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!
High temperatures = higher utility bills
In Alabama the summer gets hot, really hot. We deal with high temperatures, higher humidity and more often than not, higher electric bills due to our cooling systems working harder to maintain a level of comfort inside of our homes. Many members use heat pumps as a cooling system, so it’s best to understand how they work and the most efficient way to use them.
Most heat pumps are designed to work most efficiently at 95 degrees and below; they also are intended to hold a maximum 20-degree difference from the outside temperature to the thermostat setting in the home. Once the outside weather exceeds that 95-degree threshold, the heat pump must run almost nonstop in an attempt to maintain that 20-degree difference. For example, if you have your thermostat set to 68 degrees and it’s 95 degrees outside (equaling a 27 degree difference), your unit will continue to work with a goal of maintaining the 20-degree difference for which it was designed. The best way to save on your energy bill during these times is to turn your unit up to 78 degrees, which helps reduce the 20-degree window, and use fans to increase your comfort. Although higher temperatures usually mean higher bills, there are some things you can do to help lower your energy use in other ways.
A programmable thermostat can make it easy to increase your temperature to a higher setting when you’re not home.
- Do not close off rooms or vents. By doing so, you’re forcing cooled air back into the unit, which may cause damage to it and the duct work over time and in actuality, doesn’t reduce the amount of cooled air your unit produces. It also causes your unit to run inefficiently and increase your energy use.
- Avoid placing lamps or TV sets near your thermostat. The thermostat senses heat from these appliances, which can cause the air conditioner to run longer than necessary.
- Using a ceiling fan will allow you to increase your thermostat setting by four degrees and you will not notice any change in temperature. Fans that have the ENERGY STAR label move air 20 percent more efficiently than other models. Since they only increase your comfort and do not impact the actual temperature in the home, make sure you turn them off when you’re not using the room to reduce energy use.
- Water heating accounts for about 18 percent of the energy consumed in your home. Turn down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120°F). You’ll not only save energy, you’ll avoid scalding.
- When you shower or take a bath, use the bathroom fan to remove the heat and humidity from your home. Make sure bathroom fans are vented to the outside (not just to the attic).
- Wash clothes in cold water and only full loads of clothes, clean the lint filter in the dryer after every use. Wash and run full dishwashers at night, and air-dry dishes and clothing to help add to your energy savings.
- If you have a pool, consider slowly reducing pool filtration time by 30 minute increments daily. Keep on reducing the time as long as the water appears clean. You may find you only need to run your pool filter six hours a day. Install a timer to control the length of time that the pool pump cycles on. Consult your pool manufacturer if you have any questions or concerns about the amount of time needed to properly filter your pool.
Recipe for efficiency: Dryer lint trap cleaning
Did you know that the laundry room is one area where you can find energy cost savings? To help increase your dryer’s airflow, make sure the lint trap is properly cleaned out, which means more than just removing the lint. Check out the steps you can take to make your drying process much more efficient.
Tools: Screwdriver, dish soap, brush or sponge and a towel.
Step 1: Remove the lint from the trap in the dryer.
Step 2: To determine if the trap is clogged, run warm water over the mesh area. If the water puddles up, it needs cleaning. Use warm water and dish soap with a brush or sponge, and clean and dry thoroughly.
Step 3: Check the vent hose both from the dryer and the wall. Use a screwdriver to loosen the clamp connecting the hose to the dryer and the wall. Check the openings of both areas and the ends of the hose to verify there is no blockage. Clean out any excess lint and debris. Replace the hose to the wall and dryer and tighten the clamp back down. Verify the hose is still connected when you need to move the dryer.
Clean the exhaust outlet, found either outside low on the wall close to your laundry room or in the attic. If in the attic, verify the hose is leaving the attic. Otherwise, the hot air and lint could fall into your insulation or any material beneath it and cause a fire. If this is the case, contact a professional to extend the hose to the outside.
Electrifying appliances for your kitchen
Whether your oven and stovetop are powered by gas or electricity, it’s no secret that they consume more energy than smaller countertop appliances, like slow cookers and toaster ovens. In addition to improved efficiency, smaller kitchen appliances can also provide faster cooking times and less hassle with cleanup.
If you’re looking for convenient cooking methods with the added bonus of energy savings, here are three electrifying appliances for your kitchen:
- Air fryers are becoming increasingly popular, and consumers have good things to say about these handy little appliances. Air fryers use convection to circulate hot air and cook the food––this means little to no oil is required, resulting in healthier meals than those prepared with traditional fryers. Air fryers are relatively small, so they won’t take up much of your counter space, and with everything cooked in the fryer, cleanup is a breeze. Air fryers are available in a variety of sizes, and prices range from $40 to more than $200.
- Electric griddles have certainly been around for a while, and they offer several benefits for any home chef (beyond bacon and eggs!). Griddles are convenient because you can cook everything at once––like a “one-pan” meal, and the menu possibilities are endless. From fajitas to sandwiches to French toast, griddles can help satisfy all taste buds. They consume small amounts of energy and provide quick cooking times, so your energy bill will thank you. Prices and sizes for griddles vary, but you can typically find one for about $30 at local retail stores.
- Pizza brings people together, so why not consider a pizza maker for your kitchen? These compact, countertop machines are an inexpensive alternative to a costly brick oven, and they use less energy than your traditional oven. Choose your own fresh ingredients to whip up a faster, healthier pizza at home. Plus, most pizza makers are multifunctional and can be used to cook flatbreads, frittatas, quesadillas and more. You can purchase a pizza maker for about $30 to more than $150 online or at your local retailer.
These are just a few energy saving appliance options for your kitchen. Remember, when you’re cooking a smaller meal, countertop appliances can save time and energy.
Fight the Winter Chills
Winter means frigid temperatures can cause heating systems to work over time, and since heating and cooling can make up nearly half of your electric bill, you may experience sticker shock when you open that bill. Instead of waiting until a potentially high bill is in your mailbox, there are steps that can be taken to reduce usage.
These simple steps can help you manage your use:
- Wrap exposed hot water pipes and water heaters that are in unconditioned spaces.
- Make sure to change your air filter once a month.
- Keep drapes closed at night and keep those that don’t get direct sunlight closed during the day, too.
- Keep the fireplace damper closed when it is not in use – leaving it open can bring cold air into the room.
- Caulk around the fireplace hearth, and caulk or weather strip around doors and windows.
- Use your ceiling fans to push the warm air from the ceiling back down toward the living space, which means the furnace won’t turn on as frequently. In winter, your ceiling fans should turn clockwise at a low speed.
- Dress for the weather, even if you are inside. Wearing proper clothing like long sleeves and pants, or wrapping up in a cozy blanket will help combat the temptation to bump up the thermostat.
- An electric blanket can deliver quick warmth in ways a regular throw or blanket cannot. Electric blankets can include a variety of features, like timers and dual temperature settings. Consider an electric blanket instead of turning up the heat, and your energy bill will thank you.
- One of the easiest ways to stay cozy at home is to keep your feet warm. Our feet play a critical role in regulating body temperature, so when your feet are warm, your body automatically feels warmer. Try a pair of comfortable wool socks or house slippers to stay toasty.
- Another way to make your home cozier is to use a humidifier. Cold air doesn’t hold water vapor like warm air, so by adding humidity inside your home, you can feel a little warmer. A favorable level of humidity inside your home can also help clear sinuses, soften skin and improve sleep.
- Log on to your Central Alabama Electric Cooperative (CAEC) account to keep up with your usage.
- For even more tips and do-it-yourself projects, visit our Winter Energy Efficiency page.
Using the tips above can certainly help you manage your energy use, but your bill may still be higher than normal in winter months. Why?
- The weather makes a big impact on electric bills, accounting for nearly half of your bill.
- Even those with the most efficient HVAC systems will see more use in extreme weather.
- When extreme cold temperatures hit, our heaters work overtime.
- For example, even if you set your thermostat to our recommended 68 degrees in the winter, when it is 19 degrees outside, your system has to work hard to make up that 49-degree difference.
- Remember, there is value in comfort. For us to be comfortable in our homes, our heaters are going to work harder during extreme temperatures.
If you utilize a space heater, please follow these important safety tips.
- Call CAEC and see what kinds of options are available to you. We can offer many programs such as Prepay and Levelized billing to help you manage your energy use.
- Speak to one of our Energy Services Representatives (ESRs). They can help you understand how weather and your usage patterns affect your bill. And, if you think your usage is abnormal, one of our ESRs can provide energy audits and offer recommendations.
Five ways to stay cozy
When you’re feeling chilly at home, there are several budget-friendly ways you can keep comfortable without turning up the thermostat. Here are five easy ways to stay cozy when you start to feel the chill.
- Whether you’re experiencing extremely cold winter temps or are simply too cool for comfort, an electric blanket can deliver quick warmth in ways a regular throw or blanket cannot. Electric blankets can include a variety of features, like timers and dual temperature settings. Consider an electric blanket instead of turning up the heat, and your energy bill will thank you.
- One of the easiest ways to stay cozy at home is to keep your feet warm. Our feet play a critical role in regulating body temperature, so when your feet are warm, your body automatically feels warmer. Try a pair of comfortable wool socks or house slippers to stay toasty.
- On winter days when the sun is shining, take advantage and harness natural warmth from sunlight. Open all curtains, drapes and blinds in your home to let the sunshine in––you’ll be able to feel the difference.
- Another way to make your home cozier is to use a humidifier. Cold air doesn’t hold water vapor like warm air, so by adding humidity inside your home, you can feel a little warmer. A favorable level of humidity inside your home can also help clear sinuses, so en skin and improve sleep.
- Beyond adding visual appeal to your home, area rugs can also provide extra insulation and a warm surface for your feet on cold winter days. Use large area rugs in rooms where you spend the most time. You’ll enjoy the new colors and textures of the rug, and the additional warmth will help keep your home comfortable.
Resolve to use less energy in 2021
Eating better and exercising more often top the list for the most popular New Year’s resolutions, often followed by making better financial decisions. What better way to save money than by using less energy? Listed below are some energy saving tips to help you reach your goal.
When cold weather sets in, heating your home can account for up to 52 percent of your total energy bill.
- Open your drapes or blinds during the day to help capture heat from sunlight and close them at night to help retain the heat gain.
- Set your thermostat to 68 degrees when you’re home. If you’re going away for the weekend, lower the thermostat to 60 degrees.
- Run your ceiling fan on “low” in a clockwise direction to circulate warm air when you’re in the room.
- Install weather stripping and seals around doors and windows. Install gaskets under switch plates for lights and electrical outlets, and caulk all potential air leaks.
Whether for cooking, bathing, laundry, dish washing or other uses, about 15 to 20 percent of your monthly energy use goes toward water heating.
- Take short showers instead of baths. A five-minute shower typically uses less than 15 gallons of water while a bath can use 30 to 40 gallons.
- Approximately 80 percent of the energy used to wash clothes goes to heating water. Wash as many loads as possible in cold water.
Improve your water heater’s efficiency by wrapping it in an insulated jacket made for this purpose.
Lighting typically accounts for about eight to 10 percent of the average electric bill.
- Turn off lights when not in use. You can save more money by turning lights on and then off rather than leaving them on.
- Energy-efficient LED bulbs produce more light for less energy. They cost more initially, but their longer life combined with energy savings make them less expensive in the long run.
Your refrigerator is one of the most expensive home appliances to operate.
- Resist the urge to open the door and then decide what you want. Every time you open the door, 30 percent of the cool air escapes.
- Cleaning the coils underneath or behind your refrigerator/freezer will keep it running efficiently and look for the ENERGY STAR® label when replacing appliances.
Conventional washing machines use 40-50 gallons of water per load while high-efficiency washers use as little as one-third that amount.
- Avoid running your washer or dryer until you have a full load.
- Clean the lint filter of your dryer after every load.
- Adjust your dryer’s heat setting to “low” and take care not to over-dry your clothes.
- Every few months, inspect the outside dryer vent and clean when necessary.
There are ways to make cooking and baking easier on your electric bill.
- Turn the oven off 15 minutes prior to the specified baking time; the residual heat will finish the cooking process.
- Leave the oven door closed during baking, each time you open the door, you lose about 25 to 50 degrees of heat.
Manage the many devices you use to inform, entertain and communicate with others and beware of energy “vampires.” Many electronic devices (computers, TVs, wall-chargers, etc.) use power even when you’re not actively using them.
- Unplug these devices when not in use.
- Create a charging station connected to a power strip that accepts all your power cords for laptops, cell phones and digital cameras and turn the power strip off when nothing is being charged.
By making some small changes to how you use energy,
You’re never too young to learn smart energy choices! Enjoy these fun games and become an Energy Star!
Which heat pump is best for you?
When choosing a heat pump system, there are two considerations you should keep in mind– the efficiency of the unit and type of unit. The efficiency of the unit is identified by the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) – the higher the SEER number, the greater the efficiency and therefore greater energy savings. According to the Department of Energy, a 14 SEER heat pump is the standard and it is also the most commonly used because it is the least expensive.
To help you reach an optimal level of efficiency as well as comfort, let’s talk about the heat pump and the options you have when choosing one to serve your cooling and heating needs. The most common unit is the air-source heat pump, which pulls the heat out of indoor air and releases it outside to keep your home cool and dry and does the reverse in winter. A heat pump acts as a dehumidifier and can trim the amount of electricity you use for heating by 30-40 percent when switching from an electric furnace.
Another type of unit that can heat and cool your home is the dual fuel heat pump, similar to air source heat pumps, but this one uses a gas furnace as backup heat rather than electric strips. These units switch from the heat pump to the gas furnace only when the temperatures dip below freezing when the heat pump would be less efficient. A dual fuel heat pump is typically more expensive than regular heat pumps but in this climate, it is worth the cost due to reduced energy use in the winter months.
The mini-split, a compact and efficient way to control the temperature of your home, is a system that consists of an outdoor unit connected to one or more indoor units. This system gives you the ability to zone and control the temperature of each individual indoor unit allowing the members of your home to have control of their space and level of comfort. Other unique benefits of this system include reaching high levels of efficiency through a SEER as high as 18–19. It can also operate effectively during low temperatures; therefore, it can be used efficiently year-round in varying climates where other systems might not function as well. Using a mini-split system provides the option of having no ductwork, thereby reducing the inefficiencies common with ductwork.
The geothermal heat pump is considered to be the most efficient type of heat pump available, and also the most expensive. This type of unit uses the constant temperature of the earth as its exchange medium instead of the outside air, and it can have a life span of more than 20 years if properly maintained. Although the installation cost may be higher compared to other systems, it will produce lower utility bills and annual maintenance costs. The installation of one of these systems in 2019 can also qualify the homeowner for a 30 percent tax credit. And you will experience a savings of 30–70 percent compared to other systems.
Learn more about our heat pump rebate program, or call (800) 545-5735, ext. 2118.
Myths About Your Thermostat
Your home’s thermostat controls how long your heating or cooling system operates. You can save energy and money by learning how this simple device operates.
One common myth is that the higher you set your thermostat when you return home, the faster your house will warm-up. This isn’t true since most heating systems deliver heat at the same rate no matter how high the thermostat is set. So just set your thermostat at the temperature you’d like, and your system will heat your home as fast as it can.
Another myth regards the efficiency of setting your thermostat down when you don’t need heating or cooling, such as at night or when no one is home. This myth states that a heating system works harder than normal to heat your home back to a comfortable temperature after the thermostat has been set back, resulting in little or no savings. This is not true, as has been proven by years of research and field observations. The longer your house stays at a reduced temperature when heating–or at an increased temperature when cooling–the more energy and money you’ll save.
This is because your heating or cooling cost depends mostly on the temperature difference between indoors and outdoors. When you adjust your thermostat down in the winter–or up in the summer–you simply reduce this temperature difference. If you set your temperature back 10 to 15 degrees for 8 hours while you’re asleep or at work, your energy savings can be 5% to 15% on your energy bill.
By the way, you can install a setback thermostat that automatically adjusts your home’s temperature at pre-set times. But your can achieve the same savings if you faithfully remember to change your thermostat whenever you leave home or go to bed.
Make the Most of Ceiling Fans
If you are like most Americans, you have at least one ceiling fan in your home. Ceiling fans help our indoor life feel more comfortable. They are a decorative addition to our homes and, if used properly, can help lower energy costs.
Tips for making the most of your ceiling fans:
1. Flip the switch – Most ceiling fans have a switch near the blades. In warm months, flip the switch so that the blades operate in a counter clockwise direction, effectively producing a “wind chill” effect. Fans make the air near them feel cooler than it actually is. In winter, move the switch so the fan blades rotate clockwise, creating a gentle updraft. This pushes warm air down from the ceiling into occupied areas of the room. Regardless of the season, try operating the fan on its lowest setting.
2. Adjust your thermostat – In the summer, when using a fan in conjunction with an air conditioner, or instead of it, you can turn your thermostat up three to five degrees without any reduction in comfort. This saves money since a fan is less costly to run than an air conditioner. In the winter, lower your thermostat’s set point by the same amount. Ceiling fans push the warm air from the ceiling back down toward the living space, which means the furnace won’t turn on as frequently.
3. CHOOSE THE RIGHT SIZE – Make sure your ceiling fan is the right size for the room. A fan that is 36-44 inches in diameter will cool rooms up to 225 square feet. A fan that is 52 inches or more should be used to cool a larger space.
4. TURN IT OFF – When the room is unoccupied, turn the fan off. Fans are intended to cool people – not rooms.
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.