Fall energy saving tips


By Molly Brown

The fall equinox comes through town today. Days will continue to get shorter, with more cold spells, more clouds and (hopefully) rain. Our strategies will change now from keeping cool (not too much of a challenge most of this summer) to staying warm. Some of our summer energy-saving practices still apply, and others come into play.

With shorter days, we need more artificial light. We save electricity by lighting only the areas we are using, and turning off lights and appliances when they are not needed.

If you haven't already done so, consider replacing incandescent light bulbs with LEDs, which use far less energy and give off a wonderful clear light. You can also change the ballasts of standard fluorescent fixtures to the energy-saving electronic type.

Unplug or switch off power strips on electronics (TV, stereo, computers, etc) when not in use, especially at night and when you are away from home.

Closing curtains at night helps hold in the heat. Most newer homes have dual or triple pane glass windows, but if yours does not, it will be a good long-term investment to install them when you can afford it.

Pleated R-4 cellular window blinds and insulated drapes also help keep the heat in and the cold out.

Close doors to unused rooms and let them remain cooler. Put on extra layers of clothes rather than turning up the thermostat. Invest in down comforters or other warm blankets and turn the heat way down at night.

During each 24 hour period, you can save about 3 percent on your heating bill for every degree that you lower the thermostat setting.

Remember to replace the air filter on any forced-air system, including heat pumps. If you are building a new home, use passive solar heat if possible, and consider installing a heat pump, an efficient mode of heating (and cooling).

Homeowners can improve the insulation of their homes by caulking all the exterior holes and gaps where air can infiltrate exterior walls. Seal recessed can lights and electrical outlets and switch boxes.

If you have an attic, adding cellulose insulation is easy and fairly inexpensive to do. The recommended level is R-60. Floor insulation can be added if there is a crawl space under the floor.

Low-income families may qualify for help weatherproofing their homes through Great Northern.

Covering your water heater tank with a tank blanket " or two " reduces the tank's stand-by heat loss, especially if your tank is in the garage. Be sure to insulate any exposed hot water pipes.

If you are in the market for any new appliances (washing machine, refrigerator, dishwasher, etc), look for the Energy Star sticker and compare energy savings for anything you buy. Buy a front-loading washing machine to save both energy and water.

The over-all message here is that saving energy saves money as well as resources that we all share and need. Saving energy also reduces pollution, greenhouse gases, and waste " all of which benefit the environment upon which we totally depend.

With the growing evidence of global climate change, we are beginning to wake up as a people to the negative impacts our modern life style has on the biosphere, and the pressing need to change our ways.

What we do as individuals and families affects not only our own health and well-being, but also that of our neighbors, community, nation and world.