By Donna De Palma
Looking for ways to save money on energy costs? First let’s look at your home’s heating and cooling. As much as half of the energy we use in our homes goes to heating and cooling. Smart choices about heating, ventilation and air conditioning mean big savings.
-About 30% of your total home energy costs is spent on heating your home. Follow this tip: get your heating system inspected before heating season begins. Heat loss from a poorly-maintained system adds up fast. Clean or replace your furnace filter often. Your furnace uses a lot less energy when filters are replaced regularly. Make sure that registers and air return ducts aren’t blocked by furniture or carpets. Ceiling fans, when set on a low setting, help push warm air down from ceilings to more evenly heat your home.
-Try not to overheat your home to avoid overworking your furnace. If your furnace needs replacing, look for one that’s at least 90% energy efficient. A key to energy efficiency is a programmable thermostat. When programmed correctly, your home’s thermostat will automatically raise the heat before you get out of bed in the morning, then turn it down when you go to bed at night. The optimum temperature range is 68 degrees while you’re at home and 65 degrees when your away. If you install a programmable thermostat before winter sets in, you can look forward to a 20% savings on heating costs the first year. Follow a simple rule of thumb: for every degree you turn down your heat, expect to save 1% to 3% on energy costs.
-The cumulative effect of small leaks in your home has the same effect as leaving a window open all year long. To save money, you can use inexpensive expanding foam or caulk available at a hardware store to seal cracks in areas where cold or warm air escapes like windows and door frames and around holes in walls where pipes enter and exit your home.
-More than 50% of the energy we use for winter heating escapes from our homes because of uninsulated walls, floors, ceilings and attics. Check your insulation. Insulation, judged by R-value, has one rule of thumb: the higher the R-value, the better the insulation. Consider adding insulation in your attic. It’s a cost-effective way to reduce heat loss.
-Window treatments can prevent heat from escaping too. Drapery with an insulating liner cuts heat loss by half. Installing storm windows can also cut your heat loss by half. Look for double or triple-pane windows.
-When cooling your home with central air, clean leaves and debris from your outdoor unit. Anything that’s too close to a compressor will block airflow. Make sure your central air conditioning system is the right size for the area you want to cool. Clean your filter regularly. Your air conditioner works harder if filters are dirty.
-Set your cooling thermostat to 78 degrees during the day and even higher when you’re away. Install an attic fan. An attic fan reduces hot air trapped in your attic and prevents it from sinking into rooms below.
-Operate appliances like your dishwasher, dryer and oven in the mornings and evenings because they can add heat to your home and that makes your central air work harder.
-Homes with light or white roofs require up to 40% less energy for cooling than those with black roofs. Studies show you could save at least $120 per year in cooling costs if you install a light-colored roof.
-Your water heater accounts for about 14% of your average utility bill. Set your water heater temperature to 120 degrees to cut bills without sacrificing comfort. Keep your hot water hot by making sure pipes in unheated areas are insulated. Put an insulating blanket around your water heater to hold heat in.
-Maintain your water heater by draining the tank once a year. Turn the incoming water on and off—for about 20 seconds each— to clear. This flushes minerals and sediment from inside the tank to make your water heater run more efficiently.
-Many state and local governments and utility companies offer financial incentives for homeowners to upgrade their appliances to newer, more energy efficient models. Incentives usually take the form of rebate checks for homeowners who can provide proof of purchase.
–Energy Star®, the partnership between the EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy, identifies energy-efficient products and rates them. Make sure your major appliances are Energy Star® and check their rating. A frig with freezer uses more energy than any other appliance in your home. Upgrade your refrigerator to an Energy Star® model, then set the refrigerator’s thermostat between 38 to 42 degrees and your freezer between 0 to 5 degrees. Condenser coils remove heat from inside your refrigerator. They need to be at least two inches from the wall. Clean them twice a year.
-When selecting lighting, LED bulbs are cooler and use less energy than halogen or incandescent bulbs. A 40-watt LED bulb uses only six watts of power, which is 85% less energy than a standard light bulb. LED bulbs can be more expensive to buy but are well worth the investment. Depending on usage, a single bulb can last up to 20 years and costs only 72 cents a year to operate.
-Install dimmer switches and three-way bulbs wherever possible. They’ll use less energy and you’ll have a choice of task lighting in different areas of your home. Take advantage of the reflective nature of walls and light colors. Position lamps in corners so light bounces off two walls instead of one. Place furniture near windows to use natural light, whenever possible.
-For outdoor lighting, try high-pressure sodium bulbs. They’re more efficient and last longer.
-To conserve water, equip your kitchen with an easy-to-install aerator to minimize wasted water and boost water pressure. An aerator allows you to direct water flow where needed for washing and rinsing food or dishes.
-Toilets account for nearly 30% of an average household’s water consumption and even more if they’re leaky. High Efficiency Toilets (HETs) can help you reduce the amount of water you use. HETs combine high efficiency with high performance. An HET uses 20% less water than a standard 1.6 gallon-per-flush toilet while maintaining full flushing power.
-The average American family does almost 400 loads of laundry every year. Energy Star® washers and dryers help cut energy use by up to half, and water use by over 30%.
-Think solar. Global Solar portable solar panels are an innovative way of taking free energy from the sun and convert it directly into electrical power that can be used to power electronics or charge batteries. These panels eliminate the need to use outlet power that’s often generated by burning fossil fuels.
–Kill-A-Watt power meters can help you understand which appliances and electronics use the most energy around your home. This meter is designed to empower you by providing information you need to make decisions about energy use.
Remember, knowledge is power when making smart choices for energy use in your home. The more you know, the more you can save.
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