Home Energy Savings

By now you've probably realized saving energy at home can save you major money. So who better than PG&E spokesman Jeff Smith to give us a walk-through of his home? Smith immediately walked to the thermostat: "The first thing that you want to check in order to improve your energy efficiency is your thermostat. If you've got a programmable thermostat, you're one step ahead because it's the best way to control your energy usage." It's the single simplest way to save. Set that thermostat so it doesn't kick in until it reaches 78 degrees or higher. Each degree lower uses 3% to 5% percent more energy.

If you have ceiling fans, turn them on before you resort to air conditioning. Smith says, "Ceiling fans are a great way to cool your house down without using central air. Central air is much less efficient than using a ceiling fan. " And, he adds, use a fan even when your air conditioner is on, so you won't have to crank your air conditioner up so high. Open windows and blinds in the mornings and evenings when the air outside your home is cooler. And then once it starts to get warmer outside your house, then the temperature inside, shut that window, shut your blinds, and you'll preserve that cool air inside.

Next we went hunting for his lamps and light fixtures. Smith sheepishly showed us one in his office: "Hey you have an old style light bulb like this, if so, then you can replace it with a compact fluorescent. Compact fluorescents not only use less energy, they will keep your home cooler because they produce about 75 percent less heat than regular bulbs."

If you're considering a high definition flat screen television, consider that LCD's draw less power than plasmas: a 42-inch LCD, just over 200 watts, the same size plasma nearly 400.

And here's PG&E's rule of thumb when it comes to office computers: if you're going to be away from just 20 minutes to an hour, turn off your screen, and that way, you can save some energy but you don't need to turn off your entire computer. But if you're going to be stepping away for an extended period of time, go ahead and reboot.

And kill the energy vampires. Unplug appliances or chargers that are silently sucking as much as a nickel of every dollar's worth of electricity used in your home, even when you're not using them. It adds up: costing the average household about $200 annually.

Use the dishwasher only when it's full and just air dry the dishes.

Caulking around those empty gaps and drafty areas can help save you money as well.

Don't forget the hot water heater. Put a blanket on the tank and adjust the water temperature from hot to warm, or low, especially in the summertime.

Finally, ask your energy company about enrolling in their energy saving programs: like PG&E's "Smart AC." You earn $25 for installing a free device that reduces your air conditioner's energy consumption.






Follow these tips from PG&E to save on energy costs

Install these energy-efficient measures:

  • Replace and recycle your old refrigerator and purchase energy-efficient models. Units only 10 years old can use twice as much electricity as a new ENERGY STAR® labeled model.
  • Insulate ceilings to R-30 standards if your attic has less than R-19.
  • Caulk windows, doors and anywhere air leaks in or out. Do not caulk around water heater and furnace exhaust pipes.
  • Weatherstrip around windows and doors.
  • Wrap heating and cooling ducts with duct wrap, or use mastic sealant.
  • Install energy-saver showerheads.
  • When buying new appliances, be sure to purchase energy-efficient ENERGY STAR® labeled models.
  • Set the furnace thermostat at 68 degrees or lower, and the air-conditioner thermostat at 78 degrees or higher, health permitting. 3 percent to 5 percent more energy is used for each degree the furnace is set above 68 degrees and for each degree the air conditioner is set below 78 degrees.
  • If your old air conditioner is on its way out replace it with ENERGY STAR® labeled energy-efficient model.
  • Use compact fluorescent lamps. You can lower your lighting bill by converting to energy-efficient low-wattage compact fluorescent lighting and fixtures.
  • Replace old windows with new high performance dual pane windows.
  • Clean or replace furnace and air-conditioner filters regularly, following manufacturer's instructions.
  • Set the water heater thermostat at 140 degrees or "normal." If you have a dishwasher. Otherwise, set it at 120 degrees or "low." Check your dishwasher to see if you can use 120 degree water. Follow the manufacturer's direction on yearly maintenance to extend the life of your unit.
  • Fix defective plumbing or dripping faucets. A single dripping hot water faucet can waste 212 gallons of water a month. That not only increases water bills, but also increases the gas or electric bill for heating the water.
  • Wash only full loads in a dishwasher and use the shortest cycle that will get your dishes clean. If operating instructions allow, turn off the dishwasher before the drying cycle, open the door and let the dishes dry naturally.
  • Defrost refrigerators and freezers before ice buildup becomes 1/4-inch thick.
  • Install shades, awnings or sunscreens on windows facing south and/or west to block summer light. In winter, open shades on sunny days to help warm rooms.
  • Close the damper when the fireplace is not being used. Try not to use the fireplace and central heating system at the same time.

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