NOVEMBER 2011 www.consumerreports.org
What to think twice about: Switching utility suppliers: Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have restructured markets that allow consumers to choose where their electricity comes from. Twenty- one states and the District of Columbia have similar residential choice programs for natural gas suppliers. But look before you leap. See “Switching Utilities? Here’s What to Ask,” on page24, for details. Energy all-star: Lux Smart Temp Touch Screen TX9000TS, $80. This pro- grammable thermostat was one of the easiest to use in our tests, and it kept temperatures constant.What’s new: Smaner building practices, developed for new construction, are being used to make existing homes more energy efficient. Available in light and dark colors, cool roofs use special coated pigments to reflect sunlight and emit heat more efficiently than regular roofing. They can reduce cooling costs in warm-weather climates by 20 percent on average, according to the California Energy Commission. Daylighting, the use of windows and skylights to bring more natural light into a home while moderating seasonal temperatures, is another efficient design practice that is on the rise.
What works: Keeping heated air (and cooled air in the warmer months) from leaking out of your home’s roof, walls, and windows could lower your annual energy costs by $500. Start by insulating the attic if it has less than 11 inches of fiberglass or rock wool or 8 inches of cellulose. Then seal and insulate leaky ductwork. Last: eliminate air leaks with a combination ofcaulk, foam board, expand- able sealant, and weather stripping. What to think twice about: Replacing windows solely for the sake of saving energy might not be a good idea. Our Switching utilities? Here’s what to ask: tests found it could take as long as 20 years to recoup that investment. But if your windows Changing your electricity or natural-gas supplier might help you lower your utility have deteriorated, or if you’re bills and support renewable energy. But comparison shopping can be tough, replacing them as part of a larger and the Better Business Bureau warns against exorbitant hidden fees and renova- tion, choosing doublebogus greenenergy claims. Ask these questions to make sure that your bills go glazed windows with an R-value down, not up. Check your state’s public-utility or public-service commission for of about 2 or 3 and low- emissivity more information. (low-E) coatings that manage solar heat gain can help trim your energy • Is the new supplier licensed by your state’s public-utility commission? bills by 10 to 25 percent.
Roffing, Windows, and Doors
Energy all-star: CertainTeed Land- mark asphalt shingle, $67 per square. This laminated shingle, a CR Best Buy, showed very good strength and weather resistance in our tests, and its silver birch, mist white, and star white colors are Energy Star-qualified.
• What is the price per ki lowatt-hour for electricity and perl,OOO cubic feet for natural gas? • Is the rate fixed or variable? • What is the length of the agreement? • Is there a cancellation fee or any other penalty for switching back to your old electricity or gas supplier?
This is a magazine redesign I purposed for Consumer Reports.