When you save energy, you save money! Black River Electric Cooperative offers energy efficiency tips that could help lower your home's energy operating costs.
Insulation and Weatherization
Check your home's insulation in the walls, ceilings, attic, floors and crawl spaces to make sure it meets the recommended levels. This is one of the easiest and most cost-efficient ways to reduce energy waste. Proper insulation will pay for itself by reducing heating and cooling costs.
All insulating materials are not the same. Make sure the insulation you purchase will do the job you want it to. Consider the amount needed and its correct application.
Use "R" values to compare insulation materials. The R-value refers to a material's resistance to heat flow, not thickness. The higher the insulation's R-value, the greater the insulating power.
Recommended R-values in Missouri are:
- Ceilings: R-38
- Exterior Walls: R-19
- Floors: R-19
- Basement Walls: R-13
Proper ventilation provides moisture control and reduces summer cooling bills. Attic vents ensure proper airflow. Do not block vents with insulation, and keep insulation at least three inches away from lighting fixtures or other heat-producing equipment unless it is marked "I.C." If you do add insulation to your home, always follow the product instructions and wear proper protective gear.
There is a simple way to test your home for air tightness. On a windy day, light an incense stick and hold it carefully next to your windows, doors, ductwork and electrical boxes.
Here are ways to weatherize your home:
- Caulk and weatherstrip doors and windows. Caulk and seal air leaks where plumbing, wiring or ductwork has penetrated exterior walls, floors and ceilings.
- Install storm windows or replace single-pane windows with double-pane windows.
- When not using your fireplace, keep the flue damper tightly closed.
- Install rubber gaskets behind outlets and switch plates on exterior walls.
Heating and Cooling
Heating and cooling your home uses more energy and drains more energy dollars than any other system in your home. It is estimated that 44 percent of your energy bill goes to heating and cooling. There are a variety of systems available to make your home comfortable. Whichever system you select it is essential to have the proper size and design for your home.
Select energy efficient equipment. A contractor should be able to give you fact sheets for different types, models and designs to help you compare energy usage. Look at the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) ratings and the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). The national minimums are 78 percent AFUE and 10 percent SEER. The EnergyGuide label can also help you identify energy efficient appliances and products.
There are additional steps that can keep your heating and cooling costs and energy usage lower.
- Set your thermostat as low as is comfortable in the winter and as high as is comfortable in the summer.
- Clean or replace filters on furnaces once a month or as needed.
- Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters, and radiators as needed; make sure they aren't blocked by furniture, carpeting or drapes.
- Place heat-resistant radiator reflectors between exterior walls and radiators.
- Use kitchen, bath and other ventilating fans wisely; in just one hour, a fan can pull out a houseful of warmed or cooled air.
- During the heating season, keep draperies and shades on the south-facing windows open during the day to allow sunlight to enter your home and closed at night to reduce the chill from cold windows. During the cooling season, keep the window coverings closed during the day.
Water heating accounts for about 14 percent of your utility bill making it the third largest energy expense in your home. There are several actions you can take to reduce your bill: use less hot water, turn down the thermostat on your water heater, insulate the water heater or buy a new, more efficient water heater, especially if yours is more than seven years old.
Other tips include:
- Repair leaky faucets right away.
- Insulate your electric hot water storage tank and pipes, but do not cover the thermostat.
- Insulate your gas or oil hot water storage tank and pipes, but do not cover the top, bottom, thermostat or burner compartment.
- Encourage your family to shower instead of taking a bath. Baths use more water.
- Install nonaerating low-flow faucets and showerheads.
- Use cold water to operate a food disposal.
- Operate your dishwasher only when it is full.
Appliances use approximately 20 percent of a household's energy consumption. Refrigerators and clothes dryers account for most of the usage. When shopping for appliances, you should consider two costs. The first cost is the purchase price. The second is the cost of operating the appliance during its lifetime. All new appliances have an EnergyGuide label attached to them which provides operating costs based on the national average. Use the EnergyGuide to compare energy consumption and operating costs.
There are several tips to save energy with your appliances. We've separated them into four categories: refrigerator/freezer, laundry, dishwasher and kitchen below.
- Select a model with automatic moisture control. This feature is engineered to prevent moisture accumulation on the cabinet exterior without the addition of a heater.
- Don't keep your appliance too cold. Recommended temperatures are 37 to 40 degrees for a refrigerator's fresh food compartment and 5 degrees in the freezer.
- Defrost a manual-defrost refrigerator and freezer on a regular basis. Frost built up more than a quarter-inch increases the amount of energy needed to keep the motor running.
- Make sure the door seals are airtight.
- Cover liquids and wrap food. Uncovered foods release moisture and make the compressor work harder.
- Vacuum the condenser coils at least once a year.
- Whenever possible, wash your clothes in cold water using cold water detergents.
- Wash and dry full loads, or use the appropriate water-level setting.
- Do not over-dry your clothes.
- Clean the lint filter in the dryer after every load.
- Inspect the dryer vent periodically to ensure it is not blocked.
- Follow the manufacturer's recommendations on water temperature. Many have internal heating elements that allow you to set your water heater at a lower temperature.
- Scrape, don't rinse, off large food pieces and bones.
- Operate your dishwasher only when it is full, but do not overload it.
- Don't use the "rinse-hold" option for only a few dishes. It uses 3 to 7 gallons of hot water each time it is used.
- Let your dishes air dry and pop open the door a bit so the dishes will dry faster.
- A gas oven or range with an automatic, electric ignition system saves gas because a pilot light is not burning continuously.
- Keep range-top burners and reflectors clean so they will reflect the heat better.
- Use a covered kettle or pan to boil water. (It's faster and uses less energy.)
- Use small electric pans or toaster ovens for small meals instead of your large stove or oven. A toaster oven uses a third to one-half as much energy as a full-size oven.
- Use pressure cookers and microwave ovens when you can. They save energy by reducing cooking time.
Windows play many roles in a home. They add beauty and style to a home, allow sunlight to enter during the day, offer a view of the outdoors and provide ventilation. However, many windows are a source of high energy loss.
If your windows are single-pane glass you should consider replacing them with double-pane windows with high performance glass or storm windows. If you want an energy-efficient home, the glass area should be kept to 15 percent or less than the total wall area and never exceed 20 percent. Here are some window shopping tips.
- Look for the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) label which means the window's performance is certified.
- The lower the U-value, the better the insulation.
- Select windows with air leakage ratings of 0.3 cubic feet per minute or less.
- Look for the Energy Star and EnergyGuide labels.
If replacing your windows aren't in your budget, there are several ways you can conserve energy and improve the performance of your existing windows.
In warm climates,
- install white window shades, drapes or blinds to reflect heat away from the house;
- install awnings on the south- and west-facing windows;
- close the curtains on the south- and west-facing windows;
- reduce solar gain by applying a reflective film on the south-facing windows.
In cold climates,
- repair and weatherize your current windows if necessary;
- close the curtains and shades at night and open them during the day;
- install tight-fitting, insulating window shades on windows that feel drafty;
- keep the south-facing windows clean to allow maximum solar gain.
One of the fastest ways to decrease your energy bill is to increase your home's lighting efficiency. A quick fix: replace a fourth of your lights in high-use areas with fluorescents. This will save about one-half of your lighting energy bill. Here are additional tips to use for indoor and outdoor lighting.
- Turn off any lights you are not using.
- Use three-way lamps which make it easier to keep lighting levels low when brighter light isn't needed.
- Use compact fluorescent bulbs in portable table and floor lamps.
- Use light-colored, loose-weave curtains on your windows that will allow sunlight to enter your home yet maintain privacy.
- Use 4-foot fluorescent fixtures with reflective backing and electronic ballasts for your workroom, garage and laundry rooms.
- Use outdoor lights with a photocell unit or timer so they turn off during the day.
- Turn off decorative outdoor gas lamps.
- Use CFLs in exterior lighting.