2010-07-30 / Columnists

Notes On Consumer Affairs

Commentary By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer

AUDREY PHEFFER AUDREY PHEFFER Are you searching for ways to lower your home’s monthly utility bill? There are several ways you can increase your home’s energy efficiency. These include optimizing your heating and cooling systems, purchasing energy efficient appliances, and making home improvements, some of which are tax deductible.

In order for your home’s heating and cooling systems to function at maximum efficiency, you should conduct routine maintenance. Check your system’s air filter on a monthly basis, especially during the winter and summer months when usage is higher.

You should replace your filter according to the schedule found in your owner’s manual. It is recommended that you have your system cleaned and checked by a qualified professional at least once a year to ensure that it is operating efficiently and safely.

You may also want to consider installing a programmable thermostat. This will allow you to regulate the temperature of your home so that the heating and cooling systems are not constantly running.

Install the thermostat on an interior wall away from registers, appliances, lighting, and direct sunlight or drafts.

If you heat your home using radiators, make sure all the valves are working properly and place heat resistant radiator reflectors between the radiators and the exterior wall. Do not block radiators or heating vents. Shut off the vents and close the doors to rooms not in use.

When you purchase electrical appliances, look for products that have the blue and white Energy Star label. Items that have this label meet federal guidelines for energy efficiency established by the Environmental Protection Agency.

These guidelines require that the product provide significant energy savings without sacrificing performance.

When replacing light bulbs, purchase compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). Even though CFLs are more expensive than regular incandescent lights, they use less energy and last longer. Combined with energy saving measures on your part, such as turning off the lights when leaving a room, CFLs can lower your utility bill.

You can also make several home improvements that will increase the energy efficiency of your home. These include adding insulation, caulking and weather-stripping around doors and windows, covering windows with plastic, and installing storm windows and doors. You should also repair or replace any broken windows or doors and make sure that they close properly. Taking these steps will help keep cold air out in the winter and warm air out during the summer, reducing your need for both heat and air conditioning.

The federal government, through its Energy Star Program, offers tax credits to those who take certain steps to make their homes more energy efficient. Qualifying improvements include adding insulation and upgrading doors, windows, and your heating system.

The improvements must be to an existing home that is your principal residence. The credits are for thirty percent of applicable costs; however, many of them expire at the end of 2010.

For more information on how to improve your home’s energy efficiency or to see if a home improvement you are considering qualifies for a tax credit, you can contact the Energy Star Program at 1-888-STARYES or http://www.energystar.gov/.

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