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Utilities (General Questions)

How can I save on energy costs?

About 60% of your total energy usage comes from heating and cooling; another 20% results from heating your water, and the other 20% comes from appliances and lighting. Try using the Home Energy Advisor to conduct a virtual energy assessment of your home and learn more about electric usage.

You can save energy costs by following some of these familiar steps.

A.   Turn off the lights when leaving the room, especially incandescent bulbs. The bulbs are only about 20% efficient. The rest of the energy is given off as heat. On the other hand, converting to modern compact florescent bulbs, which are lower in wattage and longer lasting, will conserve more energy.

B.   Lower your gas furnace thermostat a couple of degrees from your normal setting. This could translate into a winter monthly cost savings in electricity as well as gas, since your gas “forced air” furnace still needs a fan connected to an electric motor to push the air throughout the house. For example, every degree you dial back on your thermostat can save 2-3% on heating.

C.   As older appliances need replacement, purchase new appliances with higher efficiency ratings.

D. Reducing the temperature on the water heater down to its normal setting of about 110 – 120 degrees and insulating the heater will save energy.

E.   Save over 50% of your water heater usage by taking a few minutes off your shower time and using the cold water setting on the clothes washer whenever possible; about 80% of the energy used to wash clothes is for heating the water.

F.   Make sure your refrigerator setting is set at a reasonable temperature and not too cold. Recommended values per DOE (Department of Energy) would be in the range of 37 to 40 degrees for the fresh food compartment and about 5 degrees for the frozen food section.

G.   Swimming pool pumps draw a substantial amount of current. One way to save energy is to reduce the running time of the pump. Realizing that circulating the pool water keeps the chemicals mixed and captures floating debris through the skimmer, a study was done recently in Florida involving 120 residential pools. One of the outcomes of the study was that most people who reduced the pumping time to around 3-4 hours per day, while still happy with the water’s quality, saw a 60% reduction in their electric bill in pump usage.

H.   The U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency set the criteria for the Energy Star Label. Appliances having the energy star label are high-performance products, which should reduce operating cost of the appliance over the lifetime of the product. When shopping for an air conditioner, look for an EnergyGuide label with a high Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER). The higher the ratio, the more efficiently it operates. In regards to clothes washers, dishwashers, refrigerators and freezers, look for the EnergyGuide label that tells how much electricity in kWh (Kilowatt hours) these appliances will use in a year. The smaller the number, the more efficiently they work in using less electrical energy.