Energy Saving Tips
UNDERSTANDING WHERE YOUR ENERGY DOLLAR GOES
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the typical household energy dollar is spent as follows:
- 44% goes to heating and cooling your home.
- 33% goes to lighting, cooking, and other appliances.
- 14% goes to water heating.
- 9% goes to refrigeration.
Doug Rye's Tips
Since heating and cooling accounts for 44% of your energy dollar, let’s take a look at how to save money. Three areas that affect your heating and cooling costs are: the heating and cooling system itself, the ductwork and infiltration.
Heating and Cooling System
Thermostat settings. Keep you thermostat set at 78 degrees or higher during the cooling season. For every degree below 78 degrees an additional 3% cooling cost is incurred. In the heating season, set your thermostat at 68 degrees. Once again, a one-degree increase in the thermostat setting can cost you an additional 3% in heating cost.
Check and make sure your old thermostat is registering correctly. Simply use a thermometer you know is accurate to check your thermostat. It has been shown that some older thermostats can be inaccurate up to 5 to 10 degrees.
Air Filters. Dirty air filters block a significant percentage of air flow and drastically reduce heating and cooling efficiency. A dirty air filter can increase your heating and cooling costs as much as 10%. Change air filters at least once a month. This will not only prolong the life of your heating and cooling system and keep your air cleaner, but will also make your unit run more efficiently.
Annual Maintenance. Have your heating and cooling system tuned-up by a professional once a year.
Purchase a New Heating and Cooling System. If your heating and cooling system is over 15 years old, consider installing a new heating and cooling system. Most new systems are at least 30% more efficient. And make sure the new system is properly sized. Bigger is not always better. A larger unit will cost more. And on the cooling side, a larger unit will not run long enough which will lead to higher humidity levels inside your home.
Ductwork. Many times people forget about ductwork as being an important part of the heating and cooling system. But improperly sized, disconnected, poorly insulated or not insulated ductwork can lead to higher heating and cooling costs.
Visually inspect your ductwork. If your ductwork is located in a crawl space or attic, visually inspect it to see if it is insulated or if any of the insulation has come loose. Also check and see if any of the ductwork has pulled loose. Also visually inspect your return air system for any penetrations that might let in outside air either from your crawl space or attic area.
If you find any of your ductwork not insulated, or if any insulation that has been pulled loose, or if any of the ductwork is disconnected, have your ductwork repaired by a professional HVACR person.
Infiltration. Air infiltrates in and out of your home through every hole and crack. This increases when your heating or cooling system is running because these systems create pressure and suction within your home. Air infiltration comes through floors, ceilings, walls, ductwork, fireplaces, plumbing penetrations, doors, windows, vents, and electric outlets. Take steps to decrease the infiltration in and out of your home.
Floors, Ceilings and Walls. Floors, ceilings and walls account for approximately 31% of the infiltration in your home. Insulation is the best value in these areas to decrease infiltration. In the attic areas, an R-value of 38 is recommended. In crawl space floor areas, an R-19 with ground vapor barrier is recommended. And in the wall areas a minimum of R-11 is recommended.
Ductwork. Ductwork accounts for approximately 15% of the infiltration in your home. Make sure all ductwork is insulated and connected. Also make sure the return air is air tight and all penetrations are caulked and sealed.
Fireplace. A fireplace accounts for approximately 14% of the infiltration in your home. If your home has a fireplace, make sure the damper is closed and sealed when not in use. An open damper is like having a 48” window open. And when your fireplace is in use, it can exhaust as much as 24,000 cubic feet of air per hour. This air has to be replaced by cold outside air. If you are using your fireplace in conjunction with your central heating system, your central heating system must heat this cold air which is then exhausted back through your chimney.
Plumbing and Electrical Penetrations. Plumbing and electrical penetrations account for approximately 13% of infiltration in your home. Make sure all plumbing and electrical penetrations are caulked and sealed.
Doors. Doors account for approximately 11% of infiltration in your home. Make sure weather stripping around your doors is good. If not, replace it. Also storm doors can cut down on infiltration around outside doors.
Windows. Windows account for approximately 10% of infiltration in your home. If your windows are single pane, consider installing storm windows. Or better yet, consider purchasing double pane replacement windows. On hot days, minimize the heat entering your home from the outside by closing shades or curtains.
Fans and Vents. Exhaust fans and vents, such as dryer vents, can account for approximately 4% of infiltration in your home. Make sure dampers are closed when not in use.
Electrical Outlets. Electrical outlets account for approximately 2% of infiltration in your home. Seal around outlets and purchase gaskets to help stop infiltration.
LIGHTING, COOKING, AND OTHER APPLIANCES COSTS
Since 34% of your energy dollar goes for lighting, cooking and other appliances, let’s take a look at how to save money on your energy bill for these items.
Lighting. One way to save money on lighting is simply turn off lights when possible. Another way is when replacing a bulb, use a lower wattage. Better yet, replace the bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb. Although more expensive, they will last 6 to 10 times longer than comparable incandescent bulbs and will produce the same level of light for one fourth of the operating cost. A 27 watt compact fluorescent will produce the same amount of light as a 100 watt incandescent bulb. They will also reduce you home’s cooling load as they do not produce heat.
Cooking. Pre-heat your oven just long enough to reach the correct temperature. Turn it off 5 to 10 minutes early before removing food from the oven. Bake several dishes at one time. It uses no more energy-you get two or more for the price of one. And use a microwave oven when possible. A microwave uses up to 50% less energy than a conventional oven.
Dishwasher. When using your dishwasher, use short cycles for everything but the dirtiest dishes. This can save up to 25% on hot water and electrical usage. If your dishwasher has an air-dry setting, use it instead of the heat-dry setting. You can save up to 15% to 50% of your dishwashing energy costs by air drying dishes.
Clothes Washing and Drying. When using these appliances, always use a full load. Use cold water when possible when washing clothes. Clean the lint filter in your dryer after each use. This will keep the dryer from running longer. And if possible use a clothesline to dry clothes.
Water Beds. A heated water bed can use as much energy as a large refrigerator. Leaving it unmade can double your energy costs by letting the heat dissipate into the air.
Water heating can account for 14% of your energy dollar. There are a number of ways to save money on water heating. First is the tank itself. And second is consumption.
Tank. These recommendations are for electric water heaters only. Do not attempt these recommendations on gas water heaters. If the water heater is electric, insulate older water heaters with an insulating blanket available at most hardware stores. If your water heater feels warm to the touch, then it definitely needs additional insulation. Most electric water heaters are not insulated on the bottom. Install a piece of insulation board under the water heater for additional insulation.
Also turn down the temperature setting on your water heater to 120 degrees. And insulate the hot water pipes coming out of your water heater. This can result in a 3% savings in water heating costs.
Consumption. Another way to save money on water heating costs is through consumption. Some suggestions are:
- Install a low-flow showerhead in the shower.
- Reduce the amount of time in the shower.
- Run the dishwasher and washing machine only when full loads can be washed.
- Use cold water as much as possible when washing clothes.
- Repair leaking hot water faucets.
- Don’t let the hot water tap run unnecessarily.
And finally, 9% of your energy dollar goes to refrigeration. Here are a few ways to save money on refrigeration.
Keep your refrigerator and freezer as full as possible. A half-emptied appliance uses more energy.
Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed. Opening doors cause the appliance to use more energy.
Make sure your refrigerator and freezer door gaskets are tight. As a rule of thumb, close the door on a heavy piece of paper. If it pulls out easily, the gaskets may need replacing.
And finally, keep your refrigerator and freezer set at the right temperature. Refrigerators should be set between 38 and 42 degrees. And freezers should be set between 0 and 5 degrees. If they’re only 10 degrees colder than necessary, your operating costs will go up an amazing 25%.
Once you have determined where your energy dollar goes, then you can determine what things you can do to save money.
For more information, visit Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Corporation's Energy Efficiency page.