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Conservation Questions (9)
I recently was in a big box retail store, I won’t mention the name. There was a person in there selling solar water heating. I am a widow and live alone. The man came to my home and told me I could save money heating my water by replacing my electric water heater and putting in his solar system. After some rebates my cost was $6,900. He financed my fee and I must pay $70.00 a month for seven years. I’m wondering if I will really save any money. Could you help me know if I made a good choice? Thank you.
Thank you for your question. First, I must applaud your desire to save energy. Second, I must say I am sorry these big box stores allow these type of products and sales people on their sales floor. Before I say more about your purchase, I want to let you know these type of decisions are why this energy expert service is on our company web site. Very few people really know about all the energy upgrades out there today for the consumer to purchase. Often we find ourselves at the mercy of someone who sounds like they know what they are talking about. If we know little about a product, it is easy to believe whatever claim is being made. Now, to your concern. I would estimate your electric water heater would use approximately 4000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually. If you pay $0.12 per KWH that comes out to $480.00 per year to heat your water. This amount may vary based on your personal patterns but this estimate would be on the high end for one person. If you were heating water with natural gas your cost would be considerably less, more like in the $250.00 per year range. Given your electric water heater was costing approximately $40.00 per month and a gas water heater would be $24.00 per month, paying $70.00 for seven years doesn’t make sense to me. Most thermal water heating situations do not have the ability to heat all the water you need because there is no sun at night and on cloudy days. Therefore, you also still have some cost for electric or gas whatever fuel your home has, 25% is a fair estimate. The carrot on many thermal water heating sales claims is “Your hot water is free.” Unfortunately, that just is not true. It could be nearly free, once the system is paid off but there is a good chance within a short period of time after it is paid off, it may need repair or replacement. The sad truth is, in this case, the “free hot water,” costs $70.00 per month! A safe place to find answers for your energy questions is to call your local utility and ask to speak to a conservation representative. They can help you make the best choice and will even come to your home and do a free energy audit. The conservation person will help you know what is the best energy efficiency improvements to make on your home.
Is a tank less electric hot water heater really as efficient as a standard electric 40 gal tank type. we have no gas service and are not allow propane
Thank you for your question concerning electric tankless water heaters. My general answer would be electric tankless whole house water heaters are not an attractive choice in most cases. The major issue with them is they draw so much electricity when running you will need to add a new 100-120 amp service just to run the water heater. They are efficient but like all high efficiency water heaters the energy savings is when they are not in use.
Both gas and electric tankless water heaters use more energy when they are running than standard gas or electric tank water heaters. The savings comes when they are not in use because when they are off, they are off. The electric “Hybrid” water heater combines a standard electric tank with heat pump technology. There is a small heat pump on top the tank that pulls heat from the garage and uses it to heat water. Again, though when put under demand they lose the efficiency.
Based on family size, water heating is 14-18% of your total energy cost. Your water heating cost could be between $30-$50 per month. Using $40 per month as an estimate of water heating costs, let’s say a high efficiency water heater will save 30%, that is $144.00 per year. Consider the difference in cost between a standard tank and the upgrade. It may take as much as 10 years to pay for the upgrade based on your savings. These are all things you will want to consider before making the decision.
I received a flyer in the mail from a company that said they wanted to perform a free energy audit on my home and they could save me up to 50% on my utility bills. Is this really possible?
There are many similar solicitations circulating. Usually, the offer of a free energy audit or survey, unless it is from your local utility, is being offered by a company that wants to sell you their product. The best way to have a home energy audit performed is either by hiring a state certified energy rater or contacting your electric or natural gas utility. Both these will be “third party,” auditors rather than someone trying to sell you their product. Realistic energy saving possibilities are between 10-30% and it will cost you considerable money to achieve those savings.
There are natural gas tankless water heaters that perform exactly as you said. The Department of Energy has said, gas tankless are 30% more efficient than a standard gas tank water heater. A gas tankless water heater heats the water upon demand. You open a faucet or shower and the heater fires up and heats the water and will continue to heat it until you are finished using it. That is correct, a family of eight can get a shower one after the other and everyone will have equally hot water!
My husband and I recently walked through a new home that was having an open house. There was a label on the front window that said this home has a HERS Score of 71? Neither of us knew what that meant. It seemed to be related to the homes energy efficiency. Do you know anything about what a HERS Score is?
HERS is an acronym for Home Energy Rating System. A person called an energy rater inputs everything imaginable about the home into a software program. The HERS Score is how that particular home compared to a home built to the International Energy Conservation Code of 2006. A home built to that code will receive a HERS Score of 100. Each number less represents a 1% efficiency gain. New homes built to the Florida Energy Code will receive a score of approximately 88. I have seen super efficient homes receive a HERS Score of 46. The HERS Score is like the miles per gallon rating of your car. It is how your home was designed to use energy. Each part of the home system contributes to the score. For example, a gas tankless water heater discussed in the previous question, lowers the HERS Score by 6 or 7 points. Meaning that efficient water heater improves the entire homes energy use by 6-7%.
When it gets cold here in Florida and my heat comes on it feels like it is blowing cool air out of the vents. Sometimes it feels warm but it never feels hot like it did when I lived in Baltimore. Is there something wrong with my furnace?
Without doing an energy audit on your home I can’t say for sure. But my educated assumption would be in Baltimore you probably had either a fuel oil or natural gas furnace. It is very probable in Florida you have an electric heat pump. Heat pumps work by taking the warmth out of the outside air and through drawing the warmth out of it through the refrigeration cycle in your heat pump deliver it into your home. You are correct in noticing the difference. Most heat pumps will deliver air at the vent that is approximately 98*. A fuel oil or gas furnace will deliver air that is up to 130*. Heat pumps are economical but for the brief heating season in Florida many prefer the comfort of natural gas heat.
I had a replacement window contractor tell me I could save up to 40% if I replaced my old single pane windows with a new high efficiency window. I know my old windows seem to let a lot of heat come in when the sun hits them. Can I really save that much?
This is a tough question to answer without more information. I will give you a more general answer based on my experimentation with energy modeling software that accurately measures heat flow and energy costs based on the Florida market. For the answer I will model a 2,000 square foot home with approximately 15% of that area being single pane clear glass windows. Let’s replace those windows with a quality double pane, Low-E window. Low-E is a treatment film placed between the two panes of glass that reflects a percentage of the sun’s thermal energy, reducing your air conditioning load. The cost savings based on average cooling hours and utility costs will be approximately 15%. Let’s estimate your annual cooling cost to be $2,500. 15% savings would be $375 per year. Let’s estimate your window replacement cost at $3,500. All these numbers are for example only. You divide the cost to cool by the projected savings and you will get 9.33 years. Using these numbers it will take you over 9 years to recover your cost. Most businesses will not make upgrades that take longer than 3 years to recover. Be careful when listening to a sales persons claims, they are trying to sell you something. You can post a question here with specifics and I will give you a prompt response. My final thought, you may choose to replace your windows for many reasons, if energy savings is one of many reasons fine. If energy savings is the only reason, generally there will be other energy savings improvements that will give you more bang for your buck.
There are several opportunities for most home owners to lower energy costs, which is ultimately what we are wanting to accomplish. There are no cost opportunities, low cost opportunities and more major upgrades. A thorough energy audit of your home should be done by a certified energy professional for more accurate results designed just for your home. Go to your local natural gas or electric utility web page or visit www.beapfl.org to find a trained professional.
Due to the general nature of your question and not knowing anything about your home here are some answers they may benefit you.
No Cost Improvements:
- Practice turning things off!
- Ceiling fans should only run when someone is in the room to benefit.
- Use power strips to turn off TV & Cable Box overnight or when not in use.
- Turn off computers and other electronics equipment when not in use.
- Make sure you thermostat is set properly. 78* in cooling season and 68* for heat. Use a programmable thermostat to control temperatures when no one is home.
- Make sure your water heater is set at 120*.
Low Cost Improvements:
- Air seal all ceiling penetrations, i.e. under recessed lighting, HVAC vents, etc. Use spray foam or caulk. Most air leaks in FL homes are at the ceiling plane.
- Upgrade ceiling insulation to R-30.
- Professionally seal your HVAC ducts with mastic.
- Consider upgrading to a natural gas tankless water heater (check for rebates from your utility)
- When your HVAC system needs replaced upgrade to a 15 SEER. Each SEER improvement will save approximately 10% on cooling costs.
- Rather than replacing windows, consider a Low E window film. Low E reflects the solar heat and keeps it from entering your home.
These things will put you on the path to a more energy efficient home!
I read energy efficiency suggestions online. Sometimes the information doesn’t make sense. I was reading about high efficiency windows and it looked like they reflected heat back in the house. It was confusing. Could you shed any light on this?
It really is a great question for those living in the hot, humid climate we have here in Florida. If you perform an internet search for “ENERGY STAR climate zones,” you will see a color coded map of the climate zones used for energy work. For our purposes, I will explain. The tip of Miami is Climate Zone 1. All of Florida and the Gulf Cost into Southern Texas is Climate Zone 2. Climate Zone 3 goes horizontally across the country splitting North Carolina about in half and goes across the country to southern Nevada. Climate Zone 4 is fairly small taking in the remainder of North Carolina and most of Virginia. Climate Zone 5 is north of that. The extreme northern US is Climate Zone 6. Most of what you read about energy online is discussing issues in heating climates which would be Climate Zones 4 and above.
Northern climates are heating climates which attempt to keep heat and moisture in the home because their outside air is cold and dry. Florida is a hot humid climate where we want to keep cool, dry air inside and hot humid air outside. Building Science says, hot always moves to cold, wet always moves to dry and high pressure always moves to low pressure. Those forces are always moving until balanced.
So back to your original question. In the north the windows are designed to keep the heat in the home. In the south, just the opposite. Windows are designed here to keep the sun’s radiant heat reflected back outside.
Rebate Questions (1)
That is great question, I’m sure others wonder at times how to capitalize on the generous natural gas conservation rebates. I am attaching the link to our web page that lays out exactly how to receive those rebates.
Tax Credit Questions (8)
Examples of qualifying energy-efficient upgrades include new water heaters, furnaces, HVAC equipment, windows, insulation, solar technologies, and more. For a more complete list of available tax credits and other details, customers can contact FPU at 800.427.7712, or click on one of the following links:
In order to be eligible for any of the non-solar Federal Tax Credits For Consumer Energy Efficiency, you must be a residential consumer and install the qualifying upgrade(s) in your existing, principal residence. New construction, rental properties and commercial buildings do not apply.
In addition to existing primary residences, solar tax credits are also available for secondary homes and new residential construction.
The qualifying energy-efficient upgrade(s) must be installed between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2013.
In addition to filing a federal tax form, most applicants will simply need to file the 2012 version of the IRS form 5695 when they submit their taxes by April 15. While we recommend discussing specific protocol with a Tax Professional, it’s also important save any relevant receipts, as well as the Manufacturer’s Certification Statement.
While the tax credit amount will depend on the specific upgrade, some offer 10% of the relevant cost (worth up to a $500 value) and others feature specific, predetermined amounts ranging from $50-$300.
You can find specific and complete qualification criteria for each type of upgrade by visiting http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=tax_credits.tx_index. Or, please call 800.427.7712 to speak with an FPU Representative.
For more information, please call 800.427.7712 to speak with an FPU Customer Service Representative or click one of the links below:
We just had a new gas water heater installed.It’s not a tankless, just a standard water heater. Is there a tax credit for this type of water heater?
For a gas water heater to qualify for the tax credit it must have an efficiency of 82%. The only gas water heaters that meet that criteria will be the tankless.