So you didnt do the solar panels or geothermal stuff to get the tax credits for energy savings for homes. Well, the tax credits will go away Dec. 31, but there is still time for the 30 percent for insulation products such as caulking, insulation, foam and even some ideas with costs that are free or minimal.
The return on investment is less than one year (money in your pocket). Department of Energy (eereblogs.energy.gov) and Governors Energy Office (rechargecolorado.com) websites suggest small changes that mount up quickly.
Start with an energy audit (www.energystar.gov) that shows energy expenses and compares expenses with paybacks. La Plata Electric Association has provided the Durango Public Library with kilowatt monitors that can be checked out to plug in and actually see for yourself what appliances are your biggest drain.
b Power Strips: Small household appliances spend most of the time in a standby mode, so plug them into a power strip. When not in use, turn the power strip off. Standby power accounts for 5 to 10 percent of household electricity consumption.
b Water: Because a water heater accounts for 14 to 25 percent of your utility bill, is it hotter than needed? Are you adding cold water to the shower? For each 10 degree F reduction in water temperature, you can save 3 to 5 percent in energy. Mark the current setting at the water heater with a permanent marker then adjust top and bottom coils to 120 degrees F. How about a timer to turn the water heater off at night (savings of 5 to 12 percent)? If the water heater feels warm to the touch, an insulated cover stops heat loss. Repair drips and leaks to stop the water pump from turning on and off.
b Thermostat: The furnace is probably your biggest expense (31 percent of the bill). Save 5 to 15 percent annually by lowering the thermostat 10 to 15 degrees F or at least to 68 degrees (1 percent savings per degree lowered). Change furnace filters at least quarterly. Clear obstructions that prevent vent air flow, and best of all, install and use that programmable thermostat. (Recommendation: Set your 6 a.m. temperature to 68 degrees, 8 a.m. temperature back to 60 for when you are not home, then 6 p.m. back to 68, and for bedtime, back to 60).
b Ceiling Fans: Set the blades to turn clockwise to send rising hot air down when you are in the room.
b Lights: The simplest way is to turn off lights when not in use (even if only a couple of minutes), but did you know compact fluorescent bulbs use 75 percent less energy and last 10 times longer? Natural lighting is free. On warm, sunny days, let the sunshine heat your room; on cold days and nights, cover windows with insulated drapes (save up to 15 percent).
b Air leaks: Did you realize this can affect those ice dams during the winter on your roof? Find leaks using an incense stick, flashlight or even the back of your hand. Check for cracked or missing caulking in the ceiling, around doors and windows and where plumbing and heating connects to house. Replace caulking and weather stripping. Foam inserts installed behind electric outlet covers on outside walls make a difference.
Small steps amount to big dollars.
email@example.com or 247-4355. Wendy Rice is family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office.