Boulder County’s Climate Smart loan programPart Two: A deeper level of actionThe first major step toward reducing your carbon footprint is understanding how much energy you use. Energy efficiency is often more cost effective than renewable-energy alternatives. The target is to use less energy for the same amount of heating, cooling, lighting, and of course, powering appliances, the stereo, televisions, and iPods. Fortunately, a big benefit of most energy-efficiency measures is creating greater comfort in the home over the long term.Our home was built in 1992–93, and we still have an extensive list of opportunities for reducing our energy footprint. Statistics show that 60% of U.S. homes are underinsulated or not insulated at all, and homes built before 1980 likely fall into this category. Air leakage is one of the leading causes of energy waste. By plugging those leaks, we can save 5% to 30% on home heating and cooling bills — an average of $450 per year for an American household.An energy audit can give homeowners a personalized plan for lowering energy bills and ultimately reducing the carbon footprint. The plan maps out energy usage and provides recommendations for behavioral changes, all with the ultimate goal of saving energy and money.For our next steps, we are going to look for energy efficiency measures that are affixed to the property, have an average useful life of 15 to 20 years (or more), and exceed minimum standards.Below is a list of next steps to explore in reducing your own energy footprint:Air Sealing and VentilationSealing around windows and doors, ductwork, plumbing, and electrical penetrations, attic bypasses, etc.Blower door test before and after improvements are madeHeat-recovery ventilator (HRV), which saves heating energy and improves air qualityWhole-house or attic fan with multiple speeds and timer or thermostatInsulationMaximize open attic insulation to a minimum of R-38*Maximize wall insulation to R-19Add foam or blown cellulose to reduce air leakage in wall cavities and atticInstall perimeter foundation insulation with R-10 minimumInstall floors over unconditioned space with R-19 minimumSpace Heating and CoolingInstall a high efficiency furnace that exceeds 90% annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating, plus sealed combustionInstall boiler with 84% or greater AFUEUpgrade central air conditioner to 14 SEER and 11 EER or higher for packaged systemsInstall programmable thermostat*LightingUse compact fluorescent lighting, which is 75% more efficient than incandescent and lasts much longerInstall LED lightingInstall timers or sensorsMaximize daylighting by adding light shelves and tubular skylights with movable insulationWindows, Doors, and SkylightsUpgrade exterior windows and glass doors to U-value of .35 or less with low-e glassInstall insulating shuttersInsulate exterior doors to a minimum R-8 valueAdd movable insulation for skylights and U-value of .35 or less with low-e glassAlso refer to Michael Maines’ blog, “Shedding Light on Windows”.Roof (Reflective)Use light-colored shingles, orEnergy Star—rated metal roofingAppliancesChoose Energy Star-rated modelsNote that over the past few decades, refrigerator efficiency has improved by 60%.Complementing the energy-efficiency measures outlined above, investigate renewable-energy measures:Solar hot waterSolar electricicity (photovoltaics or PV)Wind powerWood/pellet stovesNet metering (where the meter may run backward in sunny seasons) can produce much or all of the domestic electricity supply. Ask your solar equipment supplier or utility about rebates and RECs.The greatest value — to the planet and the homeowner — is in combining energy-efficiency and renewable-energy measures. My engineer husband laughs at me when I say that my goal is for us to be carbon neutral — I’m trying!Recently, we installed the most energy-efficient Energy Star appliances we could find. Last year, we upgraded to a high-efficiency (92% AFUE) furnace along with a newer-model programmable thermostat. We have scheduled a blower door test for our 16-year-old home. It’s become a game for us to see how many kilowatt-hours we can cut on a monthly basis. I’m still working on getting rid of the “beer fridge” in the garage; I’m going to install a kilowatt meter on it so that I can gather proof of its wastefulness! I’ll keep you posted.If you want to challenge yourself, set a goal for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions (carbon dioxide) created by daily activities — driving our cars, heating our homes, purchasing food and products — the list goes on. Check out one of the many carbon calculators available on-line, and make it fun to reduce your footprint!