Eco-friendly living: Simple solutions for saving big on energy costs – Daily News Journal

Published October 11, 2011

The Daily News Journal October 1, 2011


Neal Appelbaum talks about the importance of window shading. The original south-facing picture window will be replaced with a more energy-efficient thermopane window. / Aaron Thompson/DNJ

Written by Nancy De Gennaro

WOODBURY — Going green isn’t always pretty or flashy. But when you get your electric and water bills back, you might find being eco-friendly is pretty attractive.

“It’s not always about aesthetics,” said Neal Appelbaum, a real estate agent in Woodbury who recently did some cost- and energy-saving renovations to a typical ranch home. While you might be interested in painting and where to hang your pictures and put your furniture, it’s more important to take care of the inner workings of your home first.

“It’s not the things you see on the outside; it’s the things behind the scenes that save you more money,” said Mandy Pinion, energy services coordinator with Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation. “Adding things like insulation in the attic … it’s something very simple, easy and not too expensive to do and you can see big paybacks quickly.”

One of the first things Appelbaum did was attach an electric meter display unit that measures — in real time — exactly how much energy is being used. The calculator-size device puts your energy and dollar consumption right in front of you inside the house. In the bathroom, focus was on saving water — especially by replacing the older model toilet. Although dual-flush toilets are popular, Appelbaum said he chose a simple $150 toilet with a 1.3-gallon reservoir, replacing the 20-year-old, 5-gallon per-flush toilet. There are dual flush options out there that use even less water. “I feel like the more complicated a toilet is, the more likely it is to need repairs,” he noted.

Upgrading all the appliances is another big move when renovating an older home. For instance, the new refrigerator Appelbaum purchased only costs about $2 a month to operate and a new electric range is 80 percent more efficient than an older model, he said. Appelbaum also bought an Energy Star-rated water heater and installed it inside the carport utility room so it doesn’t have to work so hard to stay warm or cool, as it did when it was located outside. He also wrapped the water heater in insulation. “We considered an on-demand water heater (which heats directly instead of using a water tank),” Appelbaum said. But for ease of installation it was just much more cost-effective to add an insulation jacket around a standard water heater. A $20 jacket “doubles the insulation value.”

Upgrading to an Energy Star-rated washing machine — which is located next to the water heater instead of being in the external utility room — was another energy- and water-saving move. By spending just a little more money on the front end in order to purchase an Energy Star appliance, essentially you’re saving a whole lot more on energy costs in the long run, he said.

Related Event: Solar tour at arts center The Daily News Journal – LightWave Solar will host the free Middle Tennessee Solar Tour from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at The Arts Center of Cannon County, 1424 John Bragg Highway in Woodury. The arts center is one of eight stops on the tour, which is part of the American Solar Energy Society’s National Solar Tour. Staff with LightWave Solar and Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation will introduce solar power and energy-efficiency concepts. The Arts Centers solar installation was awarded the 2011 Tennessee Governor’s Energy Leadership Environmental Award. The project includes a 29-kilowatt system, a time-lapse video of the installation, and real-time energy production display in the lobby. Presentations will begin at 10:15 and 11:15 a.m., and 12:15 p.m. As an option, visitors of the presentations will be provided with directions to a 3-kilowatt pole mount residential system located 5 miles away on Parchcorn Hollow Road, at the home of Neal Appelbaum and Garth Hawkins. For information, call the arts center at 615-563-2787.