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Information for Renters

76 Expert Q&A


A. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) states that, “In 2007, Congress passed the bi-partisan Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), which included new, higher efficiency standards for the basic light bulbs we use today (think of the Edison light bulb). Beginning in January 2012, these new standards required these bulbs to be roughly 25%* more efficient. That is, they were required to consume less electricity (measured in watts) for the amount of light produced (measured in lumens).

“Using light bulbs that comply to EISA’s standards could save consumers nearly $6 billion in 2015. In your own home, upgrading 15 inefficient incandescent bulbs could save you about $50 per year.”

* Source:


A. Lighting accounts for 10%* of the total energy use in the average home in the United States and costs between $50 and $150* per year in electricity. Although that is not much money compared to the cost of operating heating and cooling equipment, it is enough to justify making some efficiency modifications. Also, because it is such a visible energy user, it’s a good place to start teaching kids to be mindful of wasting energy.


* Source: ENERGY STAR®


A. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), “an ENERGY STAR® qualified CFL lasts up to 10 times longer than a traditional incandescent bulb that puts out the same amount of light. An ENERGY STAR® qualified LED bulb will last as much as 25 times longer than a comparable traditional incandescent bulb.”


* Source: ENERGY STAR®


A. No, electric cooking is more efficient than gas cooking. That’s because more heat is absorbed by food cooked on electric equipment than food cooked on gas. That conclusion was reached by using an equation* that measures efficiency: the amount of heat energy (British Thermal Units or “BTUs”) that are consumed by the cooking process divided by the amount of heat absorbed by the food and then multiplying that number by 100. Food cooked on electric equipment “out-scored” food cooked on gas equipment.

* Source: University of Minnesota, 1984


A. The UL Mark on a product means that UL, an independent safety science laboratory, has tested and evaluated the product and determined that it meets UL requirements. At Georgia Power, we recommend that the surge protection chosen for an electrical supply be listed by UL under the UL 1449 listing. UL provides the voltage that the surge protection device lets pass through under the UL test. For a 120 volt application, we suggest you choose a surge protector with a UL listing less than 500 volts.


A. Yes. Homeowners enjoy four major benefits from energy-efficient construction: lower utility bills, increased comfort, higher resale value and qualification for energy-efficient mortgages. Let’s look briefly at each. Lower utility bills are the result of higher construction standards as compared to conventional construction. Increased comfort is because energy-efficient construction techniques virtually eliminate drafts and temperature gradients that make homeowners feel warmer or colder than they really are. Higher resale value results from better constructed, more energy-efficient homes being worth more in the marketplace. A recent survey found that 85% of the respondents believe energy saving features add to a home’s resale value.

Finally, the possibility of qualifying for an energy efficient mortgage is a real advantage. Home buyers purchasing an energy-efficient home with energy consumption that can be documented may qualify for a larger mortgage than they would receive on a conventional home. According to the National Association of Realtors, lenders are now looking closely at the projected utility costs for a home in determining whether a prospective mortgagor can afford both the monthly mortgage payment and the utility payment. In addition, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) and the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) have changed their appraisal forms to include energy efficiency. Finally, Freddie Mac has changed its purchasing guidelines to permit higher loan-to-income ratios for energy-efficient properties.

The bottom line is more prospective homeowners can qualify for these Energy Efficient Mortgages on an energy-efficient home when lenders examine their ability to repay the mortgage.

Q. Should I seal my crawl space?

Posted on August 2012

A. No. Crawl space vents keep moisture from building up under homes and damaging building materials. Don’t be tempted to seal them to save energy. Sealing them could cause costly moisture damage. Foundation vents for the crawl space should be located on every wall, close enough together that there is at least one square foot of free vent area for every 25 linear feet of foundation. Free vent area is that area unobstructed by screens, louvers, or other materials. Heated crawl spaces and basements do not need vents. It is a good idea to cover earth floors with a moisture barrier like plastic to lower moisture levels. In an existing home, only about 80% of the exposed ground should be covered initially, to avoid problems caused by the home drying out too quickly. If you are unsure whether or not your crawl space needs improvements, consider having a BPI Assessment or evaluation performed on your home by one of Georgia Power’s program participating contractors.


A. The advantages of ductless split-systems over room and central air-conditioners are: easy installation, quiet operation, versatility in zoning and design, and security. The split systems also eliminate the loss of cool air as it passes through the ductwork. A key advantage of split systems is their ease of installation. Hook-up requires only a three-inch hole (7.62 centimeters) in the wall for the conduit. Unlike with central air conditioning, you do not need ductwork. Since the compressor in most ductless split-systems is as much as 50 feet (15.24 meters) away from the indoor evaporator, it is usually possible to cool rooms on the front side of the house, while still hiding the compressor in a less conspicuous area. The compressor units also fit well on flat rooftops.

Ductless split-system air-conditioners operate relatively quietly, since the compressor is outside and the evaporator unit’s fan generally runs at a low speed. Variable speed high-efficiency fans are also available.

By providing zone cooling, ductless split-system air-conditioners save energy, since only the rooms that are occupied need to be cooled. A thermostat independently controls each zone. Therefore, operating costs are often lower than those of central systems that cool every room, whether it is in use or not. If you cannot afford to purchase an air conditioner for the whole house, you can also buy the system one zone at a time. A single outdoor unit controls from one to four zones, depending on the size of the unit.

When compared to other add-on systems, split-systems also provide better interior design options. The air handlers can be suspended from a ceiling, mounted flush into a drop ceiling, or hung on a wall. Floor-standing models are also widely available. Most indoor units are low-profile models, no more than seven inches (17.78 centimeters) deep, and come with decorative jackets. Most newer models come with a remote control unit as standard equipment. This allows the positioning of air-handling units high on a wall or suspended from a ceiling, without compromising convenience.

Unsecured room air-conditioners provide an easy entrance for intruders. Split- systems are more secure than window units since there is only a small hole in the wall.


A. We recommend four features: one, indicator lights to show that the device is working and not damaged; two, thermal fusing to reduce the possibility of fire should the surge suppressor fail; three, protection against short circuits by either fuses or circuit breakers; and four, that it’s constructed of quality materials.


A. The advantages and disadvantages of interior insulation for your basement or foundation are as follows:

• It is simpler to install on existing foundation walls
• Material costs may be low since you may use almost any kind of insulation material

• Many types of insulation require separation from habitable spaces by a fire-rated material since they are often extremely flammable and release toxic gases when ignited
• It reduces usable interior space particularly when retrofitted
• It fails to protect the waterproofing or structure as does exterior insulation
• It may become saturated by moisture
• Proper installations of sealant and vapor diffusion retarders are important for adequate performance of interior insulation.


76 Expert Q&A