Build Smart

Energy saving tips from local expert David Inger

Photo by Gaszton Gal


nergy efficiency expert David Inger has 25 years of technical energy expertise. But that doesn’t stop him being able to communicate with average homeowners. Here, when asked a simple question—Which energy saving upgrades result in the most dramatic energy savings?—he deconstructs the jargon and shares seven practical tips in a language we can all understand.

THE RIGHT SIZE HOUSE “Larger houses require more money and material to build, and more energy to heat and cool. A small house with just average energy performance will require significantly less energy to heat and cool than a large house that’s designed for superior energy performance. It’s much easier to achieve energy savings by making your house smaller than by tracking down the specialized building material and techniques required to match small house energy performance in a larger house.”

TANKLESS WATER HEATERS “Half of the natural gas used in a typical home in this region is used for heating water. Installing a tankless water heater can save you 30 to 50 percent of that water-heating energy. Tankless, or ‘on-demand,’ water heaters are more efficient than standard tank systems since they only heat water when it is needed; standard water heating systems must keep an entire tank, typically 40 gallons, of water hot 24 hours a day.”

EXTRA INSULATION “Insulation slows down the flow of heat—in the winter it helps keep heat in the house, and in the summer it helps keep heat out. A well-insulated house saves energy, lowers your heating and cooling bills, and allows you to get by with smaller-capacity heating and air conditioning systems. The more you insulate, the more your energy savings can add up. By keeping temperatures more moderate, and reducing drafts, insulation can also create a more comfortable home year-round.”

RADIANT BARRIERS “Install radiant barriers (a reflective surface that minimizes heat gain in summer and heat loss in winter) on the underside of roofs in residential buildings. Radiant barriers can also be installed in walls and in vaulted ceilings.”

DUCT TESTING “Central air conditioning and heating are the top energy consumers in California homes, so ensuring the efficiency of your entire HVAC system can yield big improvements in energy efficiency. When we think about saving energy, we commonly focus on the furnace and air conditioner units, but a leaky duct system can reduce your climate control system’s efficiency 20 to 30 percent. These leaks can bring unwanted dust, unconditioned outdoor air, and humidity into living spaces, and take money straight out of your wallet.”

ENERGY STAR APPLIANCES “The energy used by refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines, and other appliances adds up quickly; refrigerators alone account for 19 percent of household electricity use in California. The ENERGY STAR® program identifies appliances that offer superior energy efficiency, making it easy to choose appliances that will save you energy, water, and money.” (Look for the ENERGY STAR label, which identifies products that meet strict guidelines set by the EPA and the U.S. Department of energy.)

HIGH EFFICIENCY WINDOWS “Windows are the primary weak spot for heat loss in any building. In the summer they can let in unwanted heat, and in the winter they can account for as much as 25 percent of heat leakage. Dramatic improvements in window technology during the past 30 years are largely responsible for our ability to create buildings with superior energy performance. These technologies are widely available and relatively inexpensive.”

David’s picks were chosen based on the following criteria:

Do it right the first time “There are many energy opportunities that you will only have during your construction or remodeling. … Making the wrong choice now can be a huge lost opportunity.”

Bang for the buck “If you are going to make an investment in enhanced energy efficiency, you should expect a good return on your investment. Let’s assume you are going to spend $350,000 to construct that new 2,000-square-foot house. For about $500 more you can have your heating and cooling ducts tested to insure that there is minimum leakage (lost energy).”

Leave Title 24 in the dust “Title 24 is recognized as one of the most stringent energy codes in the nation, but it is still a minimum standard. These ‘picks’ will enhance your energy efficiency by 10 to 50 percent above Title 24.  


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