Save Energy This Winter

Sep 26, 2013 by

Dhome in winteron’t look now, but winter is approaching. Now’s the time to make preparations to cut your heating energy use and so save some $$$. Today’s guest post by freelancer Arielle Nagel will remind you of a few energy-saving ‘oldies but goodies’ and suggest an opportunity that may be new to you: taking advantage of energy market deregulation.

Rake in Savings on Your Fall Utilities

You don’t have to be an environmentalist to find the benefits of partaking in environmentally friendly practices. Going green is not only good for the environment, it can bolster your monthly energy savings. The less you use, the less you spend, and every household decision can affect your bottom line. Here are four inexpensive and easy ways to start saving on your energy bills this fall.

        1. Take advantage of deregulation: Across the United States, more states have deregulated their electricity and/or natural gas markets. However, many people are unaware of deregulation and what it can mean to their monthly expenses. In a deregulated market your utility company will still take care of your power infrastructure, but retail energy suppliers will compete with each other for your business. This increased competition can mean lower prices and more flexibility to choose a supply rate and payment plan that best matches your budget. Your electricity and natural gas will come through the same power lines and gas pipes, only now you have a chance to find the best deal to boost your savings.
        2. Install energy efficient lights: In a report released this summer, the U.S. Department of Energy found that Americans who switched to LED bulbs in 2012 saved more than $675 million on their electricity bills and 2 billion kW of electricity. One LED bulb has the life span of about 22 incandescent bulbs or three compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). Additionally, LEDs use 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs. Though these bulbs have a higher upfront cost, the amount of energy saved and long lifespan result in significant energy savings. If you can’t afford the investment in LEDs, consider buying CFL bulbs. According to the Consumer Reports, replacing 15 incandescent bulbs with CFLs will save you $50 per year and $600 over the bulbs’ lives. When buying energy efficient bulbs, look for the number of lumens it produces. This is the unit of measurement for a bulb’s brightness. Most new bulbs will show the wattage of a comparably bright incandescent, so you can see how many fewer watts you’ll be using to enjoy the same amount of light.
        3. Insulate your home: The Department of Energy estimates about 4% of energy used in the United States goes to heating or cooling buildings to make up for the heat transferred through windows. While investing in new windows can be expensive, you can significantly improve your home’s insulation simply by sealing up any air leaks with weather stripping or caulk. But insulation isn’t a problem exclusive to your windows. According to the North Carolina Department of Energy and Natural Resources, a quarter-inch in gap in a pair of 6’8″ exterior doors would cost you $54 per year in wasted heating and cooling energy, so be sure to add weather stripping to any doors with gaps to maximize your savings.
        4. Adjust the temperature: According to the Department of Energy, heating and cooling your home is typically a resident’s largest utility expense, making up an average of 54% of energy costs. So unless you have to regulate your home temperature for health-related reasons, reducing your home heating and cooling can really boost your savings. No matter what type of heating or cooling system you use, make sure it is well maintained to maximize efficiency. By setting your home temperature to as low as comfortable in the winter and as high as comfortable in the summer and properly cleaning and maintaining your heating and cooling systems, you could save 20-50% of what you were previously spending.

An energy-efficient home will keep you comfortable and save you money. But even if you invest in highly efficient replacement products, minimizing your overall energy spending will still depend on your overall consumption. These efficient products won’t overcome careless bad habits, so in order to make a significant dent in your bills you need to take ownership of your use and make conscious choices to save. With a consistent commitment to saving energy, you can end up with a lot of money back in your pocket.

Thanks Arielle. I’m curious to read comments from any of you readers who have experience with #1, take advantage of deregulation.

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