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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
Holiday Lighting Tips
This year is rapidly drawing to a close and that means the holiday lighting season is back. If your home is in need of a decorative refresh, here are some tips to take your artistic stylings to the next level.
As always, safety comes first. Most of these tips apply equally to inside and outside decorating activities and for installation at most any height:
- Have a ground crew (one or two people) to steady your ladder and pass up the decorations. They are an invaluable part of safety and keep you supplied with untangled light strings and fasteners.
- Remember to keep a safe distance from your overhead electric service.
- Don’t overreach. If you cannot get to a point with your body completely centered between the sides of the ladder, get down and relocate it.
- Don’t overextend the ladder. If your ladder is too short, rent or borrow a longer one. A ladder extended beyond its working limits is dangerous, as is standing on rungs too close to the top.
- Do not overload circuits by stringing more light sets together than the manufacturer recommends. Check the packaging for details.
- Check your wires for breaks and cracks in the insulation that can lead to shorts.
Light selection is important. If at all possible, invest in LED lights this season. Unlike the first LED versions that were characterized by rather harsh and unattractive colors, the newest generation’s colors are more reminiscent of the former incandescent lights.
Why go the LED route? Longevity and operating cost are the two key reasons. Unlike incandescent lights, whether the large or mini bulb, LEDs will last for many, many years. LEDs have no filaments to burn out. Aside from physically destroying the bulb, the LED is amazingly robust. Given the modest number of hours of operation, you can expect LEDs to last seven or more years.
There is also a benefit in the cost of operating LEDs. A reasonable estimate of power consumption is 7 watts per 100 lights. How does that compare to the old incandescent? Each of those bulbs used 12 watts so a string of 100 devoured 1200 watts.
If you truly want to manage the cost of operating holiday lights, invest in timers to turn the lights on and off automatically. You can also purchase a smart plug for your lights, which allows you to program and control them from your smart phone.
Holiday lights are a true treasure of the season, and by installing them safely and efficiently, you can ensure your display brings joy to people of all ages.
Light up Your Holidays for Less with LEDs
When store aisles are full of holiday décor and you might notice that not only do some of these items make your home look festive, but they do so while saving money on your energy bill. LED (Light-emitting diodes) Christmas lights not only offer a quality alternative to traditional incandescents, but many other advantages as well.
First, using LED Christmas lights on a 6-foot tree, 12 hours a day for over 40 days can save at least 90 percent on holiday light energy costs when compared to using traditional incandescent lights. LED’s also have a much longer operational life span, lasting roughly 20,000 hours and are cooler to the touch than incandescents—helping to reduce the risk of fire and personal injury.
While many LED lights are made in the same shapes and varieties as traditional lights, they are more durable than incandescent lamps and are typically made of solid plastic rather than glass.
When purchasing LED’s, look for manufacturers and brands with the ENERGY STAR logo designating them as having been tested for energy efficiency and quality standards. And as always, make sure you purchase the correct light for the job—outdoor lights should only be used outdoors and indoor lights for indoors.
Show your holiday spirit this season, and save on your energy bills at the same time with LED holiday lights.