2005-01-28 / Columnists

On The Bayfront

By Elisa Hinken

On the average, Americans waste as much energy as two-thirds of the world’s population consumes. That’s largely the result of driving inefficient cars, using inefficient furnaces and appliances, and living and working in poorly insulated buildings.

LIPA and Keyspan are not on “my favorite friends” list. Our energy rates have gone from bad to worse. I estimate our monthly energy bill is somewhere around $400.00 for a three bedroom house.

Our winter thermostat barely reaches beyond 68 degrees at any time in the winter and our cooling thermostat rarely goes below 76 degrees. Therefore, we look to save as much money as possible. We even had a free energy audit by the local energy management company. According to his survey, we were better than most homes with energy efficiency.

Okay, I do have a few perks I find to be necessary for our living: central air conditioning and a pool heater. But believe me, I don’t have BOTH running at the same time and I have cut back the pool heater to our bare comfort level. I am always looking for more tips on saving on energy costs and I’d like to share some with you today.

Buy energy-efficient products. When buying new appliances or electronics, shop for the highest energy-efficiency rating. Look for a yellow and black Energy Guide label on the product. It compares the energy use for that model against similar models. New energy-efficient models may cost more initially, but have a lower operating cost over their lifetimes. The most energy-efficient models carry the Energy Star label, which identifies products that use 20-40 percent less energy than standard new products. According to the EPA, the typical American household can save about $400 per year in energy bills with products that carry the Energy Star. Did you know your refrigerator typically accounts for 20 percent of your electric bill? On the average, new refrigerators and freezers are about 75 percent more efficient than those made 30 years ago, so investing in a state-of-the-art refrigerator can cut hundreds of dollars from your electric bill during its lifetime.

Switch to compact fluorescent bulbs . Change the three bulbs you use most in your house to compact fluorescents. Each compact fluorescent bulb will keep half a ton of carbon dioxide out of the air over its lifetime. And while compact fluorescents are initially a lot more expensive than the incandescent bulbs you’re used to using, they last ten times as long and can save $30 per year in electricity costs.

Set heating and cooling temperatures correctly . Check thermostats in your home to make sure they are set at a level that doesn’t waste energy. Get an electronic thermostat that will allow your furnace to heat the house to a lower temperature when you’re sleeping and return it to a more comfortable temperature before you wake up. In the winter, set your thermostat at 68° in the daytime and 55° at night. In the summer, keep it at 78°. Remember that water heaters work most efficiently between 120° and 140°. In your refrigerator, set the temperature at about 37°and adjust the freezer to operate at about 3°. Use a thermometer to take readings and set the temperatures correctly.

Turn off the lights . Turn off lights and other electrical appliances such as televisions and radios when you’re not using them. This is a no-brainer, but it’s surprising how many times we forget. Install automatic timers for lights that people in your house frequently forget to flick off when leaving a room. Use dimmers where you can.

Use your appliances more efficiently . The way you use an appliance can change the amount of energy it wastes.

Make sure your oven gasket is tight, and resist the urge to open the oven door to peek, as each opening can reduce the oven temperature 25°. Preheat only as much as needed, and avoid placing foil on racks — your food won’t cook as quickly.

Your second biggest household energy user after the fridge is the clothes dryer.

Dryers kept in warm areas work more efficiently. Clear the lint filter after each load, and dry only full loads. And don’t forget that hanging clothing outside in the sun and air to dry is the most energy-efficient method of all.

I’ll have a few more tips in my next column.

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