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Home Energy Resource Guide
When it comes to choosing home energy products and systems, there are a lot of options out there and a lot of important decisions to be made. Fortunately, homeowners can turn to a wide range of energy-related resources for assistance. The following organizations, institutions and companies can provide the information you need to make the right choices for your home and family.
A Consumer's Guide to Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
If you're exploring options for saving energy or thinking of using renewable energy in your home, this site from the Department of Energy is a great place to start. It provides good, basic information on everything from solar electric systems, wind turbines, passive solar design, water heating and insulation to energy audits, daylighting, landscaping, appliances and more. You'll also find details about various types of renewable energy options, including geothermal, hydrogen and biomass energy.
Database of State
Frequently mentioned in our magazine, this valuable online database provides a state-by-state listing of federal, state, local and utility incentives designed to promote the use of renewable energy. By clicking your state on the interactive map on the site's home page, you can find out what types of rebates or incentives are offered where you live. A few minutes spent here could save you thousands of dollars on a renewable energy installation.
Home Energy Saver
This Web-based, do-it-yourself energy audit tool, developed by the Environmental Energy Technologies Division at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, makes it simple for homeowners to identify the best ways to save energy. Just enter your zip code and some basic information about your home and energy usage, and the audit tool will make specific recommendations for improving your home's energy efficiency. And did we mention it's a free service?
At this popular and must-visit online resource, you can view details on all types of Energy Star products, including appliances, lighting, windows, insulation, and home electronics, home office, and heating and cooling equipment. You can also find solutions to common home problems, locate a store in your area that sells Energy Star products, find out if any rebates or incentives are available where you live and access tools such as the Home Energy Yardstick, which can help you determine if your home's energy use is above average (choose the Home Energy Analysis link on the site's home page).
Here's an easy way to lower your energy bills. Just enter your zip code on the home page of this interactive site, and you can locate places to buy energy-efficient products, analyze your home energy use, find out about energy deregulation in your state and locate a local HVAC contractor experienced in energy efficiency.
Choose the Consumer Resources link on this site's home page and you can view a Home Energy Checklist for Action, which suggests simple tasks you can perform today, this week, this month and this year to save energy.
The American Solar
Need to find a contractor in your area who can install a solar energy system for your home? Choose the "Find a Solar Contractor" link on this site's home page, select your state and county from drop-down menus, click the type of system or service you want, and you'll get a list of qualified solar professionals in your area, along with contact information. Many of the professionals are pre-screened and/or are rated by previous customers.
The focus here is on geothermal systems, which use the earth's natural thermal energy to heat and cool homes. At this site you can find out how geo-thermal systems work, locate a local geothermal contractor, view installation tips and access various fact sheets, brochures, videos and reports. You can also check for any incentives offered in your state for installing a geothermal system.
You'll find a number of resources about residential wind power on this site, which is maintained by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. You can view illustrations that demonstrate how wind turbines work and, by clicking the "For Consumers" link at the top of the home page, explore the benefits of wind power or download a PDF version of a consumer's guide to small wind electric systems. You can also access a wind resource map that illustrates the best places in the country for a wind energy installation.
Home Energy Tune-Up
Not sure what you need to do to your home to make it more energy efficient? Consider getting a home energy tune-up. The process, which is available through contractors nationwide, involves four steps: inspection, a detailed analysis of your home, implementation and creating a report that explains how much improvements will cost and how much they'll save you. Services for both homeowners and homebuyers are provided; inspectors are listed by state under the "Get a Tune-Up" link.
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Designed to educate students and teachers about renewable energy, this Canadian site provides information about everything from solar power to biomass energy, while integrating projects that can be conducted in the classroom.
Finally, if you're looking for a list of simple upgrades that can make your home more energy efficient, visit this Web page from the Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH). Among the suggestions: install low-flow fixtures, program your thermostats and have a blower door test conducted on your home. PATH tells you exactly how much you can expect each upgrade to shave off your energy costs.
Jessica Margolis-Pineo, Bob Feeman and Jonathon Brown contributed to this article.