Happy Earth Day!

April 22, 2014 is Earth Day. To celebrate, you may want to go green and save a little green in the process. You can help the planet while you save a little cash with energy efficient upgrades.

Improving energy efficiency can be done on any budget. Of course, larger improvements often yield larger savings. For example, high efficiency heating and cooling systems can save you a bundle, and appliances with good ENERGY STAR ratings use less electricity than older, less efficient models. According to energystar.gov, heating and cooling accounts for as much as half of the average home’s utility costs. A programmable heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) control can reduce energy consumption by up to 15 percent compared to traditional nonprogrammable thermostats. According to local business owner Mark Devereux of DevCo Heating & Air, today’s HVAC control systems use new technology to monitor a home’s HVAC patterns, including when the system is in use and for how long. The technology then creates an algorhythm (plan) to keep the house at a comfortable temperature based on that specific household’s usage; the system is only on when it has to be. “You can even hire a local contractor to link these systems to your smart phone so you can control your HVAC system remotely,” he said.

If you’re not in a position to spend a lot of money but would like to improve your home’s energy efficiency, consider replacing traditional incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent light bulbs. About 12 percent of your energy bill goes to lighting costs, and by replacing only five of your home’s most frequently used lights with energy efficient bulbs, you could save $75 – $100 a year (e.g., if you change five 75w bulbs to five 15w bulbs; five hours a day at $0.17 per kwh would yield $93 in savings per year). Compared with incandescent bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) can yield as much as 75 percent energy savings and last six times longer. So, unless the CFLs cost more than six times as much as incandescent ones, the CFLs actually costs less per hour of use. Light-emitting diodes (or LEDs) can save you even more energy and wasted heat.

Another inexpensive way to be more energy efficient is to change your HVAC filter regularly. Mark Devereux recommends checking the filter monthly and replacing it at least every three months. A dirty filter slows down air flow and makes the system work harder (wasting energy) to keep you warm during the winter or cool during summer. A clean filter also prevents dust and dirt from building up in the system, which can lead to expensive maintenance and/or early system failure.

A big energy waster that many people don’t consider is the ducting that moves air through your HVAC system. According to Mark, sealing and insulating ducts can improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system by as much as 20 percent, especially in homes that are more than ten years old. “Building codes changed about ten years ago, so older homes typically don’t have ducting that’s as efficient as newer homes,” he said. Mark recommends first sealing ducts that run through the attic, crawlspace, unheated basement, or garage. After sealing the ducts in those spaces, wrap them in insulation to keep them from getting hot in the summer or cold in the winter.

Locally, the City of Ukiah/C&S Waste Solutions is offering a great new green program. If you live inside the city limits, you can sign up for a Pilot Residential Food Waste Recycling Program. It is provided at no cost to you for six months during the pilot period.

Simply call 707-234-6400 to sign up. I’ve been told it only takes about two minutes to do so. You are provided with the waste bin and a small kitchen waste bin for collection prior to transferring into the curbside bin. Better to recycle than to fill our landfills! They even provide a handy reference so you know what is food waste, and what isn’t.

Next time I’ll write about choosing a neighborhood. If there’s something you would like me to write about or if you have questions about real estate or property management, feel free to contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or visit our website at www.realtyworldselzer.com. If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you’re a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 35 years.

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