Energy Tips

Want to learn about how to conserve energy? 

Conserving Energy General overview of energy conservation.

What You Do Matters Find out why "what you do matters."

Home Improvement Check out our home improvement tips.

Appliances Since electrical appliances that help you perform many of your household chores are a major part of your utility bill, wise use of these electrical servants can add up to significant savings. 

Home Heating Since home heating is the single largest expense in your family's energy budget, it offers the greatest opportunities for savings.

Lighting On average lighting accounts for about 5 percent of your electric bill.

Vacation Who stays home working away while everyone is off having fun?  Why it's your electric meter.

Water Conservation Learn how water conservation can impact your electric bill.

Wiring To operate efficiently, economically, and safely, appliances and electrical equipment require proper wiring.

Conserving Energy

Around the House

Heating Hints

Below are helpful tips from cooperative.com.

The US Department of Energy has tips for saving energy and money at home available at their website at: www.eere.energy.gov/consumer/tips/

What you do matters

Below is energy conservation information from Saturn Resource Management ( www.residential-energy.com ).  John Krigger is a nationally recognized author of numerous energy efficiency books, including Your Home Cooling Guide; EnergyWise Guide to Home Energy Conservation and Residential Energy; and Cost Savings and Comfort for Existing Buildings .

When should you shut your lights off?

Lots of people wonder whether it saves energy to turn their lights off every time they leave a room. The answer depends on two things: the type of lamp (the technical term for what most of us call light bulbs) in your fixtures, and how long you'll leave it off.

If you are still using old-fashioned incandescent lamps, then you should shut them off whenever you'll be out of the room for 3 or 4 minutes. But experts from the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory advise that fluorescent lamps are different, whether you are using the long tube-type fluorescents or the compact fluorescent lamps that screw into standard light fixtures. They suggest turning fluorescent lamps off only when you won't need them for 10 to 15 minutes. The recommendations for these two types of lamps are different because the lifespan of incandescent lamps isn't affected by the number of times they are switched on and off, while the lifespan of fluorescent lamps is slightly shortened every time they start up.

These recommendations also account for the varying life span of fluorescent lamps, depending upon the number of hours they are used per start. For example, if you use a fluorescent lamp for 3 hours per start, it will last for about 20,000 hours; if you use it for 6 hours per start, you'll get an increased lamp life of about 24,000 hours.

You also may have also heard that switching off a fluorescent lamp doesn't save much energy because the savings are erased by a surge in current when it is first switched on. This isn't really true: there is indeed a startup surge, but it lasts only a fraction of a second and the energy consumption during this small time interval is negligible.

Reducing your water heating costs

In terms of energy cost, water heating is usually second only to space heating in northern climates. It may actually be the most expensive energy item of consumers in southern climates.

The best way to save on water heating costs depends on how much hot water you use. If you use a lot of hot water, try strategies for reducing use. If you don't use very much hot water, insulate your water heater or buy a new one.

If you use a lot of hot water for showering, a water-saving showerhead may save quite a bit of money. Look for a showerhead that is rated for 2.5 gallons per minute. If your house tends to be a little humid, don't buy the misty kind of showerhead.

Washing clothes in cold water can save you a lot on water-heating costs. Try it and see if your clothes come out acceptably clean. If not, the new horizontal axis clothes washers need less than half the hot water and energy of standard vertical-axis models. If you pump from a well, a new clothes washer saves on pumping costs too. Look for the green Energy Star® label on the washer, designating the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency's highest rating.

Older water heaters were insulated with an inch or two of fiberglass insulation. New electric water heaters are insulated with 2 or 3 inches of foam, which is a much better insulator than fiberglass. If your water heater is more than 7 years old, you may want to order a new water heater now, to avoid having to buy whatever your supplier has in stock when yours springs a leak. When purchasing an electric water heater, order one that is insulated with 3 inches of foam. If you're going to keep your existing electric water heater, insulate the sides and top with a water-heater blanket, available at hardware and department stores.

Save energy in the kitchen

There are many ways to save energy in the kitchen that require little extra effort. Most of these measures will also keep your kitchen cooler, and reduce the amount of moisture released into your home. These both reduce summer cooling costs.

Finally, if you're shopping for a new refrigerator or dishwasher, look for models that have an Energy Star" label. These are the most efficient appliances made.

Home Improvement

Below is energy conservation information from Saturn Resource Management ( www.residential-energy.com ).  John Krigger is a nationally recognized author of numerous energy efficiency books, including Your Home Cooling Guide; EnergyWise Guide to Home Energy Conservation and Residential Energy; and Cost Savings and Comfort for Existing Buildings .

Finding Your Home's Drafts

Is your home drafty? Though some drafts may be caused by gaps in your home's exterior air barrier that allow cold outdoor air to enter your home, many apparent drafts are not caused by air leaks at all.

Air leakage that allows outdoor into your home can increase heating and cooling expense by 10 to 30 percent. The heated or cooled air in your home will easily travel through cracks that are hidden behind trim, under carpet, or around light fixtures. But these tiny openings don't tend to add up to much real heat loss. It's the big holes around chimneys, wires, and plumbing fixtures that sap your home's energy efficiency, and the average home has lots of them.

Take a bright light into your attic, basement, or crawl space, and follow the paths of these utilities where they pass through walls, ceilings, and floors. Use foam sealant, sheet metal, or caulking to seal large openings that allow air to pass into hidden cavities. You'll save energy in both summer and winter by sealing these large air leaks.

Windows may seem drafty, but they don't usually leak that much air. What happens instead is that the cold window glass cools the air right next to the window. This cold, dense air then sinks to the floor, and flows out across the room. Warm air flows in at the top of the window to replace the cold air, and a circular pattern of airflow is established in the room. It's tempting to blame all the small cracks around your windows, doors, and baseboards for these drafts, but caulking them up doesn't usually save much energy. What is the solution to most cold window problems? Install heavy curtains, or install storm windows if your windows have only a single pane of glass.

You can save a lot of energy and be more comfortable if you seal up your home's drafts. But don't worry about the little stuff until you've found and sealed all the large hidden openings in your home's air barrier.

Weather-Stripping Old Wood Windows

If you have older wooden windows, you may have noticed drafts leaking around the edges of the moveable sash. This air leakage will cool your house in the winter, heat it up in the summer, and allow dust and debris into your home during windy weather.

Traditional wooden double-hung windows, with an upper and lower sash that slide past one another, are fairly easy to weather-strip if you're handy with tools.

Paint is the primary obstacle to weather-stripping windows. The upper sash has often slipped down and is locked in place by layers of paint, making it impossible to seal effectively. Unless the window slides freely and the paint is in good shape, plan on stripping and re-painting the window before weather-stripping.

To weather-strip double-hung wood windows:

  1. Cut the paint seal with a knife around both the upper and lower sash, both inside and outside.
  2. Pry off one of the lower sash's wooden stops–these strips hold the window in place. Be sure to cut a line through the paint where the stop meets the jamb so paint doesn't pop off as you pry.
  3. Remove the lower sash. If it was too tight in the opening, use a wood plane or rasp to remove enough wood so it slides freely.
  4. Use a strong board and block, or a small hydraulic jack, to boost the upper sash back to its original position. Be careful to apply pressure only at sash corners so you don't break the glass.
  5. Block, screw, or nail the upper sash in place. The upper sash will now be immovable, but your weather strip will work better if only the lower window needs to slide.
  6. Scrape excess paint from the sashes and windowsill.
  7. Apply vinyl V-strip to the side jambs, and bronze or vinyl V-strip to the meeting rail on the top sash. You can get these materials at most hardware stores.
  8. Reinstall the lower sash and wooden stop.
  9. When you repaint the window, don't paint the weather strip or the channels where the sash slides. If the window sticks, lubricate the channels with a bar of soap.

Install Compact Fluorescent Lights

Lighting accounts for almost one-fifth of all the electricity consumed in the United States. Common incandescent bulbs are very inefficient and waste 90% of their energy producing heat instead of light. This waste heat contributes to your cooling bill in the summer.

Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) are one solution. They use one-quarter to one-third the electricity of common incandescent bulbs, and screw into standard light sockets. CFLs can save 60% or more on lighting costs. They're available in a wide range of light output and in a pleasing range of colors.

A CFL will cost about 10 times the price of an incandescent bulb, but it will last about 10 times longer. This makes their long-term cost about the same. The savings on your electric bill will begin immediately.

Start by installing CFLs in the rooms you use the most, like the kitchen, bathroom, and living room. Choose CFLs with a much lower wattage than the incandescent bulbs they replace. For example, replace 100-watt incandescents with 26–30-watt CFLs to get the same light output, replace 75-watt incandescents with 20–23-watt CFLs, and replace 60-watt incandescents with 15–20-watt CFLs. Using the higher wattage CFLs ensures that you won't get complaints about loss of light.

Standard CFLs are slightly larger than incandescent light bulbs and may not fit in all fixtures. The smallest CFLs, called sub-compact fluorescent, may work in these cases. Check your fixtures before purchasing CFLs.

If you're building a home, or plan to replace existing built-in fixtures, look for fixtures that are designed especially for CFLs. Recessed CFL fixtures -those that fit into the ceiling - are an especially good replacement for the recessed incandescent fixtures that allow large amounts of air to leak into the home.

One of the best sources of information about compact fluorescent lights is the web site www.BetterBulbsDirect.com. They have good information about the sizing and potential savings from CFLs, as well as an online store.

Reducing the Cost of Refrigeration

There is good news if you're considering buying a new refrigerator. The technology of refrigerators has come a long way over the past ten years. The best new refrigerators now use less than 500 kilowatt-hours per year compared to the 1000 to 1500 annual kilowatt-hours of older models. This savings of at least 500 kilowatt-hours per year makes the purchase of a new refrigerator surprisingly economical.

When shopping for a new refrigerator, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Maintaining Your Water Heater

Your water heater is one of your home's hardest working appliances. A little maintenance can improve its efficiency, speed its ability to heat water, and lengthen its life.

One of the best ways to save water heating energy and to extend your water heater's life is to lower the thermostat to a cooler setting. A setting of 120° F provides sufficient hot water for most families, reduces the chance of scalding, and decreases wear on your water heater's tank.

Read the manufacturer's instructions to learn how to adjust your water heater's thermostats, and be sure to turn the power off before opening the covers on an electric heater. Use a thermometer to gauge the temperature at each faucet in your home.

Corrosion, scale, and sediment are the enemies of your water heater:

For more information about maintaining your water heater, point your web browser to http://waterheaterrescue.com .

Get the Facts about Energy-Efficient Water Heaters

Knowing the facts about energy efficient water heaters can save you lots of cash when you need to buy one. Electric storage water heaters are very simple appliances. Modern units consist of a glass-lined steel tank, surrounded with foam insulation. If you have an old electric water heater, check the type and thickness of insulation. You can see the insulation at one of the holes in the water heater's outer shell, or around the opening to the combustion chamber. If it has one or two inches fiberglass, the water heater was manufactured before 1991 and will be quite inefficient due to heat loss through the tank's shell.

The efficiency of water heaters is rated by their Energy Factor (EF). This is the percentage of energy that remains in the hot water you use compared to the energy that was used to heat that water. For example, the best new electric water heaters have an Energy Factor of 0.95. This means that 95 percent of the energy used to heat the water is still there when it enters your water lines, and that 5 percent escaped through the walls of the tank before you used the water. Gas water heaters have a much lower Energy Factor than electric units because they also lose energy up the chimney.

Before 1991, fiberglass-insulated electric water heaters had Energy Factors ranging from 0.80 to 0.86. The National Appliance Energy Conservation Act (NAECA) of 1987 required electric water heaters manufactured after 1991 to meet a minimum Energy Factor of 0.88. As a result, manufacturers switched to foam insulation that increased the thermal resistance to as high as R-16 when using 2.5 inches of foam. The best new electric water heaters now have 3 inches of foam insulation.

When you next shop for an electric water heater, remember that electricity is a precious resource. Choose the best electric water heater available with an Energy Factor of 0.92 to 0.95. If your existing electric water heater has an Energy Factor of 0.86 and the new one is 0.95, you'll save over 400 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year or $25-35 per year.

By the way, if you have an old water heater, it may be better to replace it now rather than to wait until your old one fails. If you wait until you have an emergency, as when your water heater springs a leak, your local appliance dealer may not have the most efficient models in stock.

Efficiency Recommendation

Tank Volume

Recommended

Best Available

Energy Factor

Annual Energy Use (kWh/year)

Energy Factor

Annual Energy Use (kWh/year)

Less than 60 gallons

0.93

4,721

0.95

4,622

More than 60 gallons

0.91

4,825

0.92

4,773

U. S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Division

 

Appliance Efficiency

Get the most from your Appliances -- Use less electricity and reduce costs

Since electrical appliances that help you perform many of your household chores are a major part of your utility bill, wise use of these electrical servants can add up to significant savings.  A good rule of thumb to follow for any electrical appliance is:  Read the manufacturer's instructions.

Question:  Cooking seems to consume so much energy.  How can I conserve?

Answer:  Maximize use of your electric oven by cooking several dishes at once that require approximately the same temperature.  Select a mean or average temperature for all items.  For example:  if three recipes call for temperatures of 325°, 350°, and 375°, cook all three at 350° and adjust the cooking times accordingly.  Freeze the dishes you won't use immediately.  Saves you meal preparation time and doesn't heat up the kitchen.  Check the sealing gasket on your oven door.  If it's worn, it may leak heat.  Use flat-bottom pans with tight-fitting lids on surface units.  A small pan on a large burner wastes heat.  Turn off cooking units immediately.

Question:  Does opening and closing the refrigerator door really waste energy?

Answer:  Yes.  A little planning eliminates the constant opening and closing that contributes to energy waste and makes your refrigerator work harder.  So does regular defrosting and periodic cleaning of the refrigerator's coils and condenser.  A word of caution:  be sure to unplug the refrigerator before cleaning.  Check the sealing gasket on the door.  If you can close the door on a new dollar bill and then pull it out without opening the door, you are probably wasting cold air.  Clean the seal on a regular basis.

Question:  Is it more efficient to wash dishes under running water or in the dishwasher?

Answer:  A dishwasher is far more efficient if used properly.  Run the dishwasher only when full, and use the cycle recommended by the manufacturer.  Use only dishwasher detergents as other cleaning agents can clog the washing action.  Keep the filter screen clean.  Use the air dry feature rather than heat dry to help reduce costs.

Home Heating Energy Tips

Since home heating is the single largest expense in your family's energy budget, it offers the greatest opportunities for savings.

Question:  Can insulation save me money?

Answer:  Yes!  Good insulation is the single most important factor in reducing the amount of energy needed to heat and cool your home.  Adequate insulation can reduce your heating and cooling bill.  Five to seven inches in the attic floor and three to four inches in all outside walls is recommended.  Storm windows and doors added to a well-insulated home will reduce heating and cooling costs even more.

Question:  What if I can't afford insulation?

Answer:  There are other energy-saving measures you can take that may be within your budget.  Seal cracks or leaks in the eaves, and around windows and doors with caulking compound.  Replace or install weather-stripping around door and window frames.  Sheets of clear plastic, available in hardware stores, placed over windows and doors can substitute for storm windows.

Question:  Does turning my thermostat back really help?

Answer:  You bet!  Keep your thermostat as low as comfort permits.  Each degree over 70° in the winter adds about 3 percent to your annual heating bill.  When you're out of the house during the day, or for extended periods of time, turn your thermostat to 62°, and return it to its normal setting when you return.  Turning it way up to reheat the house quickly will destroy the good you've done by turning it down while away.  If you're going away for several days, turn the thermostat to 55°.  Never turn your heat completely off when you are going to be away.  A sudden drop in outside temperature could burst your pipes.  Also, close the heat register and doors of unused rooms.

Question:  How can I use my heating system to maximum advantage?

Answer:  Optimizing efficiency begins with careful selection.  When installing a new heating system, choose the size that suits your home.  A system that is too small or too large will not be economical.  Routine maintenance of your new or present system will help stretch its life and your dollars.

Question:  How much maintenance does my heating system need?

Answer:  Regular, pre-season check-ups--done by your dealer, regular replacement of filters, and periodic cleaning of the heat exchange surfaces of the system should keep it operating at top efficiency.  If you have central heat, check the duct work for leaks.  If yours is a forced air system, insulate the air supply and cold air return ducts, especially those on outside walls or under floors.

Question:  Can I really use the energy from sunlight?

Answer:  Yes, you can take advantage of this free energy source of heat and light by opening curtains or drapes when the sun is shining, and closing the drapes during overcast periods and at night to prevent heat loss.

Lighting Energy Tips

Question:  How much of my monthly electric bill does lighting actually account for?

Answer:  Each customer has different lighting needs; however, on average lighting accounts for about 5 percent of your electric bill.  For maximum efficiency, match the lighting fixture to the task it must perform.  For example:  fluorescent lamps produce more light than incandescent lamps for the same amount of energy.  When in doubt, check the labeling on the light bulb package.

Question:  What if I need incandescent lighting?

Answer:  Select the proper size bulb with the brightness and life span you need.  The amount of light produced by a bulb is measured in lumens, and Federal regulations now require that each bulb package disclose its wattage, lumens, and life span.  Once you have this information, you can choose whether you want a longer life bulb with less lumen output, or a shorter life bulb that may be brighter.

Going on an Extended Vacation? 

Going On Vacation?

Who stays home working away while everyone is off having fun?  Why it's your electric meter.  When you return from an extended vacation, you will most likely find a utility bill that is almost the same amount as when you were home for the entire month.  How could that be? 

We all take electricity for granted.  You would be amazed if you went from room to room in your home to inventory what is actually plugged in.  Alarm clocks, clock radios, microwave ovens, coffee makers with clocks and timers, toasters and toaster ovens, bread machines, and the list goes on and on.  None of these appliances, when idle, use much power; however it all adds up.

Here are some things to think about:

If you are planning an extended vacation and are concerned about paying your electric bill, you may pay online or call the office and one of our customer service representatives can estimate your upcoming bill so you have the option of paying in advance.

Water Conservation

Question:  I've heard that lowering the thermostat on my water heater can save money, is that true?

Answer:  Yes, the biggest money-saver is a properly designed modern distribution system for hot and cold water.  Reducing the temperature also helps to reduce the possibility of burns caused by water being too hot.

Question:  Do leaky faucets really cost me money?

Answer:  Yes they do.  Leaky faucets waste water and energy.  A faucet leaking one drip per second will drip 700 gallons of water in a year.  That means not only wasted water bills, but also wasted dollars in heating costs if the water is hot water.

Electric Wiring Tips

Adequate Wiring - For Savings and Safety

Since the average American is using about twice the amount of electricity today he or she used ten years ago, yesterday's wiring may not be adequate for today's load.  To operate efficiently, economically, and safely, appliances and electrical equipment require proper wiring.

Question:  How do I know if my wiring system is adequate?

Answer:  If your home is not properly wired for the demands you are making on its electrical system, you can tell by:

Question:  Can inadequate wiring damage my appliances?

Answer:  Yes.  If wiring is inadequate, voltage is reduced and appliances and electric motors slow down, wasting electricity and possibly causing gradual damage to appliances.

Question:  Suppose my wiring is inadequate.  What should I do?

Answer:  Deal with a reputable electrical contractor.  When talking with potential contractors, ask for a list of references and contact those people before you commit to hire the contractor.