With cold snaps becoming the rule more than the occasional phenomenon, its seems winter has began, as well as increased energy bills. In addition to efforts to be comfortable in your home, your checkbook will take some painful hits.
Whether renter or homeowner, there are silver linings. For starters, know what your appliances cost. Borrow (at no cost) a watt watcher meter from me. It is a simple, handy tool that is quite enlightening.
The big burners of energy use are heating and cooling, at 45 percent according to the Department of Energy, water heaters at 11 percent, and clothes washer and dryer for 10 percent. The phantom energy leaks from chargers or digital lights draw an average of 5 percent of our electric bill and growing.
Lets say your electric bill averages a conservative $200 per month. That phantom energy amounts to $120 over the year. Check out power-saver strips or simply turn off items when not in use.
Beyond the obvious caulking (windows, plumbing, etc.) and weatherizing doors every couple of years, here are some other suggestions, using that $200 monthly bill as an example:
Heating your home for the next six months would amount to $540. Are you changing your furnace filters every month? Dampers closed? Are the doors shut for the rooms that you dont use? Shutting off heat vents could create problems for your furnace, though. Use those ceiling fans to circulate warm air and, of course, by now you have surely gotten rid of those nasty space heaters. If you have a programmable thermostat use it. If you dont you might consider purchase and installation worthwhile. When you are home, set it to 68 degrees and 60 degrees at night or when no one is home. If you are going to be gone for two days or more, set it back to 50 degrees.
How about windows? Double-paned? Storm windows? How about using at least window kits? Those plastic sheets create an air gap and retain more heat in your home. What about your window covers? Open blinds or curtains on the south side to let solar rays in, and be sure to close them after the sun goes down to keep the heat in. Are your curtains or blinds thin? Would you benefit from heavier curtains at least on your northern exposure or extra-large windows?
Water heaters are the next biggie costing $264 a year based on a $200-per-month bill. Is it set at 120 degrees though certainly not more than 140 degrees? Did you adjust both the top and the bottom thermostat? Have you considered a time-of-use meter attachment? Most of us use hot water during our morning shower and then not again until we wash the supper dishes some 12 hours later. Have you considered low-flow showerheads and faucets? Cold-water washing in the clothes washer is much more doable with detergents specific to cold- water washing.
What about the thermostat on your vehicle? Is it on a timer to kick in 60 to 90 minutes before you need the vehicle?
These are just some starters, but what a difference they make.
email@example.com or 247-4355. Wendy Rice is family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office.