HVAC Hypermiling

2 Steps to HVAC Hypermiling

Heating and cooling costs typically account for more than half of your utility bill, according to the Department of Energy. If you ask us, that is just crazy. So what can you do about it? How about “HVAC Hypermiling”?

What is Hypermiling?

The term hypermiling was originally used in automotive circles to describe people who drove intelligently to achieve significantly higher fuel economy than rated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The practice involves well-known methods like coasting down hills or slowly accelerating from a stop, but hypermilers go to far more radical ends to decrease their fuel consumption.

So What is HVAC Hypermiling?

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) hypermiling is the process by which you take any means necessary to reduce the amount of time your HVAC runs, thereby reducing the amount of money you pay for heating and cooling. HVAC hypermiling can be achieved through a variety of methods but here are two ways to make it work for you.

1. Seal Everything. Insulate.

This is one of the most simple and cost effective things you can do. Most houses in North Alabama have about 30% duct leakage. This means when you pay for $100 of cool air in the summer, only about $70 of it actually enters your house. Not cool. (Pun intended.)

Most North Alabama houses also have significant amounts of air leakage and are poorly insulated. You can do this stuff on your own with the right materials. And patience. Here is a short little guide from ENERGY STAR: http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=home_sealing.hm_improvement_seal_insulate

Of course you could pay a professional contractor to knock this out for you. It would set you back a few hundred bucks and a few hours. If you have a larger than average home, the cost may be a little over $1000. Even so, you’ll make your money back almost immediately.

2. Squeeze the Seasons

OK, this is the fun part. My wife and I play this game each year. Really it is just me and she is along for the ride. When her frown gets a little too big I know it is time to give in and turn on the HVAC. Here’s what I do.

I try to turn the HVAC off as early in the spring as possible and leave it off for as long as possible. I do the exact opposite in the fall. I’ll turn it off as early as possible and hold out until maybe early November. The better your home is air sealed and insulated, the better you will do.

When we have cool nights in the house we use blankets and extra clothing to stay warm. The house will warm up during the day so the objective is to endure a few hours of colder than normal temperatures to keep the HVAC from coming on. If the house is still cool and it has warmed up outside, the windows come open. Fans are used to circulate air and cool the house if it gets too hot. I refuse to turn the HVAC on until the temperature gets to 78°F in the Spring or 66° in the Fall.

Ready to push your HVAC hypermiling a little further? Sometimes you’ll have a spike or a drop in temperature. Sometimes you’ll feel the humidity creep up a little too high. No worries. Run the HVAC. Then shut it off and hold out again.

Here’s an example. Let’s say it is Spring and the temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit in the house and you can feel a little humidity. You know that the next few days will be cool but just need to make it through this warm spell. Turn the HVAC on and cool your house below what you normally would. Say 70°F. Once the temperature hits 70°, shut of the HVAC. This will allow you a few degrees of warming once the HVAC turns off and before the sun sets. Once you make it though this specific day you know you have a few good days ahead again. The key is to use the HVAC system sparingly just to re-balance of sort. 

One last note… Make sure to track your humidity as well. The last thing you want is to save a few bucks on HVAC costs only to let the humidity get so high your floors buckle.

Have fun saving and let us know some of your results!

-Daniel

Sustainable Energy Superstars – Rick & Pat Trescott

Sustainable Energy Superstars – Rick and Pat Trescott

Rick and Pat Trescott - Sustainable Energy SuperstarsRecently we had the pleasure of visiting the home of Rick and Pat Trescott. They are a couple of real Sustainable Energy Superstars from the ground up. While many people would write off a 50-year-old home as not worth the effort, Rick and Pat have instead done everything in their power to improve the energy efficiency of their home, and they aren’t ready to stop any time soon.

 

When they first wrote and told me about the improvements they’d made to their home including a 5.7 kW solar array that powers their home and business. I didn’t think beyond the solar. I really didn’t imagine all that it would take to make an older home energy-efficient to the point that solar panels would even make a difference. It takes a lot!

 

Rick and Pat live in the the community of Royal, Alabama. They are one of about seven homes in their community that some type of solar. Of course, most of those homes were built from the ground up to be solar.

 

“We have a 1960’s vintage ranch type house that was poorly insulated, and shaded by a very large Oak tree growing just south of the house. We have done extensive retro-fitting to make it energy-efficient enough to make solar realistically viable. This has been an ongoing project over the past 9 years and is still not complete.”

 

The Trescotts have two main buildings on our property, totaling over 3,800 square feet of conditioned space. The main building is their home and the second is used for their business (a dog grooming parlor, kennel, work shop) and also includes a guest apartment. Because the house has no southern exposure, the solar panels had to installed on the second building. The panels provide electricity to both buildings and the Trescotts sell the extra electricity that is produced back to the grid. While they do have a battery back-up system, the batteries are only used in the case of a power outage (so far they’ve not had to use the batteries at all).

 

Here are just a few of the energy efficiency improvements that the Trescotts have made to their home:

  • Replaced inefficient heat pump with a geothermal ground-source heat pump.
  • Replaced an asphalt shingle roof with ENERGY STAR metal roof, extending the overhang to 4′.
  • Pumped foam insulation into exterior walls.
  • Added insulation to the attic and crawl space.
  • Sealed ductwork.
  • Installed double-cell insulated blinds on almost all the windows.
  • Replaced all appliances with ENERGY STAR appliances.
  • Replaced all light bulbs with LED lights. Their entire kitchen is now very well lit with less than 95 watts.
  • Replaced all windows with high-efficiency double-glazed vinyl windows.
  • Provided outside air supply to the wood-stove that is used as auxiliary heat.
  • Replaced and built new decks using composite decking boards.
  • Installed 5.7 kilowatt (kW) photovoltaic (PV) solar array, that is grid tied, with battery back-up.

 

blinds
kitchen
 composite decking and 4' overhang

 

Pat reminded us several times that you can’t just go solar. It doesn’t do you any good unless you’ve ensured that your home is energy-efficient to start with.

 

I asked Rick and Pat why it was important for them to make their home more energy-efficient.

“Part of the changes were just much needed upgrades that added to the comfort level of our home.  My wife and I built the area that is used as the Grooming Parlor from scratch, using mostly reclaimed and recycled materials. We are both believers in the concept of “Recycle, Reuse and Repurpose.” I have children & grand-children. I would like to be able to have a more positive impact on their environmental future. Solar power had been an interest of mine since the 70’s, (I’m almost 66 years old.) We felt that we should support the developing technology of alternative energy.”

What does energy efficiency mean to the Trescotts?

“The late industrialist Ray C. Anderson said, “The greenest kilowatt-hour is the one that you don’t use.” I think that pretty much sums it up. Don’t be wasteful.”

The Trescotts credit the success of their project to their friend and neighbor, Mr. Daryl Berquist of Earth Steward Solar Consulting, who did everything from the original site survey to filling out the forms for Alabama Power. He might just be the reason that there is an entire community of solar homes in the middle of Blount County, Alabama. Daryl Berquist can be contacted by phone at (205) 429-3088 or via email at steward@otelco.net

You are our sunshine!

 

 

Energy Saving Tip – Wash in Cold Water

Did you know that making one simple change can save both energy and save you money? A push of a button or a twist of a dial on your washing machine could save you as much as $250 a year. Washing your clothes in cold water instead of hot or warm water takes very little effort but can have a big impact (especially if we all do it). In addition to saving you up to $250/yr, making the change to cold water wash can save you even more in the long-run because cold water doesn’t wear your clothes out as fast or cause them to fade. This means that your clothes last longer and you replace them less often.

Check out this infographic from Huntsville Utilities and remember that Cool is Clean & Clean is Cool!

USDN-Cold-Water-Outreach-Fl

Here are a few other tips you can use to save energy & money when doing your laundry.

  • Choose an ENERGY STAR rated washer and dryer system
  • Make sure you choose settings that use the right amount of water for your load size
  • Clean the lint trap in your dryer after every load
  • Choose a dryer with a dampness sensor. It will stop running when the clothes are dry.
  • Wash and dry full loads of laundry rather than partial loads.
  • Wash and dry towels and heavier items separately.
  • Have your dryer vent inspected and cleaned regularly.
  • Air-dry your clothes on a line or rack to save energy and prolong the life of your clothes.
  • Use the nozzle on your vacuum to clean any lint that collects just below the lint filter.
  • Use the right detergent for your machine. If you have a high efficiency machine use He detergent. If not, choose detergents that are made for cold water wash.
  • Use ECO wash detergents and get more for your money. One small bottle of ECO detergent will last longer than a larger bottle of regular detergent.

Do you normally wash in cold water? If so, leave a comment below to tell us why you feel it’s important?

If you liked this post you should check out 10 Ways to Increase Energy Efficiency in Your Home