Energy Saving Tips
French Broad EMC has provided you with some useful tips to help you reduce your electric bill. It only takes a few small changes in your household routines to result in big savings on your utility bills. We invite you to also visit our Estimated Monthly Kilowatt Usage page where you can see real-world examples of how much it costs to operate appliances, furnaces, air conditioners and other electrical devices in your home. We have provided useful information on the energy saving features of Ground Source Heat Pumps as well. Most energy is lost due to leaky windows, un-insulated pipes and other easy-to-fix problems. Here is some help: A home-wide audit with 44 money-saving tips to help you cut energy costs. We suggest visiting www.ENERGYHOG.org and NC's Electric Cooperatives Home Energy Resource Guide for additional energy saving information.
More than a dozen devices penetrate the exterior of a house, including dryer and plumbing vents, phone and cable lines, as well as water and gas service pipes. Since many contractors neglect to caulk these openings at the time of installation, it pays to do it yourself. A draft of only 7 mph can degrade the R-value of fiberglass insulation by as much as 40 percent.
1. 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.
2. Eliminate drafts under the entry door by installing a sweep to the inside bottom edge of the door. Don't forget to attach a sweep to the door into an attached garage. Also, add weather-stripping to any sliding glass doors.
3. Install a tight-fitting glass door unit over the fireplace opening. This will greatly reduce the amount of heat lost up the chimney when a fire isn't burning.
4. Install foam gaskets (available at hardware stores) behind drafty switch and receptacle cover plates.
5. Add weather-stripping around the attic door or access hatch.
6. Choose an all-purpose silicon caulk. It's very elastic and durable. (A 10-ounce tube goes for just a few dollars at Lowes.com.) Caulk around the outside of the window frames and add weather-stripping between the sash. These are the easiest and least expensive options to stop air infiltration. But keep in mind that with single-glazed (single-pane) windows, you could lose up to twice as much heat as you would with double-glazed windows. The difference is even more striking with triple glazing, which is about five times as efficient as single glazing.
Un-insulated or poorly insulated walls and attics are huge energy drains. If you have no insulation and your windows and doors fit loosely, you can suffer a heat loss of about 100 BTUs per hour per square foot of floor space. By adding insulation and installing double-glazed windows and tight doors, you can reduce heat loss to as little as 21 BTUs per hour per square foot.
7. Use loose-fill cellulose insulation to reduce heat loss in old attics. It is blown under the flooring and between the floor joists. If you want to turn the attic into living space, install fiberglass insulation between the rafters.
8. Arrange furniture and other obstructions so they don't cover heat registers. In areas where this is impractical, add scoop-shaped heat deflectors to the tops of registers. (They usually attach with magnets.) The deflectors will direct hot air under furniture and into the room.
9. 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.
10. Consider replacing an old furnace. Outdated units can be big energy wasters. When shopping for a new unit, don't just compare the installed price per BTU (British thermal unit). Calculate the life-cycle costs of comparable units with different EERs (Energy Efficiency Ratios). Also consider what type of fuel is most economical. The best time to switch fuels is when replacing the furnace.
11. Replace the furnace filter once a month during heating season.
12. Hire an HVAC contractor or your fuel supplier to clean and tune up your furnace every two years.
13. Cover heating duct joints with duct tape to prevent hot-air leaks.
14. Partially or completely close register dampers in rooms that are seldom used.
15. Close the fireplace damper when the fireplace is not in use.
16. 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.
17. Insulate water pipes, particularly in unheated spaces.
18. Turn down the thermostat temperature on the water heater to 120°F. Every reduction of 10 degrees can save up to 5 percent on heating costs.
19. Fix faucet leaks. A drop a second can cost you $1 per month in wasted hot water.
20. Invest in a Ground Source Heat Pump. This type of heating system is much more efficient than a standard heat pump. Click here for more information.
When it comes to cutting cooling costs, size matters--and bigger isn't always better. An oversize room air conditioner, for example, performs less efficiently than a smaller, properly sized unit. The same goes for central systems, which needs to be sized by professionals. Getting the fit right can mean big energy savings.
21. With the energy efficiency of room air conditioners and central systems steadily improving, the simplest strategy for reducing cooling costs may be to replace old gear. By swapping an older room unit that has an EER of 8 for a new machine with a 10 rating, you can cut costs by 20 percent.
22. Insufficient attic ventilation can trap very hot air in the attic (well over 100°F in summer), causing serious damage to roofing materials and adding significantly to air-conditioning costs. For older houses, where overheated attics can be the biggest problem, the minimum ventilation requirement is 1 sq. ft. for every 150 sq. ft. of attic floor space. One way to reduce attic temperatures is to install vents in the back side of the roof. The vents cost about $10 apiece; consult a contractor or supplier to determine how many you need. Or, install a thermostatically controlled exhaust fan in one of the attic's gable walls.
23. Close all the shades, curtains and drapes on the south, east and west sides of the house on hot days.
24. 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.
25. Air conditioners work quickly, so use them only when you're home.
26. Always use the Re-circulate option on room air conditioners, so you are cooling relatively cool interior air rather than hot exterior air.
27. Clean the filters on room air conditioners every two weeks and clean the cooling fins on central systems every month.
28. Use window and ceiling fans, which require 10 percent of the energy that air conditioners use.
Lighting and Electrical Appliances
LIGHTING AND ELECTRICAL APPLIANCES account for about a third of your household energy use. When it's time to replace them, don't just look at the sticker price. Calculate the life-cycle cost. This means the item's initial cost plus the cost of the electricity it consumes for its estimated life.
29. 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.
30. Check refrigerator temperatures with a household thermometer. The freezer compartment should be between zero and 5°F; the refrigerator box should be between 37° and 40°F.
31. Thaw frozen food in the refrigerator, not on the countertop. The frozen items help cool the refrigerator as they defrost.
32. Turn off the lights when leaving a room.
33. Try to use more task lighting than general lighting. If you are reading in a chair, you don't need to illuminate the
34. When using incandescent bulbs, remember that the efficiency of these bulbs goes up with their wattage. A 100-watt bulb produces nearly the same amount of light as two 60-watt bulbs.
35. Replace as many incandescent bulbs as possible with compact fluorescent lamps. These units last 10 times longer than incandescent ones, generate 90 percent less heat, use one-quarter the energy and produce more light per watt. They are more expensive--about $15 apiece--but in the long run, they make up for it in savings.
36. Put lights on timers, if you leave lights on as a security measure when you are away. You'll use less electricity and give a more realistic impression that someone is home.
37. Use solar-powered lights to accent the exterior of the house.
38. Launder full loads, not partial loads. Up to 85 percent of the energy consumed when washing clothes is used to heat the water.
39. Clean dryer lint from the trap after every load. It improves the efficiency of the dryer.
40. 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.
41. Use the Air Dry cycle on the dishwasher.
42. Buy a dishwasher with a built-in booster heater so you can lower the thermostat on your water heater and still get good results.
43. Wash full loads, not partials.
44. Turn off home electronics when not in frequent use. If your computer is going to be inactive for 20 minutes, turn off the monitor. If you're not going to use the computer for 2 hours or more, turn off both the monitor and the CPU.
Other Helpful Tips
45. Popular Mechanics: 19 Ways to Slash your Utility Bills .
46. Small electric space heaters are inexpensive to buy but are costly to operate. A 1500 watt space heater running just 8 hours per day can end up adding close to $50 to your montly electric bill.
47. If you are leaving for an extended vacation of more than 2 days we suggest turning off the power to your hot water heater. If you are on vacation, it is also a good idea to turn your heat down to its lowest setting in the winter months and to turn your air conditioning off during the summer months.
48. If your home is unoccupied for an exteded amount of time, turn off and unplug all electrical appliances that are not needed. Remove food from your refrigerator and turn it to its warmest setting or consider unplugging it. (Check with an appliance dealer to make sure turning off or unplugging your refrigerator will not cause any problems). Please remember to remove any frost/ice from your freezer to avoid having a watery mess when you return and if you turn it off or unplug it remember to leave the door ajar to avoid mildew or mold from forming.