For energy wasters, first utility bill can be surprise
BY PHIL MULKINS World Action Line Editor
Friday, September 03, 2010
9/03/10 at 7:36 AM
Dear Action Line: My son and daughter-in-law moved into their first little house and apparently have no clue about the cost of natural gas and electricity - such as running their AC with the patio doors wide open, etc. Any energy saving tips to offer? - B.D., Tulsa.
Their first summer electric bill will put a wet blanket on the open-door policy. The Environmental Protection Agency offers no-cost, low-cost ways to save energy.
Turn it off: Turn off everything not in use: lights, TVs, computers, etc. Activate "sleep" features on computers and office equipment that power down the units when not in use. Turn off equipment during longer periods of non-use.
Air conditioning: In summer, use fans whenever possible instead of AC. Using fans to supplement AC allows you to raise the thermostat temperature, using less energy. Fans cost less to use than AC. Duct tape works well on lots of things but fails when used on ducts. Use mastic (a gooey substance applied with a paintbrush) to seal exposed ductwork joints in attics, crawls spaces or basements. Insulate ducts, above and below with fiberglass insulation wrap, to improve heating and cooling efficiency.
Filters: Check the furnace or air conditioner filter each month and clean or replace it as needed. Dirty filters block air flow through your heating and cooling systems, increasing your energy bill and shortening the equipment's life. Dress appropriately for the weather, and set your thermostat to the most economical yet comfortable setting possible. On winter nights, put an extra blanket on the bed and turn down your thermostat.
Drafts: Outside air moving through your home costs you money in summer and winter. During hot months, keep window drapes, blinds and shades closed on the south, east and west sides of the home. In winter, open them to let the sun in. Storm windows reduce winter heat lost by single-pane windows by up to 50 percent. You can also improve window insulation temporarily with plastic sheeting installed on the inside. Seal and weather-strip windows and doors to ensure they're not wasting heat or air conditioning energy through leaks to the outside. Glass fireplace doors help stop heat from being lost up the chimney, as do closed fireplace dampers. Install airtight covers over the glass doors and your attic fan louvers to further seal the home from the outside.
Heating water: About 15 percent of an average home energy bill goes to heating water. Save hot water by taking five-minute showers instead of baths. Do only full loads when running the clothes washer or dishwasher. Switch to cold water washing of laundry in top-loading, energy-inefficient washing machines. Lower the temperature on your water heater to "warm," so a thermometer held under running hot water reads no more than 120 degrees. Install low-flow shower heads and sink aerators to reduce hot water use. A water tank insulation wrap costs about $20 and helps hold the heat inside. Add pre-cut pipe insulation to exposed pipes going into your water heater. If you begin with an uninsulated tank, the resulting energy savings will pay for the insulation in a few months.
Submit Action Line questions by calling 699-8888 or by e-mailing phil.mulkins@TulsaWorld.com or by mailing it to Tulsa World Action Line, PO Box 1770, Tulsa OK 74102-1770.