Energy Saving Tips

  • The importance of air filters

    Whether you realize it or not, your heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system is always hard at work in one way or another. Whether it’s cooling your home on those hot summer days or keeping it toasty during the chilly winter nights, HVAC systems play an important role in your everyday life.

    With such a vital workhorse at your disposal, it’s important to make sure it’s maintained and working properly throughout the year, and a key part of that maintenance revolves around filters. One of the most overlooked aspects of an HVAC system is the filter and how often it needs changing. But why do these filters need to be clean in the first place?

    Numerous benefits accompany a clean air filter, such as:

    • Improved air quality in your home
    • Better energy efficiency
    • Extended life of your HVAC system
    • Less frequent repairs for your system
    • Better temperature control

    To ensure your system is always putting its best foot forward, take time to check these filters at least monthly or as the manufacturer states. Other factors can affect how often your filter needs changing, such as:

    • Shedding pets
    • Carpet versus hardwood floors
    • The amount of pollen, dust, etc.
    • Fireplaces or other wood-burning heat sources
    • Cigarette smoke

    For homes with one or more shedding pets, it’s recommended to check your filter to determine if it needs more frequent changing. For those with allergies, checking filters monthly and more often during allergy season could prove beneficial for keeping the air as clean as possible and improving the air quality in the home.

    Once you’ve checked your filter and determine whether it needs replacing, the next step is to choose the one that works best for your home.

    High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are great for air purification, and because of their design, they can capture larger pollutants, pollen and pet dander. However, mold spores may settle on the filter and could require changing sooner than expected.

    Ultraviolet (UV) filters use short-wave ultraviolet light to kill bacteria, viruses and potentially hazardous microorganisms like mold spores. While these filters are beneficial for ridding the air of illness-inducing particles, they are not as effective at filtering out dust and allergens.

    Electrostatic filters use small cotton and paper fibers to create static that acts as a magnet for dust and other particles. Since the magnetism is strong, particles are contained in the filter and don’t go back into your home, which is great for keeping allergens at bay. These filters come in a disposable or reusable option, and they are one of the most cost-effective options.

    Washable filters are another option for those desiring a reusable filter, but they do require more frequent care. While they may be more of a financial investment up front, they can last many years and could save money in the long run. Be sure to follow maintenance and washing instructions very closely when using washable filters, as any bit of moisture left on the filter could lead to mildew or mold development.

    Lastly, pleated filters are made of cotton folds or polyester fabrics and do well with catching the most debris because of their larger surface area. Although they are effective with filtering dust and other airborne pollutants, they are less resistant to airflow and provide low air filtration.

    When choosing a filter type, remember that if the filter is too large or too thick, airflow could be restricted, meaning your HVAC system will need to work harder to pull air through the unit, which could decrease efficiency. If you have questions about filters or want to know more energy efficiency tips, visit caec.coop or call 1-800-545-5735 ext. 2178 to speak with our Energy and Technology Consultants (ETCs).

  • Groundhog vs. Energy Hog

    When it comes to hogs, channeling your inner Groundhog can help you beat Energy Hogs from increasing your power bills.

    1. Predictable Power Down: Mimic the Groundhog’s shadow prediction by setting a daily reminder to power down electronics and appliances when not in use. Make it a routine to unplug chargers, turn off lights, and switch off devices and stop the energy buffet for Energy Hogs.
    2. Hibernate Your Devices: Encourage a daily hibernation ritual for your electronic devices. Set them to sleep or power-saving mode when not in use, just like a groundhog retreats to its burrow for a cozy nap.
    3. Sunlight Predictions: Coordinate your activities with the sun’s movement. Open curtains and blinds during the day to allow natural light in. Use shadows strategically to minimize the need for artificial lighting, especially during the daytime.
    4. Groundhog’s Natural Thermostat: Follow the Groundhog’s lead when it comes to predicting the weather. Adjust your thermostat accordingly; if it’s a “shadow day” (colder), layer up and lower the thermostat, and if it’s a “no shadow day” (warmer), embrace natural warmth and keep the thermostat a bit higher.
    5. Seal the Burrow Gaps Just as Groundhogs secure their burrows, ensure your home is well-insulated from Energy Hogs. Seal any drafts around windows and doors to prevent heat loss and maintain a cozy, energy-efficient living space.
    6. Hibernate the Water Heater: Lower the temperature on your water heater or consider investing in a timer. Groundhogs are experts at conserving energy during hibernation; you can do the same by optimizing water heating schedules.
    7. Outwit the Energy Hog: Energy Audits: Have one of our trained Energy and Technology Consultants help you identify where the energy hog lurks with an energy audit. Outwit it by making targeted improvements based on the audit recommendations.

    Remember, the key is to make these energy-efficient habits a part of your daily routine, creating a sustainable loop just like the famous day that repeats itself!

  • Fighting winter chill with efficiency tips

    Alabama weather can be unpredictable, but there are a few ways you can make sure the weather has less of an impact on your budget. Check out a few steps you can take now to help make your home more energy efficient.

    Mind the thermostat. This is one of the easiest ways to manage your home energy use. When heating your home, we recommend setting your thermostat to 68 degrees (or lower) when you’re home. When you’re sleeping or away for an extended period of time, try setting it between 58 and 62 degrees; there’s no need to kick up the heat when you’re away or sleeping and less active.

    Button up your home. The Department of Energy estimates that air leaks account for 24-40 percent of the energy used for heating and cooling a home. Caulking and weather stripping around windows and doors are simple, cost-effective ways to increase comfort and save energy. If you can feel drafts while standing near a window or door, it likely needs to be sealed.

    Use window coverings wisely. Open blinds, drapes or other window coverings during the day to allow natural sunlight to warm your home. Close them at night to keep the cold, drafty air out. If you feel cold air around windows, consider hanging curtains or drapes in a thicker material; heavier window coverings can make a significant difference in blocking cold outdoor air.

    Consider your approach to appliance use. When combined, appliances and electronics account for a significant chunk of our home energy use, so assess how efficiently you’re using them. For example, if you’re running the dishwasher or clothes washer, only wash full loads. Be aware of electronic devices that consume energy even when they’re not in use, such as phone chargers or game consoles. Every little bit helps, so unplug them to save energy.

    Think outside the box. If you’re still feeling chilly at home, think of other ways to warm up besides dialing up the thermostat. Add layers of clothing, wear thick socks and cuddle up under cozy blankets. You can even add layers to your home! If you have hard-surface flooring, consider purchasing an area rug to block cold air that leaks in through the floor.

    Winter months often bring some of the highest energy bills of the year. By being proactive about saving energy, you can increase the comfort of your home and reduce monthly energy costs.

  • Tech the halls: Smart home efficiency

    With holiday shopping deals right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to talk to friends and family about upgrading a few items around the home to help with energy efficiency. Whether the change is big or small, there’s a way to generate some energy savings!

    Smart plugs

    If you’re trying to convince friends or family to invest in smarter technology around the home but they don’t feel like going all-in just yet, start them off with something simple like a smart plug. These devices plug into your electrical outlets and help manage the energy consumption of whatever you plug into them. The plugs have apps that allow users to program times of use, view energy consumption totals and remotely turn the plugs on and off.

    Smart lightbulbs

    Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs have been around for many years, but today’s models have many new options. Originally priced too high to justify in everyday home use, today they are comparably priced and are a popular household option and the real savings come throughout the lifetime of the bulb. Additionally, companies now offer “connected” or “smart” LEDs that let you use your smartphone/smart device as a switch via a connection hub kit. This not only allows you to change options such as the brightness and even the light color, but also to set timers and turn lights on or off from wherever you are with just a tap on an app.

    Smart thermostats

    With heating and cooling accounting for almost 40-50 percent of energy bills, smart thermostats can be a huge step in energy savings. Smart thermostats are WiFi enabled and may be controlled remotely through an app on a smartphone, tablet or smart speaker system. Through the app, you can access your smart thermostat to raise or lower the temperature any time, anywhere. These gadgets are ideal for users who want a totally hands-off, voice-activated approach to regulating their home’s temperature. These thermostats can also learn your habits, which means they can learn and predict your temperature settings automatically.

    Smart appliances

    For those already on board the technology train with smaller items, the holidays could be the perfect time to snag some deals on larger smart appliances. Washing machines, vacuums, ovens, refrigerators, coffee makers and much more have joined the ranks of items you can now control with your phone, and both the energy saving benefits and convenience factors are keeping users interested. Whether it’s conserving energy by delaying the start time on a load of laundry or having Alexa turn off your oven for you, the possibilities are endless when integrating smart appliances into your everyday life.

  • Make your Black Friday “green”

    As you gear up for the most anticipated shopping extravaganza of the year, we have some ways you can turn Black Friday into “Green Everyday” by investing in smart energy-efficient technology. Here’s a shopping list to help you make the most of your shopping spree by saving money on both upfront costs and long-term utility bills.

    1. Smart Thermostats for Hot Deals: On Black Friday, these little wonders are hotter than ever! Grab a smart thermostat to keep your home cozy and energy-efficient. You’ll stay comfortable while keeping energy waste at bay.
    2. Illuminating Savings with Smart Lighting: Upgrade your lighting game with smart LED bulbs and systems. Not only do they dazzle your home with the perfect ambiance, but they also put you in control of your energy consumption. Look out for bright deals on Black Friday!
    3. Cool Savings with Smart Fridges: Keep your cool on Black Friday by grabbing a smart refrigerator. These modern marvels keep your food fresh and your energy bills low. Say goodbye to those pesky temperature fluctuations and hello to savings!
    4. Smart Laundry, Smart Savings: Washer and dryer sets are getting smarter. Find deals on machines that optimize water and energy usage while maintaining the impeccable cleanliness of your clothes.
    5. Cooking Up Energy Savings: Smart ovens and ranges can be your culinary companions this Black Friday. Cook up a storm and keep an eye on your energy usage from your smartphone. The best of both worlds!
    6. Curtain Call for Savings with Smart Blinds: Smart window blinds give you control over natural light and room temperature. Save on heating and cooling costs with these energy-efficient solutions.
    7. Power Your Savings with Smart Strips: Get ready for Black Friday with smart power strips. Turn off power-hungry devices remotely and keep your energy bills in check.
    8. Sensors for Sensible Savings: Smart occupancy and environmental sensors can help you automate your home for energy efficiency. Keep an eye out for deals that’ll make your home smarter than ever!
    9. Fan-Tastic Energy Savings with Smart Ceiling Fans: Smart ceiling fans are here to give you a breeze of energy savings. Control them remotely to optimize comfort and energy use.

    So, make your Black Friday to Green Everyday by investing in smart energy-efficient appliances. Not only will you score incredible deals, but you’ll also ensure that your home is both energy-conscious and cost-effective.

     

  • LEDs + Smart Devices = Winning Combination

    In an era where energy conservation is paramount, using advanced technologies can make a significant impact. One such dynamic duo is LED lighting and smart devices, a synergy that not only brightens our spaces but also illuminates a path towards energy efficiency. Let’s explore how this combination can be a game-changer.

    1. LED Lighting: A Beacon of Efficiency
    • Energy-Efficient Illumination: Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) consume significantly less energy compared to traditional incandescent bulbs, translating to immediate energy savings.
    • Extended Lifespan: LED bulbs have a longer lifespan, reducing the frequency of replacements and minimizing environmental impact.
    • Instant Light Output: Unlike some energy-saving bulbs that take time to reach full brightness, LEDs provide instant illumination, ensuring optimal visibility and comfort.
    • Directional Lighting: LEDs emit light in a specific direction, reducing the need for reflectors and diffusers and directing light where it’s needed most.
    1. Smart Devices: Intelligent Control for Optimal Efficiency
    • Remote Control: Smart lighting systems allow users to control lights remotely through smartphone apps, enabling the adjustment of brightness and color temperature at the touch of a button.
    • Automated Scheduling: Set up schedules to automate when lights turn on and off, ensuring that energy is not wasted when lighting is unnecessary.
    • Motion Sensors: Smart lighting systems often come equipped with motion sensors, turning lights on only when movement is detected and off when the space is vacant, preventing unnecessary energy consumption.
    • Integration with Other Devices: Integration with smart home ecosystems allows for seamless coordination with other devices, such as thermostats, to optimize energy consumption throughout the entire home.

    LED lighting, combined with smart controls, can result in lower electricity bills as energy is used more efficiently.

     

  • Tips to help your AC & power bill

    It’s just plain hot and we all know our AC units are working overtime to keep up. Here’s some other things you can do to help take the load off your AC and your power bill.

    1. Use Fans: Utilize ceiling fans or portable fans to circulate air, which can make the room feel cooler without relying solely on the air conditioner. But only use them when you’re in the room

     

    1. Close Curtains and Blinds: Keep curtains and blinds closed during the hottest parts of the day to block out direct sunlight and prevent the interior from heating up.

     

    1. Insulate Windows and Doors: Check for air leaks around windows and doors and seal them with weatherstripping or caulk to prevent cool air from escaping and warm air from entering.

     

    1. Adjust Thermostat Settings: Set your thermostat to a higher temperature when you’re away from home and lower it when you’re back. Consider investing in a programmable thermostat to automate this process.

     

    1. Use Appliances Wisely: Avoid using heat-producing appliances (ovens, stoves, dryers) during the hottest hours of the day. Opt for outdoor grilling or cook meals that require minimal heat.

     

    1. Regular Maintenance: Clean or replace air filters regularly to maintain the efficiency of your air conditioner. Consider having an HVAC professional inspect and service your system annually.
    2. Unplug Devices: Unplug electronics and chargers when they are not in use, as they can still consume power even in standby mode.

     

    By following these tips, you can improve energy efficiency in your home during the summer months, ease the burden on your air conditioner, and potentially lower your energy bills.

  • Spring into Energy Savings with 3 easy tips

    Winter weather can have a big impact on your energy bills, hitting your pockets a little harder than you would have liked. Now that spring is just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to tackle a few DIY efficiency projects for your home. The good news: You don’t have to be an energy expert to do this!

    There are several easy ways to save energy, but if you’re willing to take a hands-on approach, here are three projects you can do now to start saving.

    Make the Most of Your Water Heater.

    Let’s start with one of the easiest projects: insulating your water heater. Insulating a water heater that’s warm to the touch can save 7 to 16 percent annually on your water heating bills. It should also be noted that if your water heater is new, it is likely already insulated. But if your water heater is warm to the touch, it needs additional insulation.

    You can purchase a pre-cut jacket or blanket for about $20. You’ll also need two people for this project. Before you start, turn off the water heater. Wrap the blanket around the water heater and tape it to temporarily keep it in place. If necessary, use a marker to note the areas where the controls are so you can cut them out. Once the blanket is positioned correctly tape it permanently in place, then turn the water heater back on. If you have an electric water heater, do not set the thermostat above 130 degrees, which can cause overheating.

    Seal Air Leaks with Caulk.

    The average American family spends $2,000 annually on energy bills, but unfortunately, much of that money is wasted through air leaks in the home. Applying caulk around windows, doors, electrical wiring and plumbing can save energy and money. There are many different types of caulking compounds available, but the most popular choice is silicone. Silicone caulk is waterproof, flexible and won’t shrink or crack.

    Before applying new caulk, clean and remove any old caulk or paint with a putty knife, screwdriver, brush or solvent. The area should be dry before you apply the new caulk.

    Apply the caulk in one continuous stream, and make sure it sticks to both sides of the crack or seam. Afterwards, use a putty knife to smooth out the caulk, then wipe the surface with a dry cloth.

    Weather Strip Exterior Doors.

    One of the best ways to seal air leaks is to weather strip exterior doors, which can keep out drafts and help you control energy costs. Weather stripping materials vary, but you can ask your local hardware or home store for assistance if you’re unsure about the supplies you need.

    When choosing weather stripping materials, make sure it can withstand temperature changes, friction and the general “wear and tear” for the location of the door. Keep in mind, you will need separate materials for the door sweep (at the bottom of the door) and the top and sides.

    Before applying the new weather stripping, clean the moulding with water and soap, then let the area dry completely. Measure each side of the door, then cut the weather stripping to fit each section. Make sure the weather stripping fits snugly against both surfaces so it compresses when the door is closed.

    By completing these simple efficiency projects, you can save energy (and money!) while increasing the comfort level of your home. And you can impress your family and friends with your savvy energy-saving skills.

  • It’s not me, it’s you: When to break up with your water heater

    Love might be in the air this Valentine’s Day, but when you and your water heater no longer have any heat between you and the warm, fuzzy feelings have worn off, it could be time to end the relationship. But how do you know for sure that it’s time to break up with your appliance?

    First, find the age of your water heater. The typical water heater warranty lasts six years, whereas the lifespan of a water heater can range from 10-20 years. If you’re unsure of how old your water heater is, find the description plate, typically located along the bottom of the unit. The first four digits of the listed serial number will indicate the month and date it was manufactured. From there, it’s simple math to determine how long you love birds have been together. If you’ve been with the same water heater for 10 years or more, keep an eye out for a few tell-tale warning signs that there could be trouble in paradise.

    Consistently losing hot water is one of the easiest signs to recognize, as well as fluctuating water temperature after minimal use. Per CAEC’s recommendation, the setting of your water heater’s thermostat should be between 120-125 degrees Fahrenheit. If the size you have should easily accommodate the number of people living in your house and you still find yourself losing hot water quickly, it could be a sign.

    Strange sounds such as popping, crackling or banging could indicate a buildup of scale or sediment in the tank. This type of buildup doesn’t necessarily call for a whole new water heater, but it could mean the tank could be drained or treated. Contact a professional to inspect the water heater before deciding.

    Discolored water, strange smells or strange tastes could also be a sign of bacteria, sulfur, sediment or corrosion in the water, especially for rural homes using well water. Contact a professional to determine the cause; substances in the water can be treated, but tank erosion will surely call for a replacement.

    If you find yourself putting more into the relationship and not getting much in return (like making increased and frequent repairs on small parts), it could be a sign that you need to move on to something new.
    Finally, watch for leaks. These can be sneaky and show up without warning, especially on water heaters located in an attic. Those leaks are hard to find and continue to grow until they go straight through the ceiling.

    It’s never easy to part with something you’ve spent years with, but in the end, you deserve better! If you suspect it’s time to break up with your water heater, call 1-800-545-5735 ext. 2118.

  • Expensive home problems and how to fix them

    Finding energy efficient solutions for your household appliances without breaking the bank can seem like an impossible task, but rest assured that your electric cooperative is here to help! Find out what solutions we offer and how you can benefit from them.

    If you’d like for your home to be more energy efficient but are concerned that some of the larger projects seem financially daunting, CAEC offers numerous benefits and services designed to meet your needs. For instance, perhaps you realize your old drafty windows are letting your energy dollars escape or your water heater or heat pump isn’t performing efficiently, what are you to do? CAEC’s loan and rebate programs are here to help our members when it’s time to replace these products with energy efficient options.

    Energy efficiency loan program We realize that sometimes financing can be the biggest drawback to making your home more energy efficient, and this is where our Co-op Energy Efficiency Loan Program comes into play. Through an agreement with PowerSouth, our generation and transmission supplier, and Regions Bank, this loan program is designed to help members finance one or multiple energy efficiency improvements in the home.

    Heat pump rebate By taking advantage of our heat pump rebate, CAEC members can potentially receive refunds on dual fuel systems and mini-split systems for both standard and manufactured homes—even those bought through our loan program! Additionally, we offer rebates for both new and existing manufactured homes that are replacing an electric furnace with a heat pump. To qualify for this rebate, you must have a licensed or certified HVAC dealer install the unit, a load calculation must be performed on the home, and members must provide an invoice to CAEC proving purchase. For manufactured homes, CAEC must complete an inspection of the skirting.

    Water heater rebate With CAEC’s water heater rebate program, members can purchase a new water heater from any store and receive a rebate for meeting a few qualifications. First, only electric water heaters, not tankless, are considered for this rebate, and must have a minimum energy factor of .92. Participation in CAEC’s Peak Shaving Program (PSP) is also required to qualify for a water heater rebate.

    Regardless of what your home may need to become more energy efficient, rest assured that CAEC is always here to lend a helping hand to you, our valued members.

  • Working from home: Cutting your home office energy costs
    Did you know that January 10th is National Cut Your Energy Cost Day? With more people working from home than ever before, it’s important to have a few tricks up your sleeve to ensure your energy bill doesn’t skyrocket while working remotely.

    Let the sunshine in. When choosing a space for your home office, it’s a good idea to choose a room that has access to natural lighting. Natural light not only helps illuminate a room, but it also can keep you from running your heat throughout the day by regulating the temperature inside your home. During the day, you can also open insulated curtains on your south-facing windows to allow sunlight to naturally heat your home. Close them at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.

    Give your equipment a break. There’s no shame in needing to take a short break throughout the day, so while you’re taking a break, turn off any lights or unplug any electronics you’re not using to give them a break as well. Electronics that stay plugged in all the time are sometimes referred to as vampire sources, and electronics found in a home office are notorious for using a small amount of energy consistently. If you’re not using a piece of equipment for the day or if you know you’re finished using it, go ahead and unplug it until it’s time to put it to use.

    Utilize energy efficiency. Purchasing energy efficient office equipment could help you significantly cut down on your energy usage, but many pieces of technology already come with built-in settings for conserving energy. If you have trouble remembering to unplug your computer at the end of the day, switch it to sleep mode as this has also proven effective for conserving energy. Also, remember that using a laptop instead of a desktop computer can use less energy.

    Adjust the temperature. When working from home, it’s tempting to turn the heat up a bit so you can stay nice and cozy, but why not bundle up with warmer clothes or a blanket instead? Bump your thermostat down by one degree while you’re home and help reduce your energy bill by up to three percent! You can also adjust your ceiling fans to low and clockwise – where warm air is pushed down into the room.

    Have your HVAC system checked. Whether in the office or at home, staying on top of the condition of your HVAC system is paramount. Clean filters will reduce strain on your system and use less energy. Be sure to schedule a tune up for the winter season with a heating and cooling company to ensure your HVAC unit is working properly.

  • Smart thermostat options
    It’s happened to all of us. We leave our homes and halfway to our destination, we remember our thermostat was left on a setting that may cause our heating and air unit to keep running even though no one is home to enjoy that climate-controlled air. With heating and cooling costs accounting for approximately 40-50 percent of energy bills, we’re all looking for ways to be more energy efficient, and a great way to do just that is by upgrading your thermostat. The right thermostat settings could yield energy savings of 8-15 percent, and new technology is making it easier than ever to achieve those settings.

    Smart thermostats are Wi-Fi enabled and may be controlled remotely through an app that can be accessed by a tablet, smartphone or voice control using a smart speaker system. If you’re interested in controlling your thermostat with your voice or an app, or want to be totally hands-off with a device that will learn your habits, you should consider a smart thermostat. To narrow your choices, factor in smart features, price and attributes that matter most to you, and make sure the chosen product supports your HVAC system.

    Two of the most popular types are “Wi-Fi enabled” and “Smart” thermostats. Wi-Fi enabled thermostats will look the same on the wall as a traditional thermostat, but with the added benefit of having an app that can control many features, such as changing the temperature when you are away, scheduling a program for the week or monitoring the use away from home. These thermostats allow you to change the temp on your way home or after you leave in case you forgot to set it on your way out. You can also verify that no one has changed the setting while you’re away or even create a schedule of settings based on your weekly routine.

    Smart thermostats, such as the Nest 3rd Generation and the Ecobee4, will learn your habits and predict temperature settings automatically. If you wish to set your own schedule, you can do so with an app, or you can even control them with your voice through a smart speaker, such as those offered from Amazon or Google.

    Whichever fits your lifestyle, preferences and tech savvyness, a Wi-Fi enabled or smart thermostat is a good investment that can help you save energy and money in a more convenient way. If you have questions about which might be best for you, contact one of our Energy Service Representatives at 334-351-2178 and start saving today!