Energy Saving FAQs
Assessing Home Energy Use
Are there inexpensive ways to save energy?
Yes! Saving energy doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. In fact, there are many ways to save energy inexpensively — or cost free. Take a look at our tips to save energy. We also have a Do-It-Yourself Guide that can show you how to make low-cost energy improvements.
We’re renters — is there anything we can do to save energy?
Yes, small changes can help you reduce your energy use, too. Take a look at our tips to see what options work for you. You may also want to consider talking to your landlord to see if small modifications can be made, such as caulking to seal air leaks. The changes will save you on monthly utility bills, and can be smart long term investments for the property owner.
What is a home energy assessment? Why should I conduct one?
A home energy assessment (sometimes called a home energy audit) is an examination of how your home uses energy. An assessment will tell you how much energy your house consumes, detail likely causes of energy loss and recommend measures to improve your energy efficiency and save money on your energy bill. You can conduct a simple energy assessment on your own by using our DIY assessment guide. A professional can give you a more comprehensive analysis of your home by using special equipment and tools.
I’m thinking about hiring a contractor to help me with energy efficient improvements. How can I make sure the person is qualified and is quoting me a fair price?
The Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy has a statewide list of qualified contractors to help with energy efficiency improvements, such as conducting an energy assessment, upgrading heating and cooling, installing insulation and sealing air leaks. More information. Some key tips:
- Ask friends and neighbors for referrals.
- Get written, itemized estimates from at least three different contractors.
- Request references from potential contractors, and ask for references about work performance, as well as if the job was completed on time and on budget.
I’ve heard there’s mercury in CFLs, should I worry about using them in my home?
CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs) do not pose a hazard to your family’s health. They do contain a very small amount of mercury (about 4-5 milligrams, roughly enough to cover the tip of a ballpoint pen), which is sealed within glass tubing. In comparison, older thermometers contain about 500 milligrams of mercury –— an amount equal to the mercury in 125 CFLs. As long as the bulbs remain intact and are recycled properly, If the bulbs do break, follow these steps.
How do I dispose of CFLs?
All CFLs should be recycled. You can drop off used CFLs at Fairfax County's household hazardous waste sites during scheduled dates and times, or at special collection events. Many local hardware retailers will also accept used CFL bulbs at their returns desk.
What are LEDs?
LEDs are light-emitting dioxide bulbs. These light bulbs use only 20 to 25 percent of the energy than traditional bulbs and last up to 25 times longer. Although LEDs are more expensive than CFLs, their long life and energy savings still make them a worthwhile investment.
Does it use more energy to turn electronics on and off, or to leave them on?
It’s more energy and cost efficient to turn electronics off when they’re not in use. Though turning on an electrical device causes an extra surge of energy, it’s very brief and uses little power.
I leave my computer on all of the time because I’ve heard it uses more energy to turn it on and off. Is this true?
No, it actually saves energy to turn your computer off when it is not in use. You should also consider using energy settings like automatic turn off and screensavers.
Insulation and Air Leaks
Sometimes on cool and windy days I feel drafts coming in through through the baseboards. Is there a way to stop them?
I’ve heard that sealing air leaks could make the air in our house unhealthy. Is this true? Is there a danger of combustion?
When sealing air leaks in your home, be aware of the danger of indoor air pollution and backdrafts, which occur when combustion appliances and exhaust fans compete for air. If a house is not properly ventilated, then the air could become unhealthy. Though this is generally not a problem for older homes, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has strategies to ensure your home is ventilated properly while still being energy efficient. If you’re uncertain about your home’s ventilation, consult a certified professional. In general, understand your knowledge level and your limitations. If you see something that looks of concern, consult a professional.
Are there advantages to insulating my attic?
Insulating and air sealing an attic are good ways to help reduce your energy waste and save money on your energy bills. To find out if insulating your attic is right for your home, you need to determine: 1) where your home is and isn’t insulated and if the area(s) should be insulated, 2) what type of insulation you have in your home, and 3) the R-value and thickness of the insulation you have. DOE has information about home insulation. Professional energy assessors can also tell you this information. If you’re building a new home, check out Fairfax County’s brochure that explains how much insulation is required.
Heating and Cooling
How do programmable thermostats work?
Programmable thermostats can help you reduce energy used for heating and cooling by 5 to 30 percent as long as they are programmed properly. These devices allow users to enter a schedule to ensure heating and cooling systems only run when needed. Most devices are easy to program, and once you set your heating and cooling schedule, the thermostat will remember it for you.
Have a question? Email EnergyActionFairfax@fairfaxcounty.gov.