Less is MoreDec 28, 2011 07:37PM ● By Brian O
Saving energy can be easy.
Winter Energy Conservation
BY DARREN ELMS
As we temporarily bid goodbye to our air conditioners and pool heaters, we must consider the energy needs of our homes for the chilly months ahead.
With more time spent entertaining and hibernating in our homes during the winter, this season can be especially brutal on energy costs and waste. Luckily, there are numerous ways to save both energy resources and some extra green for your wallet.
TURN OFF AND UNPLUG
One of the easiest ways to conserve is turning off lights and other electric items when leaving the room. If you want to take it a step further, unplug under-used appliances. According to Roseville Electric, a spare garage refrigerator can add 10-25 percent to your electric bill. You don’t need to unplug your kitchen fridge, just remember that every time you open the door, the compressor needs to run for eight to 10 minutes.
Keep in mind that the benefits to the end of Daylight Saving Time include more than just an extra hour of sleep; adjust all automatic timers on lights, sprinklers and other relevant devices to accommodate the change.
THE HEAT IS ON (AND OFF)
Our heating systems are perhaps the biggest energy suckers of the winter season, but it’s still simple to save without sleeping in an icebox. Thermostats should be adjusted regularly to suit the schedule and needs of your household. According to SMUD, for every two degrees you lower your thermostat you’ll save 10 percent on your heating bill. They suggest setting and keeping the thermostat at 68 degrees when the home is occupied and 55 degrees at night or when it’s unoccupied. If you have a heat pump, set the lower temperature at 63 degrees. Similarly, PG&E recommends programming thermostats to turn heat on 30 minutes before people arrive and off 30-60 minutes before they leave. If you find this temperature range on the chilly side, keep a sweater or blanket handy.
PATCH, REPAIR OR REPLACE
For added protection and comfort, plug leaks in heating ducts, install weather stripping or caulk doors. Proper ceiling insulation and high-performance windows create an added expense upfront, but will save you money in the long run. PG&E says closing curtains, shades and blinds during the night and unoccupied periods will help your home retain heat.
In the market to replace an appliance? Choose products that have earned the ENERGY STAR® label. According to Roseville Electric, a new ENERGY STAR® refrigerator uses about 20 percent less energy than a standard new refrigerator and 46 percent less than one made in 1980. A new ENERGY STAR® washing machine uses nearly 50 percent less energy than a standard washer. Additionally, your energy company may provide rebates on certain ENERGY STAR® appliances.
Replace incandescent lightbulbs with efficient compact fluorescent ones, which use 75 percent less energy. Even your holiday tree and outdoor displays will benefit from LED lights. Plus, they are cooler and reduce the risk of fire.
YOU’RE IN HOT WATER
SMUD says to avoid using large amounts of water between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., since energy prices are highest then and it costs your water utility provider more to run water pumps during those hours (costs which are passed along to you).
Newer water heaters may have insulation built into the unit, so check the owner’s manual to determine if additional insulation can be added. If not, Roseville Electric suggests wrapping your heater with a water heater blanket. You can also lower the temperature on the unit to about 120 degrees. This is sufficient for most household tasks, and it will save energy.
Speaking of water appliances, only run dishwashers and do laundry when the units are filled to capacity. Did you know using cold water in your washer reduces its energy use by 75 percent? You might dislike a cold shower, but your clothes likely won’t mind.