2005-02-11 / Columnists

On The Bayfront

By Elisa Hinken

As a continuation of my last column, I am sharing some energy saving tips. Maybe your energy savings can be best used elsewhere rather than supporting Con Ed, LIPA and Keyspan.

Check your utility’s energy-efficiency incentives - Some utility companies have programs that encourage energy efficiency. Check with your utility to find out if it offers free home energy audits, cash rebates for using energy-efficient lighting and appliances, and lower electric rates for households meeting certain energy-efficiency criteria.

Weatherize your home or apartment - Drafty homes and apartments allow energy dollars to leak away. Seal and caulk around windows and doors. Make sure your home has adequate insulation. Many old homes do not have enough, especially in the attic. You can check the insulation yourself or have it done as part of an energy audit, which is usually performed free of charge by the utility company.

Choose renewable energy - Many consumers can now choose their energy supplier. If you have a choice, choose an electric utility that uses renewable power resources, such as solar, wind, low impact hydroelectric, or geothermal. Right now we don’t have a choice, but I am sure, years down the road, we will. Right now, residents of California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Texas can get help choosing clean power from the Power Scorecard , developed by NRDC and other groups. Within the next ten years Rockaway communities may be able to benefit from wind power that is planned off the coast of Jones Beach. Also, if you have a heated pool, consider solar panels to assist in the heating of the pool. The cost of the entire solar system for a pool is less than $500. and will probably pay for itself in one season. Once we put a new roof on my house (our current roof is still good, but I’m itching for these solar panels), we will invest in these panels ourselves. If you don’t have a heated pool, STILL consider solar panels in place of a gas or electric pool heater. There’s nothing more pleasurable and relaxing than swimming in 86 degree water.

Let the sun shine in - The cheapest and most energy-efficient light and heat source is often right outside your window. On bright days, open blinds, drapes, and shutters to let the sun light your home for free. Also remember that sunlight entering a room equals passive solar heating. Even on cold winter days, sun streaming into a room can raise the temperature several degrees.

Our house has three exposures in the family room. We love to open the window blinds as long as there is sun and sit and read a book, soaking up the heat that come through the windows. Our pets also bask in the sun. On a psychological level, the sun wards off those who have seasonal affective disorder, also known as the “winter blues”. I’ve noticed many European American senior citizens will bundle up and sit in their folded chairs facing south in places like Coney Island, Brighton Beach and Jones Beach State Park on cold days, using buildings to shield them from the north winds. It’s sort of the same effect.

By the same token, shield the sun in the summer. Invest in retractable awnings. It aids in keeping the home cooler in the summer and reduces cooling. I invested in retractable awnings when I moved into my current home ten years ago. The awnings paid for themselves in just two years. Our family room is covered with these awnings on all three exposures. We noticed our cooling costs were much lower than the first year we didn’t have the aw-nings. I took this idea from my parents who had a retractable awning on their home when I was small. They only used the awning when they used the front porch, but I noticed how much cooler the living room was inside. I was even lucky enough to be the one who used the “crank pole” to let the awning out.

The prime point I am trying to make in all of this is that, through conservation, our environment wins, our pocketbooks and wallets win and our health wins. How much more can we ask for?

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