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Energy Efficiency Tips: 17 Ways To Lower Utility Bills

Posted by Brett Higby on Tue, Mar 12, 2013 @ 04:15 PM

money houseThe starting line for reducing your utility costs is to first understand what you’re paying. The U.S. Department of Energy states that 44 percent of your utility energy usage is spent on heating and cooling your home. 33 percent is attributed to lighting, cooking and other appliances, while 14 percent is spent on heating your water, and lastly, 9 percent is consumed by your refrigerator.

Knowing your energy usage is a great start.  Now you need a blueprint to show you how to identify places currently in your home that are possibly losing energy. From there you can assign priorities to your utility consumption needs, and then form a whole house efficiency plan to lower your total costs.

The energy audit is the perfect tool as it will define for you whether or not you need to update or replace your heating or cooling system. Buying a new heating or cooling system may seem like a huge investment; however, depending on how old or what kind of shape your current system is in, it can potentially save you THOUSANDS in the years to come, and possibly even increase the value of your home.

A professional contractor will analyze how your home's energy systems work together as a whole house system and compare the analysis against your utility bills. They will use a variety of equipment like blower door tests, infrared cameras, and surface thermometers to find inefficiencies that cannot be detected by visual inspection alone. Base on the tests conclusions they will give you a list of recommendations for cost-effective improvements and enhanced comfort and safety.

One of the most important components to your whole house system is the network of air ducts that carry hot and cold air throughout your home. These tubes in the wall, floors, and ceilings are connected to your furnace and central air conditioner. Unfortunately, many duct systems are not simulated properly. This is especially true within the attic or vented crawl spaces of the home.  Sealing these ducts and insulating them properly is a relatively easy lower cost repair. Also closing vents or radiators in unoccupied room(s) can save you up to 20 percent in some cases on your heating costs.

Another great way to cut utility costs is to take advantage of the heat from our sun. Open your shades on the southern and eastern windows during the day. Close these shades when the sun goes down to keep the heat from escaping.

Installing a programmable thermostat lets you lower the thermostat during periods when no one is home or when people are sleeping. You can save as much as 10 percent a year with this device.

Also a giant myth about air conditioners is people often think that buying a bigger air conditioning unit will keep you cooler and comfortable during the summer months. The fact is, if the air conditioner is too large for your home it will be less efficient, and actually end up working harder in the long run than a smaller properly sized unit. The reason for this is that air conditioners actually work better and use electricity more efficiently if they run for relatively long cycles than if they are constantly being cycled on and off, which happens when a unit is too large.

modern kitchenLarger appliances such as washers, dryers, dishwashers, stoves and refrigerators are big energy efficiency offenders. Replacing your old or run down appliances can be an accumulative smart investment. When shopping for new appliances, look for the Energy Star label. These appliances have U.S. EPA and Department of Energy approval for being the most energy efficient products in the class. A refrigerator with Energy Star label can save you between $35 and $70 a year alone compared to models designed just 15 years prior. That savings over the next 15-years can in some cases return your cost for the new unit.

However, if you are not in a position to replace your older units, it serves you to know why they are costing you so much money. About 80 to 85 percent of the energy used for washing clothes is for heating the water. There are two ways to reduce the amount of energy used for washing clothes. First, use less water and if possible use cold water washes. Unless you are dealing with oily stains, the cold water setting on your machine will generally do a good job cleaning your clothes. However, switching your temperature setting just from hot to warm can cut your load's energy use in half. Also be conscious of good appliance placement as well. For example, don't put ovens and stoves that produce a lot of heat right next to your refrigerator that is trying to stay cold.

Saving energy is cost effective and environmentally friendly too. What better way to reduce your annual energy cost than to actually use the environment to do this? By carefully positioning trees around the perimeter of your home you can actually save up to 25 percent off your heating and cooling bill. Deciduous trees (trees or shrubs that lose their leaves seasonally), when planted on the south and west sides of a home will help keep your house cool in the summer and allow sun to shine in the windows in the winter. You can also deflect winter winds and reduce heating costs by planting evergreens and shrubs on the north and west side of your house.Four final things you’ll want to consider:

  1. Turn off your computer monitor when you are not using it. Your monitor uses more than half the system's energy.
  2. Unplug battery chargers when they are not in use. Cell phones, laptops, and other wireless devices chargers use energy even when they are not charging your devices.
  3. Don't leave lights on in rooms you are not using.
  4. Replace traditional incandescent lighting with energy-efficient LED lighting. This alone can save you up to 85 percent over incandescent energy consumption; not to mention LED won’t heat up your room as it stays cool and bright when lit.
  5. Install timers or motion sensors to reduce the amount of time your exterior lights remain on.

As always we are here to help you when you have questions or problems.  Call us.

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Tags: Energy Star, programmable thermostat, Cooling, Energy Efficiency