To the Editor:
The word sustainability scares some people, but energy efficiency just makes common sense and is one of the ways that sustainability becomes tangible for people. As we encounter rising energy costs in every aspect of our lives, it just makes sense to make our homes and the systems that run them cheaper and more environmentally responsible. We spend much of our time at home with family and friends, and homes have a huge impact on energy consumption and the health of the planet. The good news is that you can take charge and make a big difference. The Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP) in Charlottesville, Va. has helped many families in Central Virginia and Northern Virginia.
LEAP helps people save money over time on their energy bills by assessing the house and replacing or fixing parts in the house. They use the best products while also not spending a fortune up front. The homeowners create a budget for themselves for the project, and LEAP has financial incentives to encourage homeowners to make the improvements.
Retrofitting your home to make it more affordable and more energy efficient could mean installing new systems into an existing structure by replacing old parts with new modern parts or it could mean anything from new insulation, new triple pane low energy windows, or changing the kind of light
bulbs you use. Many will argue that reforming transportation and cutting down on automotive use is the first priority. While it is true that cars cause carbon dioxide pollution and major headaches, people still need to get around. Not many people are willing to truly give up driving. I’m one of them. According
to Department of Energy, the energy used in buildings account for 75 percent of electric power consumption in the United States and half of the greenhouse gas emissions. According to a talk by Edward Mazria, founder of Architecture 2030, energy consumption in the building sector is 50.1 percent of the total energy consumption in the country while 27.6 percent is accounted for in the transportation sector. More energy is being consumed and wasted in homes and businesses, which impacts the family budget and our quality of life. Heat and cool air flows out of your home from old windows, doors, and small openings, and
therefore you not only waste energy but you pay more to waste that energy. The average household spends $534 on heating alone each year, but by retrofitting your home you could keep energy in your home and save a lot of money.
Della, a resident of Charlottesville, retrofitted her home in 2009 for $5,849. To date she has saved over $9,000 on her energy bills, and one benefit of retrofitting your home is that the savings can continue indefinitely.
The first step in making your home more energy efficient is to start with the low cost projects such as caulking and sealing cracks around doors and windows. Following that would be maintaining your HVAC system and getting rid of
dust around vents and coils. Finally, replace windows, appliances, and HVAC equipment if needed with energy efficient models.
A house is a machine for living in said the famous architect Le Corbusier. We are tasked with keeping it in working condition. Turning your house into a place that is unique and good for you, your family, and the Earth we share is what
makes a house a sustainable home—financially and environmentally. So, update your appliances like washers and dryers and air conditioners. They use twice the amount of energy as any of your other appliances. Invest in an Energy Star© rated product. It will reduce your bills, use much less energy, and last longer.
Kate Stabler is a 4th year architecture student at the University of Virginia with a minor in Environmental Sciences.