Reducing energy use in the home
As a part of a crew project, the Kazyaks read the book "Low Carbon Diet: A 30 Day Plan to Lose 5,000 Pounds," which helps readers to calculate how much carbon dioxide they release through their activities and lifestyle, and consequently, how they can reduce that load. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas linked to global climate change.
The Kazyaks were also interested in buying solar panels, but knew they did not have the roof space to generate enough solar power to meet all of their needs. So before installing their solar panels, they used "Low Carbon Diet" to help evaluate where they could reduce their electrical use in their home.
An easy target was replacing their appliances, most of which were 25 years old anyway, Paul said.
In fact, he was able to use a thermal camera that belonged to the Venturing Crew to literally see just how wasteful some of his appliances were. Looking through the camera, he could see blue frosty waves emanating through his freezer door as the cold air leaked out of its insufficient seals.
In addition to buying Energy Star-certified appliances, the Kazyaks also downsized their appliances in some cases, such as their freezer, since their children were gradually going to college and moving out of the home. For their new refrigerator they opted for one that does not have an ice dispenser on the front door, Clare said, a feature that uses a significant amount of energy.
When their hot water heater started to leak in the basement, Paul quickly did research to see what the most efficient model would be that he could buy as a replacement.
While he was interested in an instant hot water heater, he realized it would take several weeks to order one.
Since it was an emergency situation, he opted instead for a heat pump hot water system, which is two to three times more efficient than a standard electric hot water heater.
Lighting accounts for 18 percent of the nation's electrical use, according to the U.S. Energy Star program, so the Kazyaks got away from incandescent lighting several years ago, first turning to CFLs and now gradually expanding into LED lights. Clare said she can find the CFLs a little too dim, but the LED lights use even less electricity while producing a stronger, brighter light.
Another source of electrical waste that most people don't consider is what Paul calls "vampire electricity," or electricity being drawn by electrical items that are off but still plugged in.
To reduce this waste, they started using power strips with off switches that stop items plugged in from continuing to draw power, or just unplugged certain items, like phone chargers, when they weren't in use.
Through all of these improvements, the Kazyaks were able to reduce their monthly electrical use from an average of 1,300 kWh to 500 to 750 kWh, Clare said, and their solar panels, which they purchased in 2010, produce 500 kWh.
"We've actually had many electric bills of $0," Clare said.