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Old 11-17-13, 12:29 PM   #1
thx712517
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Default New homeowner

Hi there! I'll be a first-time homeowner by the end of this week, knock on wood. We're in Georgia. The house is from 1988 and I'd like to know where to start and what to focus on to make it more efficient.

We know that the water heater is at the end of its life, so it'll have to be replaced very soon. It's a natural gas unit, 50 gallons. It was efficient for its time, but I think it's something like 15 years old. Now I'm all about increasing efficiency, but my wife is a bit more difficult to convince. I'm trying to figure out if an $850 water heater rated at 0.70 efficiency or an $1850 heater rated at 0.82 efficiency would be the better bet over ten years time. Two people currently, but will be three or four in a few years.

The furnaces are nearing the end of their lives as well. One in the garage, one in the attic. They're ancient (25 years?) 75,000 btu units. I'm interested in heat pumps, but again I need to swing cost over time with the wife. Me, I'm happy to spend and cut down the bills regardless, but she's the logical one, and we'll be tight on cash for six months or so.

I'm interested in the waste-water heat recovery, I just need to figure out if there's space for something like that. Do people insulate their plumbing? We've got copper and PEX pipe.

I've got one low-flow showerhead (1.5 gpm was the lowest I was allowed for wifely happiness) but I'll replace the other showerhead soon. I also plan on 0.75 gpm nozzles for the faucets, and in time I'd like to replace the toilets with the Niagara 0.8 gpf toilets.

We have old loose insulation in the attic that according to the inspection was adequate for the time but could be better. Do we suck all that up and blow in new? Blow new in on top of old? As far as the roof goes, the inside of the roof is just bare wood. Would we see a big difference if we put batting in between the rafters?

I also plan on getting some intelligent thermostats for the house. Keep it one temperature during the day, then get it up to a preset level a half hour or so before we arrive home. There will be a dog in the house so I don't want it getting too hot/cold.

The AC system is from 2005, so it's got a while to go before we replace it. Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions? All are welcome!

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Old 11-17-13, 02:49 PM   #2
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Welcome thx712517.
Look into solar heat for your water heating needs.
Check out "tin foil" for the underside of the roof.
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Old 11-17-13, 06:13 PM   #3
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Thx7
Eternal Hybrid: The world's first and most advanced hybrid water heating system

Look into this water heater, very efficient 15 year warranty. I plan on getting the gu145 model. Prices are not bad.
I agree with the solar and I have it but this will be my backup which existing one is 12 year old so time replace before it starts to leak
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Old 11-18-13, 08:59 AM   #4
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Welcome to the site thx712517.

It sounds like you have some ideas on where you would like to start. I would definitely recommend the programmable thermostat. It will pay for itself incredibly fast.

For a showerhead, I recommend the Niagara Conservation Earth 1.25 gpm. I have two of these and most people can't even tell they're low flow. Plus, they are really inexpensive, being under $10. The reviews on amazon are also really good.

As for suggestions, I would recommend getting an energy audit done on the house. This will have a professional go through your house and identify areas where you could reduce your energy consumption and save money. It does cost a bit, but most states have tax benefits to making improvements, and the audit is necessary to take advantage of them.
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Old 11-18-13, 08:24 PM   #5
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"For a showerhead, I recommend the Niagara Conservation Earth 1.25 gpm. I have two of these and most people can't even tell they're low flow. Plus, they are really inexpensive, being under $10. The reviews on amazon are also really good."

I second this!
I actually got two of them for free. My natural gas company has conservation programs that sent me two 1.5gpm faucet aerators and two 1.5 GPM shower heads. I didn't think they were Niagara Earth showerheads until I actually looked at the shower head picture in that Amazon link and I realized they looked exactly the same. Mine says 1.5GPM on it and then I looked at the Amazon link closely and realized it actually says 1.5GPM on that head too. I actually did clock mine shortly after I got it and a 10 minute shower was 13 gallons, I received the reading from my water softners 'gallons until next recharge' display so 1.25GPM seems correct. I also have a Waterpik head that is 1.5GPM rated too but that one uses 18 gallons for a 10 minute shower.

I like the Niagara Earth head better but they are both great shower heads.

Edit: Seems that the site shows all of the Earth showerheads (1.25, 1.5, 1.75, and 2 GPM) with the same image showing the 1.5GPM head. Mine has 1.5GPM on it. Doax can you confirm that yours actually says 1.25GPM on the head? I'm wondering if they are all just 1.25GPM heads or if mine just runs a little lower on the flow for 1.5gpm head. Have you clocked your meter on a shower to see how much it is really using? I'm wondering if a 1.25gpm head might actually yield 1.1gpm for me. I might take a step towards super conservation. I was also thinking of maybe trying the .5, 1, 1.5 GPM tri-max head out, costs $13.25 shipped with my Prime membership, otherwise getting it from Niagara directly is still under $20 shipped. The Amazon reviews are mixed though so maybe I won't.

Last edited by MN Renovator; 11-18-13 at 08:34 PM..
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Old 11-19-13, 08:51 AM   #6
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I'm pretty sure mine is the 1.25 gpm model. I will have to double check the actual flow rate.
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Old 12-04-13, 08:28 PM   #7
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Another vote for an energy audit. Any house that needs two 75,000 BTU furnaces is monstrously huge, terribly inefficient, or has severely oversized furnaces. I suggest putting time and effort into energy efficiency until the water heater and furnaces die a natural death. Then replace them with energy efficient properly sized furnaces.

For comparison, my new energy efficient house needs only 13,000 BTUH total heat when it's -30 deg F outside and 70 deg F inside.
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Old 01-07-14, 03:53 PM   #8
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Go to your local firehouse and request the free "water saver" kit! Comes with a Niagara showerhead and other goodies. Did I mention free?
GA power also has rebates on upgrades when you do them.
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Old 01-23-14, 03:32 PM   #9
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Before doing anything, get the energy audit. Than you can prioritize the most cost effective improvements to make. A 15 year old water tank would be among the first items on my list. A 40 gallon tank with electronic ignition(no pilot) isn't any pricier than a thirty gallon and is cheap enough to be done quickly while deciding whats next. An insulating blanket for it is a good start then insulate your water lines, if they aren't already. Remember to flush the tank,at least annually(cleans out deposits), and you will get many years of service out of it, and there will be plenty of capacity for a growing family. I would forget about the waste water heat recovery, for now, you have bigger fish to fry. Tighten up the house as best you can. Plenty of caulk around windows, doors, and sill plates will do wonders. Insulate! Your biggest heat loss/transference is through your ceilings and roof. Being in Hotlanta, look at the various reflective products for the underside of the roof and increase whatever insulation is in the attic. Just that will buy you a lot of time to have your heating system properly sized. All D.I.Y. projects with a high cost return.A high efficiency rating doesn't always translate into cost savings.

Last edited by Minimac; 01-23-14 at 03:38 PM.. Reason: really poor spelling!
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Old 01-23-14, 04:13 PM   #10
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A home of this age will have leaky door seals. These are inexpensive to replace and tremendously decrease air infiltration. A great do it yourself project.

Allow the gas water heater to die. I would flush it out, but don't toss it right now.

The energy audit is key. A good blower door test will show you your air leakage. You can blow insulation over the ducts in the attic, but also ask for a test of the ducts. A lot of them were poorly fitted together. If an air leak in in the non-conditioned space (like attic) then this creates a negative pressure within the conditioned space where outside unconditioned air must come in. I often see 15-20% leakage on attic ducts.

Replacing incandescent lights with CFLs is also a must as this will be a very rapid return on investment.

How large is this house? Having two 75K heaters is clearly overkill as I heat a home of 2800 ft sq with just a 2.5 ton heat pump (about 30K BTU). You and I are in about the same climate zone (I am in central Oklahoma).

Your utility company will give you the pitch to upgrade to a more efficient AC unit. But forget about that for a bit.

Find the air leaks (blower door test), button up the house, get CFL lights for everywhere (except very rarely used area like attic or crawl space). Seal and then insulate the duct runs that are outside the conditioned space. Ventilate the attic. Get low flow showerheads, etc.

Just doing the above should give you about a 20-40% decrease in energy costs - and most of it just simple stuff (like replacing door seals with new gaskets).

Have fun! We are here to help you with some of the heavier lifting - like evaluating different AC with SEER comparisons, return on investment and other stuff. But meanwhile, let's keep Momma happy as things are very nervous when you buy your first home.

Let us know your energy test results and we can help evaluate this.

Steve

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