Posts Tagged ‘save energy’

How Much Insulation Do I Need in My Attic?

Perhaps the most neglected area of insulating ones home is the attic area. Here are two major misconceptions:

  1. A single roll of extra thick (12″) fiberglass will take care of my insulation.
  2. I don’t live in the far north, so I don’t need as much insulation as someone living in WI or MN.
  3. I live in a warm climate, so attic insulation is not needed.

Addressing, the first misconception, if you live in a northern climate, you will need an R-value of R49.  A 12″ batt of fiberglass will only give you R38. And, if you have gaps between batts where the trusses separate batts, you will have cold spots! The remedy here is to go over the top of your 12″ batts with additional 12″ batts that are perpendicular and cover up the gaps. This will solve the R-value problem and the loss at the trusses causing gaps.

Addressing the 2nd misconception, you will see in the map below, that those living in prairie states like Nebraska have an even greater R-value need than those in cold Minnesota! This is due to the windy conditions. Wind will sap your home faster than cold every time. So if you live in a wide open area where temps get below freezing, you should assume you need R49.

Finally, those living down south still need R49 in their attic! This is due to the AC costs in the summer. With little or no insulation in the attic, the heat from outside will cause your AC to work non-stop. After all, your ceiling consists of as much surface area as your floor. Heat will naturally flow from hot to cold.

For more information on this topic, see my articles at


R-Value Chart
Map and Chart Used With Permission From US Department of Energy

Lithium Battery Used in Electric Cars

The lithium battery has made a splash in cordless power tools and is now the industry standard. It is much lighter and charges much faster than former rechargeable batteries. The light weight, however, makes it a great prospect for electric cars. See news at discussing new lithium battery plants that will supply the Nissan 5-seat electric car. Also, watch the video below discussing the lithium battery used in electric cars.

Stimulus Plan Equals Energy Rebates

Save 30% on Energy ImprovementsAccording to this Washington Post Article, homeowners who add energy-efficient appliances like heating systems, AC systems, or windows can get a tax credit for 30 percent of the costs, up to a total of $1,500.

Heating My House With Only a Fireplace

We live in northern Wisconsin in a 40+ year old ranch home. Read here about the wood burning stove that we can now heat our home at temperatures down to zero degrees F! Wood Burning Stove
The wood burning stove pictured left heats our house thanks to the new blower system and many improvements in insulation I made this fall, documented on this blog and on my site Also, you will find a host of other resources for saving money while on a budget on this site, including a page on how I cut my oil hot water bill nearly in half, along with a homemade solar shower I constructed.
Wood Burning StoveThe stove is in our basement on the finished side. We live in a fairly modest 1200 square foot mid-sixties era ranch home with another 600 square feet of (somewhat) finished area in the basement. Our basement was always very cold so we decided to put in a free standing wood stove. The stove worked great, but much of the heat tended to stay in the basement, too much at times.
Wood Burning StoveAnd our upstairs was not really getting much heat. To send more heat upstairs, I put in a floor grate (pictured on left) a few years back. This helped somewhat but still did not deliver a lot of heat. The way to get more heat upstairs was to install a blower run on a thermostat. The blower was purchased at Home Depot online and is nice in that it is fairly quiet. This blower is designed to be part of a 6″ stove vent pipe. The thermostat was purchased from and works incredibly well. This is the same thermostat that is used in controlling temperatures on large greenhouses I see listed in seed catalogs. This blower will turn on, and stay on, as soon as heat builds up and will turn off, and stay off, when heat levels diminish. About the hardest part of rigging this whole system up was fishing the 14-2 wire through my finished basement ceiling to connect to a power source. For safety sake, consult or hire an electrician when installing this system.

Weather Strip, Seal Windows, and Insulate!

Window PlasticIf you read my article about Different Types of Heat Loss, you will learn that you can lose a lot of heat through convective heat losses. Convective heat losses occur when air movement transports heat out through window and door cracks.

Window plastic is a very inexpensive way to convert a drafty old window into a window that performs as well as a top-of-the-line energy miser. Door WeatherstrippingAnother way to deal with these convective heat losses is to weather strip around doors. The weather stripping costs very little, but can make a big difference.

To read more in detail about how I weather stripped around doors, added plastic around a window, and added more attic insulation to reduce my heat costs, go to Four Easy Home Insulation Tips

Save 50 Percent on Oil Hot Water Heater Costs

Recently, I just completed a project where I can potentially cut my hot water heater bill in half!  As a side note, my oil fired hot water bill was over a hundred dollars a month when oil prices were over $4 a gallon, so I have a lot to save. What I did was:

  • Turned down my heat settings
  • Had maintenance performed on the heater
  • Used an insulating blanket
  • Installed a temper tank – this allows the incoming water to warm up to something on the order of 70 deg F rather than 40 deg F. I also utilized waste heat from my hot water heater exhaust with a hot air blower system hooked up to a thermostat.

Go to Save Hot Water Heater Costs for more details on what I did. Watch the video below!

Converting 4″ Walls to 6″ Walls and Adding Insulation

In the summers of 2005 and 2006, we converted our exterior bedroom walls from 4" (3.5" actual thickness) into 6" (5.5" actual thickness). This is a 57% increase in thickness, but since we also replaced some old compressed rock-wool insulation and added a vapor barrier, the R-value was perhaps doubled. And boy, do we feel a difference when the temps dip below zero! But, we still had our living room, kitchen, and bathroom remaining with 4" walls. So, with the high price of heating oil, I decided to tackle the South wall of our living room. To see a nice overview of the steps involved, go to This Article At NaturalHandyman that I wrote for them. Within the article are details of the projects and step-by-step photos. To see a video overview of this latest project, go to South Wall Insulation Project Video or play the video embedded below.

This is a messy project, but if you clean as you go, it is not bad. Once the painting is done, you are left with the "finishing touches" which consist of shortening trim and replacing other trim and extending window and door frames. This can drag on a bit since it is slow work, but at least it is not messy. I am still plugging away at my trim from our South wall project of late July. But it will get done. Still, this project is well worth the time if you live in a northern climate and you will appreciate the comfort of a well insulated house.

The cost of this South Wall Project was about $200. About $35 in new insulation, $40 in drywall, $80 in 2×4′s, and some more for window and door extenders, Great Stuff insulating foam, plastic, and other odds and ends. Not a lot to pay in my opinion, and money recovered in a few winters.

Review of First Alert Motion Sensing Light Socket

This energy saving light socket, made by First Alert, will turn off your light automatically after 4 minutes if no motion is sensed. Also, it will turn on your light when motion is detected and keep it on as long as motion is detected. Installation is simple: Unscrew your current bulb, screw in this socket, and then screw in your bulb into this socket! We use this in our basement by our freezer where I had a light that would go on at the same time as my office light. The alternative to going this route would have been to wire in a new switch, but we had 3 switches already and I did not want a 4th, nor did I want more wiring. This device works great, but the price is a bit steep – $23! Another drawback is that it will not work with low-wattage bulbs such as a 14-watt florescent bulb but requires at least 25 watts. For the time being, I have to use a 60-watt bulb until I obtain a 25 watt florescent. Note that if you use a 14-watt, the light will flicker. From some reviews I have read of the First Alert Motion Sensing Light Socket at, this socket will flicker with any compact florescent bulb. (That would not be good!) I will test this out myself and provide an update.

First Alert Motion Sensing Light Socket The energy saved is calculated as follows: With my old 14 watt florescent bulb, 140 watt-hours per day were used, assuming 10 hours of "on" time. Now, about 10 watt-hours are used for a (future) 25 watt bulb that will go on about 5 or 6 times for 4 minutes. So about 130 watt-hours are saved per day, or 0.130 kw-hrs per day. Using a rate of about $0.10 per kw-hr, this amounts to $0.013 per day, or about $5 per year in electricity alone. Add the savings of perhaps $2 per year in bulb replacement costs, and the annual savings in my application is $7/year, resulting in a payback period of about 4 years. Not the big savings I hoped for, but a step in the right direction!

Welcome To My Blog!

This blog will serve as a place to post supplemental materials relating to saving money in one’s household. Updates will be provided on energy saving projects going on in our own home as well as discussion of alternative energy technologies such as fuel-cell powered vehicles, solar electric cells, geothermal heat pumps, and more.

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