NV Energy energy consultant Chad Piekarz has been called an energy conservation guru. In preparation for the winter that should be here any day now, Piekarz gives some tips about how to save energy and money.
What are some of the best ways to save energy for this winter?
The best way would just be behavior modification, and that is truly controlling what your thermostat is doing. So installing a seven-day programmable would be phase one of that. And phase two would be programming it correctly, and that’s keeping it in the 58 to 68 degree range. 68 degrees would be when the house is occupied, and 58 would be when it’s not occupied and at night. Allowing it to get to those peaks and valleys truly does generate substantial savings.
What should people do to their homes that can also help?
Some of it is actually very affordable—things like air sealing, which is caulking around the windows and weather stripping your doors and installing foam gaskets in any of our switch plates on an exterior wall will help prevent the flow of the conditioned air to the outside of the home. And that really helps. Additionally, you could take a look at insulation levels, both in the attic space and for the duct system. Having those insulated very well creates a resistance to heat flow that also can really help reduce those energy bills. … There are specific levels more important in the attic space. You want to make sure you have deep enough insulation to create what they consider an efficient resistance to heat flow, and that’s anywhere between an R38 and an R39 in our area.
What is an R38 and an R39?
Those R values are truly resistance to heat flow. If you’re looking at it [in] layman’s terms, that would be trying to keep the heat from leaving the home or. In the summer time, that would be keeping the heat from entering the home.
Have you implemented these things at your own home?
Absolutely. I’ve taken every measure that I preach into my own home and saw significant savings. Items like insulation have a big impact on a home and comfort for the people inside the house. That’s really a nice upgrade. Windows and window coverings can be a little more expensive, but also do provide a pretty decent efficiency upgrade. Sealing your duct system is a very important one. The last thing you want is a leaky duct system where the air is now leaking into unconditioned spaces and not entering the home. That really can cause the system to run more and increase bills. You definitely want to focus on air sealing of any kind in a house. Things are always trying to leave. You have a very high pressure zone inside the home.
Is insulation something that homes in Reno lack?
Yeah. If you look at code insulation … our area in the attic space is rated at an R30, which is 10 inches of insulation, which is actually not deemed efficient in our particular climate zone. So there’s always upgrades necessary, even in new homes. And efficiency codes even 10 years ago were drastically different than what we see today. If you start looking at homes that were built in the early 1900s, you can see massive pitfalls of inefficiency. And there’s a lot of really simple things that people can do for their homes that kind of get overlooked, like tuning up your HVAC system—the heating ventilation air conditioning system. Specifically in this time of year, you want to focus on your furnace and make sure the preventative maintenance has been done by a professional licensed contractor. That generates anywhere up to a 5 percent efficiency increase for just the heating system. And making sure that the filters are changed. We live in a pretty dusty area, so it’s important to make sure that that return air filter isn’t completely clogged full of debris and that it’s allowing air to pass through it effortlessly.