cost of about $29 billion to homeowners. Air conditioners use energy to transfer heat from the interior of your home to the outside (Energy.gov, 2014).

Choosing high-efficiency, ENERGY STAR certified cooling equipment and taking other actions such as sealing air leaks, installing insulation and operating your thermostat efficiently, can help enhance the comfort of your home while saving energy – so you can spend your money on summer adventures not summer cooling bills. Bonus: Most of these energy-efficient measures will yield savings all year long.

Attic Insulation

Insulation has other advantages, as well, like absorbing emitted sounds and controlling humidity. Insulation can be blown into both walls and attics to reach the required R-value for Arizona. An environmentally friendly, inexpensive option that performs well, given the correct thickness is cellulose insulation. Other materials include fiberglass, mineral wool, and spray polyurethane foam. The decision-making process should include thorough consideration of the pros and cons for each material type.

Seal Air Leaks

Stopping air leaks through your home’s envelope – the windows, doors, outlets, and other openings – can decrease your energy consumption and, in turn, your utility bills. A professional energy audit is one of the most reliable and quickest ways to locate air leaks. Once completed, you can get to work sealing air leaks using caulk, weatherstripping and electrical socket sealers. These materials are generally very affordable and can be found at your local hardware or home improvement store.

Efficient Thermostat Operation

You can easily save energy in the summer by setting the thermostat to 78 degrees Fahrenheit only when you’re at home and setting it higher when you’re aware. You may also want to consider a programmable thermostat. There are many types available including those that learn your habits within two weeks of use. Some newer models are smartphone compatible, and allow you to remotely adjust the temperature if you’re going to be out later than initially planned.

Slashing Energy Costs with Smart Tech

slashing energy costs

The benefits of smart tech or more accurately, home automation technology include slashing energy costs and greater convenience. Lots of smart tech products, such as smart plugs, smart bulbs, programmable thermostats, and energy monitoring systems are compatible with one another and, using IFTTT applets, let you set different triggers to automate regular home processes; heating and cooling included. If you’re interested in slashing energy costs with smart tech, there’s no better time to start than now.

Here are some products we love.

Smart Plugs

Smart plugs let you control various “dumb” devices without needing to be in the room or, for that matter, the house. Smart plugs play nicely with both iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, along with integrating easily with other smart home products, such as light bulbs. They can be controlled with a compatible app or if you have an Amazon echo, Google Home or Apple HomeKit, your voice. No more wasting electricity by leaving the TV on when no one is watching it with a smart plug.

Smart Bulbs

Smart bulbs connect to your home’s Wi-Fi and work with several popular home automation platforms to provide a degree of control and interactivity that you just can’t get with traditional bulbs. With a smart bulb like Philips Hue White, you can schedule your lighting fixtures, ensuring you come home to a lit house without wasting electricity. Some bulbs can also automatically dim when it’s time to get ready for bed.

Programmable Thermostats

According to ENERGY STAR, the proper use of a programmable thermostat can save you about $180 every year in home energy costs. Take the guess work out of heating and cooling your home with a smart thermostat like the Nest Learning Thermostat, which learns what temperature you find most comfortable, and builds a schedule around yours to eliminate unnecessary energy use.

Energy Monitoring Systems

Do you want to cut your energy use to save money and/or reduce your carbon footprint? You may want to have a professional energy audit completed and purchase an affordable home energy monitoring system. These systems connect to your circuit breaker and send detailed, up-to-date information about your energy consumption straight to your smartphone or tablet in a user-friendly format, affording you the opportunity to take control of slashing your energy costs.

Residential Energy Consumption: How We Use Energy

residential energy consumption

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average home spends $2,000 on energy costs per year for a 1,971-square foot home. Adopting energy-efficient technologies will not only lower your monthly expenditures, it can also improve occupant comfort, as well as quality of life.

Here’s a closer look at residential energy consumption along with some ideas to improve your home’s efficiency.

Heating and Cooling

Nearly half – 40% – of the average home’s utility bill goes towards heating and cooling. Switching from a manual to a programmable thermostat is an easy way to efficiently control the climate in your home. With a programmable thermostat, you can set the temperature to different, desirable levels during set times throughout the week. This can save you up to 10% a year on heating and cooling costs.

Water Heating

Water heating accounts for about 18% of your home’s energy use. Reducing your water use, and employing energy-saving strategies, such as installing a tankless or demand-type water heater and low-flow fixtures can help you reduce your monthly water heating bills.

When shopping for a new water heater, it’s important to calculate your household’s hot water demand to determine what size water heater you’ll need, ensuring there’s enough hot water to go around. You should also consider setting your water temperature to a comfortable 120˚F.

Finally, if your hot water heater is warm to the touch, consider insulating it to save up to 16% annually in water heating costs. Follow manufacturer recommendations.

Electronics

The average household has more than 20 electronics for a variety of purposes, such as daily work or school, entertainment and communication. Using energy-efficient products, those with the ENERGY STAR label, can save you money and prolong the life of your products. Many electronics continue to draw power, even when they’re turned off, so a surge protector can save an addition $100/year when you turn it off each night.

Lighting

Switching out five of your most frequently used lights with ENERGY STAR bulbs can save $75 a year on energy costs. Using automatic timers, motion sensors, and smart light bulbs to automatically turn lights on and off can also help you save money. Smart bulbs coupled with phone apps, afford you the opportunity to control your lights when you’re not home. You can also dim them without having to install dimmer switches.

Last Minute Holiday Gifts: Energy-Efficient Edition

Last Minute Holiday Gifts

Tis the season for friends, family, and giving. If you still need last minute gift ideas, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular energy-efficient products. Watch out – you may even find yourself adding them to your own holiday wish list.

Instant Pot

$100

These pots – great for preparing any number of sides and entrees – use up to 70% less energy than conventional cooking methods. With pressure cooking, heat is evenly and quickly distributed, so dinner is ready in a fraction of the time it takes other cooking methods (i.e., boiling, steaming, baking, and slow cooking). This makes cooking convenient; especially for families always on the go.

Smart Speakers

Price Varies

There are a lot of options for smart speakers out there, but two devices reign supreme: Google Home and Amazon’s Echo. They both let users control their music, podcasts, and a wide assortment of smart home products. They are also both available in full and mini sizes. Which one is best? Ultimately, it’s a matter of preference, and which smart home ecosystem the receiver already owns or is planning to invest in.

Indoor Air Quality Monitors

$150

Know someone with allergies? Give them the gift of an air quality monitor, which allows them to accurately measure up to six main air quality indicators, including TVOC, CO2, PM2.5, PM10, temperature, and humidity. Users can visualize their indoor air quality with a compatible app. Smart home integration means that it works with select smart speakers. Its portable design allows users to set it anywhere they’d like.

Smart Thermostats

$250

Heating and cooling accounts for half the energy bill in most homes – more than appliances (big and small) or electronics. Smart thermostats, such as the Nest Learning Thermostat, work with smart speakers like Google Home and Amazon’s Echo to provide demonstrated energy savings and environmental benefits. Nest learns your schedule and preferred temperatures, programming itself for automatic comfort in about a week.

LED Smart Bulbs

Price Varies

With smart light bulbs, you no longer need to remember to turn off the lights, or come home to a dark house. Smart light bulbs are available in different shades of white, from warm to cool white, and color changing LEDs. Most are compatible with select smart speakers to allow you to control your lights with your voice. They also work with standard light fixtures; recessed lighting included. Pair with other smart devices for total home automation and energy efficiency.

Winter Energy Conservation Tips

Winter Energy Conservation Tips

Use less energy without sacrificing comfort with these six winter energy conservation tips.

Change Your Filter Regularly

The changing season – from fall to winter – is the perfect time to change the filter in your HVAC unit. This easy, cost-effective task allows your heating system to operate more efficiently, ensuring better distribution of heat. You should check and change your filter once a month; HEPA filters every few months.

Reverse Those Ceiling Fans

During winter, switch the direction that your ceiling fan blades turn, so that cooler air is drawn upwards and warmer air pushed down into your living spaces. This allows you to turn the temperature down and still stay warm. There is generally a small switch on the fan that allows you to reverse the blade’s direction. Remember, clockwise in winter, and counterclockwise in summer.

Turn Down the Thermostat

When you’re home and awake, set your thermostat as low as is comfortable, dressing for warmth. When you’re asleep or out of the house, turn your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours a day, and save up-to 10 percent a year on heating/cooling costs. Smart or programmable thermostats can adjust the temperature for you.

Insulate Your Attic

To maintain comfort, heat loss must be mitigated in the winter by ensuring an effective resistance to the flow of heat, which is something insulating materials do quite well. Plug your zip code into the U.S. Department of Energy’s Home Energy Saver tool to find insulation recommendations tailored to your specific zone and home.

Replace Worn Weatherstripping

Worn weatherstripping around doors and windows creates drafts, letting cold air in, and heated air out. Caulking and weatherstripping – found at your local home improvement store – are two cost-effective ways to cut heating/cooling costs and increase occupant comfort. Before air sealing, you should schedule an energy audit.

Schedule a Home Energy Audit

An energy audit can help you determine where your house is losing energy and money.  A professional technician – often called an energy auditor – will check for leaks, examine insulation, inspect your heating system, perform a blower door test, and more using an infrared camera. The technician will then recommend low-cost improvements to save energy, such as increasing your insulation or sealing air leaks.

Use LED Holiday Lights

Incandescent holiday lights are terribly inefficient, and despite careful storage, often emerge damaged. LEDs, while a little more expensive, are a much better option. They use up to 75% less energy and last 25 times longer. Because they also produce very little heat, they are much safer to use for both indoor and outdoor lighting. Additionally, during the biggest holiday shopping weekend – Thanksgiving through Black Friday – many retailers sell LEDs for a fraction of the cost, making them very affordable.