With the flip of a switch or the push of a button, you use electricity. We are there as a part of your world every day, trying to make it better. Whether you are connecting online with family or friends, or enjoying that soft, fresh feeling of a blanket right out of the dryer, we are there “just like that.” Check out these tips to help you be comfortable and use your electricity efficiently at the same time... just like that.
Heating and Cooling
Heating and cooling is the largest portion of the average family's energy bill. Consider the following energy-saving tips to curtail your heating and cooling costs.
Refresh Your Air Filter
When it comes to improving the energy efficiency of your heating and cooling system, replacing a dirty air filter is probably the simplest, most inexpensive and most often overlooked maintenance job there is.
Air filters don't just keep the air fresh. They save you money on your energy purchases by making it easier for the system to work and improving the system's performance. Clean filters also prolong the useful life of your heating and cooling equipment by keeping dirt and dust off diffusers and coils and out of fans and motors.
Most air filters are disposable, although an electrostatic filter can be cleaned with water. Either way, air filters should be replaced or cleaned once a month. If you have a difficult time keeping up with the monthly routine, get in the habit of checking your air filter each month.
Adjusting Your Thermostat
Set the thermostat and then forget it. If you change the temperature often during the day, you are more likely to waste energy.
During the summer, try setting the thermostat at 78° or above. If you have a ceiling fan, you may be able to raise the temperature to 80° or higher.
In the winter, try setting the thermostat at 68° or below.
Use Efficient Heating & Cooling Equipment
Even the best insulated home will waste energy unless special attention is given to the efficiency of its mechanical equipment. Have your equipment checked by a qualified dealer each year before the heating or cooling season begins.
When you are faced with continuing major repairs of your equipment, inevitably the question comes up: Should I continue to repair my existing equipment or buy new equipment? If your equipment is more than 15 years old, replacement may be your best option. Today's energy-efficient equipment can save enough in operating costs to make up quickly for the initial expense. Consider a heat pump, the most advanced and efficient heating and cooling system available today.
Be a Fan of the Fan
Fans can also be used in conjunction with air conditioning to help reduce energy costs. The "wind chill" effect allows the air conditioner thermostat to be set slightly higher while maintaining the same degree of comfort for room occupants. For example, you can adjust the setting on your thermostat from 78° to 80° F and still keep the occupants comfortable. This increase of 2° F can result in a reduction of up to 10% in air conditioning energy use, and the cost of running the ceiling fan is minimal.
Most ceiling fans are also designed to be reversible for winter operation. In this mode, room air is pulled from floor level, circulated through the warmer air near the ceiling, and directed back down toward the floor level. This mode of operation allows the warmer ceiling air to be directed downward without blowing directly on the occupants.
In the Kitchen
Because it contains appliances that are used daily, the kitchen is a good place to manage energy.
Dishwashers use an average of 15 gallons of hot water per load plus electricity needed to operate the machine. Washing and rinsing dishes by hand three times a day uses more hot water and energy than one load a day in an automatic dishwasher. Here are some tips for operating your dishwasher efficiently:
Load the dishwasher properly. Never block the dispenser or spray arms. If blocked, the water and detergent will not circulate properly and the dishes will not wash clean. Check your owners manual for proper loading instructions.
Proper amounts of detergent can eliminate a second wash. Follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Operate your dishwasher only when it is filled to capacity but not overloaded. This will cut the costs of energy, water and detergent.
Partial-load cycles, rinse-only cycles, mid-cycle turn-offs and other special features are designed for better energy use and more convenience. Look for them when selecting a new dishwasher.
Always choose the shortest washing cycle that will clean your dishes, and scrape off heavy food accumulated before loading dishes into the dishwasher.
Use your dishwasher's "power-saver switch" if it has one to automatically eliminate the drying cycle.
On hot days, wait to use your dishwasher until night. You will avoid adding heat in the house during the hottest time of the day.
Choosing a New Refrigerator or Freezer
Here are some useful energy features and tips to consider when buying a new refrigerator or freezer:
Look for a refrigeration appliance with a high-efficiency motor.
Choose the appliance with improved or thicker insulation (polyurethane foam or fiberglass).
Check the estimated kilowatt-hour usage per month. Use this information to compare energy consumption of different models.
Choose the smallest unit which will meet your needs. A large refrigerator or freezer uses more energy than a smaller one.
Making Sure Your Refrigeration Appliance Operates Efficiently
Locate your refrigerator or freezer away from heating equipment, heater vents and direct sunlight. Provide adequate clearance above, behind and on the sides for good air circulation.
Be sure your unit is level so that the door seals properly.
For best operation, keep your refrigerator's temperature between 37° and 40° and your freezer's setting at 0°. These settings are recommended by the Food and Drug Administration and will prevent rapid bacterial growth.
Keep condenser coils clean and unobstructed for maximum energy savings.
A tight-sealing door gasket is critical to the efficiency of your refrigerator. Clean gaskets with warm water or a detergent that leaves no residue.
Don't overload your refrigerator or freezer with food, as this overloads the compressor. Place foods slightly apart on shelves, making sure they do not block the unit's interior air vents.
Cover all liquids stored in the refrigerator. Moisture can be drawn into the air, making the unit work harder.
Unless a recipe requires hot foods to be rapidly chilled or frozen, save energy by letting them cool outside the refrigerator or freezer. To avoid bacterial growth, food should not be set out more than 20 minutes after cooking is completed.
Opening and closing refrigerator and freezer doors often — or holding the door open too long — causes the unit to use more energy than necessary. Decide what you want before opening the door, and remove several items at once.
Cook Up Some Energy Savings
Save time and energy by using one oven to prepare the entire meal. A pie or cake can go into the oven as a main dish is removed.
Warming foods, plates and platters with the oven's stored heat after baking, requires no energy. If the food must be kept warm for an extended period of time, set the oven no higher than 140° to 200°. A food warmer built into a range usually requires less energy than an oven or surface unit when keeping food heated.
Consider using a microwave oven, small portable electric frying pan, grill, or toaster/broiler instead of the oven. These small appliances use about 1/3 the power of an oven broiler.
Cook by time and temperature. Precise timing eliminates repeated opening of the oven door to check on cooking progress. Each time the door is opened, the temperature drops 25° to 50°.
Around the House
Learn various tips and tricks to keep energy use low around your home, from using hot water wisely to saving energy on appliance use.
Using Hot Water Wisely
Your water heater is the second-largest energy user in your home. One of the most efficient ways to lower water heating costs is to use less hot water. Here are some energy-saving tips to curtail your hot water consumption:
Close the sink drain when shaving and you will save gallons of hot water.
When you hand wash dishes, stopper the sink or use a dishpan. Constantly running wash or rinse water amounts to about 30 gallons of water per meal. Be sure to prerinse dishes with cold water.
Equip your shower with a flow control or regulator and you can reduce the volume of water by two to four gallons per minute, while increasing pressure to 30 pounds per square inch. Look for these devices at your local hardware store.
Repair dripping faucets and save water, energy and money. Dripping faucets overwork the water heater, erode valve seats and often cause ugly sink stains. Repair leaking faucets by replacing washers.
Turn down the thermostat on your water heater to 140°, 120° if you don't use a dishwasher.
Knowing what water temperature to use is key to saving energy while doing the wash. Cold water cleans many fabrics and soils just as well as warm water. Heavily soiled fabrics may require hot water.
Don't use too much soap. Oversudsing makes your washer work harder and may require a second wash to remove excess soap. Avoid a second wash by using a presoak product on heavily soiled fabrics.
Try to wash full loads whenever possible. It takes as much energy to wash a single item as it takes to wash a full load.
Energy-Saving Ideas for Your Dryer
Producing the high-temperature air in the dryer is the major energy demand of automatic dryers. Never use more heat than you need, and remember that excessive heat can damage some fabrics.
Locate your dryer where it has access to fresh air. Humid air circulating through your dryer increases drying time and energy costs.
Separate loads into heavy and lightweight items. Lightweight items take less drying time and energy demand.
Clean the lint filter after each use and you can maximize airflow and efficiency.
Keep dryer vents free of lint. A clogged vent wastes energy.
Dry loads of clothes immediately after one another. With the dryer already warm, you won't waste energy bringing it back up to the desired temperature level.
Remove clothing promptly from the dryer and hang it carefully. You'll be able to avoid ironing — a real energy and time consumer — or reduce it to just a touch-up.
Making it a habit to turn off lights that are not being used is a good way to avoid wasted energy. Here are some more energy-saving tips for lighting:
Use fluorescent lighting. It is more economical than incandescent lighting, producing five times more light with the same amount of energy and lasting 10 to 15 times longer.
Lamps with three-way switches are a good buy. You can lower the settings when less light is required.
Install dimmers to allow control of illumination.
Consider installing task lighting over workbenches and desks to eliminate the need for whole-room lighting.
Use night-lights, which are low wattage, instead of leaving larger-wattage hall or room lights on at night.
Install outdoor and security lights with a photoelectric switch that turns the light on at dusk and off at dawn. It's an investment that pays for itself.
Consider replacing incandescent lights in outside locations with lights that consume less energy and have a longer life.
Open drapes on south-facing windows during winter daylight hours to get "free" light and heat.
When seasons change, so do the most effective ways to save energy.
Staying Warm in Winter
There are many things you can do to make you and your home more comfortable in the winter. Consider these tips for staying warm:
Use an electric blanket at night. An electric blanket is more economical than heating the entire house all night long.
Use a small room fan or ceiling fan to circulate and distribute heated air. When reversed, ceiling fans can push hot air from the ceiling to the occupied areas of the room.
Although a crackling fire in the fireplace can make a room appear to be more warm and cozy, fireplaces are often a deterrent to energy efficiency because a lot of the heated air escapes up the chimney. A fireplace designed for providing heat eliminates this problem through a draft which supplies the fire with outside air rather than air from the room.
Keep cold wind outside by closing garage doors.
Close all louvers and vents in the attic or foundation walls during the winter — but be sure to open them when the weather turns warm.
If you use portable electric heaters, use them only in small areas. Buy models that are thermostatically controlled.
Make sure heating outlets and return air registers are not blocked by furniture, draperies, doors or other obstacles.
Leave draperies open on sunny days so your house will absorb the sun's heat. Close them on the shaded side of the house and at night.
When temperatures start to moderate, it may be a good time to tackle some of the easier, more inexpensive energy-saving projects around the house. In many homes, adding or increasing attic insulation and sealing air leaks around windows and doors is a great way to increase your home's energy efficiency and comfort level. Most local building supply stores stock a variety of insulation, caulking and weather stripping products. And it really is amazing how these little energy-efficiency upgrades can add up to big energy savings.
Most older homes don't have enough insulation — but insulation can be added to any home. Insulating an attic is usually a "do-it-yourself" project that reaps big energy rewards. Increasing attic insulation can save up to 30 percent on your heating and cooling costs.
Caulking should be applied wherever two different materials or parts of the house meet. It is available in a variety of forms. Select the caulk best-suited for the part of the house you are improving.
You have some choices to make when it comes to weather stripping also. You may need spring-metal, rolled-vinyl or adhesive-backed weather stripping, depending on the type of windows and doors you have.
Weather-stripping can be purchased by the foot or in kit form, and there is a special kind for double doors, which often are hung with a substantial gap where they meet so the doors can swing freely. For the bottom of a door you may want to use something called a "door sweep."