By consciously taking steps to reduce your energy use at home, you can save a lot of money on your monthly bill while simultaneously protecting the environment by cutting your carbon footprint. Provided below are some energy saving tips to help you cut your energy usage.
Audit Your Home for Energy Savings
An energy audit can help you determine where you use the most energy and what improvements are most cost-effective, allowing you to make informed decisions about the best energy efficient measures to invest in. An energy audit is specific to your home and can be done professionally, or you can do a simple audit yourself.
Professional Audit: HG&E offers homeowners a free residential energy audit by a professional advisor to help identify ways to save energy (and money) in your home. The advisor will determine areas for improvement and will answer questions about various items that have an impact on your utility bill, including but not limited to insulation, heating equipment and appliances. HG&E’s Residential Energy Conservation Program even provides 0% interest financing for certain energy efficiency projects.
Do-it-Yourself: When performing a simple audit yourself, some of the things that you should look for are your home’s insulation levels, open fireplace dampers, holes or cracks around doors, light and plumbing fixtures, and other places where air may leak in and out of your home. If insulation does not meet levels recommended for your area, you should consider adding additional insulation. Because heat rises, increasing the amount of insulation in attics that have little to no insulation can be one of the most cost-effective energy efficiency improvements. Furthermore, you should seal any areas that have substantial air leakage. Your appliances and heating and cooling systems should be checked to ensure that they are being properly maintained. By studying your family’s lighting needs and patterns you can make informed decisions about when to turn off lights when to replace with more efficient lights.
Cut Loads of Energy While Doing Laundry
With the simple tips below, it’s easy to cut the amount of energy used by both your washer and your dryer! And remember, when buying a new washer or dryer, make sure to look for the Energy Guide label to see how much energy the appliance is estimated to use annually. If you are interested in purchasing an Energy Star appliance, be sure to check that the appliance is indeed Energy Star certified by looking up the model number on the Energy Star website. HG&E will even provide a rebate on your new Energy Star certified washing machine!
Washing Machine: Approximately 80-85% of your washing machine’s energy use goes towards heating the water. Therefore, you can reduce energy by washing full loads with cooler water and cold water detergent. In fact, simply switching the setting from hot to warm can cut energy use in half!
Dryer: Cleaning your lint filter after every load to increase air circulation and making sure your dryer vent is not blocked can keep energy use down because your dryer will not have to work as hard to circulate air, plus it is much safer to clean filters regularly. Also, try not to over-dry clothes and instead use a cool-down cycle to allow clothes to finish drying with residual heat.
Cook Up Energy Savings in the Kitchen
Below are some energy saving tips to help you save money on cooking and running your kitchen appliances. Many appliances have a yellow Energy Guide label, which lists estimated annual energy use, so different models can more easily be compared. When purchasing a new kitchen appliance, consider purchasing an Energy Star certified appliance, which uses less energy than its non-certified counterparts. To be sure that the appliance you plan to purchase is Energy Star certified, visit the Energy Star website to see if the model number is listed. HG&E even provides rebates on Energy Star refrigerators and dishwashers!
Cooking: In general, match the size of the pan to the burner that you are using and always cover your pan when boiling water – it will save energy and make the water boil faster. For small meals, use small electric pans or toaster ovens rather than your large stove or oven; a toaster oven uses a half to a third as much energy as a full sized oven. Use pressure cookers and microwaves to save energy by significantly reducing cooking time.
Gas Oven/Stove: If you need to purchase a gas oven or stove, look for one with an automatic, electric ignition system. An electric ignition saves gas because a pilot light is not burning continuously. In gas appliances, look for blue flames; yellow flames indicate that the gas is burning insufficiently and an adjustment may be needed. If you have yellow flames, consult the manufacturer or contact the HG&E Service Center to schedule an appointment (service fees apply).
Electric Oven/Stove: Keep range-top burners and reflectors clean; they will reflect the heat better, saving you energy. Also turn your oven and stovetop burners off a few minutes before the allotted cooking time as the heating element will stay hot long enough to finish cooking without using more electricity.
Refrigerator: Refrigerators are among the most energy intensive appliances in a home, but with a few steps, you can keep your energy costs to a minimum. First of all, keep your refrigerator temperature at 37 to 40°F for the fresh food compartment and 5°F for the freezer. Long term storage freezers should be kept at 0°F. Frost build-up decreases efficiency, so regularly defrost manual defrost refrigerators and freezers according to manufacturers’ recommendations. Replace your refrigerator door seals if they are not airtight and cover liquids and wrap foods – uncovered foods release moisture and make the condenser work harder. Move your refrigerator out from the wall and vacuum its condenser coils once per year unless you have a no-clean condenser model.
Dishwasher: The majority of a dishwasher’s energy usage is attributable to water heating, therefore you should refer to your manual for the recommended temperature – many dishwashers have internal heating elements that can and should be decreased to 115°F. Scrape, don’t rinse, your dishes before loading (prewashing is generally only recommended in cases of burned-on or dried-on food) and be sure to always run a full load, but don’t overload. Let your dishes air dry and don’t use the “rinse hold” on your machine for just a few soiled dishes – it uses three to seven gallons of water each time you use it!
Insulate Your Home Against High Energy Costs
A good insulation system can help keep your home warm during the winter and cool during the summer by resisting the transfer of heat outside. This reduces the strain on your heating and cooling systems, therefore reducing energy use.
Building Envelope: Check the insulation in your attic, ceilings, exterior and basement walls, floors and crawl spaces to see if it meets the levels recommended for your area. Insulation is measured in R-values; the higher the R-value, the better your walls and roof will resist the transfer of heat. Consider factors such as your climate, building design and budget when selecting insulation R-value. The easiest and most cost effective way to insulate your home is to add insulation in the attic.
Windows: If your home has single pane windows, consider replacing them as they do not resist heat transfer nearly as well as the new, double pane windows with high performance glass that are currently on the market. Since you are located in a cold climate, you should select windows that are gas filled with low emissivity (low-e) coatings on the glass. Installing storm windows can also reduce your heat loss by up to 50%. In the winter months, close your curtains and shades at night and open them during the day. During the summer months, install white window coverings to reflect heat away from the house and close south and west facing curtains during the day.
Air sealing: Air leaks are among the greatest sources of energy loss in a home. Save energy and money by weatherstripping doors and windows and by having a contractor come and seal any additional leaks in your home.
Duct Sealing: Many duct systems are poorly insulated, or are not insulated properly. Ducts that leak heated or cooled air into spaces that are not heated or cooled (i.e. unconditioned spaces), such as crawlspaces, can add hundreds of dollars per year to your heating and cooling bills, so insulating them is usually very cost effective. Although minor duct repairs are easy to accomplish, ducts in unconditioned spaces should be sealed and insulated by qualified professionals using appropriate sealing materials. For minor repairs, look for duct sections that should be joined but have separated, and then look for obvious holes. If you use duct tape to repair and seal your ducts, look for tape with the Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) logo. For cooling ducts, be sure that a well-sealed vapor barrier exists on the outside of the insulation to prevent moisture build up.
Keep Heating and Cooling Costs Under Control
Heating and cooling your home typically accounts for about 44% of your utility bill. Furthermore, U.S. heating and cooling system energy use results in the emission of over 500,000 tons of Carbon Dioxide each year and generates large amounts of Sulfur Dioxide and Nitrogen Oxides, chief ingredients of acid rain. You can significantly cut energy use by setting your thermostat low in the winter and high in the summer, but it’s also important to maintain your heating and cooling systems. Clean or replace filters on furnaces once a month or as needed, and clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters and radiators periodically, making sure that they are not blocked by furniture, carpeting, or drapes. Also, use kitchen and bathroom fans wisely – in just one hour, they can pull out a house full of warmed or cooled air.
Lighten Up Your Energy Bill
Increasing your lighting efficiency is one of the fastest ways to decrease your energy bill. Here are some tips to help you:
General Practices: Turn off the lights in any room that you are not using. Consider installing timers, photocells, or occupancy sensors in order to reduce the amount of time your lights are on. Use task lighting; instead of brightly lighting an entire room, focus the light where you need it. Also, consider three-way lamps as they make it easier to keep lighting levels low when brighter light is not needed.
CFL Lights: If you replace 25% of your incandescent lights in high use area with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), you can reduce your lighting costs by approximately 50%. CFLs are more expensive than incadescents, but they pay for themselves because they save energy and last six to ten times longer. Due to their long life, exterior lighting is one of the best applications for CFLs. Because of the cold-weather climate, make sure your outdoor lights have cold weather ballasts.
LED Lights: Although more expensive than CFLs, LED lights use less energy and last three to five times longer than CFLs. In fact, because of the payback associated with LED lights, HG&E is in the process of converting all of its streetlights in the City of Holyoke to LEDs. Learn more about this LED Streetlights initiative.