Energy Conservation and Energy Efficiency are two sides of the same coin. Most people think they mean the same thing, but they don’t.
Energy conservation means reducing the level of energy use by turning down a thermostat, or turning off a light, or turning up the temperature of your refrigerator.
Energy efficiency means getting the same job done while using less energy. Efficiency is usually done by replacing an older, less efficient appliance with a new one.
You’ll learn how to get your home ready for winter. You’ll learn how to be prepared in case the power goes out.
GETTING ENERGY READY FOR WINTER
Energy prices are on the rise across the nation. As a result, heating costs will consume an increasingly larger portion of a household’s energy budget. That’s why it’s important to check your home to insure that your heating dollars aren’t being wasted.
When cold weather approaches, use this checklist of simple ways to make your home more comfortable and keep those escalating energy bills at bay.
Check for Leaks
Weather stripping and caulking is probably the least expensive, simplest, most effective way to cut down on energy waste in the winter. Improperly sealed homes can waste 10 to 15 percent of the homeowner’s heating dollars. Take these steps:
- Check around doors and windows for leaks and drafts. Add weather-stripping and caulk any holes you see that allow heat to escape. Make sure doors seal properly.
- If your windows leak really badly, consider replacing them with newer, more efficient ones. Keep in mind, however, that replacing windows can be expensive – it could take you quite awhile to recover your costs from the energy savings alone. But new windows also provide other benefits, such as improved appearance and comfort.
- Every duct, wire or pipe that penetrates the wall or ceiling or floor has the potential to waste energy. Plumbing vents can be especially bad, since they begin below the floor and go all the way through the roof. Seal them all with caulking or weather-stripping.
- Electric wall plugs and switches can allow cold air in. Purchase simple-to-install, pre-cut foam gaskets that fit behind the switch plate and effectively prevent leaks.
- Don’t forget to close the damper on your fireplace. Of course the damper needs to be open if a fire is burning; but if the damper is open when you’re not using the fireplace, your chimney functions as a large open window that draws warm air out of the room and creates a draft. Close that damper – it’s an effective energy-saving tip that costs you nothing!
- Examine your house’s heating ducts for leaks. Think of your ductwork as huge hoses, bringing hot air instead of water into your house. Mostly out of sight, ducts can leak for years without you knowing it. They can become torn or crushed and flattened. Old duct tape – the worse thing to use to seal ductwork, by the way – will dry up and fall away over time, allowing junctions and splices to open, spilling heated air into your attic or under the house. It’s wasteful. According to field research performed by the California Energy Commission, you can save roughly 10 percent of your heating bill by preventing leaky ducts.
Check Your Insulation
- Insulate your attic. In an older home, that can be the most cost-efficient way to cut home heating costs. Before energy efficiency standards, homes were often built with little or no insulation. As a result, large amounts of heat can be lost through walls, floors and – since heat rises – especially ceilings.
How much insulation should you install? Typical framed homes must meet insulation requirements of R-38 insulation in ceilings and R-19 for walls and floors.
- Weather-strip and insulate your attic hatch or door to prevent warm air from escaping out the top of your house.
- Seal holes in the attic that lead down into the house, such as open wall tops and duct, plumbing, or electrical runs. Any hole that leads from a basement or crawlspace to an attic is a big energy waster. Cover and seal them with spray foam and rigid foam board if necessary.
Check Your Heating System
- Get a routine maintenance and inspection of your heating system each autumn to make sure it is in good working order.
- Replace your heater’s air filter monthly. Your heating system will work less hard, use less energy and last longer as a result. Most homeowners can replace filters and do such simple tasks as cleaning and removing dust from vents or along baseboard heaters.
- If your heating system is old, you might consider updating it. A pre-1977 gas furnace is probably 50 percent to 60 percent efficient today. That means only half of the fuel used by the furnace actually reaches your home as heat. Modern gas furnaces, on the other hand, achieve efficiency ratings as high as 97 percent. By replacing an old heating system with one of the most efficient models, you can cut your natural gas use nearly in half!
- Use your set-back thermostat. If you have an older home, consider installing one. A set- back thermostat allows you to automatically turn down the heat when you’re away at work or when you’re sleeping at night, and then boost the temperature to a comfortable level when you need it. Remember – it takes less energy to warm a cool home than to maintain a warm temperature all day long. Properly using your set-back thermostat could cut your heating costs from 20 to 75 percent.
- Reverse the switch on your ceiling fans so they blow upward, toward the ceiling. Ceiling fans are a great idea in the summer, when air blowing downward can improve circulation and make a room feel four degrees cooler. A cooling draft is a poor idea when it’s cold, however. By reversing the fan’s direction, the blades move air upward in winter. This is especially valuable in high ceiling rooms, where heat that naturally rises is forced back down into the room.
- Make sure all heating vents are opened and unblocked by furniture or other items. This will ensure that the air is evenly distributed through the home.
Change a Light Bulb
1. Lighting our homes can represent 20 percent of home electricity bills and is one of the easiest places to start saving energy. If every household changed a light to an ENERGY STAR® one, together we’d save enough energy to light 7 million homes and reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to that of 1 million cars.
Five Action Steps to Cut Natural Gas and Propane Use
Here are some suggestions.
Turn down your thermostat to 68 degrees. For every degree you lower your heat in the 60-degree to 70-degree range, you’ll save up to 5 percent on heating costs. Wear warm clothing like a sweater and set your thermostat to 68 degrees or lower during the day and evening, health permitting. Set the thermostat back to 55 degrees or off at night or when leaving home for an extended time, saving 5-20 percent of your heating costs (heat pumps should only be set back 2 degrees to prevent unneeded use of backup strip heating).
Replace or clean furnace filters once a month. Dirty filters restrict airflow and increase energy use. Now is also the time for a furnace “tune-up.” Keeping your furnace clean, lubricated and properly adjusted will reduce energy use, saving up to 5 percent of heating costs.
Reduce hot water temperature. Set your water heater to the “normal” setting or 120-degrees Fahrenheit, unless the owner’s manual for your dishwasher requires a higher setting. Savings are 7-11 percent of water heating costs. Insulate the first 5 feet of pipe coming out of the top of your water heater or the whole length until the pipe goes into the wall if that is less than five feet. Pipe insulation is available from your hardware store.
Seal up the leaks. Caulk leaks around windows and doors. Look for places where you have pipes, vents or electrical conduits that go through the wall, ceiling or floor. Check the bathroom, underneath the kitchen sink, pipes inside a closet, etc. If you find a gap at the point where the pipe or vents goes through the wall, seal it up. Caulk works best on small gaps. Your hardware store should have products to close the larger gaps.
Consider replacing your old gas appliances with an ENERGY STAR® water heater or furnace. If your gas water heater is more than 12 years old, consider replacing it with a newer, more efficient model. The best indicator of a water heater’s efficiency is the Energy Factor (EF). The higher the EF, the more efficient the water heater.
Also contact your natural gas
utility or visit their website for additional ideas, rebates and incentives.
A Reminder to Keep Safe This Winter
Do not resort to using a BBQ or camp stove for heat. Such equipment is designed to be used only outdoors and present significant safety hazards when used in any enclosed or partially enclosed setting. Besides the obvious fire hazard, they can produce high levels of carbon monoxide (CO). Remember that you cannot smell or see CO.
If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak, get to fresh air RIGHT AWAY. DO NOT DELAY. Carbon monoxide can rapidly lead to full incapacitation and death. If you experience serious symptoms, get medical attention immediately.
Fast and Free
Cutting back unnecessary energy use is an easy way to keep your hard earned money in your pocket. Here are some suggestions you can do at home, at absolutely no cost to you.
Let the sunshine in. Open drapes and let the sun heat your home for free (get them closed again at sundown so they help insulate).
Rearrange your rooms. Move your furniture around so you are sitting near interior walls – exterior walls and older windows are likely to be drafty. Don’t sit in the draft.
Keep it shut. Traditional fireplaces are an energy loser – it’s best not to use them because they pull heated air out of the house and up the chimney. When not in use, make absolutely sure the damper is closed. Before closing the damper, make sure that you don’t have any smoldering embers. If you decide not to use a fireplace, then block off the chimney with a piece of rigid insulation from the hardware store that fits snugly into the space (dampers don’t shut fully without some leaking).
Eliminate wasted energy. Turn off lights in unoccupied rooms. Unplug that spare refrigerator in the garage if you don’t truly need it – this seemingly convenient way to keep extra drinks cold adds 10-25 percent to your electric bill. Turn off kitchen and bath-ventilating fans after they’ve done their job – these fans can blow out a house-full of heated air if inadvertently left on.
Shorten showers. Simply reducing that lingering time by a few minutes can save hundreds of gallons of hot water per month for a family of four. Showers account for 2/3 of your water heating costs. Cutting your showers in half will reduce your water heating costs by 33 percent.
Use appliances efficiently. Do
only full loads when using your dishwasher and clothes washer. Use the cold
water setting on your clothes washer when you can. Using cold water reduces
your washer’s energy use by 75 percent. Be sure to clean your clothes dryer’s
lint trap after each use. Use the moisture-sensing automatic drying setting on
your dryer if you have one.
Put your computer and monitor to sleep. Most computers come with the power management features turned off. On computers using Windows, open your power management software and set it so your computer goes to sleep if you’re away from your machine for 5 to 15 minutes.
Those who use Macintosh computers look for the setting in your Control Panels called “Energy Saver” and set it accordingly. When you’re done using your computer, turn it off (see next tip). Do not leave it in sleep mode overnight as it is still drawing a small amount of power.
Plug “leaking energy” in electronics. Many new TVs, VCRs, chargers, computer peripherals and other electronics use electricity even when they are switched “off.” Although these “standby losses” are only a few watts each, they add up to more than 50 watts in a typical home that is consumed all the time. If possible, unplug electronic devices and chargers that have a block- shaped transformer on the plug when they are not in use. For computer scanners, printers and other devices that are plugged into a power strip, simply switch off the power strip after shutting down your computer. The best way to minimize these losses of electricity is to purchase ENERGY STAR® products.
Inexpensive Energy Solutions
Every home is different. With a quick trip to your local hardware store, you have even more choices at hand.
Choose ENERGY STAR® Products. Replace incandescent light bulbs with ENERGTY STAR compact fluorescent light bulbs, especially in high-use light fixtures. Compact fluorescent lights use 75 percent less energy than incandescent lights.
Plug your home’s leaks. Install weather-stripping or caulk leaky doors and windows and install gaskets behind outlet covers. Savings up to 10 percent on energy costs.
Install low flow showerheads. If you do not already have them, low-flow showerheads and faucets can drastically cut your hot water expenses. Savings of 10-16 percent of water heating costs.
Wrap the hot water tank with
jacket insulation. This is especially valuable for older water heaters with little internal insulation.
Be sure to leave the air intake vent uncovered when insulating a gas water
heater. Savings up to 10 percent on water heating costs.
WHAT TO DO IF THE POWER GOES OUT IN THE WINTER
Any number of things can cause a power outage during the winter months. Most probably it is weather-related. If it is caused by the weather, the outage could be wide-spread or it could be localized.
First check to make sure you have not blown a circuit or a fuse. Check the circuit breakers or fuses in your home’s electrical panel.
If power is out in your entire neighborhood, call your local utility company to report the outage. The phone number should be on your electricity bill, or check the white pages in your phone book.
If power is out over a widespread area, it may take a longer time to restore power everywhere. Sometimes it can be out for days.
Here are some things to remember or to do…
- UNLESS there is an emergency, do not call 9-1-1. That number should ONLY be used if there is an emergency, or if someone is injured or in danger.
- If there are power lines down in your neighborhood, do call 9-1-1 and call your utility company. DO NOT GO NEAR DOWNED POWER LINES.
- Listen to your battery-powered radio or TV, especially for news at the top of each hour, to find out when the power might be restored.
- Dress to stay warm – wear layers, including a sweater, sweatshirt or even a jacket. You lose heat through your hands and the top of your head. Wear gloves and a knit hat, not just a baseball cap.
- Avoid opening your refrigerator and freezer as much as possible. Food inside should stay cold for hours if the door is left closed.
- If you’re cold, take a warm shower – to increase your body temperature. Your hot water tank, even if electric, will stay warm for a few hours.
- Unplug some of your major appliances. When the power comes back on, all of those appliances can create a drain or power surge. This can harm sensitive equipment. To avoid a power surge when the electricity returns, turn off computers, TVs, stereos and other unnecessary electronic equipment at the power source. Leave a light on so you’ll know when the power is restored.
- If you have a generator, do not connect it to your home’s power system unless it has been properly installed and disconnects you from the main power grid when it is operating. If you do not disconnect from the power grid, you can be sending electricity back down the lines; not just to your home. That could be deadly for power company workers.
- If you have a regular wood stove or fireplace, you can use it for heat. However, DO NOT USE kerosene heaters, BBQs, or any outdoor type heater inside. Such devices create poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas given off by combustion and could kill.
- Check on your elderly neighbors or those who may have medical conditions or use medical machinery that operates on electricity. Make sure they are dressed appropriately
warm. If someone needs to have machinery that operates on electricity, move her to a place where electricity is working.
- If you have to go out, drive carefully. Remember that traffic signals may be out during a power outage. Consider each intersection to be a four-way stop and drive defensively.
A Warning About HYPOTHERMIA – Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminsitration
The human body loses heat during the winter due to the conduction and convection of heat from the skin to nearby air, due to evaporation of moisture from the skin surface, and due to normal respiration. To compensate for this heat loss, the body burns energy to produce heat to keep the body temperature at a relatively constant level. If, however, a body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, the body temperature will cool to below normal levels, a medical condition known as hypothermia.
Hypothermia will gradually worsen unless the overall rate of heat loss can be stopped. The warning signs for hypothermia may start with shivering and shaking and may end in death. Initially, as the body temperature starts to drop, shivering begins. At the same time, the brain begins to reduce the amount of blood that is circulated to the extremities of the body in order to conserve heat for the vital organs near the body’s central core. If the central core of the body continues to cool, uncontrollable shaking, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion may develop. These are all signs of a very serious situation. If the body core temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit, just 4 degrees below normal, immediate care is needed, as the person will likely become irrational. Once the body core temperature drops below 90 degrees, the person loses muscle control, and outside help is the person’s only hope for survival. If that help is not available, heart and/or respiratory failure and death will eventually follow as the core temperature continues to drop.
If a person is suffering from hypothermia, it’s critically important that the person be warmed properly. If warmed improperly, death may result. In a hypothermic person, cold blood is concentrated in the extremities. If these extremities are warmed too quickly, this cold blood will be released into the body’s central core, possibly lowering the central core temperature to a fatal level. Use the following steps to raise the core temperature of a hypothermic person.
- Get the person into dry clothing if their clothes are wet.
- Put on additional clothing to warm the person’s head and trunk, such as a hat and vest.
- Wrap the person in a warm blanket and be sure their head and neck are covered. Do not cover their extremities.
- Give them warm liquids to drink, but no alcohol, drugs or coffee.
- Seek medical attention, if necessary.
· Hypothermia can also develop in elderly people in a cool room with few, if any, warning signs.
WINTER HOLIDAY TIME ENERGY-SAVING TIPS
Kitchen Tips for an Energy-Wise Holiday
Traditionally, the winter holidays are a time for delicious food shared with cherished company. This year, as you count your blessings, you might give a thought to the reliable energy sources that enable you to prepare those culinary delights so enjoyed by family and friends.
Today’s new kitchen appliances use nearly 50 percent less energy than those built just a decade ago. Still, when holiday time rolls around, your energy bills can rise considerably, what with your stove, oven, and dishwasher running overtime, and the door to your refrigerator standing open frequently as family members search for hidden treats.
Thankfully, it’s not difficult to keep added holiday energy costs to a minimum. Just follow these few simple tips from the California Energy Commission.
The turkey is traditionally stuffed early in the morning and roasted for hours. Since it’s a long, slow cook, there’s no need to preheat your oven, even when the recipe suggests it. This also holds true for a holiday ham. In fact, unless you’re baking breads or pastries, you may not need to preheat the oven at all.
Don’t open the oven door to take a peek at what’s cooking inside. Instead, turn on the oven light and check the cooking status through the oven window. Opening the oven door lowers the temperature inside – by as much as 25 degrees – which increases cooking time and wastes energy.
As long as your oven is on, cook several items at the same time. Just make sure you leave enough room for the heat to circulate around each casserole and pie plate.
In an electric oven, you can turn the heat off several minutes before your food is fully cooked. As long as the oven door remains closed, enough heat will be stored inside to finish cooking your meal. The same principle applies to your electric range-top – the metal heating elements stay hot even after the electricity is turned off.
If you use glass or ceramic pans, you can turn your oven temperature down 25 degrees, and foods will cook just as quickly.
Self-cleaning ovens use less
energy for normal cooking because of the higher insulation levels built into
them. (However, if you use the self-cleaning feature more than once a month,
you’ll end up using more energy than you will save.) Consider using the
self-cleaning feature immediately after using your oven, to take advantage of
the residual heat.
When cooking on top of your range, match the size of the pan to the heating element. More heat will get to the pan and less will be lost to the surrounding air. Believe it or not, a six-inch pan on an eight-inch burner will waste more than 40 percent of the energy!
Clean burners and reflectors provide better heating, while saving energy. If you need new reflectors, buy quality ones. The best on the market can save as much as one-third of the energy used when cooking on top of the stove.
Other Ways to Cook
Don’t overlook the other cooking appliances at Thanksgiving. Fast and efficient microwave ovens use around 50 percent less energy than conventional ovens, and they don’t heat up your kitchen. Consider using them to bake yams, steam your favorite fresh vegetables, or heat up leftover turkey and gravy for a midnight snack. They’re especially efficient for smaller portions or items, but when it comes to the turkey or large items, your oven or stovetop are usually more efficient.
Remember your small appliances, great energy savers that can save you money all year long. Slow cookers (crock-pots) are perfect for busy families. On average, they will cook a whole meal for about 17 cents worth of electricity. Electric skillets can steam, fry, saute’, stew, bake, or roast a variety of food items – and some can double as serving dishes. If you’re baking or broiling small food items, a toaster oven is ideal because they use one-third the energy of a bigger oven.
If you’re truly adventurous, don’t confine your cooking to the kitchen. Most Californians live where the climate is mild enough to cook outdoors even in November. If you haven’t tried roasting your Thanksgiving turkey on a charcoal grill, you’re in for a treat. You might save a little on your utility bill, and you’ll have plenty to talk about over dinner.
In addition to your stove, your refrigerator and freezer also get a real workout over the holidays. While newer refrigerators are much more energy efficient than older ones, they remain one of the largest energy consumers in your house, often accounting for as much as 15 percent of your home’s total energy usage.
Help your refrigerator and freezer operate efficiently and economically by keeping the doors closed as much as possible so the cold air doesn’t escape. However, leaving the door open for a longer period of time while you take out the items you need is more efficient than opening and closing it several times.
It’s easy to keep your
refrigerator and freezer full at Thanksgiving. It’s also energy efficient,
because the mass of cold items inside will help your refrigerator recover each
time the door is opened. Don’t cram it so full, however, that cool air can’t
circulate properly around your food.
One simple, fun, and cost-effective way to save energy at holiday time is to gather everyone together in the kitchen and wash and dry your dishes by hand. But don’t keep a steady stream of hot water flowing, or you’ll waste more energy than you’ll save.
According to research, a load of dishes cleaned in a dishwasher requires 37 percent less water than washing dishes by hand. However, if you fill the wash and rinse basins instead of letting the water run, you’ll use half as much water as a dishwasher.
If you opt to use the dishwasher, wash full loads only. If you must rinse your dishes before loading them, use only cold water so you’re not running up your energy bill by heating water unnecessarily.
Don’t forget to use the energy-saving cycles whenever possible. Dishwashers that feature air power or overnight dry settings can save up to 10 percent of your dishwashing energy costs.
Saving energy in the kitchen is a habit you should practice all year long – why not begin this Thanksgiving? Throughout the holiday season and into the New Year, you’ll watch your energy bills drop even as you use less of our precious energy resources – just one more thing to be thankful for this holiday season.
Making Holiday Lights Both Festive and Frugal
Bright, twinkling lights – both inside and outside the house – are one of the joys and traditions of the season.
But while there is plenty of power to go around this season, those festive little lights can still turn a once jubilant reveler into a bitter Ebenezer Scrooge when the old electricity bill rolls in. To avoid a “Bah humbug!” attitude come January, take an energy efficient look at the bulbs you’re stringing on your trees and on the eaves of your home.
Did you know that those large, traditional colored bulbs you unpack year after year could be costing you a bundle? While most C7 or C9 lights use 5 to 7 watts per bulb, some of the older strings use up to 10 watts per bulb!
Consider buying new miniature lights, which use about 70 percent less energy and last much longer than the larger bulbs. If you prefer the brilliance of the larger lights, switch to 5-watt bulbs, which use about 30 percent less energy than 7- to 10-watt bulbs. Although the new bulbs will cost money initially, you will see energy savings immediately.
To avoid accidentally leaving your lights on and running up your electric bill unnecessarily, use an automatic timer, both indoors and out. You’ll remove the burden of turning the lights on and off and avoid leaving them on all night or during the daylight hours. Just make sure that the timer you use is rated to handle the total wattage of your lights.
Would you like to be the first in your neighborhood to try something new and different? Ask your lighting supplier for LED holiday bulbs, or look for them on the Internet. Now available in green, orange, gold, red, white and blue. They’re shatterproof, shock resistant, safe to touch and won’t burn your children’s hands! They also present no fire hazard, save up to 80-90 percent of your energy costs, and are long lasting.
Don’t forget that safety should play an important role in your holiday decorating. Here are a few suggestions:
- Make sure all lights you purchase contain the Underwriters
Laboratories (UL) label, which means they meet UL safety requirements.
- While you’re reading labels, be sure you’re buying the right set for indoor use, outdoor use, or both.
- Before decorating, check all light sets for frayed wires, damaged sockets, or cracked insulation. If you find any defects, replace the entire set.
- All outdoor cords, plugs and sockets must be weatherproof. Keep electrical connections off the ground, and make sure wiring is kept clear of drainpipes and railings to prevent any risk of shock. It’s also a good idea to use a ground fault circuit interrupter on each circuit. If current leaks through frayed or damaged wires, the interrupter will shut off the lights.
- Don’t overload your electrical circuits. Circuits in older homes carry a maximum of 1800 watts each. Most newer homes can handle 2400 watts each.
To determine how many watts you’re using, multiply the number of holiday bulbs by the number of watts per bulb. (If you’re not sure of the wattage, use 10 watts per bulb just to be safe!) When you’re calculating the total, don’t forget to include appliances, normal lighting, and other electrical equipment already running on the same circuit.
- Remember that hot bulbs can ignite dry tree branches. To avoid disaster, keep trees well watered and keep extension cords and light strings away from the water. For safety’s sake, light your tree only when you are at home and awake to enjoy it. As an extra precaution, keep a fire extinguisher handy, and be sure your home’s smoke detectors have new batteries and that they’re working properly.
If you’re in the mood for a holiday that’s old-fashioned and more energy efficient, consider decorating this year’s tree with edible ornaments, like gingerbread men, candy canes, and strings of popcorn and cranberries. But stay away from burning candles on or around your tree.
lthough they may provide a soft, flickering light, they’re a definite fire hazard, and aromatic candles have been known to cause indoor air quality problems.