The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, run by the University of California provides a great resource for finding ways to reduce your energy consumption through its Home Energy Saver website.
The energy calculator takes climate data as well as local information and combines it with your current residence to find projects you can do to increase your energy efficiency. While the questions are geared toward someone living in a house, my results provided useful tips for apartment living,
I think my favorite part about this energy savings project is that it lets you choose the number of years between installation and the time the upgrade pays for itself. For example when I ran the survey I choose items which would pay for themselves in the first year, since i hope to be moving into a home by that time. I ended up with three actions to take on the actual building which I will pass on for now and two interior activities to reduce energy consumption all of which should pay for themselves in year one. If I purchased a programmable thermostat and finished my conversion to CFL lighting as the survey recommends I would save $120 in energy costs in just one year.
This is a really easy way to get a snapshot of your home energy uses and look for ways to lower your monthly bills. I can't emphasize how great it is to choose actions and upgrades based on the time it takes to pay for itself in savings. Finally the use of local information and the ability to enter my own utility prices pushes this tool over the top. The options I went with are just the tip of the iceberg, homeowners looking for items that pay for themselves over longer periods of time will find even more ideas. I am definitely bookmarking this so that I can run it on any home I am ready to purchase, in case I want to ask for any upgrades before I purchase.
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