Tips to Save Energy
BY “ECO-GAL” Mayre Press
The chill of the winter heating season brings higher energy bills and people look for ways to lower those costs. An obvious, yet overlooked, cost saver is to do as your folks told you, “Turn off the light when you leave the room.” A single 60-watt bulb left on for 12 hours per day for one year will cost nearly $20 per year. Multiply that by the lights used in every room and you’ll see that leaving lights on is a wasteful habit.
For even greater savings, replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CLF). These energy-efficient bulbs come in a wide range of wattages and types, including three-way lights. For softer aesthetics in the home, try full-spectrum light bulbs.
Another good idea is to turn off TVs, VCRs, DVD players, stereos and radios when no one is watching or listing. Some suggest unplugging these electronic devices as they continue to use energy even when turned off.
In the kitchen you can save energy by washing only full loads in the dishwasher, which uses less hot water than washing dishes by hand. Set the water temperature at 120°F and use the air dry cycle to dry dishes. Your refrigerator uses more energy than any other kitchen appliance. Cool hot foods before putting them in the refrigerator or freezer as they make the motor work longer and harder. Give refrigerator coils a thorough cleaning every six months and make sure the door’s seal is tight.
Resist the urge to peek inside the oven to check on food and use the oven light instead. Ovens can lose 25 percent of their heat when the door is opened. Use the microwave or toaster oven when reheating or cooking small amounts of food. Another energy saver is to match the size of your pan with the size of the burner, heat is wasted if the flames are bigger than the pan’s base.
Did your folks ever tell you to, “put on a sweater” when you complained about the cold? Listen to them—lowering the thermostat to 68°F can save money. Use a ceiling fan to push down warm air and help keep a room cozy at a lower temperature. A humidifier can make your home more comfortable especially if you have steam heat, which can dry out wood furnishings.
Set your water heater between 115-120°F and take showers instead of baths. The average bath uses 15-25 gallons of water, while a five-minute shower uses less than 10 gallons. Save even more by replacing your showerhead with a low-flow one that uses fewer gallons of water. Turn the faucet off when brushing your teeth or shaving.
It’s a myth that you must use hot water to get clothes clean. Many laundry detergents have been reformulated to clean clothes in cold water. Using cold water can save up to 12 gallons of hot water per load. Depending on how many loads of laundry you do each week, savings could be $20-40 per year. Another laundry tip is to dry a full load of clothes, but don’t overload the dryer. Clothes dry faster if they have space to tumble and use the timer so they don’t get too dry, which can break down fibers.
Many of the energy-saving products noted here are available at www.gaiam.com; a growing number of retailers also sell energy-efficient items.
“Keeping the Warmth in and the Cold Out,” a brochure produced by Nicor Gas, was a resource for this article.
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