Your Home's Biggest Energy Users and How to Reduce Them
According to Consumer Reports, the biggest energy user is Heating (43%-The U.S. Dept. of Energy also confirms this, reporting that more than half of the energy used goes toward heating and cooling costs); Water Heating is next with 16%, while Other (such as computer equipment and freezers) makes up 15%. Appliances are 9%; Cooling, 7%; Lighting, 5%; and Electronics, 4% ( based on overall averages; these figures can also vary at times, depending on the household).
Here's a few tips, ideas and solutions to help bring down costs:
You've probably heard many times about sealing drafty windows and doors with caulk or weatherstripping; this actually works quite well (plus, it's easy and very affordable).
Have a forced-air system? Having your ductwork professionally sealed (if affordable) can save hundreds every year (25-40 percent of conditioned air-hot and cold-are lost due to leaking).
Have a ceiling fan? Consider reversing the direction of the blades;spinning them clockwise will draw down the hot air from the ceiling, thus allowing a better flow throughout the home.
Reuse oven heat; after cooking a meal in the oven, open the oven door, letting the heat flow into the kitchen and rest of the house. Please note: DO NOT heat the home with the oven (unless cooking a meal), and make sure the oven's turned off before opening the door.
Use plants (or home aquariums) to add some humidity (moist air holds heat better).
Is your water heater more than 10 years old? It should be upgraded. And Energy Star will help; during this fall season, the company's working with retailers and utilities, offering rebates to consumers who do the upgrades. For more info, go to www.energystar.gov/waterheaters.
Wash your clothes in cold water as much as possible.
Replace an older refrigerator (a current Energy Star model uses 50 percent less energy than one from 2001 or earlier).
Also consider retiring that older washing machine (and dryer). If yours is more than 10 years old, you're paying about $180 per year than a new one.
Is the central air more than 10 years old? Upgrading to a new system will be 40 percent more efficient. Or you may be able to downsize your existing system, if you've made other efficiency upgrades; get a reputable contractor for an accurate accessment.
Install a programmable thermostat; it'll automatically adjust your home's temperature for maximum comfort (and savings). Some even enable you to set up a different heating schedule for the weekends: Keep the home cooler when it's empty or during sleeping hours; and turn the heat on-or up-when you're returning home.
Your laptop's AC adaptor can be plugged into a power strip, which in turn can be turned off (did you know that the adaptor's transformer draws power even when the laptop isn't attached to it?).
Use high-efficiency LEDs (Light-Emitting Diodes-electronic devices that light up when electricity passes through them); they're 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescents. It's estimated that by 2020, more than 50 percent of residential light bulbs in the U.S. will be LEDs, according to industry standards.
Did You Know That.....
LED lights last 35 to 50 times longer than incandescents and up to 10 times longer than fluorescents.
GE Lighting's new Bright Stik bulb's slender, sleek design that's offered in soft white and daylight, will fit in more sockets and fixtures compared to general-purpose CFL bulb counterparts (the Bright Stik is an example of the sudden consumer shift to the new bulbs as they're becoming more convenient, attractive and affordable). It's rated to last almost 14 years (!) and can be used anywhere: basements, sheds, table and floor lamps, garages and more. Bright Stiks are available at The Home Depot or at www.HomeDepot.com.
To learn more about LEDs and additional lighting tips, visit www.gelighting.com/LightingWeb/na/consumer/.
Consider adding on even more dimmable features on dimmer switches.
Unplug all computers, video game devices, stereos and other devices (they draw power even if they're off).
Trade in that older TV for a newer model.
Ask your cable company for a set-box upgrade; opt for one (or ones) that have the latest Energy Star specification.
For more info, log on to www.ConsumerReports.org/cro/energyhogs.
Sources: "How to tame the energy hogs in your home"-From Consumer Reports-The (Sunday) Vindicator, September 20, 2015, "heating homes more efficiently"-Metro Creative Services-Home Improvement supplement-The Vindicator, September 19, 2015, "Consider the switch to LED bulbs" by Statepoint-Vindy Homes-The (Sunday) Vindicator, August 23, 2015 and "Fast Facts" sidebar to "Bright Idea"-Akron Beacon Journal (TNS)-The (Sunday) Vindicator, March 22, 2015