Don’t Waste Your Money . . . Practice Energy Efficiency and Conservation

A hammer sits next to a broken pink piggy bank, representing your large electric bill.

Don’t Waste Your Money…Practice Energy Efficiency and Conservation

Energy bill too high! Perhaps it’s time to take into account the physics behind your use of energy. The scientific traits of heat and power mean certain appliances and factors unduly affect your energy bills.

If this sounds like high school science class, don’t fall asleep. Taking heed of some of the energy savings tips presented here could save you money.

The U.S. Energy Department estimates that you can lower your energy bill by as much as 25% simply with a commitment to reducing its usage.

Before moving on, let’s first look at the difference between energy efficiency and energy conservation.

  • Energy efficiency is the use of technology that uses less energy to perform a certain function. For example, using LED bulbs rather than traditional incandescent ones, as LEDs require far less energy to light a room.
  • Energy conservation relates to behaviors that result in your using less energy. For example, turning off your computer when it’s not in use.

It should be our goal to be both energies efficient and to conserve energy.

Let’s look at some SMALL MEASURES you can take that can pay off in the long run.

Spare a Watt, Save a Lot. Change those Light Bulbs

One of the least expensive and most effective changes to make is replacing your light bulbs. According to Energy Star, one of its qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs, which cost just a few dollars, “will save about $30 over its lifetime and pay for itself in about 6 months. It uses 75 percent less energy and lasts about 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb.”

In fact, you can stand to realize savings on your lighting bill by switching even a quarter of your high-use lights to compact fluorescents.

If It’s Not in Use, Turn Off the Juice!

It’s likely you have lots of electronics in your home, especially if you have children, more so if they are teens. However, have you ever stopped to think about unplugging them when you’re finished using them?

The term “phantom load” refers to energy that an appliance or electronic device consumes when it is not turned on. According to the U.S. Energy Department, “75 percent of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off.” A report from UC Berkeley reveals that phantom loads account for about 6 percent of all national residential electricity consumption. You can eliminate phantom loads by unplugging appliances and electronics when you are not using them, or by plugging them into a power strip and turning the strip off when they are not in use.

Remember when mom would yell at you for keeping the fridge door open for too long? Yeah, she had a good reason.

Every time you open the fridge door approximately 30 percent of the cold air escapes. This basically leads to more power consumption and a higher electric bill.

Speaking of refrigerators, check the seals to make sure they’re airtight. Otherwise, the appliance has to work harder and use more energy to maintain a steady temperature.

Nuke It!

Cooking only makes up for about 2 percent of the average household’s electric bill, but using a microwave as opposed to the oven or stove can still cut out a large percentage of that cost. Microwaves use less energy and are especially useful in the summer because they don’t contribute extra heat to the kitchen, forcing your air conditioner to work harder than it has to. If, however, you do need to use the stove, make sure to run the exhaust fan to remove as much of the hot air as possible.

How ‘bout those other home appliances?

Other appliances, including dishwashers and clothes dryers, can also heat up your home from the inside. You may want to think about running these appliances in the evening, when the air is cooler, and reducing the burden on your air conditioner.

Think about Getting Rid of that Second Fridge

Nearly 1 in 3 homes have a second refrigerator in our homes. When we purchase a new fridge, we often put the old one in the garage or the basement. We think, “Now I can buy more frozen food when on sale.” Fact is, the cost of running that new fridge is next to nothing; older ones, however, can cost you hundreds of dollars per year. So, the money you thought you were saving buying food on sale is actually going towards your electric bill.

Insulate Those Outlets and Light Switches

Here’s a simple, yet effective project: Outlets and switches can be sources of air leaks, so they need to have insulation added to them, especially when they’re on an outside wall. Just make sure you purchase specialized outlet and switch plate seals, which can be found at most any hardware store. The insulation is made specifically for outlets and plates, so there is no need to worry about electrical sparks or fire.

Three light bulbs in a row, one with a green leaf inside, representing going green and using lights bulbs that produce minimal electrical energy.

Program It

Programmable thermostats can save up to $150 a year on energy costs when used properly. Use one that can automatically turn off your cooling system when you are not home and turn your system on in time for you to arrive home to a cooled house.

This project is a bit more involved than insulating the switch plates, but it’s not necessarily too difficult to do it yourself.

Other quick ways to save electricity;

  • Turn off the light when outside it’s bright. Taking advantage of natural light. During the daytime, keep your drapes open so there’s no need to turn on a lamp to see.
  • Turn off the lights, wasting electricity bites. Turn off the lights every time you leave a room.
  • Running your washing machine and dishwasher only when they’re full also helps save on electricity use.
  • Keep windows shut. Keep your windows closed during the day when it’s hotter outside than it is inside. In the evening, when it has cooled down outside, open the windows to let in cooler air.
  • Cooling the whole house can be expensive. Where possible, shut doors to areas you are not using and only cool the rooms you spend the most time in.
  • Line dry your laundry. Set up a good old-fashioned clothesline in your background and let Mother Nature dry your laundry. If not an option, consider hanging clothes on a drying rack.
  • Change your filters regularly. Keep your HVAC system running at peak efficiency by changing filters every 30 days.
  • Set your thermostat a couple of degrees lower in the winter and higher in the summer.
  • Close off rooms and vents in rooms that are not in use.

Of course, there are ways to conserve energy and be more energy efficient THAT CAN BE COSTLY, but you need to be aware of should you need a new appliance or work performed on your house.

Searching for a New Appliance?

If you are in the market for new appliances, make sure you look for the EPA’s Energy Star label before making your purchase. Energy Star appliances use between 10 and 50 percent less energy and water than their conventional counterparts. They may cost more upfront, but in most cases, they will more than makeup for that additional cost through energy savings.

Make Your Windows More Efficient

The DOE tells us that your windows account for anywhere from 10% to 25% of the heat your home gains and losses, with older windows tending to fall toward the higher end. Many old windows have a single pane of glass, while the newer ones sport two or three panes with an insulating layer of gas sandwiched in between. Plus, these windows have insulated frames, so less heat is lost around the edges. However, replacing windows with these newer high-efficiency windows is a costly job. So, if your current windows are reasonably new and in good shape, replacing them might not be worth the cost.

You Might Want to Think About Temporary Storm Windows

A less expensive way to get the benefits of a multi-pane window is to install temporary storm windows. These are those rigid panes of glass or plastic that you can put up either outside or inside your existing windows, trapping in a layer of heat-blocking air in between.

Who Doesn’t Enjoy Crawling Around the Attic?

According to the U.S Department of Energy, the attic is where most of your homes heat escapes. How’s come? Heat rises and most homes – especially older ones — don’t have enough insulation up there to keep it from getting out. Energy Star estimates you can save up to 20% on your heating and cooling costs by effectively insulating your home.

Install Awnings

The DOE says that awnings can cut solar heat gain by up to 65% on south-facing windows and 77% on west-facing ones. In the winter, your awnings can be removed or retracted to let the warming sunlight in.

A man holds a brown leather wallet filled with a lot of cash. J&A South Park will save you money on your home's electric.

Centralized Air Conditioning Deserves a Distinct Look

Summertime has a lot going for it. There’s pool parties, cookouts, outdoor games and Fourth of July fireworks, to name only a few. On a blazing hot day with temperatures in the 90s and humidity levels to match, it’s certainly tempting to stay indoors with your air conditioner cranked up to the max.

But, as we know, air conditioning comes with a price tag. Energy Star tells us that nearly half of a household’s summertime electric bill is spent on cooling down the home. That can add up to several hundred dollars or more, depending on the size of the house.

There are ways, however, to reduce the cost of air conditioning.

  • First, keep in mind that central air, while convenient, is one of the biggest energy hogs in your home, using about 3,500 watts each hour. By contrast, a window air conditioner can cool one room for one-quarter that amount and a floor fan on high speed can cool you off with only 100 watts.
  • If you use air conditioning, a ceiling fan will allow you to raise the thermostat setting about 4°F with no reduction in comfort. Just make sure to turn it off when you leave the room (fans cool people, not rooms).
  • Running your air conditioning at 78°F instead of 72°F can save between 6 and 18 percent on your cooling bill. The smaller the difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill will be, so set your thermostat as high as possible during the summer months.
  • Placing lamps or TV sets near your room air-conditioning thermostat can cause the air conditioner to run longer than necessary because the thermostat senses heat from the appliances. Set them apart and save energy.

The end result? The less you use your central AC, the more you shrink that electric bill . . . and your carbon footprint as well.

(A reminder: A carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds emitted due to the consumption of fossil fuels by a particular person, group, etc.)

Fun Facts About Saving Energy

  • A heavy coat of dust on a light bulb can block up to half of the light.
  • An energy-smart clothes washer can save more water in one year than one person drinks in an entire lifetime.
  • Every year, more than $13 billion worth of energy leaks from houses through small holes and cracks. That’s more than $150 per family.
  • A crack as small as 1/16th of an inch around a window frame can let in the as much cold air as leaving the window open three inches.
  • True or false? To use less hot water, wash dishes by hand. False! An automatic dishwasher uses about six gallons less hot water than washing by hand. Over a year, that adds up to 2,000 gallons.
  • A hot water faucet that leaks one drop per second can add up to 165 gallons a month. That’s more than one-person uses in two weeks.

If you have additional questions, please don’t hesitate to contact your energy specialists at J&A South Park. They’ll be glad to help you to make your home or business both energy efficient and better equipped to conserve energy.

Remember, if you need something done, call an electrician – they conduit! They’re also well grounded.

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