Is your home energy efficient? How do you stack up against your neighbors? Most importantly, how can you make your home more efficient?
Knowing your home’s energy usage and how it compares to other households is the first step in making the change toward improving your home’s efficiency. Green energy, like solar power, can not only reduce your utility bill, it can also increase your home’s resale value and reduce your carbon footprint. If you are considering installing solar panels in your Seattle home, first check out this online tool to rate your home’s energy efficiency.
The EPA has an online tool, the Home Energy Yardstick, that can help you assess your home’s energy usage and compare your home’s energy use to similarly sized homes across the nation. This assessment will give you:
- Your home's Home Energy Yardstick score (on a scale of 1 to 10);
- Insights into how much of your home's energy use is related to heating and cooling versus other everyday uses like appliances, lighting, and hot water;
- Links to ENERGY STAR to give you information to help you increase your home's score, improve comfort, and lower utility bills; and
- An estimate of your home's annual carbon emissions.
To calculate your home energy score you will need:
- Your ZIP code;
- Your home's square footage;
- Number of full-time home occupants;
- A list of all the different fuels used in your home (e.g., electricity, natural gas, fuel oil); and
- Your home's last 12 months of utility bills (usually found in the 12-month summary provided on your bill or through a Green Button file).
Solar energy is one of the many ways that you can improve your home’s efficiency. Solar panels, or photovoltaics (PV), convert the sun’s energy into electricity. The amount of electricity generated at a particular site depends on how much of the sun's energy reaches it. If you have clear and unobstructed access to sunlight for most or all of the day, throughout the year, preferably south-facing, this increases your available solar energy. Also, having a roof large enough to accommodate your energy demands will impact your decision to install a solar panel system.
For homes that are connected to the grid, if your solar energy system does not produce enough power, you can tap into the utility grid to supplement your home’s energy needs. Alternatively, if your PV system produces excess power, the utility company can buy the surplus power that your system produced through a metering arrangement.
Before choosing a solar panel system, including the size of your system, for your home, you should evaluate your energy consumption patterns (by using the EPA’s Home Energy Yardstick tool) and try to cut back on your home’s electricity use. You can start by doing an analysis of your energy usage, which includes these tasks:
- Looking at your utility bills over the past year
- Calculating energy consumption
- Recognizing consumption trends
By understanding your "energy habits" and becoming more energy efficient, you can reduce the size of the PV system you'll need, lowering both the upfront cost of purchasing a solar panel system and overall operating costs.