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By Glenn Haege
(All rights reserved)

There is usually a trade-off between energy efficiency and cost efficiency

Dear Glenn: A few months ago, I was listening to you on the radio. I could have sworn you said you could increase energy efficiency by about 90 percent. I also thought you said you had a book that details all the steps to accomplish this. Am I remembering correctly? Is there such a book? If so, I'd be interested.

Cammie, Metamora, Ill.

Dear Cammie: You probably mean my "100 Most Important Home Improvement Questions."

Unfortunately, that book is sold out and has not been reprinted.

By the way, the 90 percent is faulty memory. I talk about a 90 percent efficient furnace and geothermal heating systems which can reduce your heating and cooling bills by about 70 percent, but I can't tell you how to cut your heating bill by 90 percent.

If you wanted to save 100 percent on your transportation energy bill, I could tell you to use a bicycle, but I doubt that you would do that. There is usually a trade-off between energy efficiency and cost efficiency. For instance, you could install energy collecting shingles on your house. According to PATH, A Public-Private Partnership for Advancing Housing Technology, a flat-plate solar collector system that would be efficient enough to supply very limited hot water needs costs between $2,500 and $3,000 and produces 80 to 100 gallons of hot water per day. If you wanted to install enough solar collectors to supply half your family's electric energy needs it would cost $40,000 or $50,000, and the entire system would set you back about $90,000 or more. And you would still be only 50 percent efficient.

The real choice is between what we presently perceive as quality of life and energy efficiency. If we want to be energy efficient we have to reduce the size of our homes and reduce energy consumption. Unfortunately, all the studies show the usage trend is up, not down.