Save on Your Energy Bill
In a tough economy, there are many things you have no control over: the price of gas and higher taxes to name just two. But there are things you do have control over, and your energy bill is one of them. Below are tips from the Department of Energy on how to lower your energy bill.
A good place to start is to find leaks in your house. Here’s how the DOE recommends you do it: On a cool, windy day, turn off your furnace, shut all the windows and doors, and turn on all your exhaust fans--including the ones in the bathrooms and your range hood in the kitchen. This will slightly depressurize your house and increase the airflow between the inside and outside. Then, light a stick of incense and move it over surfaces that might be a problem: along baseboards, around windows and doors, and along the sill plate in the basement. If there's an air leak, the smoke from the incense will either be drawn away or blown back into the room.
l Install a sweet to the inside bottom edge of your front door to eliminate drafts, and if you have a door that goes into an attached garage, install a sweep on that door too. Add weather-stripping to any sliding glass doors.
l To reduce the amount of heat lost up the chimney when a fire isn’t burning, install a tight-fitting glass door unit over the fireplace opening. Close the fireplace damper when the fireplace is not in use.
l Install foam gaskets behind drafty switch and receptacle cover plates.
l Weatherstrip around the attic door or access hatch.
l Using silicone caulk, caulk around the outside of the window frames and weatherstrip between the sash. These are the easiest and least expensive options to stop air infiltration. Better yet, replace single-glzed (single-pane) windows with double- or triple-glazed windows, which are up to five times as efficient.
l Arrange your furniture so it doesn’t obstruct heat registers. For places you can’t leave open, add scoop-shaped heat deflectors to the tops of registers to force air from under furniture and into the room. Partially or completely close register dampers in rooms that are seldom used.
l Install a programmable thermostat that lowers the temperature while you are sleeping or away at work. A reduction of just 7 or 8 degrees for 8 hours a day can cut heating costs by 10 percent.
l Consider replacing your old furnace. Replace the furnace filter once a month during heating season. Hire an HVAC contractor or your fuel supplier to clean and tune up your furnace every two years. Cover heating duct joints with duct tape to prevent hot-air leaks.
l If your water heater feels very warm to the touch, it is poorly insulated. Water heating represents 14 percent of an average house's annual energy use, so improvements pay off quickly. One of the best upgrades is to add a pre-cut insulation blanket to the outside of the heater. These covers usually cost less than $20 and take just about an hour to install. Insulate water pipes, particularly in unheated spaces. Turn down the thermostat temperature on the water heater to 120°F.
l Close all the shades, curtains and drapes on the south, east and west sides of the house on hot days.
l When buying room air conditioners, look for an Energy Efficiency Ratio rating of at least 10; for central systems, choose models with a minimum EER of 11 and a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating of at least 13.
l Use window and ceiling fans, which require 10 percent of the energy that air conditioners use.
l Check the seal on your refrigerator door. If you can close the door on a dollar bill and pull the bill out without resistance, then the door seal is worn and should be replaced.
l Turn off the lights when leaving a room. Try to use more task lighting than general lighting. If you are reading in a chair, you don't need to illuminate the entire room.
l If you leave lights on as a security measure when you are away, put them on timers. You'll use less electricity and give a more realistic impression that someone is home.
l Use solar-powered lights to accent the exterior of the house.
l Launder full loads, not partial loads. Up to 85 percent of the energy consumed when washing clothes is used to heat the water. Clean dryer lint from the trap after every load. It improves the efficiency of the dryer. Wash and rinse on the Cold cycle as much as possible. The difference in cost between the Cold/Cold and Hot/Hot cycles can be as much as 60 cents per load.