It's not quite the Olympics, but the Battle of the Buildings sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency kicked off today with nearly 3,300 excited competitors vying for the prize of the biggest energy loser. More of a marathon than a sprint, the contest continues until next April when a winner will be announced. In the meantime, you can take some tips from last year's top 10 and put your home on an energy diet.
Last year, a lowly university parking garage won high praise for reducing its energy use by 63 percent, saving almost $35,000 in utility costs. How did the University of Central Florida do it? By replacing the lights in the parking garage with a combination of fluorescent and LED bulbs. Not only did the school save money but the new bulbs produced better light as well. Collectively, the 245 participants in the 2011 contest saved $5.2 million on their utility bills and prevented nearly 30,000 metric tons in carbon dioxide emissions.
The EPA contest focuses on commercial buildings because they're responsible for about 20 percent of the nation's energy use and greenhouse gas emissions at a cost of more than $100 billion annually in energy bills. By improving the energy efficiency of schools, offices, hospitals and retail stores, competitors can reduce energy waste and save on utility bills while protecting the environment and people's health, says the EPA. Competitors range from a Kmart store on the island of St. Thomas to a crime lab in Phoenix to a federal office building in Nome, Alaska.
This year, the EPA's WaterSense program, in partnership with Energy Star, will recognize top water use reducers as a part of the competition. Here are 15 winning strategies from last year's top contenders that you can incorporate into your own home.
- Install weather stripping around entry doors.
- Insulate attic ceilings.
- Replace old air conditioners with Energy Star units.
- Install programmable thermostats ... and use them.
- Replace all incandescent lightbulbs with CFLs or LEDs.
- Repair leaky duct work in heating and central air systems.
- Install replacement windows.
- Get an energy audit and make recommended improvements.
- Turn off the lights in non-peak hours.
- Turn off computers and TVs when not in use.
- Install timers on lawn sprinkler systems.
- Compost all food waste.
- Install low flow aerators on bathroom sinks.
- Switch to water-efficient toilets.
- Clean or replace AC and furnace filters.
—Mary H.J. Farrell