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ed begley, jr.’s

guide to sustainable living Learning to Conserve Resources and Manage an Eco-Conscious Life

To purchase a copy of 

Ed Begley, Jr’s   Guide to Sustainable Living  visit one of these online retailers:    Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Borders  IndieBound  Powell’s Books  Random House

Contents Foreword by Jay Leno Introduction

Section I: Conserve

1 The Green Home Audit 2 Electricity 3 Lighting 4 Insulation 5 Windows & Doors 6 Water Usage

Section II: Produce

7 Solar Power 8 Wind Power 9 Building & Remodeling 10 Garden & Compost

8 11

12 14 28 40 58 76

Section III: Manage

11 Heating Your Home 12 Cooling Your Home 13 Heating Water 14 Decorating & Cleaning

230 232 258 280

Your Home


15 Babies & Nurseries








Photography Credits





112 114 146 166 196

Foreword I first met Ed Begley, Jr., in 1974. It was at a

But Ed and I also have some things in com-

When we installed 54 kilowatts of solar panels

also turned me on to a lot of this stuff, and Jay

show called “Dean Martin’s Comedy Shop.” We

mon. We both had fathers who would yell “Turn

on the roof to help power the garage, Ed helped

Leno’s Garage is a better, greener, and more ef-

were doing the program together. Ed was doing

that crap off” when we left the lights or the TV

me partner it with a 10-kilowatt wind turbine

ficient place because of it. I’m a great admirer of

this “disappearing man with a necktie” bit. I

set on. Ed reminded me that this was a form of

for additional power.

what Ed’s done over the years and he’s inspired

think he continued to do ­stand-­up comedy for

energy conservation, so I guess my father was

I also enjoyed sharing with Ed all of the

several more years before making the decision

an environmentalist. Who knew? Ed and I both

classic alternative fuel vehicles we have at

to focus on acting.

believe in leaving this planet in no worse shape

Jay Leno’s Garage. We looked at my 1916

than we found it. Ed says to “live simply so that

Owens Magnetic Hybrid, one of the earliest

last year, Ed told me that he struggled a bit to

others can simply live.” I think of it as “do no

gas/electric hybrids designed by Westing-

find acting work in the late 1980s and 1990s.

harm.” Ed’s focus is very much on conservation,

house. We checked out my 1925 Doble steam

One of his agents felt it might have been due to

and I think that’s good for many people. Since

car, which is so efficient that it can still pass

his environmentalist lifestyle. I have to admit,

I’ve been lucky enough to have some success,

California emissions standards today. We even

many of us used to make fun of Ed and call him

I’ve tried to make sure that if I’m going to use

took a ride in my 1909 Baker electric car. This

a wacko back then. Of course, many of those

more electricity than the average guy, then I

country really has a history of doing great

Jay Leno

same people have now jumped on the “green”

should be committed to produce that power

things, which I think is why both of us are

Jay Leno’s Garage

bandwagon, as if they’d been doing these

myself in a sustainable way.

hopeful for the future.

During an appearance on The Tonight Show

things all this time too. I give people like

about automobiles and motorcycles. I have a

was right.

fairly large garage where I keep cars and work

A lot of the things Ed does in his life really


you, too.

There’s no question that Ed is a bit of an

As many people know, I’m quite passionate

Ed a tremendous amount of credit—this guy

a lot of deadbeats like me. I hope he can inspire

oddball, as well as a little cheap. But he has

on them. Ed has been over to the garage several

wouldn’t work for me. He lives in a house that

times in the last year or two for visits. The first

is, like, seven square feet—I think it’s a con-

time Ed visited Jay Leno’s Garage, I was a little

verted Fotomat booth or something. He rides

nervous—it was like having your ­mother-­in-­law

his bike a lot—I think it takes him ­twenty-­eight

giving your place the ­white-­glove test. But

hours to ride across town to work. He has a

Ed was very encouraging to me as I told him

solar oven in his backyard that he uses to cook

I wanted to make the garage green and get it

food. It’s sort of like frying ants with a magni-

off the power grid. He advised me on utilizing

fying glass. When his family asks “When will

nontoxic cleaning products for the garage and

dinner be ready?” his reply is “Tuesday.”

installing a new ­high-­efficiency water heater.




Introduction the last two years of my life have

Now with this new book, Ed Begley, Jr.’s

been unbelievable. I’ve been filled with hope,

Guide to Sustainable Living, I want to really

watching Americans from all walks of life em-

turn on that green GPS unit and take a very

brace the environmental challenges of today

specific look at my entire journey so that I can

with action and optimism. Getting ­e-­mails from

answer all of your great questions.

­red-­state Republicans that say things like, “I may not always agree with you politically, Mr. Begley,

as my friend paul connett likes to say,

but where do I get one of those barrels to catch

there are two kinds of thinkers today: ­back-­end

rainwater?” makes me realize that this is a chal-

thinkers and f­ ront-­end thinkers. Imagine your

lenge we all understand and want to overcome.

bathtub faucet is stuck and water is pouring

Although I think many people give me way

onto the floor. B ­ ack-­end thinkers start to bail

too much credit, if the example I’ve set in my

water using a cup. When they find the cup is

life has been the inspiration for some people to

too small, they switch to a bucket. When they

make positive changes in their homes and busi-

find the bucket still isn’t keeping up, they bring

nesses, then I’m eternally grateful.

in a pump to bail the water. When that’s not

In my first book, Living Like Ed, I tried to summarize my ­thirty-­nine-­year ­eco-­journey and all of

Answering all of your questions about making your home—and your lifestyle—greener

enough, they bring in an even larger pump in an attempt to keep up.

the things I had done in various areas of my life—

The ­front-­end thinker, on the other hand,

including my home, my transportation choices, my

turns off the tap to the bathtub, and then be-

efforts to recycle and save energy, and much more.

gins the process of cleanup. In this book, I’ve

Since that book came out, I’ve received

tried to take a f­ ront-­end thinker approach to

incredible feedback from people all over the

going green. If you make the right decisions

country, including an avalanche of advanced

and do things in the proper order, you can put

questions on various green subjects. People

money in your pocket, reduce waste and pol-

are hungry for answers, and I feel that since I

lution in the city where you live, reduce our

started this green journey for my readers, I’d

overall dependency on Mideast oil, and lead a

better join them on the ride.

healthier and more t­ oxin-­free life. And who isn’t

If the first book was a map, I tried to give

for all of those things?

everyone the correct ZIP code for Ecotopia. We

Please join me on this journey to make your

even visited some of my favorite points of inter-

home—and your lifestyle—greener and health-

est along the way.

ier and better overall in so many ways.



i know, for a lot of folks, it’s really tempting to go straight to the shiny, sexy stuff, like installing solar panels or a ­whole-­house fan or geothermal heating and cooling. But before you mount solar panels on your roof, before you invest in a residential wind turbine, before you buy new windows, before you install more insulation—in fact, before you spend a dime on changes to your home and your lifestyle—you’ll want to have someone perform a green energy audit on your home. This audit will identify the areas where you can conserve energy, where you can become more efficient. This type of audit will establish a

The Green Home Audit

baseline: It’ll give a snapshot of where you are right now. I promise you, the time and money you invest in an energy audit will pay off several times over. In order to take your level of green up a notch, first you want to conserve. Establish a baseline, see the challenges you face with your home, and see where you can improve the situation. Then go from your baseline to a lower ­energy-­usage position before you do anything else. First you want to work to get your use of electricity down to the lowest possible level. Only then can you start to think about creating your own electricity

Measuring Your Carbon Footprint

­on-­site. Otherwise, you’re just going to be overproducing electricity, and that’s wasteful in many, many ways. Let’s begin with some ways to establish that ­all-­important baseline.

Different Types of Green Audits

Tap into Free Resources First When you look at the different levels of green home audits, the first two typically are free—at

The best way to figure out your home’s energy

no cost to you, the consumer. So start with the

performance is to perform a green home energy

free options and consider the results.

audit. This term is used a lot these days. Some

A great example of a free audit is on the

people call it a green home audit. Some call it

Energy Star website (see Resources, page 340).

an energy audit, but the terms are not always

In the website’s section on home improve-

used to describe the same types of activities.

ment, you’ll find the interactive Energy Star

Actually, there’re all different kinds of green

Home Energy Yardstick. You’ll need to have

home audits and energy audits. Some audits

your last twelve months of utility bills (or ask

look at your electricity use. Some look at your

your utility company or companies to get you

natural gas use. Some look at your water

a twelve-month summary). Plus, you’ll have to

use. Some look at all of the above. Some also

enter some basic information about your house,

consider your recycling habits and your waste

including the following:

management. And some go so far as to consider your overall carbon footprint. For simplicity’s sake, we can break down the offerings into three levels of green home audits. From the most basic to the most detailed and involved, you can 1. use an online resource to get a general idea of your home’s energy use 2. contact your local utility company for an audit, which is often free 3. get a professional green audit, in which a company sends representatives to your home to evaluate your energy usage, water usage, and more Another really valuable type of home audit is a green home health issues audit. Many profes-

• your ZIP code • your home’s age • its square footage • the number of occupants The site will tell you how your home’s energy efficiency compares with similar homes across the country, and it provides recommendations for ­energy-­saving home improvements. If you want more detail, another great free resource online is ENERGY Guide (see Resources, page 340). Check that site to see if your electric or gas company offers a “personalized energy center.” Many utilities from all across the United States are included. Once you choose the link for your utility, you can get some pretty helpful information.

sional energy auditors will address potential health threats from your home during their audits, too.



the green home audit


Utility Company Audits

people about our rebate programs at the time,

easy online tools. When you’re ready to inves-

The site then gives you a LILI—that is, a

Another option for a free audit is to contact

if we feel that they’re appropriate. We have

tigate even further, there’s one other great and

Low Impact Living Index number. This score

your local utility company directly and see if

rebates for attic insulation, w ­ hole-­house fans,

still free tool: the most ­in-­depth free resource

lets you know how you compare with other

it offers h ­ ome-­inspection-type audits for its

refrigerator purchase and recycling, LCD moni-

I’ve run across, which is on Low Impact Living’s

homes in your area, and it reflects not just your

customers. Many utility companies will do this

tors, and recently added solar attic fans, ceiling


carbon footprint but your entire environmental

to help you conserve energy and to help you

fans, and the new ­energy-­efficient pool pumps.”

better understand your utility bills, too.

So before you have someone visit your house, I highly recommend using this site’s free

To encourage customers to get these free

this number is, the better.

Naturally, these types of audits focus

audits and take steps to conserve energy use,

household impact calculator (see Resources,

specifically on the service provided by the

some utility company auditors also give home­

page 340). It covers all the environmental

garding how to lower your Low Impact Living

particular utility company. So if the utility

owners compact fluorescent lightbulbs and

impacts for your household—carbon emissions,

Index number. Some of the relatively simple

provides both natural gas and electricity, the

other useful items to help them save energy—

energy usage, water usage, trash production,

suggestions include, for instance,

audit will cover both.

all part of the package.

water runoff on your property, and even more.

These audits can be very helpful. For ex-

A free audit may not be the most ­in-­depth

To get you thinking about things you might

ample, Silicon Valley Power (see Resources,

energy audit available, but it’s obviously well

want to change, the calculator asks some really

page 340) in Santa Clara, California, will send

worth sixty minutes of your time.

valuable questions about:

a specialist to customers’ homes for free. The

q the age of your heating and cooling

audit is quick and painless. It takes just an

Household Impact Calculator

hour or less. The specialist will walk through

Free utility company energy audits are re-

your home and evaluate your refrigerator (or

ally useful, and so are some of the quick and

systems q how often you use your ­air-­ conditioning

refrigerators), your dishwasher, your washer

q how many loads of laundry you do each

and dryer, and your lighting. The specialist also


will ask questions about your energy habits,

q how many times you run the dish-

how many people live in your home, and other


important information.

The site then provides many suggestions re-

• installing l­ ow-­flow showerheads • installing ultraefficient toilets • installing a h ­ igh-­efficiency dishwasher • replacing your incandescent lightbulbs • increasing ceiling insulation • planting shade trees • reducing the temperature setting on your water heater • buying carbon offsets for airplane travel Alongside each suggestion, you’ll find a number indicating how much the change will

q how many refrigerators you have, how

lower your LILI score. I find this to be a really

The specialist will come armed with copies

old they are, and how large they are

helpful resource. It goes into considerably more

of two years’ worth of your utility bills. They’re

q how many of your lightbulbs are com-

detail than the other free resources I’ve found.

looking for any trends in usage, including

pact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs)

seasonal shifts with your winter heating and

q your recycling habits

A Professional Green Home Audit

summer ­air-­conditioning.

q information about your yard

Once you’ve taken advantage of all the free

q how many vehicles you have, including

resources and you’ve gotten a general idea of

“The auditor usually will give recommendations for ways to save energy right at the

their year, make, model, and annual

your home’s energy consumption, the next step

audit,” says Leslie Mackenzie of Silicon Valley


is to hire a professional to visit your home to

Power. And it includes information on ways to

q how many short, medium, and long

save money when you invest in newer, more

airplane flights you take each year

perform a thorough green audit. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of getting an expert to come out and do a home energy audit.

­efficient appliances and other items. “We talk to


footprint. The average score is 100. The lower


the green home audit


Before you get too concerned about the money

without it. This infrared gun is a ­heat-­sensing camera, basically. It will tell you where your

you’ll spend with this audit, think of it as an in-

home is losing heat in the wintertime and

vestment, rather than a cost. If your electricity

where it’s letting in heat in the summer.

and gas bills combined come to more than $100

The prices for these services range from

each month, having a professional perform an

$100 or $200 for a basic audit to $1,500 or

energy audit will pay for itself in a very short

more, depending on the size of your house

time—maybe even within the first year. Remember all the benefits this audit will

and the size of your property. Naturally,

property and do a detailed evaluation. • They look at your overall carbon footprint. • And then they play “what if ” using sophisticated computer models, so they can tell how much of a difference

give you—beyond the financial. You may be

it will make in your house—on your

­quarter-­acre of land will cost a lot less than

able to improve your health and the health of

energy bills—if you make a particular

an audit of a 6,000-­square-­foot home on fifteen

your family by performing a green audit. If you


landscaped acres.

were able to reduce allergies and reduce other health issues, how much would that be worth to you? It’s invaluable, isn’t it?

price. And speaking of analysis, some compa-

They also bring in ­high-­tech equipment to detect leaks or to find places where the insu-

nies will give you your audit results and also

lation may have settled in your walls, if the

take the next step: analyzing what various

indicators point to that type of a problem, and

changes will cost and how much money you’ll

finally they provide a useful report to you.

Low Impact Living’s Approach

save as a result. This cost/benefit analysis is incredibly valuable, since it basically provides a road map for you to follow as you make the

The Questionnaire Before the people at Low Impact Living

types of changes that will help you conserve

So what do you get when you pay a green home

perform an audit, they have the homeowner

field, and different companies within this field

energy and water and make your home even

auditor to work for you? If you’ve been watching

fill out a questionnaire and provide his or her

do things differently. Some will mostly look at

more efficient.

my TV show, Living with Ed, you’ve seen Jason

utility bills. “The utility bills are really criti-

Performing green home audits is a pretty new

Pelletier and Jessica Jensen, the folks from Low

cal,” says Jason. “By looking at all the bills over

Impact Living, in action.When Low Impact Liv-

the course of a year, you can really understand

blower door testers—to figure out how well your

Finding a Company to Perform an Audit

ing performs an audit, the team members leave

what the drivers of energy or water use are.

home is sealed and insulated. Some will look at

It’s not difficult to find a company that per-

no part of your home unexamined:

Is it irrigation? Is it heating? Is it cooling? Is

your appliances and your lighting, both indoors

forms green audits or energy audits (you can

and out. Some will look at your water usage and

do a Google search).

your heating and cooling systems. Some will bring out some fancy equipment—duct testers,

your carbon footprint as a whole.

it lighting? • They look at energy and water and

Low Impact Living, which is based in the

utilities and recycling.

“So before we even go into somebody’s home, from the questionnaire we’ve done and look-

Los Angeles area, has associates all around

• They look at indoor air quality.

ing at the utility bills, we have some sense for

make sure these folks have, and that’s an

the country, and if you visit their website (see

• They look at your behavior and how it

where we need to really focus our time. That

infrared gun that can measure heat. If your

Resources, page 340), you can search for repu-

home auditor ­doesn’t have an infrared gun, tell

table, highly skilled individuals in the energy

them thanks, but the audit isn’t worth a penny

audit realm near you.

There’s one specific tool that you want to


• They go through your home and your

an audit of a 1,200-­square-­foot home on a

The extent of the analysis also affects the

Duct-­pressure testing can show if there are any leaky ducts in your home.

• They look over your utility bills.

affects the overall picture at your home. • They even look at your transportation habits.


being said, we don’t ignore any part of the home, but this information gives us a way to prioritize what we’re doing.”

the green home audit


The ­In-­Home Evaluation

furnace, your air conditioner, your water

After the prep work, Low Impact Living sends

heater, and all of your appliances, including

your property and sketch that out, too. In other

A green consultant can visit you and give you

a team into your home to do an evaluation,

the pool and spa, if you have those. They look

words, when it rains, where does the water

a basic audit for maybe $100 to $175 an hour.

which usually takes three or four hours. You

at the lighting in your house—not only the

that falls on your yard and your roof go? They’ll

This should include an instant evaluation of

should always be home while they’re perform-

bulbs and the type and the size, but also the

map out your downspouts and they’ll try to

where the obvious issues are. What Low Impact

ing the audit, because questions about your

controls, whether you have things on timers or

understand, based on the elevation of your

Living does next is what I think makes their

lifestyle—which rooms you use, what tempera-

dimmers, etc.

property—hills, low areas, and so on—if the

audits especially valuable. They use their own

water is running off into a natural area where

computer models to analyze your home, your

ture you set your thermostat at, even which

They’ll ask you questions, again, about your

The Analysis

window coverings you open and close each

habits and activities. How often do you use

it will sink in or it is going straight out to the

habits, and your current spending, and then

day—are critical to their evaluation. So they’ll

these appliances? Does your ­air-­conditioning

street or storm drain.

they make specific recommendations, letting

walk through the house and through your front

run all day and all night? When do you do

and backyards with you, asking questions and

laundry? They’ll look at other electrical devices,

sort of irrigation system. You’ve got sprin-

gathering information.

like TVs and computers and stereos.

klers or you’ve got a drip watering system

A home auditor takes measurements, inside and out. They sketch out a floor plan, how big

If you’re like most people, you have some

All of this information is gathered to

you know how much the changes will cost and how much you can expect to save as a result. For example, they will try to figure out how

or some combination of the two. The auditor

much energy and water your house uses, what

evaluate the energy part of the assessment.

will spend some time evaluating the system

its carbon footprint is, and so on. They plug all

your rooms are, where the windows are, and

This gives the auditor raw data needed to

and asking you, again, about your behavior.

that information into the computer, and then

how big they are. They sketch out the landscap-

calculate your energy use and to do some

Do you take out the hose and hand water? Do

they can start playing with “what if ” scenarios.

ing. How much is hardscaping (stone or con-

modeling to see what changes will have the

you have everything set on timers? If not, how

For instance:

crete or even gravel areas), how much is lawn,

most profound effect. This information also

long do you run each set of sprinklers and

how much is trees and shrubbery. They draw

helps to assess your overall carbon footprint,

how often?

this all out on a map of your property.

which is part of the total environmental

The next step is to look at the building envelope. “We look at the windows and how

The auditor also will look at all your household products, primarily your cleaning products


and any hazardous waste storage area. They

But the audit ­doesn’t end there. The next

• What would happen if you swapped out all of your old appliances for new Energy Star appliances? • What would happen if you were to install new insulation?

they’re constructed and built,” says Jason. “We

step is to look at your water usage, both in-

look into your recycling habits and your waste

look at the insulation levels. And in insulation,

doors and out. Inside your house, they’re going

production and waste management.

we look at the attic. We look at the walls. We

to be looking at flow rates, and they’re also

look at the subfloor, either above the basement

looking for leaks in toilets and drips in sinks—

you if there are any particular interior design

or underneath the crawlspace. And then we

things like that. After all, fixing a leak is some

or remodeling tips that you’re looking for or if

look at whether the pipes and the ducts are

of that easy, ­low-­hanging fruit that you want to

you have any other concerns. This is the time

insulated. We also try to do a sort of qualita-

pick first—some of the ­no-­brainer stuff you can

to mention that you’ve been wanting to change

change would be from an environmental

tive assessment of the ceilings, windows, doors,

do to reduce your use of water.

your windows, or to ask about solar attic fans

perspective, and they also look at the financial

versus attic vents, and so on. It pays to put

implications. How much would it cost and how

at the type of landscaping you have, you’ll find

together a list of questions before the auditor

much would it save?

out if you have ­drought-­tolerant plants or not

comes, and you can always add to it as you

and if they are native plants or not.

walk through the property with your auditor.

ducts, wiring, and plumbing fixtures and the attic itself.” After that, they go through all the different systems in your house. They look at your


A respectable auditor will look at runoff on

Finally, before the auditor leaves, he will ask

When the auditor moves outside and looks


• What would happen if you installed new windows? • What would happen if you added solar panels to your roof ? They look at what the benefits of each

Low Impact Living has many separate computer models. They have models to consider

the green home audit


heating and cooling and refrigerators and dish-

These changes are cheap and easy to make.

your electric bill and check. Did it really save

washers. They have models for renewable energy

In fact, these are the same kinds of things that

say you follow one recommendation that a

you 50 k ­ ilowatt-­hours? It did! That sort of posi-

options, like solar electricity and wind power. It’s

I talked about in my first book, Living Like Ed.

company like Low Impact Living says should

tive feedback will encourage you to take the

pretty amazing, sophisticated stuff.

We’ll look at many of these changes in the next

save you 50 ­kilowatt-­hours of electricity each

next step and the next and the next to make

couple of chapters.

month. After some time has passed, get out

your home even more energy efficient.

Once they’ve done all of this analysis, they produce a report and they sit down with the

Once you’ve taken care of the ­low-­hanging

client and explain the report. They’ll even help

fruit—once you’ve made all the really easy

pick specific products and services, so if, for

changes—then you can move up the ladder

example, new windows are called for, you know

from there, if you will, and do some of the

just what kind to shop for.

­medium-­ticket changes, then, finally, you

This home audit first shows you how to conserve energy and conserve water, then, if appropriate, it explains how you could produce

Sample Costs and Paybacks: Green Home Audit

can plan and save to make the ­big-­ticket changes. For instance, in the middle range, you might

The type of green home audit that I had was very thorough and it cost $1,000. That’s a

power. The auditor will even do the same type

consider getting a new, ­energy-­efficient dish-

of analysis that a solar installer would do to

washer and installing an ­energy-­saving, pro-

tell you exactly what size solar or wind system

grammable thermostat. You could add window

you can change in your particular home that will cost only a few dollars but that will

you would need, and how much that would cost,

treatments like blinds that will help block the

produce real energy savings. Some of these changes will even be free, if you can adjust

as well as what rebates you’re entitled to.

hot summer sun and reduce cooling needs.

your lifestyle ever so slightly—say, if you can get in the habit of opening and closing your

big chunk of money, but I guarantee you it was money well spent. A good green home audit will help you find that ­low-­hanging fruit: the specific things

Then you might start saving money for

drapes or blinds each day, or if you can get in the habit of turning off unused electronic

­bigger-­ticket changes, such as adding insulation

Easy Changes and Bigger Steps

devices, or if you can stop overwatering your yard.

in your attic and your walls and under your

So, yes, you may spend a thousand dollars to get this good advice, but depending on

home, getting an ­energy-­efficient refrigerator,

your lifestyle and your particular home, you could save hundreds of dollars each year by

or installing new dual-­or t­ riple-­pane windows.

making a few small changes. So your payback could be within a couple years, easily. But even beyond that, a good green home audit will help you prioritize bigger changes

Whether you choose a sophisticated analysis

The goal of having a green audit performed is

so you spend your money wisely. Maybe you think your windows are allowing a lot of

like the ones performed by Low Impact Living

so you can first identify the areas where you

heat to escape in the wintertime, but a green home audit could reveal that the problem is

or you do something more basic to start with,

need to conserve. Sure, your ultimate goal may

actually a lack of insulation in your walls. Once you know that, you won’t spend thou-

almost every green home audit is going to turn

be to produce all of your own power ­on-­site. But

sands of dollars on new windows and be disappointed in your lack of energy savings.

up some of the same simple changes you can

first you need to reduce your power needs. By

make, which are the first steps most people

making all—or even most—of the changes rec-

will affect your home’s energy efficiency the most. It should even show you how much

are going to want to attempt. We’re talking

ommended from a green home audit, you may

those changes will cost, so you can start saving to make b ­ igger-­ticket modifications.

about things like choosing compact fluorescent

be able to cut your electricity use by as much

And you can relax, knowing that the changes you make will make a real difference to the

lightbulbs, changing air filters, taking shorter

as 50 percent.

environment, to your wallet, and to your quality of life.

showers, and turning off the tap while you’re brushing your teeth.


also as a way to measure your progress. Let’s

A good green home audit absolutely will help you identify the specific changes that

The great thing about an ­in-­depth green home audit is you can use it as a roadmap and


the green home audit


Ed’s Project

Ed’s Green Home Energy Audit

REAS also came back another time and did a whole different test on my house. This was a blower door test. Basically,

Please don’t think I’m telling you to go out and pay someone to do a green home

they put a large fan on my front

energy audit on your house when I ­wouldn’t do the same thing myself. I’ve been

door and blew a lot of air into

a believer in these audits from the first time I heard about them. But it was my

the house. Then they were able

first experience with one that took things to a whole other level.

to go around the house, using

As you probably already know, I’ve been going down this e ­ nergy-­saving path

a pressure gauge, to identify

since 1970. I’ve done a lot of work to my 1936 ranch house since I bought it back

where air was leaking out.

in 1988. I’m very much aware of the value of things like insulation and compact

They could identify where seals

fluorescent lightbulbs and programmable thermostats. But having a green home

were bad, where caulking was

energy audit was an ­eye-­opener, even for me. I had the folks from REAS Inc.

needed, where I needed new

(see Resources, page 340) perform an audit at my house. And they brought that

weather stripping. They even

­all-­important infrared gun.

went under the house into the Caulking your windows is an easy first step to insulating your home.

Since it was wintertime, they turned the thermostat way up for thirty minutes to get the house really hot. Then they went around the house with the infrared

crawl space. That ­two-­part green home

camera. They were looking for cold spots, which showed up as dark areas on

energy audit added quite a few things to my t­ o-­do list. REAS helped me create a

the camera.

plan for additional attic and wall insulation. The people who installed the insu-

In the summertime, they look for hot spots, which appear light on the camera.

lation for me came back and filled in all those nooks and crannies that needed

This way they can see where the heat is and where it is not.

yet more insulation. And I sealed up all the leaks REAS found. I also put in more

To my surprise, there were many places around my house where we needed

window and door weather stripping. And I even sealed the crawl space under

to fill in insulation. Even though I had recently added more insulation to my

my house (for more on that see Chapter 4).

home, they found several areas—many, many areas—where heat was escaping

Then I had REAS come back and perform these same two tests again, to be

from the house in the wintertime, and where heat could enter the house in

sure I had completely solved all those problems, and found all those places

the summertime.

where energy was leaking right out of my house and money was leaking right

So the infrared gun is a great way to start to determine where your home needs

out of my wallet. And you know what? My energy usage and energy bills are

more insulation, since it will identify right away some of the most offensive

now the lowest they’ve been since the late 1980s!

spots. An infrared sensing device is essential to find where your insulation is and where it is not.

To purchase a copy of 

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Ed Begley, Jr.'s Guide to Sustainable Living