David Director's top energy hogs to watch out for

David Director is all about spreadsheets. And about saving energy.

He shared the experiences in his four-year odyssey to make his home more energy efficient -- and to do it without sacrificing cost or comfort -- in this morning's GreenSpace column.

David Director's laptop shows his home electricity usage as monitored by the Energy Detective - "my spy."

His own in-depth analysis, complete with charts, is on the website of a local sustainabiliby group, aFewSteps.org.

One of the things I didn't have room for was a discussion of his top three energy hogs -- the second fridge in the basement, the dehumidifier and lighting in general.

THE REFRIGERATOR: Those fridges are a well-documented problem. People buy a new, efficient refrigerator, but then put the old one in the basement, keeping it turning on all the time. Their total energy use indreases. Indeed, many utilities who have efficiency goals to meet, including PECO, will pay you to let them take away your older, inefficient refrigerator. 

But Americans still have plenty of them. The U.S. government's EnergyStar website estimates that There are nearly 20 million refrigerators in the United States made before 1996.

To help you decide if it's time to upgrade, the EnergyStar site has a very cool "refrigerator retirement savings calculator. "  Just plug in the model number of your refrigerator -- or describe it -- and the calculator will tell you how much you could save by buying a new one.

THE DEHUMIDIFIER: This particular appliance is "the biggest red flag there is" if you're trying to trim your energy use, Director said.  In general, a dehumidifier will run at about 500 watts. "And when you have people whose basement is constantly damp, and run it 24/7, they’re spending $60 a month to run that. It is a huge, huge expense," he said.

And, a dehumidifier simply addresses a symptom of an entirely different problem. Director had moisture in his own basement, and as the result of an Energy Works audie, he got the basement waterproofed.  Gradually, the basement dried out, and within months, they turned the dehumidifier off.

I have a dehumidifier as well, but we run it only when water seeps in after a heavy rain. The rest of the time, our new GE Geospring hybrid water heater, which removes heat -- and humidity -- from the air to heat the water, takes care of any latent moisture.

LIGHTING: For me, this has always been a matter of which bulb is best to use. I've experimented tons with different kinds of CFLs and LEDs for different applications. But Director got an additional amount of energy savings simply from looking at WHERE his lighting was, and how it worked within the overall room.

"A lot of times you’ll see houses that have a lot of general room illumination, and often it's done very inefficiently," he said. "People don’t have table lamps like they used to."

It's a matter of putting lights where you need them. And, in the case of something like an array of ceiling lights, putting in enough separate controls so you don't have to light them all at once. Also, dimmers really help.

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