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It's Not About Shivering in the Dark!
on February 27, 2006
This book is a clearly written guide to saving money on energy around the home while simultaneously achieving greater comfort levels. As summed up in the introduction, Scheckel argues that following his "Triple A" approach to home energy usage will make you healthier, happier and wealthier. This approach involves: Awareness of the ways your home uses and loses energy, Assessment of your home's energy requirements, and Action taken to reduce energy consumption to a minimum. Scheckel, a career energy efficiency auditor, writes from experience. Over the years, he has visited thousands of homes and businesses and learned from observation and interviews how we use and waste our energy. In this book, he explains where energy comes from and how advanced technologies can help us use less of it while creating a more comfortable home environment.
Topics discussed in the book include energy literacy, electricity as a means of transporting energy, electrical appliances, hot water, heating and air conditioning, insulation and windows, and purchasing new appliances. Appendices include forms for calculating total energy usage, greenhouse gas emissions, and home heat load, as well as a list of household appliances with average energy requirements. You don't need to be an electrical engineer or have a degree in physics to follow the text. Scheckel provides clear examples of energy calculations that anyone with a hand calculator should be able to follow. The only real math prerequisite that would be useful is an ability to read and interpret pie charts, since Scheckel relies on them extensively in his discussions of energy sources and usage.
In the text, Scheckel writes about a fictional family who has called him to do an energy audit. He writes that many families contact their electrical companies for audits because their bills are high so they figure there must be something wrong with the meter. He notes that faulty meters are very rarely to blame for high bills; instead, he provides a long list of energy-wasters that he commonly finds in people's homes. Some families are so aggravated by high electric bills that they want to go solar. Scheckel has to point out to these families that with their current energy usage, they would need gigantic solar systems that would be prohibitively expensive. If they truly want to go solar, they will probably need to cut energy usage down to 3-5 kilowatt hours per day (depending on their location) in order to be able to get by on a reasonably sized solar installation. This book provides plenty of ideas for approaching such a goal without compromising on quality of life. But even so, without subsidies, solar systems still won't make economic sense-unless energy prices happen to go a lot higher.
Seven years ago, our family electrical usage was averaging 20 kW hours per day. We've tried out many of the ideas Scheckel recommends in this book, and we're now down to 5-6 kW hours per day, but still not satisfied with our savings. We're going to implement a few more of Scheckel's suggestions to see if we can get down to 3 kW hours to day or better. We're also going to work with some of the other ideas that Scheckel provides for saving money through more efficient water heating, insulation, and windows.