Montana Audubon works at the local, state and national policy levels to protect our natural heritage.
Residential and commercial buildings account for two-thirds of all electricity consumption in America. As Montanans transition to green power, we must also learn how to use our prevailing energy more efficiently and sparingly.
Energy efficiency and conservation provide some of the fastest, cheapest solutions to America’s energy problems. Energy conservation means cutting back on total energy use, while energy efficiency refers to using less energy to produce the same goods and services.
Energy conservation and efficiency don’t have to come at a sacrifice. In many ways, easy tasks like weatherizing your home can be beneficial for you and the environment. Learn how these practices can help you reduce your demand on fossil fuels, practice thoughtful living, protect Montana’s landscapes, and lower your energy bill, all while maintaining a comfortable standard of living!
1. Energy Audits and Your Energy Dollar
The road to home energy savings should begin with a professional energy audit. Professional energy auditors determine where your home loses energy and how efficiently your heating and cooling systems operate. They also come up with solutions to tackle your home’s least efficient areas. Many Montana contractors perform professional energy audits, but online and do-it-yourself audits are also freely available. Check out how the U.S. Department of Energy recommends performing a do-it-yourself energy audit. SBS Solar also provides online energy audits for free and in fewer than five minutes!
2. Check Your Incentives
Because of state and federal incentives, energy conservation and efficiency strategies have never been more affordable or effective. Did you know that Montanans could claim credit against their tax liability for up to 25% of the costs of investment for energy and conservation services through the Energy Conservation Installation Credit? See the US Department of Energy for a comprehensive list of additional credits for renewables and efficiency measures.
Weatherization is one of the best places for homeowners to focus their energy-saving efforts. Easy weatherization projects produce rapid dividends at relatively little expense. Simply plugging and sealing air leaks could save you 25 to 40 percent on your heating and cooling bills! A good place to begin weatherization is with insulation. Proper insulation better retains warm air during the winter and cool air during the summer. Three key areas of your home should always have insulation: the attic, the basement, and all exterior walls. After insulation, you should consider targeting your windows next. The Department of Energy estimates that window weatherization can yield savings of up to 25 percent of your energy bill! See how Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) suggests maximizing energy returns by weatherizing your windows today.
4. Tackle Small Projects First
Making a meaningful difference in your home’s energy efficiency usually doesn’t involve as much time and energy as you may think. For example, you’ve probably heard it before, but changing your lights to compact fluorescents (CFLs) is one of the simplest ways to conserve energy. CFLs last up to 10 times longer than standard incandescents and use up to two-thirds less energy. Another easy way to save is by practicing thermostat setback. According to MDEQ, you could save up to one percent of your annual heating cost for each degree of setback left over a daily eight-hour period.
Listed below are simple tips that are sure to generate immediate energy savings! You can also check out Bonneville Power Administration’s website for more creative ideas.
5. Know Your Appliances
Up to one quarter of the average home’s energy consumption is guzzled up by appliances. When it comes time to buy new appliances, make environmentally informed choices by seeking out Energy Star products. Products labeled with the Energy Star logo meet high efficiency standards established by the EPA and DOE. In 2010, Americans saved nearly $18 billion on utility bills (and the greenhouse gas emission equivalent of 33 million cars) by using Energy Star products!
Another easy way to reduce the impact of your appliances is to be aware of phantom loads. Did you know that electrical appliances use energy even when they’re turned off? Resolve this problem by putting all appliances with phantom loads on power strips. That way, they can be completely turned off when not in use.
*Adapted from E.C. LaMeaux’s “5 Ways to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient” (c 2011).
Here’s a resource we are happy to recommend. The Homeowner’s Handbook to Energy Efficiency: A Guide to Big and Small Improvements. Authors John Krigger and Chris Dorsi. A Saturn Resource management book. Learn about this great book HERE