Efficiency Upgrades That Make Sense
Are your dollars going up the chimney?
Brian Sloboda is a program manager for the Cooperative
Research Network, a service of the National Rural Electric Cooperative
Surveys show that only about
15 percent of folks actually take steps to enhance the energy efficiency
of their home. In most cases, people think energy-efficiency improvements
are too complicated or expensive to tackle. However, there are several
simple upgrades you can consider that won't break your household budget.
Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) may look odd, but
one CFL uses about 75 percent less energy than a traditional incandescent
lightbulb. That can save more than $40 over its lifetime, according to
estimates by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star
program. Early CFLs had some issues with color or quality of the light,
but with today's versions, you probably won't notice a difference using a CFL.
Heating And Air Conditioning
The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that
heating and air conditioning account for 39 percent of a typical home's
annual electric bill. While an air-source heat pump or a geothermal heat
pump can be 20 to 45 percent more efficient than an existing central
heating and cooling system, up-front installation costs are often a
barrier. Simple solutions such as changing air filters at least every
month will increase airflow to rooms, increase the lifespan of your
central-heating and cooling unit and improve air quality. Sealing and
insulating ductwork can be done in a weekend and result in energy savings
of up to 20 percent. To lessen the amount of work that heating and cooling
systems need to do, it's important to find and fix air leaks. Walk around
your house on a windy day and feel for drafts around exterior doors and
windows, electric outlets and entrance points for TV and telephone cables.
Fix leaks with caulk, spray foam or weatherstripping. Simple acts such as
cooking outdoors on a hot summer day and closing curtains to block the
summer sun will keep the interior of your home cooler.
Appliances And Electronics
Gadgets and equipment that make life easier are also some
of the largest electric users in our homes. When buying a new appliance,
look for the Energy Star label. To keep appliances running more
efficiently, try these tips:
worn refrigerator door gaskets to stop cool air from seeping out.
* Clean lint
traps on dryers and don't overdry clothes.
refrigerator coils and keep refrigerators away from heat-generating appliances such as an oven.
Many home electronics, like computers, the DOE reports a full 75 percent of the power used to run home electronics is consumed when they're turned off. Plugging these items into a power or smart strip and turning off the strip TVs and DVD players, consume power even when turned off. Called
'vampire' or 'phantom' load, the average home loses 5 to 15 percent of its monthly energy consumption to these devices, according to the U.S.Department of Energy (DOE). In fact,
the DOE reports a full 75 percent of the power used to run home
electronics is consumed when they're turned off. Plugging these items into
a power or smart strip and turning off the strip when not in use is a
simple way to stop this loss of energy.
The best energy-efficiency improvements are often the
easiest, such as turning lights off when leaving a room, sealing windows
and doors, and cleaning refrigerator coils. To measure the success of any
energy-efficiency upgrades, big or small, first look at the payback
period, the amount of time it takes for the improvement to pay for itself.
Then consider your home's comfort level. Check whether fixes you've made
keep room temperatures level and whether you find fewer drafts around
doors, windows and other openings like vents or outlets. For more
information, contact the energy experts at Farmers Electric Cooperative.
An open masonry fireplace can result in higher overall heating costs because it can actually cool the air in your house. What should you look for in an efficient wood-burning fireplace?
The fireplace opening attracts heated indoor air, then releases the warm air through the chimney. The resulting vacuum draws cold outdoor air into your house through windows, doors and gaps. You may feel comfortable in front of the fireplace, but your heat pump or furnace runs like crazy trying to keep the rest of the house warm.
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