Energy Unplugged

The Jewish Environmental Initiative held a workshop on “How To Make Your Home More Energy Efficient” on October 23rd. The speakers were Gary Steps, Founder and Chief Visionary at Butterfly Energy Works, and Kathleen Engel, a Certified Green Professional through the National Association of Home Builders who works for HomeNav and Home Green Home, two Green Home-related organizations. Here are some tips from the workshop.

Following as many of these steps as you can will help reduce your energy bills, will help the environment, and will help reduce waste, furthering the Jewish principle of bal tashchit.

• One of the simplest ways you can save energy is by lowering your thermostat in the winter and raising it in the summer. Even one degree will make a difference. Also, programmable thermostats allow you to adjust for different temperatures when you are asleep or away. Adjust your thermostat to a slightly lower setting in the winter when you are at home and to an even lower setting when you are out and you will save, on average, up to $170 each winter.

• Surprisingly, your appliances use a large amount of energy when they are plugged in, even if they are turned off. A large screen TV uses almost as much energy turned off and plugged in as it does turned on. Plug your appliances into a power strip (or even better, a smart strip). Turn the power strip off when the appliances are not in use. You will see a marked reduction in your electric bills.

• Decrease the energy waste in your home by caulking and sealing gaps as well as focusing on your home’s insulation to reduce the leakage of hot or cold air out of your house. Weatherstrip your doors, including the basement door.

• CFL bulbs are much more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs. Begin by replacing the bulbs that are used the most.

• Consider upgrading your heating and cooling systems to make them more energy efficient, especially if your current systems are old. Energy efficient systems reduce your energy costs significantly. A geothermal heat pump can eliminate 80% of your heating costs in the winter, and 50% of your cooling costs in the summer.

• There are significant tax credits that give you cash back just for putting certain green systems in your home. Ask your accountant and/or the company that puts in your new system for information about the rebate and tax credit programs available. There also may be ways to get very low interest loans for some of these improvements. If you live in St. Louis County, go to for information on programs to help finance energy saving projects.

Originally posted on Planet Jewish blog at

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