NEWS | Oct. 6, 2008

Cut back household electricity during energy awareness month

By Energy Management Office 437th Civil Engineer Squadron

It is easy to make changes that can reduce energy costs in the home. Through a mix of careful use and smart appliance purchases, it is usually possible to save substantially on electric, gas and home heating bills.

Whenever people save energy, they not only save money, they also reduce the demand for fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. Less burning of fossil fuels also means lower emissions of carbon dioxide, the primary contributor to global warming, according to Federal Emergency Management Program officials.. The average American produces about 40,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions every year. Together, Americans use nearly a million dollars worth of energy every minute, every day of the year.

Often, small changes can substantially reduce energy costs in the home. Some take little effort, such as turning off unneeded lights or letting dishes air-dry in the dishwasher without the heat setting. Others require simple fixes like using energy-efficient light bulbs. Fixing leaks around windows will save on heating bills in the winter and air conditioning costs in the summer.

When looking to reduce energy costs, it can be helpful to take a room-by-room tour of the home to identify any ideas for saving energy. Are there unnecessary lights or appliances that aren't being used? Is there a draft from a window that could be plugged or bright sunlight that can be shaded with a curtain? With larger appliances, are there settings that can be changed to make them more energy efficient? Making a few easy changes can result in noticeable savings on home energy costs. By exercising even a few of the following steps, families can cut annual emissions by thousands of pounds and energy bills by a significant amount.

Home habit improvements
Consider some of these energy-saving ideas. They save money in the long run and their carbon dioxide savings can often be measured in tons per year.

· Turn refrigerators down. Refrigerators account for about 20 percent of household electricity use. Use a thermometer to set refrigerator temperatures as close to 37 degrees and freezers as close to 3 degrees as possible and make sure the energy saver switch is turned on. Also, check the gaskets around the refrigerator and freezer doors to make sure they are clean and sealed tightly.
· Set clothes washers to the warm or cold water setting, not hot. Switching from hot to warm for two loads per week can save nearly 500 pounds of carbon dioxide per year if an electric water heater is used, or 150 pounds for a gas heater.
· Make sure the dishwasher is full when running it and use the energy saving setting, if available, to allow the dishes to air dry. The drying cycle could also be turned off automatically. Not using heat in the drying cycle can save 20 percent of the dishwasher's total electricity use.
· Turn down the water heater thermostat. Thermostats are often set to 140 degrees Fahrenheit when 120 is usually fine.
· Be careful not to overheat or overcool rooms. In the winter, set the thermostat at 68 degrees in daytime; in the summer, keep it at 78. Clean or replace air filters as recommended. Energy is lost when air conditioners and hot-air furnaces have to work harder to draw air through dirty filters. Cleaning a dirty air conditioner filter can save five percent of the energy used.
· Buy energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs for the most-used lights. Although they cost more initially, they save money in the long run by using only one-fourth the amount of energy of an ordinary incandescent bulb and lasting eight to 12 times longer. They provide an equivalent amount of bright, attractive light. Only 10 percent of the energy consumed by a normal light bulb generates light; the rest just makes the bulb hot. If every American household replaced one of its standard light bulbs with an energy efficient compact fluorescent bulb, Americans would save the same amount of energy as a large nuclear power plant produces in one year. In a typical home, one compact fluorescent bulb can save 260 pounds of carbon dioxide per year.
· Use less hot water by installing low-flow shower heads. They cost up to $20 each, deliver an invigorating shower and save 300 pounds of carbon dioxide per year for electrically-heated water or 80 pounds for gas-heated water.

Overall, reducing energy costs in the home can be quite simple and take surprisingly little effort. With some quick fixes and smart energy use decisions, the monthly savings on energy bills can add up quickly.

The above information was obtained from the FEMP Web site www1.eere.energy.gov/femp. Visit the Web site for more tips on saving energy.