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Easy ways to save energy this fall and winter

By Roberta Tolan
SUN Columnist

The season is beginning to change, morning temperatures are falling and homeowners are stockpiling firewood.

It’s time to think about heating our homes for the winter and many of us are looking for ways to cut our utility bills.

A great place to start is reducing energy use in the home. Below are ten easy and inexpensive home energy ideas to save as much as 40 percent on your utility bills and conserve natural resources.

• Control your thermostat. Keep your thermostat at an energy efficient and comfortable setting during the day and turn it down at night when you go to bed or when you are away from home. A recommended temperature is 68 degrees F during the day and 60 degree F at night or when you are away. You can save about 1 percent for every degree you lower your thermostat.

• Lower your water temperature. Your hot water heater is probably hotter than what you need. Most water heaters are set at 140 degrees F, which is needed only if you have a dishwasher without a booster heater. Turn the temperature down to 120 degrees F and you can reduce your water heating costs 6 to 10 percent. Be sure to turn the electricity off at the circuit breaker first before adjusting an electric water heater.

• Insulate your water heater. Wrapping your water heater tank in a blanket of fiberglass insulation can reduce heat loss 25-45 percent, resulting in a savings of 4-9 percent on your water heating bill. Read and carefully follow installation directions and be careful not to block air intakes and exhaust vents on gas models and thermostat access panels on electric heaters. Check your water heater manual to see if this is an option for your model.

• Plug leaks. To reduce air leakage under exterior doors, buy an inexpensive door sweep. If your door leaks around the entire frame, install foam weatherstripping with adhesive backing between the door and the frame. If you do not use your fireaplace much and it does not have a door, make sure the damper is closed and the opening is sealed. Use caulk to seal along the basement sill plate and around door and window frames. Also seal small holes around water pipes and stuff or spray insulation into larger holes around plumbing fixtures. Heat also leaks out of light switches and electrical outlets. Inexpensive foam gaskets that fit behind the cover plates easily solve this problem. Every hole you plug means fewer drafts and lower heating bills.

• Install storm windows. Adding another layer of glass or plastic creates a dead air space, and trapped air is a good insulator. Be sure the air space is at least 1/2 inch and not more than 4 inches.

• Clean or replace your furnace filter. All forced air furnaces have filters that keep dust and dirt from blowing into your house. If they are not periodically cleaned or replaced, dirty filters can greatly affect the furnace’s heating ability and waste energy. Some filters are disposable, while others can be washed and reused. Do not reuse disposable filters. Clean or replace your furnace filters every one to three months during the heating season.

• Use a low-flow showerhead. A standard showerhead sprays up to 8 gallons per minute of warm water compared to only 1 to 2 gallons of water per minute with low-flow varieties. Most people hardly notice a difference except in their utility bill. Low-flow showerheads quickly pay for themselves by reducing water consumption and energy used to heat the water.

• Wash clothes in cold water. Water heating accounts for about 90 percent of the energy used by washing machines. Washing clothes in hot water is unnecessary, except for special loads such as diapers or stained clothes. Wash in cold water using cold water detergents and wash full loads whenever possible.

• Watch your appliances. Refrigerators account for 6 percent of your home’s total energy use. Keep the refrigerator door closed as much as possible, clean dust out of the coils and keep the refrigerator compartment at 35-40 degrees F and the freezer at 0 to 5 degrees F.  Use a switchable power strip to prevent “ghost loads” that draw electricity even when an appliance is turned off. Run the dishwasher only with a full load and then air dry your dishes.

• Replacing your lighting. Turn off lights when not in use and use task lighting whenever possible. Replace your incandescent light bulbs with compact florescent lamps (CFLs). While CFLs cost more than regular incandescent bulbs, they last much longer, use less energy and produce less heat for the same amount of light. In the long-run, CFLs reduce your energy bill and quickly pay for themselves.

CPR/First Aid classes 

CPR and First Aid certification classes are now being offered monthly by the CSU Extension office on the second Monday and Wednesday of each month from 6-10 p.m. Anyone needing to receive or renew certification can register by calling the Extension office at 264-5931.  We will also attempt to schedule classes on additional dates with five or more registrations.  Cost for the classes is $80 for combined CPR/First Aid and $55 for CPR, First Aid or recertification. The type of First Aid information provided will vary by the needs of the participants.

Calendar

Sept. 19 — Cross Country Pasta Night, 6 p.m.

Sept. 25 — Archuleta County Fair Board meeting, 6 p.m.

Sept. 26 — Cross Country Pasta Night, 6 p.m.

Colorado State University Extension provides science based information on youth development (4-H), agriculture and natural resources, horticulture, family and consumer sciences and community development. Extension programs are available to all without discrimination.

This story was posted on September 19, 2013.