With summer and the high costs of cooling straining already stretched budgets for community associations and their members, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is offering advice to help Americans reduce both energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions by one third through Energy Star.
A few minor changes can make a big difference in community association offices, common areas, and members’ homes. Here are some tips to save energy and help protect the environment at work and in your community’s homes:
- Install and use programmable thermostats. It’s usually not necessary for associations to operate cooling systems 24 hours a day. Program your system to scale back on cooling while buildings are unoccupied. You could save hundreds of dollars.
- If you don’t already have them, install ceiling fans in community association facilities. Run them in a clockwise direction to create a wind-chill effect that will make you “feel” cooler. Remember that ceiling fans cool people, not rooms — so turn them off when you leave the room.
- Inspect duct systems throughout areas under the association’s control for obvious signs of leaks and disconnections (most offices and homes leak 20 percent or more). Seal any leaks with foil tape or a special sealant called “duct mastic.” Also consider insulating ducts in unconditioned areas (like attics, basements or crawlspaces).
- Seal air leaks around community association facilities to keep the heat out and the cool air in. The biggest air leaks are usually found in the attic or basement, but also come in around doors, windows, vents, pipes and electrical outlets. Use caulk, spray foam or weather stripping to seal the leaks. And add more insulation to keep areas cooler this summer.
- Maintain your cooling systems. Check your systems’ air filter every month at a minimum and change the filter every three months. Remove leaves, dirt and other debris from around the outdoor components to improve air flow and efficiency. Have a qualified professional tune-up your systems with a pre-season maintenance checkup and, if it’s time to replace your old system, look for models that have earned EPA’s Energy Star.
- Turn off office lights and equipment when not in use so they don’t generate unnecessary heat.
- Replace incandescent light bulbs in your office lamps with Energy Star qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs which use two-thirds less energy and generate less heat than conventional bulbs. These bulbs also are great for use in hard-to-reach fixtures in common areas because they last about 10 times longer than conventional bulbs.
More tips on how to save energy at work: www.energystar.gov/bizcooling. More tips to share with your association’s residents on to how to save energy at home: www.energystar.gov. More hot tips for a cool summer: www.epa.gov/epahome/hi-summer.htm. Share your own in the comments