Saving money, conserving energy is in your hands
By Ven Griva
Copley News Service
Sure, we all should do our part to save the planet, but the best reason to make your home more energy efficient is to save something else: money.
By replacing your old or worn-out appliances with those marked with the Energy Star, you can join in the effort to reduce greenhouse-gas emission. Energy Star is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.
In 2007, by using Energy Star products in their homes, Americans saved enough energy to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions equivalent to those from 27 million cars and saved $16 billion on their utility bills.
Most of us like to see a reduction in our utility bills, especially in these times of rapidly inflating energy costs. Energy efficient choices can save families about a third on their energy bills, without sacrificing features, style or comfort, says the EPA and Department of Energy.
HEAT AND COOL EFFICIENTLY
Up to 50 percent of the energy we use in our homes is expended by heaters and air conditioners. So making smart decisions about your home's heating, ventilating and air-conditioning system can have a big effect on your utility bills - and your comfort. You can take these steps to increase the efficiency of your heating and cooling system:
- Change your air filter regularly. A dirty filter will clog air flow, forcing the system to use, and waste, more energy to keep you warm or cool. Check your filter monthly, especially during periods of heavy use, like winter and summer. If the filter looks dirty after a month, change it. At a minimum, change the filter every three months. A clean filter will also reduce the need for costly maintenance.
- Install a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat is ideal for people who are away from home during set periods of time throughout the week. Through proper use of programmed settings, a programmable thermostat can save you about $150 every year in energy costs.
- The air ducts for forced-air furnaces, central air conditioners or heat pumps are often big energy wasters. Sealing and insulating ducts can improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system by as much as 20 percent or more. Seal ducts that run through the attic, crawl space, unheated basement, or garage. Use duct sealant or metal-backed tape to seal duct seams and duct connections. After sealing the ducts, wrap them in insulation to keep them from getting hot in the summer or cold in the winter.
Finally, if your heating and air-conditioning system is more than 10 years old, or is not working well, consider replacing it with an Energy Star system. Installed correctly, these high-efficiency heating and cooling units can save up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs.
In most households, the refrigerator is the single biggest energy consuming kitchen appliance. Replacing a refrigerator bought in 1990 with a new Energy Star-rated fridge would save enough energy to light the average household for nearly four months.
If you can't afford to buy a new refrigerator, there are other things you can do make it run more efficiently:
- Position your refrigerator away from a heat source such as an oven, a dishwasher or direct sunlight from a window. To allow air to circulate around the condenser coils, leave a space between the wall or cabinets and the refrigerator or freezer and keep the coils clean.
- Make sure the door seals are airtight. Keep your refrigerator between 35 and 38 degrees F and your freezer at zero degrees F.
- Minimize the amount of time the refrigerator door is open.
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