Electricity: Let’s Be Safe and Save a Few Bucks this Winter
As a Trane Comfort Specialist, we’re always intent on providing our readers with suggestions that are both informative and of interest to them as energy consumers.
In this blog, we’re going to offer several “tips” on the use of electricity to help make the upcoming winter months comfier, less costly, and safer as you begin to spend more days indoors, perhaps even more than usual with the current Coronavirus pandemic.
We depend largely on our furnaces and space heaters to keep our homes warm and cozy during any Pittsburgh winter. While it’s true that electricity usage can spike substantially with all the heating appliances in use, it’s essential to be familiar with recommendations that illustrate how we can reduce overall electricity costs as well as staying safe.
In the interest of spreading the word about energy conservation and safety, we’ve compiled a list of the best tips to follow to keep both warm and safe this winter.
We’re going to first look at some tips to save money on your winter electric bills.
Tip #1: Spend less on lighting
We are prone to spending more on lighting our houses in the winter. After all, with days getting shorter, lights are turned on earlier for everyday tasks like cooking and reading.
You might want to try using energy-saving compact fluorescent or LED Light bulbs. We know you rolled your eyes when your spouse brought home those new energy-saving light bulbs.
The truth is, they are more efficient, last longer, and use less power, so you pay a smaller amount each month on your bill. Yes, these bulbs will cost a bit more upfront, but you can save big bucks over time just by switching them out.
These energy-conserving LED bulbs fit most standard fixtures, but if you happen to have an older fixture that won’t fit an energy-saving bulb, think about switching the light to a lower wattage.
While using a higher wattage than a light fixture allows triggers a fire hazard, you are free to use lower wattage bulbs safely. Consider reduced wattage bulbs of “soft white” in older fixtures to use less power.
You might also consider installing dimmer switches that let you set the brightness in a room to suit your needs while saving electricity. Some dimmer switches can even be controlled by an app on your phone, making them even better at saving electricity.
During the day, make use of natural lighting as much as possible. Open the curtains and let the daylight in, using loose-weave curtains to protect your privacy. These can also help save on heating costs.
Tip #2: Turn it off
Everyone knows this, but sometimes there is a disparity between knowing and doing. Turn off your lights when you leave a room and turn off the television when no one is watching. If you have a game system or sound system that runs independent of the TV, turn those off, too. You can even purchase a power strip that hooks all these electronics into one on/off switch.
Tip #3: Check phantom energy and unplug your appliances
No, we’re not talking about ghosts. We’re talking about phantom energy – a little something that happens when appliances use up energy even when they’re turned off.
Did you know that many of your appliances use “stand by” power when they are plugged in but not actually in use? According to the Department of Energy, 75 percent of home electronics’ electrical use occurs when they’re turned off. You can save on electricity by simply unplugging your appliances when they are not being used.
Now, we’re not telling you to unplug the TV every time you turn it off, but what about that cappuccino machine or that blender that you might use a couple of times a week? It’s also a good idea to unplug phone and computer chargers when you are not using them since they too draw power when you aren’t charging something.
Afraid that you’ll lose your settings on your computers and TVs? Don’t worry; newer models have a memory chip that resets everything when your power back up. However, if you still use an old VCR or other devices that flash when the power goes out, keep it plugged in.
Tip #4: Don’t run your appliances unless they’re full
Yep, we’re chatting about your dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer. If your kid comes home from football practice with super dirty, reeking clothes, resist the temptation to wash them on their own. It’s a fact that one of the top money wasters is running your washing machine for just a few pieces of clothing.
When it comes to the dryer, the rules are the same. Don’t use the dryer on anything but a full load, make sure not to over-dry your clothes and aim to dry similar items at the same time. There’s nothing more distressing than spending an hour drying your towels and t-shirts only to discover your towels aren’t anywhere near to drying.
Tip #5: Look for the Energy Star label.
When you shop for appliances, look for the Energy Star label. It means the appliance meets certain energy-efficient guidelines. Energy Star says that appliances bearing its label can cut your energy bills by 30 percent. But you don’t have to replace everything to see savings. Just replacing an eight-year-old refrigerator with a new Energy Star model can save $110 a year or more in electricity.
Not sure what to do with an old appliance? Recycle it. Don’t salvage and resell it – that only passes the electricity-hogging appliance along to someone else. Check with your utility company for programs for appliance pick-up and recycling.
Tip #6: Perform an electricity audit
Don’t let the word audit frighten you. Basically, this means going through and assessing electric usage in your home. For the best (and most in-depth) audit, you might want to call in an expert from your local electric company. The best part: A lot of electric suppliers offer this service for free.
So, what happens during an audit? You can assume the pros will ask you about what you’re hoping to accomplish and what worries you might have. They’ll run tests, inspect your home for air leaks, and check the quality of your insulation. They’ll then give you their best suggestions on how you can fix any major issues.
If you’re the handy type, you might consider doing a simple audit yourself. You can use an online audit tool (type in your zip code, and the energy calculator will take it from there.)
Let’s move on and share some tips to make your home safer for you and your family during the winter months.
The use of electricity increases during winter, making it essential to remain especially cautious about electrical safety.
As winter draws near, several power issues emerge owing to strong winds, snowfall, and heavy rains. Accidents involving electricity can not only have financial consequences but might also prove fatal. Fortunately, if you take a few preventive measures, it’s possible to stay safe and comfortable indoors.
Preparedness is key to making certain that you and your family stay safe from electrical hazards during the winter months.
Below are some basic electrical tips that will help in getting ready for winter.
Tip #1: Turn it off
Make it a habit of making sure all electrical gadgets, appliances, and equipment are switched off before going to bed. You will not only save money on the electricity bill, as noted above but will also steer clear of the risks of fire that can come from short-circuiting of plugged-in appliances in the event of power surges and fluctuations.
Tip #2: Check your wiring
Also, make it a routine to consistently check the condition of your wiring, sockets, plugs, and switches, and so on. These things get damaged or worn over time, and when this occurs, you need to have them replaced or repaired because the longer they stay that way, the higher the risks of electrical hazards. If you are still unsure after a visual check, you need to contact your electrical professional.
One specific electrical concern is burnt out outlets. This is a common issue in older homes or if you have overloaded a circuit. Because we use more electrical devices in winter, you need to take that extra second to inspect the electrical outlets’ health in your home. If you spot brown dust, corrosion, or burn marks, this is a red flag. Do not use these outlets. Just give your electrician a call so he/she can take care of this electrical hazard for you.
Speaking of overloading, do you make sure your sockets and other power outlets are properly loaded, or are they overloaded and lacking surge protection? If you’re uncertain, get a qualified electrician to tell you whether you are using your outlets properly. As a guide, don’t use those plug-in multi-sockets that don’t have overload circuit breakers or surge protection. Ask your electrician for the certified power bars with surge protectors.
Tip #3: Familiarize yourself with the electrical panel
- Do you know where your home’s main electrical panel is located?
- Are there any obstructions to accessing it easily and safely in case of a blackout?
- Are the switches and circuits inside it clearly marked and fully functioning?
If yes, your panel is “winter-ready.” Remember, in severe winters, power fluctuations can trip switches that you will have to turn back on manually.
Tip #4: Be careful with those space heaters
A space heater can be a great idea for saving money on heating and does a great job at heating a single room. However, space heaters account for almost half of home heating fires.
That’s why there are a number of important safety issues that you need to keep in mind when you plug them in:
- When purchasing a space heater, make sure you’re getting one that fits your needs. Are you looking for a personal heater for yourself? Or do you need one to heat an entire room? Space heaters come in all shapes and sizes, and buying one that’s too small and expecting it to work harder to heat an area can be dangerous.
- When plugging them in, for starters, never let drapes, curtains, blankets, clothing, or other fabrics come into contact with your space heater, and be sure to plug the space heater directly into an outlet that is not worn—NEVER using an extension cord. Also, be sure never to run the cord under carpeting or a throw rug.
- Be sure to place your heater in a location that’s not highly trafficked and absolutely away from children and pets to avoid having it get knocked over. Space heaters put out a lot of heat and can cause furniture to light on fire. Firefighters recommend leaving a minimum of three feet around a heater at all times.
- Never ever leave a space heather on and running when you leave the room or leave home. Make sure to unplug it when not in use.
Remember, they are called “space” heaters for a reason. Do not attempt to heat entire homes or large rooms with a space heater. Such actions will almost surely cause power surges, waste energy, waste heat, and create safety hazards.
Need an energy audit?
Need your outlets updated?
Need dimmer switches installed?
Need to have your home rewired?