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Window shading can play a big role in energy consumption of homes. Reuters

A new study looking at ways to reduce energy consumption has found that the most efficient way to save power is to use windows effectively. The infiltration/ventilation rate of the house has the greatest impact on the heating energy consumption, while shading schemes have the greatest impact on the air-conditioning consumption.

The study results showed energy saving of 4.1–10.1% in residential end-use energy consumption by using these simple methods.

Kamiel and Wei Yang and Yaolin Lin, associate professors at the Wuhan University of Technology in China used a holistic and integrated model (BMEOE), which considers the building enclosure, mechanical system, electrical appliances, occupants' behavior, and external environment to simulate the building energy consumption.

Data was collected from 270 households including single and multiple units, as well as different heating methods. All houses were located in the city of Oshawa, Ontario.

The study published in Frontiers advises occupants to vary the thermostat set point temperature to reduce cooling and heating energy demands and to pay attention to the time of use of electrical appliances to avoid peak electricity demand time during the day.

Appropriate window shades can help reduce energy costs. In winter, all it takes is to keep windows closed and augment power by adding solar panels to reduce the heating load. The thermostat temperature needs slight adjustment only during transitional seasons. Finally, of course turn off lights when not needed.

"I was interested to find the trends of energy use in typical households and to understand the consumer behavior and the reasons behind high and low energy consumption. I have a strong belief that, if society boosts energy conservation (as well as other resources), we will have less of a challenge meeting future demands," explained Dr. Gabriel Kamiel.

The least energy consumption was found by applying 0% shading in winter, 50% shading during the transition season, and 100% shading in summer. The next best was seen by raising the thermostat setpoint from 22°C to 24°C in summer while the lowest heating energy consumption seen where more lighting was turned on which generates additional heating in winter, and also a lower thermostat setpoint of 22°C was used in winter.

To calculate the building energy consumption, the researchers simulated the occupants' possible activities on different days for various types of housing using a number of heating and cooling methods. These activities included turning on lights, using electrical appliances and the continuous adjustment of the thermostat.

Several earlier studies have shown that occupant behaviors significantly affect the energy demand of buildings. Over 50 percent of home energy consumption is taken up by cooling and heating needs, but entertainment, appliances, lighting and gadgets are beginning to catch up.The average American home uses 11,700 kWh each year, causing about 7 tonnes of carbon emissions. The global average electricity consumption for households with electricity was roughly 3,500 kWh in 2010.