Newly-Launched Inventions That Can Help Homeowners Save Energy

Domestic energy efficiency has advanced a long way over the last few decades. Despite our overall energy consumption increasing by just over a third since 1980, on average our homes consume around 10% less overall. How can this be the case when we have so many more electrical appliances? Back in 1980, not many homes had more than a single TV, and computers and mobile phones were essentially non-existent. Yet somehow they used more electricity!

The answer to this question comes down to one simple principle. Energy efficiency. Government regulations and technical advances led by the private sector have resulted in appliances that are simply more sustainable. Throw in a better public understanding of the importance of reducing carbon emissions, and also the use of money expert comparison sites to track the expense of powering a home, and it the picture becomes a little clearer.

Expect to see this trend, become ever more prevalent in the near future, as sustainability has become a huge industry sector that continues to rapidly expand.

Here’s a selection of the most recent technologies that are already helping homeowners save money that we can expect to become common place over the coming years.

1. Smart Homes

At first glance, you may wonder what the point is in buying a new domestic appliance that is advertised as ‘internet connected/ready’. After all, who is going to need a web compatible refrigerator or air conditioning unit? It is increasingly common for newly released appliances to boast this feature because in the coming years, our homes are going to be much more connected than at present. Being able to monitor and control energy expenditure remotely via smartphone is a tech that is already with us – but these are still the early days.

The next big step forward is going to be the implementation of wireless sensors throughout the home. These will connect all the appliances in the home to a centralized control panel which will automatically instruct how they interact with the energy supply.

For instance, appliances not in use, but on ‘standby’ mode will be entirely disconnected from the power supply when nobody is at home. Heating and air conditioning use will be precisely measured according to the ambient temperature. Just these two examples – and there are many more in the pipeline – are set to shave a considerable amount of household energy consumption in the very near future.

2. Next Generation Home Insulation

The US Industrial Science & Technology Network takes the approach that heating and cooling costs can best be reduced by simply developing superior insulation. While still at the development stage, these are promised to be far more efficient at preventing heat from escaping.

As may be expected, they are also going to be environmentally sound and most likely comprised of recycled foam materials. Should these be proven to work, there is a very good chance they will become the industry norm for new build and redeveloped housing in the years to come.

3. Reflective Roofing Materials

While insulation is ideal for maintaining an ambient temperature what about those who live in warmer climes? Everyone knows how expensive it is to run air conditioning 24 hours a day, but there have been considerable recent advances in reflective rooftop materials. Currently, these work by using special pigments that are coated onto the roof in order to reflect sunlight and heat.

The next generation in development will use fluorescent pigments that look likely to be up to four times more efficient. So for those who reside in areas where effective air conditioning is essential around the year, these new materials may well be an absolute godsend.

4. Magnetocaloric Refrigerators

A fridge powered by magnets? Close, but not quite. Refrigeration technology has barely changed or advanced since they were first introduced. Modern fridges still rely on vapor compression, which unfortunately requires chemical coolants that are notoriously bad for the environment.

Next generation models are going to be able to make use of water-based coolants that make use of the magnetocaloric effect. In layperson’s terms, this is the use of magnets to alter the magnetic field which can provide an extremely energy efficient cooling effect. Expect this to become commonplace in the coming years, thanks to their potential in enormously reducing energy expenditure and carbon emissions.

5. Much More Efficient Heat Pumps

Considerable progress has been made by the US Building Technologies Office in developing heat pumps that essentially move heat throughout the home. There are three models in design that promise to considerably reduce expenditure on heating while also significantly reduce carbon emissions. Standard gas boilers/furnaces are notoriously expensive and inefficient.

  • A low-cost gas-based heating pump could massively increase efficiency and result in lowering heating costs by a staggering 45%.
  • Multiple function fuel based pumps designed for domestic use can still save an estimated 30% with the added bonus of also providing more efficient water heating.
  • Natural gas based heating pumps connected with air conditioners aim to use a very low emission boiler to cater for all domestic needs regardless of the season. Of all three options, this is the most complete package and the one most likely to become widespread in the coming years.

These styles of heat pumps are also going to be used to significantly reduce the energy used by clothes drying machines. General Electric has been already near completing their first gas pump compatible dryer. This is intended to reduce the energy consumption of perhaps the least efficient appliance in the home by up to 60%.

6. Even Better LED Lighting

Energy saving lighting may have become the accepted norm in many households, and the good news is that it is set to become even better. At present these are up to 85% more efficient than old fashioned incandescent bulbs, but the next generation – scheduled for a few years time – promise to double their efficiency. An improvement up to 230 lumens (from the current 115) is forecast.

8% of all electricity consumption in the USA are due to lighting homes and businesses. Having that figure will make for a huge national saving and reduction of energy costs across the board. (Source:https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=99&t=3)

7. Advanced Window Insulation

While still in development this may not sound like a huge advance, but could well result in enormous net energy savings down the line. Using microprocessors and sensors to measure sunlight and radiant heat, these are going to automatically provide shading to assist with providing ideal natural lighting and also assist with heating. Expect these to be integrated with the general smart home system outlined above in due course.

Final Thoughts

So there we have seven of the most exciting and interesting developments that we can expect to see in the home over the coming years. While some are already in production while others are just passing the prototype phase, the future is looking positive in terms of reducing emissions and better managing energy consumption. Energy efficiency is here to stay and these developments will likely only be the tip of the iceberg compared to what we can look forward to over coming decades.

5 Energy Saving Tactics for Homeowners and Businesses

There are many easy ways to save money and electricity every month around your home. And as you will see from the following examples, they don’t all require you to downgrade your lifestyle or make major sacrifices in your everyday life. Some of these energy saving tactics will apply more during hot times of the year or cold times, but most will serve you well all year long.

save energy concept

And keep in mind that many of these energy-saving tips can apply just as well to businesses trying to save money as they do to homeowners.

1. Use Energy-Efficient Appliances

Your major household appliances use up a lot of electricity year-round, so when it comes time to repair or replace one of them, consider upgrading to a more energy-efficient model. Many manufacturers make refrigerators, dishwashers, ranges, washing machines and dryers that meet or exceed EnergyStar guidelines and can save you hundreds of dollars per year in lower energy bills.

2. Eliminate Electricity “Leaks”

Most homeowners are aware of water leaks in their homes such as leaky faucets, cracked garden hoses and poorly sealed pipe fittings in the walls. But your home could also be leaking electricity every day.

A lot of electricity gets wasted needlessly due to so-called “energy leaks”. These could include appliances that draw power 24/7, even when not in use. Other energy leaks could be simple things like leaving the lights turned on in empty rooms or falling asleep with the television on.

Fortunately, there are easy ways to reduce energy leaks without putting a drain on your lifestyle, such as using power strips, timers and motion sensors to cut off these devices when nobody is using them.

3. Improve Your Home’s Insulation

Another factor that drives up your monthly electric bill is the hot or cold air outside making its way into your home. There are two main ways to address this:

  1. Seal your doors and windows
  2. Put in better insulation

If your doors or windows are old and have cracks or holes, then go ahead and get those replaced. Double-paned glass windows and sliding doors can add an extra layer of protection to regulate your internal temperature.

If there are any gaps around the perimeter or frame of your doors and windows, then replacing the weatherstripping should seal those off easily. This is actually good DIY project for beginners that will only cost you a few bucks and a few minutes per door/window.

Replacing your insulation can be a big job and will likely require some professional help, not only to get the job done right, but also to ensure compliance with all building codes and regulations. The main question for you to discuss with your chosen contractor will be to decide what type of insulation will work best for your needs and your budget. Common materials include natural fibers, plastics, foam, minerals and fiberglass insulation.

When hiring a contractor, be sure they include air-sealing services in the estimate, since leaks, gaps and cracks in the walls, ceilings and floors should be done prior to putting in the insulation. Some insulation types, such as fiberglass insulation, are installed using techniques that literally blow the materials into place and do an excellent job of sealing off leaks.

4. Properly Use and Maintain Your HVAC System

Your heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) system can also make or break your power bill every month, especially during the winter or summer seasons. These heating and cooling systems are comprised of many motors and moving parts which are subject to wear and tear and will require ongoing maintenance.

While your HVAC system is designed to last for several years, some individual components can become worn out and create inefficiencies which overload the entire system, wasting energy and causing additional damage. So you do need to be diligent in maintaining or repairing these systems as needed. Many HVAC repair companies in your area offer free inspections of heaters, air conditioners and centralized ventilation systems, so take advantage of those when they are available.

5. Use Green Building Materials

When constructing a new home or adding on to your existing property, using green building materials can also help you save money on construction costs. Here are some examples of commonly-used green building materials:

  • Recycled steel and wood
  • Reclaimed doors, windows and lumber
  • Plant-based polyurethane foam
  • Bamboo
  • Wool

While you might not see much difference on your own personal utility bill, using building supplies made from recycled or reclaimed materials can save money on construction costs. And you can also save a lot of energy and resources on a larger scale – at the community level and eventually global level. Plus, many reclaimed material just a nice aesthetic to your home.

Saving energy at home can be easy, and with a little creativity and investment you don’t necessarily have to make any radical changes to your lifestyle either. Pick one or two of these energy saving tactics and put them to use today.

Special Attributes of Fiberglass Insulation

Of all the things we want our homes to provide, comfort is usually at the top of the list. In addition to the beauty and usability of the home, comfort also includes the ability to maintain a comfortable temperature, to keep the air clean and healthy, and to provide safety for your family. The most popular technique for accomplishing all these goals is the use of fiberglass insulation. It has become so widespread that you may be wondering if it is still the best choice on the market, or if it’s simply being used out of habit.

Like any other decision for your home, the choice of insulation materials is an important one that you should consider carefully, so you may be asking a simple question: Is fiberglass the best choice for insulation, or could cellulose or other materials be a better option?

The answer is clear. Contractors and homeowners use fiberglass insulation more because it is the best material for home insulation. Here are six characteristics of fiberglass that allow it to excel where other materials fall short.

Reducing Noise

The primary purpose of insulation is to increase comfort and reduce energy costs by maintaining the desired temperature inside the home, but it provides soundproofing benefits as well. A properly insulated home will have less noise coming in from the outside as well as less noise moving between rooms.

Fiberglass is much more effective at dampening sound than any other material on the market. Reducing sound transfer is important when you live near busy roads or have young children who need quiet sleep time while the rest of the family is still awake, and fiberglass is the best material for those functions and more.

Recycling Material

Natural plant fibers used in insulation are touted for being renewable, and it is true that new plants can be grown each year to manufacture the product. However, insulation made from fiberglass uses a high percentage of recycled material. The recycled content reduces the need to manufacture additional fiberglass while also eliminating the need to dedicate more crop ground and farming resources to the production of source plants for cellulose.

Containing Fire

Perhaps the greatest benefit of fiberglass in the insulation world is its ability to contain fire. Cellulose is a plant-based product, making it a potential fuel in case of fire. Fiberglass itself is fire-resistant, providing a barrier to the spread of fire that increases the time available for your family to escape while minimizing the amount of damage done to your home.

Firefighters can testify to the simplicity of extinguishing a fire near fiberglass as opposed to one that spreads into cellulose blown-in insulation. The fire travels further, does more damage, and requires greater cleanup than fiberglass.

Simple Installation

Fiberglass batts are perhaps the easiest product to install in a home construction or renovation project. They are manufactured in whatever width and thickness is required, and they simply roll out to install in walls, floors, or ceilings. The end result is a faster, cleaner installation. Blown-in cellulose is touted for its versatility in filling any available space, but it is also messier and much more difficult to move out of the way for future repairs or renovations.

Mold Resistance

Indoor air quality is a topic that is receiving a lot of attention these days. We are all alert to the dangers of breathing harmful molds, yet many of us unwittingly foster the growth of these dangerous substances by using cellulose insulation. In a plant, cellulose is meant to transport water, so it should come as no surprise that it will also retain moisture when used in your home.

Fiberglass does not absorb moisture, speeding the process of drying up any water that may find its way into your walls, floors, or ceilings. This makes for a drier and healthier environment.

Lower Cost

Economizing isn’t just about paying less. It’s about getting more value for your dollar. Fortunately, fiberglass does both for you when you are installing insulation. Apart from all the benefits we’ve already discussed, fiberglass costs less. The result is that you get better performance for less money, and that’s getting the best of both worlds with your insulation dollar.

The process of working in your home is full of decisions. Whether you are building a new home, renovating an existing home, or simply doing some upgrades, you may find yourself overwhelmed at the selection of products available for even the simplest steps in the project. Instead of bogging down on the variety of insulation materials, you can make one decision right at the beginning. Choosing fiberglass for your insulation needs will make your home safer, healthier, and more comfortable than any other product can.