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Helpful Retrofit Ideas for Saving Home Energy Bills

Conventional Laundry Room Energy Disaster

In the hot summer, when your expensive air conditioner is running, would YOU leave a window open for several hours a day? Worse yet, would you put a FAN in that open window to FORCE EXPENSIVE CONDITIONED AIR OUT OF YOUR WINDOW ? ! ? ! ?

That is precisely what happens in most modern United States homes when naive non-learning Americans do the laundry. Your clothes dryer forces great volumes of expensive conditioned air outside.

Your clothes dryer heats up the expensive cool air around your laundry room equipment. This makes your air conditioner work harder and longer, but that is not the worst part of doing the laundry in a conventional home.

The Great Energy Looser, your Clothes DryerYour clothes dryer has a powerful exhaust fan that forces hundreds of cubic feet of expensive, cool, conditioned air per minute from your home out of your inefficient dryer vent in the summer (the same thing happens in the winter with your warm air).

Your lint filter partially clogs the dryer’s airflow path and makes the dryer consume more energy to force the expensive air out of your air-conditioned house. Most people use corrugated cheap flexible dryer vent hose, with sharp bends to connect their dryer to the exterior exhaust vent, which is an open unsealed hole from your house to the outside.

Go stand outside of your house and put your hand near the dryer vent while it is running. Feel how rapidly the air that you paid a lot to cool (or heat) is being forced out of your home. No one can deny that this is happening - The expensive airflow is VERY significant. You clothes dryer probably runs for about an hour per load of laundry. Silly, isn’t it? How many dryer loads to you do per year?

This is the way non-learning members of the American Institute of Architects have designed conventional laundry rooms for half a century, so it must be the correct thing to always continue do in the future, Right? Doing the same thing over and over again countless times always ensures that you are doing the best possible thing, doesn’t it? We should be extremely conservative and always repeat tomorrow what we did yesterday, just the way grandma taught Forest Gump’s mother to do, don’t you think?

Your clothes dryer exhaust creates a significant vacuum inside your home. That air MUST be replaced with unconditioned outside air – through unplanned, unfiltered air infiltration points in every exterior room (and the ceilings) throughout your house. For about an hour per load, your clothes dryer sucks in large volumes of air-borne dirt, dust, dust mites, mold, mildew, algae, tiny biting no-see-um's, pollen, bits of construction materials, carcinogenic insulation, neurotoxic exterior pesticides, deadly termite killers, air pollution from automobiles and industry, and countless unhealthy air borne microorganisms. The unfiltered, unconditioned, dirty outside replacement air that MUST enter your home when you turn on any type of exhaust vent (especially your clothes dryer) comes in rapidly through leaky windows, doors, perforations in your walls for electric outlets, ceiling light fixtures, plumbing, between your walls, attic, and your concrete slab, reverse air flow through other vents around you home (exhaust vents that flow backwards when not in use), fireplace, and an endless list of stupid, poorly-designed-and-constructed things in almost every architect-designed home in America. Air leaks can even be sucked in through interior walls connected to your attic, through many plumbing and electrical wiring perforations. WOW!

In any climate, your clothes dryer can be located in your garage, since clothes dryers cannot freeze. You can move yours to the garage and solve this problem instantly. This will require moving your dryer hook up and exhaust vent. Or you can build a very small closet around your dryer, and put a weather sealed door on the closet (with no A/C vents inside your dryer closet). An outside fresh air vent is required, to allow free flowing air into and out-of your dryer (so your dryer will not suck air from the interior of your house to exhaust outside).

The minor inconvenience of having an un-air-conditioned clothes dryer closet is absolutely trivial, compared to the complete elimination of the very unhealthy, expensive energy problems created by an uninformed-architect-designed traditional laundry room.

Can we retrofit this clever ZED concept to an existing disastrously designed conventional laundry room? (As Sam often sez) YES! - IFF your existing laundry room has a door that can isolate it completely from the air-conditioned portion of your home. If your washer and dryer do not have a door between them and your air-conditioned living space, you may have to add a wall and a door.

1) Weather strip and create an air seal around an airtight door to your conventional laundry room. Use a weather-sealed threshold under the door. You MUST HAVE NO AIR LEAKS under or around the door. Your laundry room must be airtight and isolated from your air-conditioned living space (as is your garage).

2) Completely remove the air conditioner vent in your laundry room all the way back to where the air duct joins the duct system (or air handler) for your air conditioning system. Simply covering the duct in your laundry room may increase air conditioner duct back pressure leaks. Seal the opening where you removed your old laundry room duct tightly with lifetime-certified metal foil air conditioning duct tape, (NOT the cheap gray cloth duct tape available at Wal-Mart), or use superior lifetime ductwork mastic. Make very sure you do NOT create any new ductwork air leaks. (Check other ducts while you are doing this task, and seal their old air leaks also.)

3) Insulate the walls of your laundry room from the rest of your home. This may require replacing laundry room drywall, which is not difficult in a small room.

4) Tightly air seal and insulate around all plumbing and electrical outlets.

5) Bring a new 4-inch (or larger) outside air intake duct into your laundry room, near the base of your clothes dryer. If your sealed laundry room does not have any exterior walls, this outside air intake could be a straight tube down from your attic, with a filter box to make sure you do not suck in attic insulation, etc. This filter should be very large, so it does not have to be cleaned very often. The filter should not be horizontal facing upward, so it does not collect attic dust.

6) In extremely cold climates, make very sure that you do NOT create a situation where the outside air intake duct will cause the plumbing or washer to freeze during extremely cold weather. This may require a vent end cap air seal for when the dryer is not in use.

7) The dryer outside air intake duct can be flexible. It may have large-radius curves. If a sharp bend is necessary, you must use a larger free-flowing duct.

8) Clothes dryer high-pressure outside exhaust vent ducts should be straight, short, smooth metal. It is less efficient to push air down a long curved tube than to pull it around corners (for the outside air intake duct). The high-volume forced air from your clothes dryer creates a lot of inefficient turbulence inside non-smooth, curved long exhaust ducts.

9) Do NOT use the common cheap corrugated flexible plastic clothes dryer duct tubes. They resist airflow and can trap lint and create a fire hazard. Check and clean dryer outside exhaust vents 5 to 6 times a year – more often if you must do a lot of laundry.

10) Your clothes dryer exhaust duct must NOT vent to your attic, since its high humidity would destroying the insulating effect of your ceiling insulation. The clothes dryer exhaust vent MUST be short, straight, smooth, and go directly outside (far away from any outside air intake points).

11) Close the door to your laundry room. NEVER LEAVE IT STANDING OPEN.

Get More Information in Larry Hartweg's 850 page book on Zero Energy Design EBook or CD ROM .

Changing the Temperature of Things In Your Homei

The average American household now spends nearly $2,000 a year on home energy bills, and that amount number is rapidly increasing every year. Perhaps yours is already much more, and certainly more than it was last year. This has the largest impact on the people who are least able to afford it, and understand the underlying issues that will continue to make it worse in the future.

In most American homes, the largest impact on monthly energy bills is “changing the temperature of things.” During climatic temperature extremes, the heating and air conditioning bill is by far the most important. Heating and cooling often exceed all other energy expenses put together. One obvious solution is “move to Hawaii and live in a loin cloth under a palm tree on a beach, or half way up a volcano.” (smile)

1. If you choose to live where heating and/or cooling is important, we will first show you how to eliminate heating and cooling energy bills altogether, in the coldest AND hottest American climatic zones. During summer and winter temperature extremes, the utility bills required to heat and cool a conventional home can exceed the sum total of all other utility bills put together. We will explain how to totally terminate heating and cooling bills, in a well-designed Zero Energy Design® Home almost everywhere. The International Space Station doesn’t pay monthly electric bills – Why should you?

2. The second most expensive temperature changer is often the poorly designed American kitchen electric refrigerator, which uses power most of the time all year long. We’ll discuss a simple solution to totally eliminate monthly refrigerator electrical energy expense, with a solar-powered, non-electric, time-proven, off-the-shelf, hundred-year-old, cost-effective technology. Does this sound interesting to you? It should be. Very few people understand it.

3. The third expensive temperature changer is domestic hot water. We’ll discuss simple reliable solutions from the 1970’s and modern times to eliminate domestic hot water energy expense, and also how to have a year-round swimming pool with 92-degree water when snow is on the ground nearby. I had solar water heating in my own residence in 1979. New solar water heating products have been recently developed, and they are getting incrementally better every year.

Do you enjoy a lengthy hot shower massage in the winter? Would you like a warm, comfortable, zero energy indoor swimming pool, swim spa, or hot tub, for year round use starting TODAY? No worries! It is easy and cost effective to do right now, and has been for decades.

A major expense in operating energy-wasting American appliances like clothes washers and dishwashers is the cost of the hot water. If we let powerful sunlight heat our water, those expenses go away. Solar hot water heating is one of the EASIEST ENERGY SAVING THINGS that almost any American home can do, most of the year (with only a few exceptions).

4. The fourth expensive temperature changer in a modern energy-wasting American home is the clothes dryer. An inefficient tumble clothes dryer can take an hour of expensive high-current electricity or gas to remove the water from only one load of clothes, and damage them in the process. In the winter, the money paid to heat the air for drying clothes is then exhausted outside. How dumb is that?

Great grandma knew how to use solar energy to dry clothes, long before the first utility company was ever created. Still, these crazy American’s demand their lazy-boy convenience. They don’t like to hang their laundry in full public view, and then wait hours for it to dry. Soooo, we’ll talk about a fast INDOOR solar-powered clothes dryer that does NOT need a clothesline and pins, or hours to gently remove water from wet clothes.

5. Electric-and-gas cooking ranges and ovens are another source of high-rate energy consumption. The readily available off-the-shelf solution here is very simple, and much healthier for you anyway.

After eliminating all of the expensive temperature changers in a Zero Energy Home, then efficient pumps, fans, lighting, electronics and appliances can be discussed, with an explanation of how to make many of them cost LESS than the same equipment does today, to completely eliminate the need for the business-as-usual escalating cost of electricity from your local electric company (even if you do have electric power readily available).

With the total elimination of the need for utility companies, you can build your dream home almost anywhere you like (which may or may not interest your lifestyle desires). All you need is access to water, and ZED can even give you the free solar energy you need to pump and purify healthy drinking water for your home.

If you prefer to live in a populated community, you may be the only enviable one on your block who does NOT have to pay ever-increasing utility bills. Or, you may choose one of the innovative new Zero Energy Home planned communities that are starting to emerge.

Without customary utility bills, you will then have more money to invest, or to spend on other nice things. What would you do with an extra $2,000 net dollars each year? It could even be much more, depending on your tax situation, home size, energy cost inflation rate, etc.

If we can do all of this in an attractive, comfortable, easy-to-own-and-operate home, would you be interested in becoming an intelligent, trend-breaking Zero Energy Home innovator? Would you enjoy it and proudly tell your friends about it?

Does it all sound “Too Good To Be True”? Do you know anyone else who can do it all in a comprehensively integrated, esthetically pleasing, cost effective package, for LESS than you are already spending per month for your home today? How about someone who has been doing it for 25 years already? Read on, and soon you will. (Friendly Florida smiles to you, our new ZED friends.) 

Get More Information in Larry Hartweg's 850 page book on Zero Energy Design EBook or CD ROM .

Solar Gain In a Poorly-Designed Conventional Home

Let’s consider the solar performance of a conventional poorly-designed American home, which was designed by an idiot with no understanding of window placement or the path of the sun. Suppose a home has an equal number and size of windows on its north, east, south, and west sides. In the summer in the continental United States, the sun sets north of due west. Western window overhands are of no value after noon, as the sun approaches the western horizon. During the hottest part of the day, the western rooms of the house will become much warmer than the rest of the house.

In hot U.S. climates, each square foot of west facing glass can capture roughly 3,000 BTU’s of solar gain, which increases expensive air conditioning requirements by 3,000 BTU’s times the number of square feet of west facing glass. A single six-foot-wide west-facing patio door can increase air conditioning energy consumption by over 100,000 BTU’s per day, which is a really expensive and stupid thing to do to a home from a thermal perspective. It creates totally avoidable, unnecessary utility bill requirements, just because of the ignorance of the architect (and homebuyer).

In hot U.S. climates, each square foot of west facing glass can capture roughly 3,000 BTU’s of solar gain, which increases expensive air conditioning requirements by 3,000 BTU’s times the number of square feet of west facing glass. A single six-foot-wide west-facing patio door can increase air conditioning energy consumption by over 100,000 BTU’s per day, which is a really expensive and stupid thing to do to a home from a thermal perspective. It creates totally avoidable, unnecessary utility bill requirements, just because of the ignorance of the architect (and homebuyer).

Returning to the consideration of the solar performance of a conventional poorly-designed American home: What about the glass that happens to be on the south side? When temperatures drop in the winter, the atmosphere loses its capacity to store much moisture. The water vapor precipitates out in the form of rain, sleet or snow, leaving cold clear blue skies. During a sunny winter day, south-facing glass captures thousands of BTU’s of solar gain, since the sun is 47o closer to the horizon than it is in the summer – Nearly perpendicular to vertical south-facing glass. If you open your south window drapes, the southern rooms will be significantly warmed by the low winter sun. This is called “passive solar heating.”

Most people haven’t a clue about what to do with the free south side solar heat in the winter. The problem with a poorly-designed conventional house is that the southern rooms will get too hot during the day, while the northern rooms will be too cold. The occupants turn the thermostat up to warm the northern rooms to a comfortable temperature, and the southern rooms will then rise to the high 80’s Fahrenheit. To help balance the north / south room temperature, the occupants will close the drapes on the southern windows to BLOCK the free solar gain, and increase their utility bills.

How stupid is that! The ignorant conventional architect failed to design in a way to use the free southern solar gain to heat the coldest northern rooms. This would be acceptable IFF the energy required to heat a conventional home was free, but it is NOT. And, the price of home heating and cooling energy is increasing every year, making conventional house design a dumb and dumber thing to do, as energy prices continue to escalate upward at an ever-increasing pace.

In this chapter we will clearly explain how free southern solar gain can be used to efficiently heat the northern rooms in a house with no mechanical systems, no fans, and nothing that uses any type of conventional energy source, other than the sun.

Government Home Energy Retrofit Incentive Programs

Incentive programs, grants, low-income assistance, and financing are available for home owners so there is optionally NO up-front out-of-pocket cost to you. You can no-longer say: “I don’t have enough money to save money on my energy bills.” There are many sources of assistance available, as well as “do it yourself” – sometimes for FREE.

$10,000's of government incentives are currently available to home buyers, and over $100,000 of energy equipment rebates for commercial buildings. Low income families may qualify for FREE DOE programs, which have already reduced energy bills for over 5.5 million affordable homes by an impressive average of 31%.    ZED can help you ELIMINATE your energy bills.

Home Energy Score- An estimate of how much money could be saved by making energy retrofits

You will be able to estimate of how much money could be saved by making energy retrofits.

PowerSaver Loans- These loans will be coming Soon, We will keep you Informed on current status

Healthy Indoor Environment Home Air Quality

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is developing these voluntary protocols for Home Energy Upgrades via Recovery Through Retrofit initiative.

HUD Home Improvement Loans by State- Home Improvements and Insurance

Homeowners will be able to borrow money for terms as long as 20 years to make energy improvements of their choice, based on a list of proven, cost-effective measures developed by FHA and DOE.

Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM)- Program Web Site

Zero Energy Design® Homes can now receive financial incentives of tens of thousands of dollars, depending on your state’s energy efficiency programs. New 2007 legislation is extending these valuable subsidies, but most Americans simply don’t pay attention to what our government is encouraging us all to do.

For new homes that meet strict qualifications, the Energy Efficient Mortgage program (EEM) makes new Zero Energy Homes cost LESS initially, and have LOWER TOTAL MONTHLY PAYMENTS than a conventional home with large energy bills.

The new U.S. Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) program means that a Zero Energy Design® Home can now have total monthly payments that are LESS THAN A CONVENTIONAL HOME per square foot. It means lower monthly payments, AND lower total payments over the life of the home – This is cost effective instant investment payback on day one. There is NO REASON NOT TO BUILD A ZERO ENERGY HOME, instead of an obsolete conventional home (with ever-increasing utility bills). The 25-year savings on an average-sized three bedroom ZED home can be more than $150,000, plus interest – And, much more for larger ZED homes. Low cost affordable near Zero Energy Homes can cost as little as $60 per square. Even Habitat For Humanity has demonstrated dozens of Zero Energy Homes, with direct support from the U.S. Department Of Energy (US DOE), and Oakridge National Labs (ORNL).

Weatherization Assistance Program for Low Income Families

The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) enables low-income families to permanently reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient. Funds are used to improve the energy performance of dwellings of needy families using the most advanced technologies and testing protocols available in the housing industry. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) provides funding to states, U.S. overseas territories, and Indian tribal governments, which manage the day-to-day details of the program. These governments, in turn, fund a network of local community action agencies, nonprofit organizations, and local governments that provide these weatherization services in every state, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, and among Native American tribes

The U.S. Department Of Energy (DOE), Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) has operated a successful Weatherization Assistance Program since Jimmy Carter created DOE in 1977. It has enabled 5.5 million low-income families (over 4% of American households) to reduce their energy bills by making their homes about 31% more energy efficient. It is this country's longest running, and most successful energy efficiency program. Instead of merely offering monthly aid for escalating energy bills, the EERE Weatherization Assistance Program PERMANENTLY lowers energy bills, freeing up these funds for spending on important family financial issues. This spending, in turn, encourages low-income community job growth and energy-related economic development.

It is sad that after 30 years of DOE information distribution about energy efficiency and the great economic value of permanently lowering utility bills, our government (HUD, etc.) is STILL allowing new INEFFICIENT homes, government-subsidized housing projects, and office buildings to be constructed, many of which will require DOE EERE Weatherization Assistance Program funds to be spent as an afterthought retrofit. (How sad is that?)

DSIRE- Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency

D.S.I.R.E. is a comprehensive source of information on state, local, utility and federal incentives and policies that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency. Established in 1995 and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, DSIRE is an ongoing project of the N.C. Solar Center and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council.

Get More Information in Larry Hartweg's 850 page book on Zero Energy Design EBook or CD ROM .

Looking for Work in the Home Energy Field? These Next sites can help.

Recovery Through Retrofit- Home Energy Retrofit Program to Increase Existing Home Energy Efficiency

Vice President Biden Announces Actions to Build a Strong Home Energy Retrofit Market to Increase Energy Efficiency, Savings for Families. “Together, these programs will grow the home retrofit industry and help middle class families save money and energy.”

One plan offered by the 2010 Recovery Though Retrofit program will be for communities to optionally finance major energy retrofits with public funds that you may choose to pay back with increased property taxes, which will stay with the house when it is sold to others. With this type of energy retrofit plan, your total annual utility bills plus property taxes should be reduced, and the entire nation will benefit greatly.

Residential Retrofit Guidelines- Workforce Guidelines

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is developing Workforce Guidelines for Home Energy Upgrades to foster the growth of a high quality residential retrofit industry and a skilled and credentialed workforce

Workforce Guidelines for Home Energy Upgrades- Voluntary guidelines for workers, homeowners, businesses, and training providers

This document includes the following components for the four most common weatherization and energy efficiency retrofit job classifications: Energy Auditor, Retrofit Installer/Technician, Crew Leader, and Inspector/Quality Assurance Professional.

SBA’s Green Business Opportunities Courses- Complete Program Web Site

Register for Green Business Opportunities here

Federal Jobs App iPhone App for US Personnel Management

Searching for a Federal job is at your fingertips with the USA Jobs app

Other Information Sources:

Energy Efficient FHA Loans- Web Site

U.S.City Heating versus Cooling Requirements

Lat = Latitude (angular distance from the equator)

Cool = Annual Cooling Requirement In Degree Days

Heat = Annual Heating Requirement In Degree Days

Solar = Annual Average Solar Radiation Potential
(Insulation - Average Total BTU/sq.ft./day)







San Juan


18 30






21 18






25 46






28 32






29 45






30 42






32 05






32 20






32 46






32 47






33 30






33 45




Los Angeles


34 03






34 05






35 09






35 11






35 14






36 09




Las Vegas


36 10






36 10






37 17






37 43




San Francisco


37 47






38 21




Saint Louis


38 35






38 53




Grand Junction


39 05




Kansas City


39 06






39 18






39 30






39 45






39 46






39 48






39 57






40 27






40 44




Salt Lake City


40 46




New York City


40 47






41 15






41 28




Des Moines


41 35






41 50






42 20






42 21




Sioux Falls


43 33






43 36






44 59






46 52






47 37






51 50




In Miami, there is essentially no need for heat, but cooling and humidity control are very important Zero Energy Design® issues. Orlando is North of Miami, where Orange County Florida citrus crops can freeze in the harshest winters. Orlando has a small need for winter solar heating, but summer cooling is 4.4 times more important in Orlando than is heating a home in the winter.

In stark contrast, in Chicago heating is 6.6 times more important, as a ZED factor, than is the less significant Chicago degree-day cooling requirement. Many Chicago homes have no air conditioner, since there are only a few uncomfortable days each summer.

These climatological numbers are VERY important for location-specific ZED decisions. As we said: One Zero Energy Design Home design does NOT fit all. Miami houses SHOULD look and perform much differently than Chicago houses, which have a very different environment requirement. Stock house plans simply to NOT apply to all locations.

It is interesting that the maximum and minimum AVERAGE annual solar gain potential for ALL of the above cities does not vary by a large percentage (1053 to 1864 BTU/sq.ft./day). Whereas, the heating and cooling degree days do (0 to 9270 heating and 108 to 4981 cooling).

Many different solar energy technologies can be used to intelligently reduce or eliminate the need for an external non-renewable energy source, especially for heating and cooling a home (the largest single energy expense for almost everyone).

Energy conservation is our first ZED objective. It requires an expert understanding of each Zero Energy Home’s environment requirements, and owners’ goals, objectives, budget and realistic expectations.

Some solar gain is available almost everywhere in the U.S., but it is not the same amount every day. The 47-degree annual swing of the Earth’s rotational axis relative to the sun means major differences in seasonal solar gain potential. Sacramento has clear dry summer days with lots of solar energy available for a photovoltaic system on 92+ F days, whereas Orlando summers have cloudy afternoons with a lot of thunderstorms. In January in Sacramento, the average solar gain potential is reduced to only 48%, due to an average of 19 cloudy days and 6 partly cloudy days. With an average maximum daily high temperature of only 53.8 F in January, Sacramento requires special passive solar heating design and winter night SUPERINSULATION over south facing glass.

The dry American Southwest (e.g., Albuquerque) has more solar gain potential than areas where cloudy days are more common. Florida is closer to the equator, but Florida also has more cloudy summer days than drier climatic zones. Solar energy can be used to heat or cool your home, but the less solar gain potential that is available in your area, the more important energy conservation issues and SUPERINSULATION become.  

Get More Information in Larry Hartweg's 850 page book on Zero Energy Design EBook or CD ROM .













We sincerely wish all of our readers an Abundant New Life In Harmony With NatureTM

Lifelong Learning In An Ever-Expanding Universe Of Endless Possibilities

Get More Information in Larry Hartweg's 850 page book on Zero Energy Design EBook or CD ROM .

We invite constructive suggestions and collaboration from others
E-Mail To:   ZEDMaster@ZeroEnergyDesign.com