Q&A / 

Little Things Add Up to Save Energy

radiant barrier chips

These chips reflect heat back to its source and help lower my fuel bills in summer and winter.

DEAR TIM: My utility bills are going up and up. I want to save energy in every way possible. There seem to be many differences of opinion as to how to save energy and still be comfortable. What tips give you the biggest bang for your buck? If building a new home, where can I save future energy dollars? What have you done personally to save money on your utility bills? Carol K., Cleveland, OH

DEAR CAROL: I wish the newspaper would give me the entire page for this topic! I will do my best to give you some money saving ideas in the space permitted. Let's get to work.

The first thing to do is look at your actual utility bill(s). Get a feel for what you spend on a daily basis for electricity and any other fuels. Once you do this and consider all of the things in your home that consume energy, you will see that overall energy consumption is actually a bunch of small components that add up each day to a bigger number. When these daily numbers are totaled at the end of a month, it can be a big number. Understanding this will tell you that rarely no one single thing is going to drastically cut your bills. To create a difference you can see in your checkbook, you need to do many things.

 

Heating and cooling requirements devour large amounts of energy. But beware of falling into the trap of keeping the thermostat turned way down in the winter and suffering while you are home and awake. The time to save considerable money is when you are not at home or are asleep. During the heating season, every degree you go down from 72 F saves three percent over a 24 hour period. A programmable thermostat allows you to automatically achieve this goal and keeps your home comfortable when you are awake and moving about. These affordable devices accomplish the same savings during the cooling season.

How Does the Air Escape? Graphic courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy. From their <em>Energy Savers Tips on Saving Energy & Money at Home</em>.

How Does the Air Escape? Graphic courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy. From their Energy Savers Tips on Saving Energy & Money at Home.

Air leakage around doors and windows can also add up. High performance doors and windows that carry the Energy Star label can save money over time. These products have superb weatherstripping and windows can be purchased with high performance glass that saves even more money. Existing windows and doors that leak air should be repaired to minimize air infiltration.

Older refrigerators, freezers and washing machines can consume vast amounts of energy. Keep refrigerators full of food or fill voids with bottles of water to take up space. Once the bottled water gets cold, it helps keep things cold in the refrigerator each time you open it up and introduce warm air. Use only as much water to wash clothes as necessary. Do full loads of laundry as often as possible.

If building a new home or replacing HVAC equipment, purchase furnaces with the highest energy efficiency rating. Look for air conditioners with a SEEP rating of 12 or higher. Use air infiltration barriers and be sure the seams of this material are taped. Buy professional model water heaters that often have superior foam insulation surrounding the storage tank.

I save money in the following ways: I have programmable thermostats and set back the temperature at least eight degrees when I am gone and sleeping. Many of my traditional incandescent light bulbs are being replaced with new super efficient compact fluorescent bulbs. Last year, a company blew innovative metal foil chips over the insulation in my attic. These chips reflect heat back to its source and help lower my fuel bills in summer and winter. I always buy appliances and electronic equipment that carries the Energy Star label. These devices are designed to save money.

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