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New energy habits can put money in your pocket

Dave Murnen, Executive Director, NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor | 4/11/2019 1:29:06 PM

We are all creatures of habit – both good and bad. Changing a few bad energy-use habits in your house or apartment can make a big difference in lowering your bills.

A recent blog post addressed how to adjust thebiggest portion of your energy bill – heating and cooling. Now that you’ve dressed in layers, weatherized and turned down the heat, it’s time to expose other energy users and plan to replace them with a utility savings payback.

This blog focuses on saving money through energy-efficient major and minor appliances, LED lighting and even how to bust some energy "ghosts."

Appliance Replacement
Considering the purchase of a new appliance? Energy Star-rated appliances can cost more upfront, but they pay back with lower energy costs. Also, check for rebates from your local utility companies for buying an Energy Star water heater, refrigerator, dishwasher, washer/dryer, furnace, heat pump or ductless heat pump.

Water Heaters
After the home’s heating system, the biggest use of power typically comes from the water heater. Most water heaters these days probably don’t need insulation, and adding a blanket may void your warranty. However, installing a timer will control the on/off periods for best use. When you’re on vacation, or even away over the weekend, hit the off switch, timer or not. The temperature should be set at 120 degrees, by the way.

Common Sense Category
You also will save money if you use the cold water settings on your washing machine, shorten showers, and don’t turn on the hot water faucet unless you need hot water! Even though hot water won’t reach you in time to use it for your short task, if you turn on the hot faucet, hot water will move down the pipes, where it then cools. Plus, the water that replaces it in the tank must then be heated – an unnecessary waste of water and energy!

Consider a heat pump water heater in the future. It typically can save between 25 and 50 percent off your electric hot water costs. By transferring heat rather than creating it, heat pump water heaters deliver hot water twice as efficiently as standard electric water heaters. However, they typically need more space and cost more than a standard water heater, so they may not be a good choice for everyone.

Washing and Drying Clothes
Clothes dryers are another big energy user. Dryers run most efficiently when the lint filter is cleaned after each load. Also, check the vent system monthly to see that it is clear – something that also is critical for fire safety.

A proper dryer vent system is as short as possible, uses straight, smooth-wall rigid aluminum pipe, and is vented outside the house through a hinged flapper vent. This allows the free flow of moist air out and prevents cold air and vermin from coming in. It will save your house and save you money.

Reduce wash loads by wearing things longer and hanging things up. In nice weather, hang clothes out to dry.

When using your washing machine, use the cold or warm water settings and wait for a full load to wash. Energy Star-rated washing machines can save up to 20 gallons of water per load, and your clothes spin nearly dry, saving energy.

Refrigerator and Freezer
Did you know that cleaning the refrigerator coils of dust annually will improve its efficiency? To do so, unplug the refrigerator and look underneath for the flat coils. Simply ream with a bottlebrush or sock-covered hanger and vacuum. Finally, check to see that the refrigerator’s temperature setting is set in the middle of the scale.

Also, it takes less energy to operate a packed freezer than a half-full one. Ice packs help.

Keep these additional appliance tips in mind for more cost savings:

  • A microwave oven uses less than 10 percent of the energy used by an electric range to heat food.
  • Instead of keeping the coffee pot heated all morning, place coffee in a thermos for the day or use the microwave as needed.
  • Turn off the TV, when you’re not watching. Some plasma screens, in particular, can draw a lot of power. If you just want some background noise, try the radio.

Lights Off, Switch-Out Bulbs
Turning off the lights when you leave a room and when you leave for the day will put energy pennies in the bank. Even greater savings come, however, when you switch from incandescent to LED light bulbs.

While each bulb costs a little more initially, LED replacements use only 15 percent as much energy for the same amount of light as a regular incandescent bulb. For instance, an LED bulb takes just 9 watts of energy to give the light of a typical 60-watt incandescent bulb. That means you can replace nearly seven lightbulbs in your house – each giving off the same amount of light as a standard 60-watt incandescent bulb – for the same amount of energy used before with just one bulb. Seven lamps lit – and a much longer bulb-life for each. That’s a good deal worth pursuing!

Bust Those Ghost Users
TVs, computers, treadmills, fax machines, printers, stereos, scanners, DVD players, phone battery chargers and the like can draw "ghost" electricity when they aren’t even in use. Unplugging these electronics when they’re not in use sometimes feels like a hassle. That’s why we suggest having them plugged into a power strip, so one flip of a switch turns everything off at once.

Learning how your energy dollars are spent is the first step in changing a few lifestyle habits that can make a big difference in your energy and water consumption. But, it’s actually making the changes that will save you money!

I hope that reading these two blogs has been like turning on a lightbulb – an LED one, of course!

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