Connecticut electricity customers have seen their rates double in the past four years. Rates are expected to continue to rise. According to Home Energy Saver, the average home in Woodstock already spends $2022 a year on energy. However, it is actually possible to cut your energy use by up to 25%.
You can take control of big and little energy hogs in your home. The top five are: Kitchen Appliances (26.7%), Air Conditioning (16%), Space Heaters (10.1%) and Water Heating (9.1%), and Lighting (8.8%) (Source: EIA, 2001). Note that these are national averages from the Energy Information Administration, and of course no two households are exactly alike when it comes to energy use.
Here are some steps anyone can take to reduce energy use and costs. They don’t require purchase of new appliances, although newer energy-saving models are much more efficient. You may have heard these tips before, but at current electricity prices, you can’t afford not to give them a try now. Do consult a domestic or residential electrician before making wiring or electrical changes in your home.
- Set your water heater thermostat at 120°F to save up to 15% of water-heating energy. (If your dishwasher doesn't’t have an internal heater, you may need to keep the water heater at 140°F). Drain a quart of water from your water tank every 3 months to remove sediment that impedes heat transfer and lowers efficiency. Insulate hot water pipes. Install flow restrictors or low flow shower heads. Convincing everyone in the house to shorten each shower by just 2 minutes could save you more than $200/year.
- For laundry, wait for a full load or adjust the water level to match load size. About 85% of the energy used to wash clothes is for heating the water. Use cold water with cold-water detergents whenever possible – the new detergents get clothes just as clean. Clean the air filter on the dryer after every load, and dry several loads in succession to take advantage of heat build up. When the weather warms up, hang clothes outside to dry.
- Only run the dishwasher when it’s full. Let dishes air dry. If you don’t have an auto switch, turn off the control knob after the final rinse and prop the door open a little. These two tips alone can cut the dishwasher’s energy use by 35%.
- Believe it or not, a single 100 watt light bulb left on 24 hours a day uses almost $140 of electricity a year. Replace regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, which use 75% less electricity and last up to10 times longer. Turn lights off when not in use. In 2007, LED lights that fit into standard light sockets will be available, and they use only a fraction of the energy of the already efficient compact fluorescents.
- Microwave small meals, or cook them in a toaster oven, which uses 1/3 to ½ of the energy of the full-size oven.
- Pick up an inexpensive refrigerator/freezer thermometer at the hardware store, and set the fresh food section of your frig at 32-40°F, and the freezer at 0°. To check the temperature, put the special thermometer in a glass of water at the center of the frig and read it after 24 hours. In the freezer, put the thermometer between frozen packages. Keep the freezer full, but allow air to circulate around things in the fresh food section. Cover liquids and wrap foods – moisture makes the compressor work harder. Move the frig away from the wall and vacuum the condenser coils at 1-4x/year, especially if you have pets (unless you have a newer, no-clean condenser model). If you have manual defrost, don’t let frost build up to more than about the width of a pencil.
- While most of us are not thinking about air conditioning right now, locating a central air conditioner in a cool, shaded place helps. Cleaning and tuning it every 2-3 years also extends its life and reduces electricity use. On a window unit, clean the front grill air filter monthly, as dust makes it work harder. Clean condenser coils once a year by blowing compressed air on them or use a soft bristle brush to wipe dirt off. Or use a fan instead.
- Set your thermostat at 68° when it’s cold out, and 78° when it’s hot out to save up to 20% on heating and cooling costs. Programmable ("setback") thermostats, which automatically turn the heat down at night or when you are at work, are reasonably priced now (starting around $25), and are available for oil, gas or electric heat.
- If you have central or forced hot air, a low voltage "AirFlow Breeze" device can be placed over existing vent openings to boost air flow to problem rooms, which means the furnace or A/C will run less often.
- Close the fireplace damper when not in use.
- You can save 10% or more on your energy bill by reducing air leaks. Caulk, seal and use weather stripping. Seal large gaps with foam in a can. Put foam gaskets behind electrical switches and plugs. Close shades or blinds (preferably lined) at night to reduce heat lost through windows. Keep south facing windows clean to let the sun shine in.
In 2007, CL&P will be offering a free residential conservation program called “Home Energy Solutions” for customers with electric or natural gas heat (there will be a $100 co-pay for others). Technicians will come out and assess, test, recommend AND install some energy efficient measures like energy efficient light bulbs and water savings devices. The details are still being finalized, so wait till the second week of January to call 877-947-3873 (877-WISE-USE) for details and scheduling, or go to <http://www.clp.com/clmres/indexclmres.asp>.
The bottom line: the more efficient your systems are, and the less you use them, the less energy you will waste. Conserving energy helps protect the environment. Electricity production is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. CL&P suppliers are only required by law to get 7.5% of their power from renewable sources like wind, solar or biomass. That means the rest comes from less environmentally friendly sources like coal and petroleum.