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Transcript Oct. 4, 2005
Alvin Ubell & Energy Conservation

Alvin Ubell on CNN LIVE at Daybreak

Host of CNN-Daybreak, Carol Costello, asks home inspector and energy conservation guru, Alvin Ubell, to offer homeowners advice on how to cut winter home heating costs, save money and save energy.

Aired October 4, 2005 - 06:30 a.m. ET


SAMUEL BODMAN, ENERGY SECRETARY: Because of the increasing demand for energy and the damage that has been inflicted on America's energy infrastructure in the Gulf Coast region by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Americans can expect to see higher energy costs, higher costs to heat and power our homes, our schools, as well as our places of business.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: In fact, heating bills could double.
Here to talk about what you can do to conserve energy and save money is Alvin Ubell, an energy saving expert. And you've come with props.

ALVIN UBELL, ENERGY-SAVING EXPERT: Yes, I come with things here.

COSTELLO: I love that. I do. Let's go down the list very quickly, because your first bit of advice for people is put on a sweater.

UBELL: Well, yes. You get a sweater. If you're in the house and you put a sweater on, you could save at least 1 or 2 percent on your energy bill, because you'll lower the thermostat, because you will be warmer naturally.

COSTELLO: OK. I'm going to be a whiney homeowner. What are you talking about?

UBELL: Well...

COSTELLO: Lowering your thermostat?

UBELL: Well, here, I've got a thermostat here, which is really -- I just want to let everybody know how it works. And open it up, and there it is. See that thermostat? Can we get a camera on that?

COSTELLO: Yes, we're getting a camera.

UBELL: Right.

COSTELLO: There it is.

UBELL: That's it really. What a lot of people think is that if they turn up the thermostat, and they push it all the way up to the top, the heat will come up faster. It's not a throttle, you know, like a car. You can make it go faster like that. What happens is, if you put it on the right temperature at 70 degrees, and it's a little cold, push it up only a half-a-degree. And then let the heat come up, and then push it down a half-a-degree if you're too warm. Don't go up and down.

A thermostat is no different than a light switch. It just turns the heat on, and it turns the heat off. But the most important thing to understand that...

COSTELLO: Now, hold on before we go on, because, you know, Chad is the biggest penny pincher on the face of the planet. And he has a question for you.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yesterday, we heard from, and I read something from Energy Star, you know, you see that star on all of the appliances. If everybody takes an incandescent light, a 100-watt light bulb, out of their screw bulb there and puts one of those fluorescent lights in there, those instant-on fluorescent lights, if everybody does that and the whole country does that one bulb, that would be like taking one million cars off the road. Are those bulbs that efficient? Is it really that good?

UBELL: Yes, it is. Those are fluorescent kind of bulbs. They use less energy. They use a transformer in order to convert into higher voltage in order to have the fluorescent light work. The thing is that they do save energy.

But the biggest energy-saving thing is insulation, really. People -- the three most important things about saving energy is insulation, insulation, insulation. You wouldn't do out into the outside world with a threadbare sweater. You'll freeze. It's cold. That's why the Eskimos go in 50-degree below zero, and they're able to conserve energy. And they've know about this for literally hundreds and hundreds of years.

COSTELLO: Because they're dressing in layers.


COSTELLO: When you talk about insulation, though, how much should you put in your home extra?

UBELL: It depends upon where in the United States you happen to be. Here in the Northeastern part of the United States, you should have R36 or something like that, like 12″ or 13″ inches of insulation. As you do down further in the South, you could use less insulation.

But insulation not only helps you for the wintertime, but it also helps you in the summertime. It keeps the cool air in that building, and that's what it's all about.

A thermos bottle. You put hot water in it, it stays hot. You put cold water in it, it stays cold. If you think about a house is the envelope of that house and you insulate that house, you don't need an efficient heating system.

COSTELLO: OK. Let's talk specifically about money. So, let's say that I usually set my thermostat at 73 degrees, because I like it warm.

UBELL: You're cooking. About 71.

COSTELLO: OK, I'm cooking. But I'm going to turn it down to 70. So, how much money would I save?

UBELL: Well, for every degree you lower the temperature, you save to 2 to 3 percent of your energy bill. So, if you lower it again and again. If you wear a sweater, you could lower it even more. And...


UBELL: Well, if you go to 68, you'll save quite a bit of electricity -- energy. But you save it only for that period in which you save the energy. It's not for the whole day. It's just for that period.

If you go to work during the day, turn the thermostat way down. You don't have to heat up the house for the cockroaches and the mice. That house should be nice and warm when you come home. And you should buy a clock-type thermostat, which sets the thermostat up maybe an hour or two before you come home. And that's where you'll save energy.

The other thing is what we have to do in the United States is we have to think about putting what are called solar photovoltaics. That could save -- if every house in the United States put in solar photovoltaics on every house, you would save 1.3 billion barrels of oil a year.


UBELL: And that would put a hole in the Saudi's pocketbook. I'm telling you.


MYERS: Yes, I've got one more question, Carol.

COSTELLO: Go ahead, Chad.

MYERS: Can I jump in here real quick?

UBELL: I'll give you two questions.

MYERS: I see that insulation you have there, and that's still the old fiberglass. Is there nothing more high-tech?

UBELL: Oh, fiberglass is more high-tech than you can ever get. First of all, insulation, fiberglass or mineral wool or rock wool or, say, vermiculite, that goes into your house. It stays there forever. You don't have to lubricate it. You don't have to adjust it. It does the work forever as long as that house stays up. And that's so magnificent about insulation.

COSTELLO: You got that, Chad?

MYERS: I do.

COSTELLO: This is good stuff.

MYERS: It is.

UBELL: Well, if people want more information, I have an energy audit that I give away for free of charge. What they can do is they can punch up on the Web site,, and you'll see a little icon there, “energy audit.” Punch it up. Take it down. And go through that energy audit. I guarantee you can save 20 percent of your energy bill if you follow what that energy audit tells you to do.

COSTELLO: Yes, I'm going just because of the way you said it. Alvin Ubell, thank you for joining us this morning.

UBELL: My pleasure.

COSTELLO: You've been terrific.

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