Build It Solar -- free plans for hundreds of solar projects

The Renewable Energy site for Do-It-Yourselfers                

Build It Solar -- plans to build solar energy projects


Energy Conservation

DIY projects to save energy, money and greenhouse gas emissions through: insulating,  weatherizing, window treatments, efficient appliances,  efficient lighting, and many more innovative and cost effective schemes. 
Plus, stories the stories from people who have achieved large savings and how they accomplished this.


Directory for this Page:

For more energy saving ideas, see our "1/2" Program

Report Broken Links ...

Energy Conservation Sites  
Home Energy Saver Audit/Calculator



A Do-It-Yourself home energy audit

Fill in details on your home location, size, construction, etc.  The calculator estimates your current energy use, makes recommendations on changes and estimates the cost saving and pollution benefits.

An Interactive Tool for Saving Energy at Home

Interactive Home Energy Saving Tool


A cute new tool from Energy Star that identifies energy saving tips on a room by room basis.
You can give to your kids, and let them nag you into making some energy saving changes to make the planet better for them.
Energy Savers from DOE EERE site

Energy Tips from EERE (2.7MB pdf)

"Energy Savers" for home owners (insulation, appliances, lighting, ...) energy saving advice.

The Energy Tips 36 page booklet is good.

Home Energy Briefs -- Rocky Mountain Institute

Home Energy Briefs:

You will need to go thru a painless registration before downloading these pdf documents.

These are good, practical guides on energy saving that (I believe) exhibit a high level of technical accuracy (a rarity), and can provide good guidance on which energy saving changes are most cost effective.  The guides are very straightforward and readable.  There are other places that offer more detailed information on every subject, but this is a really good place to start.

Building Envelope
Space Cooling
Space Heating
Water Heating
Cleaning Appliances (washers, dryers, ...)
Kitchen Appliances
Whole System Design
Energy Star Home Energy Yardstick


A helpful and easy to use Energy Star calculator you can use to see how your homes energy efficiency compares to others in your area.
Energy Star

Energy Star Ratings ...

Energy ratings and energy use for appliances.   Energy advice and online audit for homes.   Energy star appliances and homes.
In my view, the Energy Star program could be more aggressive, but its certainly a good place to start.  For example, they have no plans to require more efficient refrigerators until 2012 at the earliest -- let them know you would like to see a more aggressive approach.
Energy Star Rebates Finder
and Federal Tax Credits Information

Find rebates in your area:

Federal Tax Credits for Energy Efficiency:


Two helpful items from the Energy Star website:
The first finds rebates on a large variety of energy saving projects.  Enter your zip code, and Energy Star returns a list of available rebates in your area.  This is hard to find on the EStar site, so keep the link.
The 2nd is a detailed list of the federal government tax credits. 
American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy


Most energy efficient appliances of all types.

Energy saving tips and information.

Natural Gas Appliance Calculator,
Wisconsin Public Service


Very handy calculator for estimating gas use as cost for the common gas appliances.
Saving Electricity,
Michael Bluejay


This is a good site on saving electricity.    It provides in depth information on what uses electricity, how much it uses, ideas for saving, and good ways to estimate how much you will save for each idea.


Additional documentation:


This is very easy to use, yet very capable simulation software for estimating the energy/thermal performance of a passive solar or conventional home.  Weather files for over 500 worldwide locations.  It can be used to evaluate the benefits of adding insulation or other energy conserving features.   Its a free download.
EFI -- Energy Federation Incorporated



EFI supplies a wide variety of energy conservation products at what appear to be reasonable prices -- including this "Comfy Critter Draft Dodger". 
Lights, sealers, thermostats, ...
Some nice kid products on the Educational page.
Eco Renovator

The forum is here:

The blog/website is here:

A personal site with many interesting articles on a wide range of conservation, efficiency, green house gas, and solar projects.  And, a discussion forum.

Quite a few DIY projects.
Insulating and Weatherizing Guides and Projects
Insulation Upgrade Cost Saving Calculator


Calculate how much money and greenhouse gas you would save with various insulation,  window, or window treatment  upgrades.
A Do-It-Yourself Guide To Energy Star Home Sealing

Energy Star Home Sealing Guide...  (2 MB pdf)

Leaky ducts may lose lose 15% to 30% of your heated or cooled air  ----   more on duct sealing

Don't use duct tape for sealing -- example ...

This is a very well done guide to sealing up air leaks in your home.  Lots of good how-to pictures. 
A couple small add-ons I would make:
- Replacing older can lights so that you can insulate right over them is a fairly easy DIY job -- it has the advantages of both reducing heat loss to the attic and getting some heat gain from the can light to the room.
- The method they give for determining if you have enough insulation is goofy.  Instead, use the Insulation Upgrade Calculator or one of the online insulation guides to determine if your insulation is sufficient for your climate.
- For insulating over existing insulation, I like blown in cellulose.  Its easy, insulates very well, is resistant to air currents flowing through it (see study below), and is easy on the planet.
Insulate and Weatherize

Bruce Harley

Very, very  good book on techniques for improving home insulation,  reducing air infiltration, and sealing ductwork.  The most complete and technically correct reference I have found.
Home Remedies for Energy Nosebleeds,
Bruce Harley,  Fine Homebuilding, Issue 190


How to get articles from Fine Homebuilding ...

Fine Homebuilding Magazine, Nov 2007, Issue 190.  A good article by Bruce Harley (author of the book just above) about finding and fixing particularly bad energy wasting defects in your house.

These are the kinds of things that can raise your heat bill by 50% or more.
Insulation Guides  -- Building a well insulated and Tight Shell for Your Home

The DOE-EERE Insulation Guide Series:

Insulation Overview (pdf 2MB)

Insulating Ceilings/Attics (pdf 0.1MB)

Wall Framing (pdf 0.8MB)
Insulating Walls (pdf 0.8MB)

Insulating Basements (pdf 0.2MB)
Insulating Crawl Spaces (pdf 0.2MB)
Insulating Slabs (pdf 0.2MB)

Window Selection (pdf 0.5 MB)

Air Sealing (pdf 0.2MB)
Weather Barriers (pdf 0.2MB)

This is a good and up-to-date series of guides from DOE-EERE site for building an outer shell on your home that minimizes heat transfer.
I guess my one bit of advice would be to go a bit further than they recommend for your climate, because experience shows that in a while (as fuel prices climb) they will be recommending higher levels.


Other DOE-EERE publications here:

Urban Options  -- ...


A very good guides for decreasing air infiltration and improving insulation.  Well written and detailed.

Plus a nice energy saving check list for the most important items.

Insulation Fact Sheet     (pdf)

Fairbanks University Cooperative Extension Service



A very good table providing information on all the common (and not so common) types of insulation.

R values, application suitability, pro/con, max service temperature, ...

Very Useful, and, as far as I can see, unbiased (which is hard to find in insulation info on the Internet).

Insulating Your Old House,  (A wall insulation how-to)
Laren Corie,
ESSN Newsletter, Aug 2005


This is a good article by Laren Corie in the Aug 2005 issue of the ESSN Newsletter.

It describes in detail how to insulate existing walls with cellulose insulation.

The ESSN news letter, while not published anymore has some very good articles in its online archive -- all free downloads.
Insulating Existing Walls with Blown In Insulation




Some collected information on how-to blow insulation into your existing walls.
Duct Losses Hurt Forced Air Heating System Performance, Oikos Green Building Source



Good article describing findings on forced air duct systems showing that a 30% loss in heating and cooling efficiency due to duct leaks and poor duct insulation is typical
Five bucks for a can of duct mastic and a half a days work could save you a lot on heating fuel and green house gas emissions.
See the sealing guides in this section or the Harley book for how to do the sealing.
More on Duct Sealing

AeroSEAL Duct Sealing System


This is a process for sealing ducts that works for the inside.  It will reach areas of the duct system that are built into walls or otherwise inaccessible. 

Here is a comment from the Greenbuilding Discussion Group ( ):
"I have sealed many duct systems by removing the grills/registers and using UL-181 duct mastic on all the joints I can reach. I then seal everything accessible at the furnace that is accessible. Most of the time I get to below 6% (California code for new ducts) without touching anything else. If I don't get below 6% then I go to the duct runs that are accessible. Only very large duct systems, and those with ducts buried I can't get below 6%, but I'm usually close.
I know the person who developed Aroseal, you have to do some manual work anyway with larger holes (grills/registers ?) and you will only get as tight as the operator has time to sit around pumping more sealant into the ducts. It is a great process for inaccessible duct systems that can't be sealed otherwise."

Advanced Air Sealing,


This is quite a detailed and helpful guide on how to seal various joints and penetrations.

Some of these techniques can only be used during construction, but some can be used on an existing house.


Home Energy Checklist

From the Energy and Environmental Building Association


Good checklist of steps to take to reduce energy consumption in your house or apartment.  The "Myths" are almost as useful as the checklist items.
Home Energy Projects



Home Energy Projects -- Good, detailed guide on DIY energy conservation projects.  Written for Alabama, but many projects are good for anywhere.

" An Energy Conservation Guide for Do-It-Yourselfers - 1.3mb pdf file. This book was created for the state of Alabama with information that applies throughout the southeast U.S. Home Energy Projects contains 86-pages and outlines 25 energy conservation projects, in order of priority, that can be performed by do-it-yourselfers. Contains how-to instructions"

All About Insulation


Mother Earth News

Mother Earth News Article, Issue 194

Good rundown on the various types of insulation available and their insulating, health, and environmental characteristics.

Save Energy and Money Now

Mother Earth News

Mother Earth News Article, Issue 188

Article outlines a number of practical steps to reduce your homes energy consumption. 

Are You Insulated

Edward Harland

Mother Earth News

Mother Earth News Article, Issue 153

Pretty good article on insulating existing houses.   Good for a starter, but get the Harley book before you tackle the actual project.

Air Sealing

From Southface at:

Air Sealing Guide (139K pdf)

Good, detailed guide on sealing houses to reduce air infiltration.

From the Southface website -- other good material on this site.

Operation Caulk  -- Air Sealing Procedure for DC Habitat For Humanity Duplex Houses

Operation Caulk (200K pdf)



A good and detailed guide on sealing to reduce air infiltration.

While the guide is intended for new construction, some of the steps can be taken on an existing house.

Attic Venting, Attic Moisture and Ice Dams,
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation


Good fact sheet on what to do about wet attics and ice dams.
Radiant Barriers

From Southface at

Radiant Barrier Guide (21K pdf)

Good guide on how radiant barriers work, what to expect in the way of savings, and how to install.

Other good materials on the Southface website.

How to Install Radiant Barrier Foil Insulation,


This is a detailed and well written set of instructions on how to install a radiant barrier.

This same outfit sells a "heavyweight" aluminum foil material for about 12 cents a sf.
Blower Door Testing

From the website

Blower Door Test Guide (50K pdf)

Good guide on how blower door testing and duct blast testing can be used to test for the level of air infiltration your house if experiencing.
DOE Insulation Fact Sheet



Advice on where to insulate, what to insulate with, and installation advice.

Recommendations on insulation levels that are dependant on climate and construction type.

Crawl Space Insulation



Closed (unvented) crawl spaces can reduce heat loss, but have to be done correctly.  This site has lots of detailed information on how to decide on whether to close your crawl space, and how to do it.
Filling  A Floor With Bat Insulation

Energy Source Builder Newsletter, April 1995

How to add insulation under your floor.   Uninsulated floor can be a major source of heat loss.
Sources of Air Infiltration

 Energy Source Builder #45, June 1996,



Tells you where the cold air is coming from.
Retrofitting Insulation to Existing Homes


Retrofit Insulation in Existing Wooden Walls (pdf)

Retrofit Insulation in Wood Roofs (pdf)

Retrofit Insulation in Concrete and Masonry Walls (pdf)

Alaska Building Research Series HCM-01552,3, and 4

This series of three papers shows some techniques for retrofitting insulation to existing walls, roofs, and concrete/masonry walls. 

Good construction details.

These are not the only ways to retrofit insulation to walls, and may not be appropriate for all climates -- but, may be perfect for some situations.

Mooney Wall 



A way to retrofit a high R value, low thermal bridging, and high infiltration resistance wall.

Mooney wall details ...

Another example of using the Mooney wall ...

Comparison of Fiberglass and Cellulose Insulation in Identical Test Homes

FG to Cellulose Compare (0.2MB pdf)


Heat Loss test for two small test homes, one insulated with fiberglass and the other with Cellulose insulation. 

Cellulose showed more resistance to infiltration and better R value than fiberglass.

Convection Losses in Loose Fill Fiberglass Insulation

More on this:



ORNL test on loose fill Fiberglass attic  insulation shows a loss in R value of as much as 50% for cold outside temperatures.  This loss  is due to convection currents within the FG insulation.   Cellulose insulation was also tested, and does not show this loss.


Cheating -- The Insulation Industry's Dirty Secret


An article from Home Energy magazine on cheating in the insulation industry.

Sad but important reading for everyone.  This is a good reason to 1) do it yourself, or 2) really understand what insulating is about, and make sure the contractor knows that you will check on his/her work.

Insulation Under Concrete Slabs ... (pdf)



Good article on under slab insulation for radiant heated floors.

Compares three types of insulation to no insulation.
Rigid foam insulations do well, but the bubble pack style of insulation is worthless.

Attic Tent


Pull down attic stairways are notorious for air leaks.  This $200 commercial product seals up the attic stairway in what looks like an effective way. 
It seems like a DIY version would also be possible.  If you do a home made one, please let me know.  Or, maybe you have an alternative way of sealing?
DIY version of "Attic Tent"

Details ...



Here is an easy to build means to cut heat loss through the pull down attic stairway opening.

Details ...

Preventing Stratification With High Ceilings

Heat Harvester:



Homes or buildings with high ceilings can result in lots of hot air near the ceiling.  The "Heat Harvester" (or a ceiling fan) can keep the air mixed up and save some heat.
Note that high ceilings don't always result in stratification, so check to make sure you really need one of these here ...
Insulating Window Treatments  
Making Your Own Interior Storm Windows,
From Paul

Full Details ...


Paul provides a good detailed set of instructions on how to design, build, and install inside Acrylic storm windows.
Multi-Wall Polycarbonate Inside Storm Window



These Multi-Wall polycarbonate inside storm window panels offer high R values, easy build, easy install, and are reasonable in price.  Great for windows of irregular shape.

Full How-To instructions provided.

Building Interior Window Insulation Panels,
from Guy Marsden's sustainable living website


You can use this calculator to see the payback period for these windows -- for me it turns out to be about 3/4s or one heating season!

Very nice set of plans for double pane interior storm window that can be made for about $1 per sqft.

As usual, Guy offers a very detailed and clear set of instructions.  These are somewhat similar to the ones I made from Mylar (just below), so you can compare the two and see which will work best for you. 
Dual Pane Mylar Film Inside Storm Windows


How-To Picture Plans ...


Picture plans for making an dual pane inside storm window with an R value of 2. 

The Mylar is quite clear, and the  thermal performance with two panes is about twice as good as a typical single pane storm window.

Here is an example of a commercial kit to build a similar dual layer interior storm window -- there may be many others.  About 5X the cost, but it looks like a good design.

NEW Life of Mylar inside storm windows ...

Simple, Clear Acrylic Inside Storm Windows


Very simple inside Acrylic storm windows.  Absolutely clear and non-distorting.

They return 50%+ on your tax free, inflation protected investment, and may qualify for rebates in your state.  And, save 100+lbs of greenhouse gas emissions per year for a typical window!

NEW -- Large window example...

Plans Inside Storm Window

Another inside storm window how-to:


Plans for a simple inside storm window made from poly film.

Clear vinyl film might give a little more clear a view. 
Another film option would be the shrink film that a number of companies sell for inside storm windows.   I understand that shrink film can be purchased in bulk at artist supply places, and that the price is much lower.

Bubble Wrap Window Insulation



New Installation Instruction Sheet (8/15/06)

AND, The Card Board Shutter
Based on the popularity of this Bubble Wrap window treatment, here is a Cardboard Shutter

A really cheap and quick way to insulate windows that you don't need a clear view out of.

Added some small updates to instructions 11/13/05.
Instruction sheet added 8/15/06
Reported life of bubble wrap added 2/27/07

Another cheap (but very effective) window insulator Card Board Shutter -->

The half insulating shutter -- light + insulation


The idea is to put high Rvalue rigid insulation foam board over part of the window while leaving the top part uncovered to allow light in.

It seems like this is a nice combination of light, view, and insulation?  Full length insulating shutters can still be used over the panel at night.
Insulating Shutter Condensation Calculator,

Window Condensation Calculator ...

Loose fitting insulating window treatments can lead to condensation buildup on the window.  The problem depends on room humidity, outside temperature, and the window and insulating window treatment R values.  Dave has worked out a very nice Window Condensation Calculator to determine if you are likely  to have a problem.
Note that tight fitting insulating treatments that don't allow much air circulation between window and treatment won't have this problem.      Thank you Dave!
3M type shrink fit window films ...


This window film is widely available at hardware stores.  You put double back tape (included) on the window frame, then apply the film onto the tape, then use a hair dryer to shrink it tight.
In addition to adding about R1, it can be helpful in stopping drafts.  But, it is normally applied in such a way that you can't open the window.  Removing it will destroy it.
There is a very slight distortion of the view out the film.  Cost is about 30 cents/sqft.  Life claimed is one year, but I think it will go at least 2 if you leave it in place.
Insulating Window Quilt -- from the Econigics site


A simple DIY scheme for making highly effective insulating window quilts.

Thermal Cover-Ups: Part II

Mother Earth News



Mother Earth News Article, Issue 85 Jan/Feb 1984

Good description of internal shutters made from foam board. 

Be sure to consider the flammability of the materials that you use for this project.

$15 Rollup Insulating Window Shade ...


Doug Kalmer

This is a homemade thermal shade design that Doug Kalmer uses in his passive solar home. 

The $15 rollup window shade made from Reflectix insulation. 

How to make it...


See all of Doug's solar projects ...

Ray's Insulating Roman Shades

Full Details ...

These insulating shades use two outer layers of insulating fabric with a layer of reflective aluminum spaced between.

They are reported to result in significant reduction in heating fuel used, and they look good too.

(Thanks very much to Ray for providing the details)

High R Value Inside Bi-Fold Shutters

Details ...

Inside shutters that look good and have a very high R value.
Warm Window Insulating Shade System

Very nice how-to guide to making their shades:




Warm Window offers thermal shade material along with a number of products that are helpful in making the shades.

The guide on making the shades appears to be very complete and clear.

The guide claims an incremental R value of about +R6 for adding a Warm Window shade -- even if this is exaggerated, it is very good indeed.  Magnetic strips make for good edge seals.

(Thanks to Angela for suggesting Warm Window.  She reports that the shades are easy to make, and work very well)
Insulating Roman Shade


Nice set of plans from Instructables for an insulating Roman Shade.
Insulating a Sliding Glass Door



This describes an easy way to cut the heat loss through a sliding glass door in half while still maintaining the sliding door function.

The payback period in cold climates is about one half of a heating season.

Guides to Selecting New or Replacement Windows If you are selecting windows for a new house, or upgrading windows, take a look at this section.


Thermal Shutters and Shades

William Shurcliff

See Table of Contents and Some Sections


Thermal Shutters and Shades -- Over 100 Schemes for Reducing Heat Loss Through Window.  Published in 1980, but still the best book on the subject.  Out of print, but available on or used books (or the like).
Seals: Some Experimental Results,
Thermal Shutters and Shades,
William Shurcliff,

Details ... (pdf)

This is an excerpt from the very good book  Thermal Shutters and Shades, by Dr. William Shurcliff

He did some tests to determine how critical it is for insulating shutters to fit the window precisely.  He covers various combinations of edge gaps and face gaps between the shutter and the window.

The somewhat surprising result is that you can be a little bit sloppy without effecting the performance of the insulating panel.
(thanks to Dr. Shurcliff for making this available)

Keeping the pipes from freezing when away

Full Details ...


Several methods to keep the pipes from freezing in your home or vacation home when you are away without burning fuel.

Includes plug in window solar collector/insulator panels, and a plumbing drain system, and others...
Full details...
The Green Shutter -- for summer sun control


From Inhabitat


A pretty neat design for a operable shutter with plants for sun control.
Window Shading  
Window Shading Scheme -- from the Econogics site


This is a pretty nice way to provide shading of windows on the outside (where it is most effective).  The shade cloth is held in place with magnets and can easily be removed.
Saving Energy While You Sleep  
Electric Mattress Pad


Electric mattress pads consume little energy, and can allow substantial bedroom temperature setbacks.
Much more efficient than traditional electric blankets. 

This has a payback of well under one year for us!

Full Story

Sleep Genie -- A sleep Compartment with AC

From Sunfrost

An interesting concept to provide a comfortable, air-conditioned environment in a limited space for sleeping comfort. 

It saves the energy cost of needlessly air-conditioning a large space when your are only occupying a small space.

Heating Your Own Personal Space
Some times it just makes sense to heat your own immediate personal space -- this can save a lot of energy and result in increased comfort.
Kotatsu  -- A Japanese personal heater


Making a Kotatsu...

The Kotatsu is a low table with a heat source mounted to the bottom surface of the table and aimed down.
You sit with legs under the table, and with a blanket or futon covering your lower body.
It is said to keep your entire body comfortable even when the room temperature is low.
(Thanks to Nick Pine for suggesting this)

I guess that having a small space heater under your desk is a less refined variation on this.
Heated Clothes

One maker of heated clothing...

These are one version of battery powered, heated vests.  The vest is made with very rine, flexible heating wires through it.  The heat from the vest keeps your core temperature up, which convinces your god that it can maintain good circulation to your extremities, and this makes you feel warm all over even when the room is to cool for comfort.
If you have had direct experience (good or bad) with this or other heated clothing please let me know...
The two ideas in the section just above for sleeping also fall into this category.

Do you have any good techniques you use to keep your personal space comfortable?  Please let me know...


The Power Hogs 
For most people, these will be things that use the most power -- controlling them will cut most peoples electricity use by half -- maybe more.
The Power Hogs

The list to the right shows where most of your electricity goes.

Most people can cut their household electricity use in half at a very low cost, and with a very fast payback ...

Cutting electricity use of a typical US home in half saves:

  •  6000 KWH a year
  • $600 a year in electric bills
  • 6 tons of CO2 emissions



Refrigerators -- Old ones (and even not so old) can use over 1200 KWH a year.  
A new energy star 20 cubic feet can use as little as 400 KWH per year.
A saving of 800 KWH per year -- maybe more.
This is what we saved ...
Computers -- A PC plus peripherals can use over  1000 KWH a year.
It is very easy and cheap to cut this by 80%.
This is what we saved ...
Lighting -- Changing to compact fluorescents can save over 1000 KWH per year.
This is what we saved ...
TIVO -- and TIVO like digital TV recorders.  These devices are always on and consume around 50 watts 24/7, or about 500 KWH per year.
There is a new energy star program coming out on these -- I'd hold off and wait for Energy Star models.
TV's  -- Some TV's can use as much as 450 watts!  At 8 hours of TV a day, this is 1300 KWH a year!
Use one of the lower power technologies (LCD or DLP).  Look for OLED TV's -- coming soon -- much lower power.
Article on this with power usage for many models ...
Washing and Drying -- A load of cloths washed and rinsed in hot water, and then dried in an electric dryer uses about  10 KWH!  -- this is  3600 KWH a year at one load per day.  Most of this energy goes for heating water.
Use cold wash/cold rinse and a solar dryer (cloths line) to cut this to near drastically.  Front loading washing machines also help.
Dumb Habits -- Just turning things (lights, TV's, ...) off when you are not using them can save several hundred KWH per year.
This is what we saved ...
Get the kids involved ...
Phantom Loads -- Many electronic gadgets (TV's, entertainment centers, microwaves, chargers, ...) use power even when switched off.
Here is how to kill these power vampires ...
This can save you several hundred KWH per year.

Other (less well known) phantom loads ...

More Power Hogs  -- some less common power hogs Radon Fans -- Radon mitigation fans run 24/7 and can use up to 130 watts -- this could amount to 1100 KWH per year.  This article advocates trying a passive system first, and only going to a fan system if Radon test levels come back high.  Passive systems can easily be converted to active systems.  If an active system is needed, I would always try a small fan first -- some are as low as 40 watts.
Hot Water Recirculation Pumps -- These systems circulate hot water so that you always get instant hot water even at taps very distant from the hot water heater.  The problem is that if you choose the wrong kind of installation they can be horrible energy hogs --this is our experience ...  Would you believe $3200 worth of wasted propane over 8 years?
Battery Powered Tool Chargers -- Battery powered tools come with a charger that most people just leave plugged in all the time -- if you own several of the tools, these idle chargers can add up to a significant phantom loads ...
"Half" Project Electricity Saving Ideas These are the energy saving projects that we used in cutting our electricity use in half.
You might be able to use some of the yourself.
Energy Efficient Appliances  
Energy Star

Energy Star Ratings ...


Energy ratings and energy use for appliances.   Energy advice and online audit for homes.   Energy star appliances and homes.

In my view, the Energy Star program could be more aggressive, but its certainly a good place to start.  For example, they have no plans to require more efficient refrigerators until 2012 at the earliest -- let them know you would like to see a more aggressive approach.

The Energy Smart Kitchen,
Alex Wilson,
Fine Homebuilding Magazine, Issue 191, Oct 2007

How to get articles from Fine Homebuilding ...

A good Fine Homebuilding Magazine article on how to choose energy efficient kitchen appliances, and which cooking technologies are most efficient.
GAMA -- An Association of Equipment Manufactuers


This site provides energy efficiency ratings for hundreds of furnaces and water heaters.
Some Thoughts On Pilot Lights


Some thoughts on the energy used by pilots lights (surprisingly large), and how to reduce or eliminate this.

And, a rather unusual strategy for heating your hot water with just the energy from a pilot light.

Gas Pilot Light energy use


Article studying gas use by pilots on gas fireplaces.  A gas fireplace pilot (and probably other gas pilots) use 7.3 therms of gas if left on all year, and almost 100 lbs of greenhouse gas.(1)
Note that some sources report much higher gas use by pilots-- more like 5 therms per month (1)

Turning off pilots on gas appliances that are not going to be in use for a while would be a good way to save some energy and reduce greenhouse has emissions.
(1)  Home Energy Magazine has corrected the 7.3 to 73 therms here...
(Thanks to Ned for finding this)
Very Efficient Chest Refrigerator

Chest Fridge Full Article (68K pdf)

This article is from the Mt Best -- Australia solar house site:  A very interesting solar house with several unique features, and a bit more info on the chest fridge.

Another approach here:
Uses added thermal mass and a simple timer switch -- the thermal mass is intended to allow the frig and inverter on an off grid site to be turned off overnight to save the idle inverter load on the batteries.

The thermostat shown on this page is reported to allow you to use a chest freezer as a refrigerator with large energy saving:
Beer Fridge Thermostat
And, this one as well:
And, a digital one:

This refrigerator, which is a converted chest type freezer uses only about 0.1 KWH per day.  See the article for details.  Latest update includes a design for a low standby power thermostat.
Apparently not all chest freezers are created equal, as some do not report quite as dramatic an energy saving as Tom reported in his paper -- so if you are getting a new chest freezer for this, pick an efficient one to start with.
One person reported 0.3 KWH per day (108KWH/year) on a newer Kenmore freezer that was EPA rated at 279KWH per year.   So, something like a quarter of a typical, similar size conventional (upright) refrigerator seems easily achievable.
SunFrost Refrigerators



I don't normally plug commercial products, but the energy consumption of SunFrost is about 40% less than comparable new refrigerators from the GE's and others.

So, why can't GE do this?

EnergyStar Fridge Ratings

Make a Fridge?

Description of the fridge making kit and instructions for making a fridge from it ...


More Details (pdf)


Another kit fridge -- DIY System Kits:


This is just a thought.  NovaKool (maybe others?) offers a kit for people who want to make their own fridges.  It consists of a compressor, evaporator, condenser, controls, and pre-charged tubing -- all the guts of a fridge.  It is intended for boat or RV owners who want a built in fridge.   It uses the DanFoss compressor, which is reputed to be efficient.

If you wanted to make a very efficient fridge, this kit would allow you allow you to build the box with as much insulation as you want, it could be top opening, and the compressor could be located in an optimal spot.  On just a rough guess from their specs, you might get down to 0.1 KWH per day for a very well insulated 8 cubic foot fridge.  Unfortunately the kit is not cheap, but this still might pay well for off-grid PV users.
If anyone has tried this (or similar), please let me know how it turned out -- Gary
Note -- see next entry for Ray's very nice example of using one of these kits.
Build DC Powered Refrigerator or Freezer!

Full Construction Details:


This is a really nicely done homemade refrigerator that uses a refrigerator kit  intended for custom refrigerators on boats.

Ray started with a 13 cuft conventional fridge.  The existing compressor/evaporator were removed, about 4 inches of rigid foam insulation were added to the outside, then, an efficient DC refrigeration unit (similar to the ones listed just above) is installed to provide the cooling.  The condenser coil and compressor are located away from the fridge in the cool basement for more efficient operation.
The fridge uses about 100 KWH per year -- about one quarter what an Energy Start fridge of the same size would use!
This would make a very efficient off-grid refrigerator that could run directly from the battery bank.
Ray has a lot of other interesting projects on his site ...
Hot Water, Cold Beer


Doug's homemade heat pump that efficiently cools his beer kegs and heats domestic hot water.

Its a heat pump that pumps heat out of the beer and into the domestic hot water tank.

All the details ...

Cold Weather Passive Assist Refrigerator


A refrigerator design that takes advantage of cold outside air to reduce energy consumption.
Passive Refrigerator/Icebox


Note: I am guessing there is a significant learning curve attached to getting one of these operating well.

This frig uses a well insulated 300 gallon water/ice container that is cooled by an outdoor finned tube baseboard unit to supply year round refrigeration with no energy use.  No moving parts.

Other interesting projects on the same site.

Recovering Dryer Heat



A lot of heat is wasted by cloths dryers that take house air, add energy to it, blow it through the cloths, and then exhaust the heated air outside. 

I have seen schemes that range from just venting the dryer to the inside of the house with a nylon sock tied over the end for lint control (dry climates only), up to the pretty exotic dryer heat exchanger offered (in Europe) by Electrolux.

If you have tried a scheme (or have an idea for a scheme) to extract dryer heat, I would like to hear about it (whether it worked or not) Gary.

Update: This is the simple scheme we are now using to recover heat from our dryer -- yearly saving is  630 KWH.

SAFETY NOTE: If you have a gas dryer, BE CAREFUL with what you do with the exhaust, since it has combustion products from the gas flame.

A More Efficient Shower



A shower idea that reduces heat losses and air currents so that you can have a comfortable shower with less water that is less hot.
Interesting story and prototype.
A collection of cloths line ideas ...


Drying clothes with a gas or electric dryer is energy intensive.  Here are some ideas on clotheslines and other solutions.
Where, what kind, experiences, ...
Building A Cloths Drying Rack



Plans for a simple wood cloths drying rack.

Save about about 2.3 KWH per dryer load -- $90 and 1600 lbs of CO2 per year.

Solar Clothes Drying (the clothesline) ...



Plans for a clothes drying rack that can be raised or lowered.
Umbrella Rack Style Cloths Dryer

Hills Clotheslines


Several people have asked about these, and they seem to be hard to locate -- so here is one.  Have no idea how good it is.

Seems like one could build one?

24 Hour Timers to Turn Stuff Off at Night (or whenever)



Use an inexpensive 24 hour timer to turn off things that you don't want to run at night.

You can also plug a power strip into the timer, and turn off multiple items with one timer, or some timers have more than one outlet.
Turning off 15 watts for 12 hrs a day, 365 days a year is worth 70 KWH -- about $7, and 140 lbs of CO2.

Power Saving On Personal Computers

Our PC electricity savings ...

Table of power consumption details, and procedure ...


This details how we go about saving electricity for the two PC's we have in the house.

This very simple procedure saves a staggering 1780 KWH per year -- worth $178 and 3600 lbs of CO2.

I don't know of any other way to save this much electricity so easily.

I think that one thing that people tend to overlook in managing PC power use is that all the peripherals (printers, scanners, ...) also use power -- in our case, more than the computer itself -- you have address this as well as the PC.

Three Ways to Save Power On Your PC


Mini Power Minder for PC's



Smart Strip
Note: this one can also be used to control power to your whole entertainment center, or any related group of electrical gadgets.



WattStopper ...

PC peripherals continue to draw power after you turn your PC off.  Use one of these devices to turn off the power to all the PC peripherals automatically when your PC is turned off.

USB mini Power Minder.  This device allows you to automatically turn off all of your PC peripherals (printer, scanner, ...) when you turn off the PC. 

Our test of the Mini Power Minder ...
Smart Strip -- turns off everything plugged into the power strip when the item that is plugged into the "control" outlet (usually your PC) is turned off.  Keeps peripherals from drawing power when the PC is off.
See picture just below in the next item.

Our test of the Smart Strip...

The WattStopper has a people sensor, and turns off power to everything plugged into it when no people are present.  Its kind of pricy at $90, but if you pay 15 cents a KWH, and can save an average of 70 watts, it pays for itself in a year and saves lots of CO2 emissions.

More on PC Power Savings ..

Power Cost Monitor:


TED Power Monitor:

And, another one: ,,,



Two Whole House Power Monitors:
Power Cost Monitor: 

These easy to install power meters tell you how much electricity your house is using (and has used).
The idea being that getting instant feedback when you turn on lights, appliances, ... will help you cut down on electricity use.

Note that while TED is more involved to install, it provides faster response, optional software logging, and it can measure individual circuits as well as the whole house.
(Thanks to Tom for finding the TED info)

ECO Electric Tea Kettle

Available under the toastess Brand in the US:


An electric tea kettle that boils exactly as much water as you need -- not two or three times as much.
It would be nice if more manufacturers paid attention to the details like this -- it takes a lot of energy to boil water.
(thanks to Vanya for suggesting this)

If you avoid boiling 6 cups of water a day, this adds up to 1.2 KWH per day, or 430 KWH per year and 900 lbs of CO2 if your electricity comes from a coal powered plant

Another idea on using a drip coffee maker to make heat water for tea efficiently ...
Phantom Loads  
Phantom Loads radio interview on "Good Dirt Radio"

Hear the interview ...


This is an interview with yours truly that gives an overview of what phantom loads are, and what you can do about them.  See the material in the item below for more details.

The interview was one of many good stories and interviews from the "Good Dirt Radio".   Thanks to Good Dirt producer Gary Lewin for his good work on this.

Eliminating Phantom Electrical Loads

Eliminate Phantom Load -- From the "Half" program...

Using a Kill-A-Watt meter to find phantoms...

Phantom Load suggestions from Marc ...

The worst of the Phantom Loads ...
(really gross offenders)

Many electrical gadgets (TV's, microwaves, chargers, ...) continue to use power even after you turn them off.  This can be just a little or a surprisingly large amount. 

The sad truth is that over their lifetime, many electronic devices will consume more power during the times they are off than when on!  This costs of billions of dollars a year and lots of green house gas.

The four items listed to the left provide some ways to identify and eliminate these power sucking vampire loads.

It is difficult to take phantom loads into account when you buy new electrical devices because the  manufacturers  don't provide this information.  One thing that would help is for all electrical devices to include typical and phantom power use on the outside of their packaging -- write to your legislator and suggest this!   Until we get this, I would suggest testing new gadgets with your Kill-A-Watt meter when you get them home, and return anything that uses too much power when off (or on) -- make sure the store and the manufacturer know why you are returning it.

Lighting and Daylighting  
Efficient Lighting

EERE on Types of Lighting

This is our families estimated saving in energy and GHG's for going to CFL's:
(A 224% return on investment, and 1 TON of CO2 per year)

Efficiency of various types of lights ...

Instructables tutorial on using CFLs...

It is a just plain no-brainer to use fluorescents and compact fluorescents.  They are far more efficient, last much much longer, and will save you a ton of money and greenhouse gas emissions.  

Most utility companies offer some form of rebate program for buying CFL's -- making it even more of a no-brainer!

Some have expressed concerns about the small amount of Mercury contained in CF's and fluorescents.  This does not appear to be much of a concern, but have a look at the EPA fact sheet in case you break one someday.
EPA fact sheet:
Treehugger article:
Another on Mercury:
Net effect of Mercury in CFs

The Best Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs: PM Lab Test,
Popular Mechanics Magazine

The PM Lab Test ...

Popular Mechanics magazine did a careful side by side comparison of a standard incandescent light bulb to seven compact fluorescents.
They compared color temperature, color, brightness, face color, and reading.  The result was that ALL 7  CFL's SCORED HIGHER THAN THE INCANDESCENT.
This should satisfy anyone's doubts about the light quality of CFL's.


Using daylighting not only provides better and more pleasant lighting, it saves energy and greenhouse gas emissions.

Some daylighting solutions...

LED Holiday Lights

Almost all of the usual places that sell holiday lights now sell the LED lights.  Prices still vary a lot.  We got ours a Costco for about $10 per string.


LED holiday lights are safer (no heat), last  a very long time, and look great.  They also use much less energy and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The energy saving can be 90% or more.

A typical 100 light LED string uses less than 4 watts!  They have an expected lifetime of 20+ years.  With the LED holiday light prices dropping, the payback period can be as small as a season or two (considering both lower operating cost and longer life).

Hot Water Recirculation Systems  
Hot Water Recirculation systems


These systems get around the problem of having a long wait for hot water, but can be very very wasteful of energy.
Details here ...


Installing an On-Demand hot water recirculation system


Guy Marsden describes the installation of his efficient hot water recirculation system.  Nice detailed how-to.

These systems use much less energy and water than systems that circulate 24/7, or systems that uses a timer or aquastat to control recirculation.

Gray Water Heat Exchanger  
GFX Gray Water Heat Exchanger

DOE Inventions & Innovations report:
DOE report on GFX (pdf)

Another Brand:

And another:

And another:

A well designed gray water heat exchanger can recover a large fraction of the heat that would normally go down the drain in your shower, and some other hot water uses.

In a normal shower, you spend a lot of energy heating water from 50F or so up to 100F.  It flows out the shower nozzle, over your bod, and down the drain taking 95% or so of the energy you just spent heating it.  The gray water heat exchanger uses the heat in the drain water to heat the incoming water.

Drain Water Heat Recovery - Energy Savings Calculator,
from CEATI

Drain Water Heat Recovery Calculator...

Report on the testing program the calculator is based on:

A calculator to estimate the energy savings for installing a gray water heat exchanger.
While the calculator only lists Ca cities, you can pick one with about the same ground water temp as your area.
Landscaping For Energy Efficiency  
Planning Tree Windbreaks in Missouri

University of Missouri Extension:

Purdue University Extension:

Planting trees for a windbreak to protect house of livestock (or you) from wind.
Landscaping for Energy Efficiency

Energy-Saving Landscaping for Your Passive Solar Home, NC Solar Center (pdf)

Information on landscaping for energy efficiency.  "Carefully positioned trees can save up to 25% of household's energy consumption".


Less Stuff  
Waste less food  -- big payoff!




Growing food and getting it to your table  accounts for about 20% of total GHG emissions.

So, anything you can do to use less food and avoid wasting food has a direct and significant impact on GHG emissions all the way down the grow it, harvest it, transport it, prepare it, ... chain.

This is another one of those win-win areas where cutting down on waste saves GHG's and dollars.

"Swedish life-cycle studies that show tossing one serving of beef wastes enough energy to drive a low-energy light bulb 163 hours"

Human Power

Pedal Power

Campus Center for Appropriate Technology


Plans and concepts for a variety of human powered appliances, tools, TV's, ...

Lots of good ways to get some exercise!    

Here is a sample: Pedal Washer

Bicycle Powered Generator


Instructions on how to make a bicycle powered generator from a training stand.
Also includes information on what kinds of electrical loads can be powered.
PPPM (Pedal Powered Prime Mover)


This is an interesting website that provides information on pedal powered generators.  Includes information on building, what can be powered, and the use of ultra-capacitors to smooth power output from the generator without using batteries.
The James Hand Washer

Another supplier of human powered washers:



Person powered washers, clothes drying hardware, and other interesting stuff.
Wonder Washer
(this link may be broken Jan 20, 08)


A simple, hand powered washer that people seem to like.
"Yukon Plunger" washing "machine"


A even simpler arm powered washing "machine".  It would be pretty easy to just make one yourself.
Fran's very simple DIY washer from a bucket

How to build it...

Fran made a very effective washer using a 5 gallon bucket, a length of dowel, and an old plastic plate.

Takes about 15 minutes and works well!

All the details ...


Quite an interesting article and plans for a bicycle powered spin water extractor for cloths washing.
Cyclean -- Pedal Powered Washer/Dryer



Get exercise and do the wash at the same time.

Plans to make one are promised -- its says.

Other Conservation Related Areas on Build-It-Solar
There are lots of other areas on BIS that deal with conservation and energy efficiency -- here are a few...

The Water Section




Water conservation, grey water reuse, efficient toilets ...

Energy Conservation in Pool Heating


Energy conservation in pool heating.  Pool covers, efficient pumps and circulation schemes, ...
Efficient lawn mowers and garden tractors Electric lawn mowers and tractors.

Gas mowers pollute way out of proportion to their size -- here is a way to get rid of yours.

Earth Notes: Saving Electricity
How we got from 33kwh per day to 7kwh per day


Good conservation story on drastically reducing electricity use without pain.

Points out the big saving that can occur from controlling computer power consumption.

(Thanks to Damon for suggesting this)

Efficient Vehicles For many of us, choosing a fuel efficient vehicle will save more energy than any other step we can take.


More here -- Build-It-Solar  Central


"I Did It" stories
A few energy saving success stories -- if you have one, please send it in.
Our own "1/2" Program



This is my families program to see if we can reduce our total energy consumption and green house gas emissions by one half.
Guy Marsden -- Sustainable Living


A very nice personal site with Guy's program for saving energy and a more sustainable lifestyle -- all very well explained.
Several good DIY solar energy projects with very good detial.
Good News: Average Family Cuts  Home Electric Usage in Half

Full Story ...

This letter describes how Ed cut his families use of electricity in half over just 2 months.  He used a number of techniques, including an energy audit, eliminating phantom loads, and just paying more attention to turning things off.
Way to go Ed!   Full Story ...

"I actually stopped moaning about the rates for 5 minutes and did something to reduce my electric usage."

The Carbon Buster's Home Energy Handbook,
Godo Stoyke, 2007


Available from New Society Publishers...

This is a brand new and good book on how to start your own energy saving program that will cut your energy use and green house gas emissions by as much as 70% -- and save you $17,000 over 5 years.
The author lists many potential projects in all areas of energy use, and provides cost, rate of return, energy saving and carbon saving for each.  It is done very much like my Half program listed above -- highly recommended.
Available at the usual book places $13.
Solar Electricity at Home...,
Kevin Johnson

How to get articles from Home Power ...


Home Power magazine article, issue 117.
This is quite an amazing story.  Kevin details how his family has 1) cut their transportation energy use to about 5 KWH per day by using an electric vehicle conversion, and 2) their home electricity use to about 5 KWH per day through conservation. 
All of this energy is supplied by all of this energy is supplied by a 2.9 KW grid tied PV system. 
Iver's Energy Saving Projects


This is a good rundown on a set of energy saving projects that Iver did.  They are all fairly simple, but they really add up.

Iver recently estimated that his energy saving per year come up to $3018 per year at today's energy prices!

"Lazy" approach to conservation still works



Cameron describes his "lazy" approach to energy conservation. 

The approach may be lazy, but his gas bill is still down about 40%!

20 ways to go green at home ...


A systematic and  practical list of ways to reduce your home related carbon emissions.

I think that step 2 (the annual audit) is a good one, and does not get enough attention -- more tools to help you do this here ...

Audited by Power Company for Low Power Use



When Ray Janke took some simple steps to reduce his electricity consumption, the power company audited him because they thought he might be bypassing the meter.

Wouldn't that be a nice audit to go through :)

Full Energy Efficiency Farmhouse Renovation
Mike Rogers
Home Energy Magazine

Article describes a well thought out renovation of a 1920's farmhouse for energy efficiency.
The house posed several difficult to overcome problems in retrofitting insulation.
Includes a fairly detailed description of a technique for installing exterior wall insulation.
800 to 80 kwh in four months


A great story on how one couple reduced their electric bill dramatically, along with quite a bit of detail on the methods used.

Ryan has since moved to WA state, and is writing an account of overhauling his home into an energy efficient home.
The Land of Rising Conservation,
NY Times



Good NY Times article explaining why per household energy consumption in Japan is less than half the US.
Saving Electricity Site -- Succes Stories

There are some good stories on this page, with some good and specific suggestions.

Its a good all around site on understanding how to save electricity.


Contact/About          Legal Disclaimer                Copyright 2005 by Gary Reysa