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Making the Move to Energy Efficiency

March 23, 2017  —  Written by Chris 

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This post is sponsored by Ruud Heating, Cooling & Water Heating. We’ve partnered with them to share our process of making our home more comfortable and energy efficient. If you’re looking at new HVAC equipment, we encourage you to find a Ruud-approved contractor and request that this outstanding equipment be installed in your home.

We are officially in the first days of Spring. And while many parts of the country are falling prey to Spring’s teasing nature, right now, in our mountain town, we have no snow on the ground and the tulips are beginning to peak through the soil. And while I’m under no delusions we’ve seen the last of the snow, I feel relief knowing we’ve passed through the worst of what has been a long, cold, snowy winter.

You may remember about a year ago, when our furnace troubles really kicked into gear, which led us to replacing our old unit with a new, energy-efficient model from Ruud this past fall. Well, we’ve now gone through (almost) the entire cold half of our year, and wanted to talk about a few reasons we believe making the transition to energy efficiency was the right move for us.

Potential Utility Savings
I’m going to lead into this with a disclaimer – nobody can guarantee you a smaller utility bill! If they do, they’re not being honest. Your gas bill is the product of too many factors to control, including temperature variation year-over-year, fluctuations in the price of natural gas, changing needs in the household etc.. That said, we used significantly fewer therms (natural gas measurement units) this winter than we did the winter previous, despite this year being colder overall. Here is a screenshot of our usage from our utility provider:

2017 Therm Usage

I isolated these months as they’re our highest usage months and represent when we began using our new furnace and water heaters. February was abnormally cold this year and abnormally warm last year (an average difference of more than 10 degrees year-over-year), but the rest of the months were slightly colder this year compared to last. All that said, we were a total of 44 therms lower this year. Utility costs vary across the U.S., but for us this represented more than $70 in utility savings over a period of 4 months. Even with the typical drop in natural gas consumption that happens during warmer months, that’s a potential savings of well over $100 every year, which adds up.

Temperature Stability
Most energy efficient furnaces have what’s called an Electronically Commutated Motor (ECM). This is also referred to as a variable speed motor, and it provides a few benefits. The way it works is the blower in the furnace operates at varying speeds, depending on the need. If the temperature outside drops significantly in a short amount of time, the furnace senses the need and increases the blower speed to compensate. Whereas, in the middle of the day for example, when the temperature change outside is gradual, the blower will operate at a lower speed, requiring less energy while maintaining a more stable temperature.

Ruud thermostat

Variable speed furnaces also progress to full speed more gradually. This results in less clunky noise when the unit itself kicks on, and improved humidity control when used with an AC unit in cooling mode.

EcoNet Connectivity
This is one I never tire of talking about, because I love it. Heating, air conditioning and water heating account for over 65% of a home’s energy use, and the easier that is to control, the morel likely you are to see a positive impact on consumption. Every time we’ve gone out of town, even for a day, we’ve turned our water heaters to vacation mode and set timers to have them turn back on before we get home. We’re never without hot water when we need it, but aren’t paying for it when we don’t. And the app allows you to do the same thing for your entire HVAC system, including heating and cooling.

The Energy Efficient Home - Water Heaters & Connectivity

Home Value
While the value of certain upgrades can be subjective to each buyer, experience is showing that more and more home buyers value updated, energy-efficient appliances, and are willing to pay for them. Some areas, such as Los Angeles, are showing an average 6% increase in home values after upgrading to energy-efficient appliances.

Of course there are many other benefits to moving to energy efficiency that we could talk about. Some of these benefits matter more to some people while others matter more to others. But the main question is, why not? If you’re finding yourself in need of new HVAC appliances, why not go for energy efficient? For most, the utility savings alone makes up the cost difference in a short 4-5 years, and then you have the continued benefit beyond that. So if you feel like your furnace is on its last leg, now is a great time to recognize that and start saving to ensure you’re prepared for when the cold months roll back around. Or take the steps now to plan for your AC or water heating needs.

To learn more about the Ruud line of EcoNet appliances, or to find an installer near you, visit www.ruud.com/econet.

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What do you think?

  1. Thank you for letting me know about this blog. Keep it up.

  2. Brittany says:

    With all this smart technology and being able to turn off water heaters and your thermostat remotely while you are away, it’s worth while to mention that precautions should be taken to avoid frozen pipes. In our area, (and probaly yours as well) this can be a big problem.

    • Chris says:

      Yes, for sure. Our App has a “Vacation Mode” that we just turn on with a button. The Vacation Mode turns the water heaters off, and the thermostat down to 55 degrees, to prevent freezing of pipes. Great point to mention.

  3. Ling Wang says:

    I would like to add that people should also check with their city to see if there are any home efficiency evaluations available to help identity leaky or under/uninsulated areas in their home. The evaluation should generate a report of what problem areas you have and suggest improvements to increase efficiency. There may even be rebates available through your utilities company for the improvements you make. The efficiency gains from new equipment can be even more drastic if your house is properly air-sealed and insulated. One of my rental properties still has a 20 year old heat pump but it saw significant savings in heating & cooling bills just from increasing the R-value of insulation in the attic space and sealing air gaps in the ceiling. Consulting a professional will help determine what is an appropriate R-value for your home in your area. I paid $50 for my home efficiency test and they performed a blower test and took thermal imagery of my walls to check for leaks and under-insulated areas and I ended up receiving $1500 in rebates for replacing my furnace after the test. Obviously that amount is very specific to my situation but a home efficiency test is worth having done, regardless of rebates.

  4. Kelly says:

    We got the variable speed blower too last year. It’s made such a difference. But I have to chime in with a little asterisk. Even wtih the most energy efficient appliances, there’s only so much you can do if you’ve got a poorly designed system. Ours is just that. We’ve chatted with a few HVAC guys over the years, and they’re always like WTF (and our house was built in 2000). We’ve got an Ecobee thermostat with 6 sensors, so that helps a lot. But a properly designed system coupled with efficient appliances makes a world of difference.

  5. Mara Smith says:

    We bought a house that has a tankless water heater and could not be any happier! Any reason you guys didn’t go tankless instead of your two big water heaters? Tankless, to us, is way more energy efficient than any water heater, that is constantly heating water.

    • Chris says:

      We actually planned on going tankless, but due to the venting we had in place, it wasn’t an option for us without opening up a lot of walls. But it really is a great move to make for those who can.

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