Energy Tips

 

The following are useful energy tips.

 

[lts_tabs type=”lizatom-tabs-vertical”][lts_tab title=’Indoor Conservation’]
  • Have a programmable thermostat?  Set it to lower temps by 5 to 10 degrees in the winter when you’re gone and raise it 5 to 10 degrees in the summer.  (ComEd)
  • When home, AC temps should be set between 74 and 78 degrees.  (ComEd)
  • When heating or cooling, check to see that doors and windows are closed.  (US DOE)
  • Looking for a new AC unit?  Get multiple estimates concentrating on efficiency and properly engineered load analysis and capacity.  Look for the highest SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio).  Then, buy the most efficient model your budget will allow.  (ComEd & US DOE)
  • If it is a furnace you are looking for, find the AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) rating.  Most Energy Star models have AFUE ratings in the 90% range.  Then purchase the highest rated model that your budget will allow.  (US DOE)
  • Going to finish the basement?  Be sure a well-sealed vapor barrier exists on the outside of insulation on cooling ducts to prevent moisture condensing and contributing to mold growth. (US DOE)
  • Hire a professional to install both supply and return ducts in basement rooms. (US DOE)
  • Have a gas, oil or propane furnace?  Get a carbon monoxide monitor to check for harmful levels.  (US DOE)
  • Water heaters should be set to reach a temperature of 120 degrees F.  (US DOE)
  • Drain a quart of water from your hot water heater every 3 months to remove sediment that impedes heat transfer and lowers the efficiency of the unit – follow manufacturer’s directions.  (US DOE)
  • Insulate the first 6 feet of hot and cold water pipes connected to the water heater. (US DOE)
  • Cold weather window tips:  (US DOE)
    • Close curtains and shades at night to protect against cold drafts and open them when warming sunlight is available.
    • Shrink plastic film can help reduce cold air infiltration.
    • Have single pane windows, consider installing storm windows that have adequate weather stripping OR consider replacing them with double or triple panes.  In this climate, consider upgrading to gas-filled windows with low-e coatings to reduce heat loss.
  • Warm weather window tips:  (US DOE)
    • Use white window shades, drapes or blinds to reflect heat away from the house.
    • Close curtains on south- and west- facing windows.
    • Apply sun-control or other reflective films on south-facing windows to reduce solar heat gain.
  • Consider upgrading insulation, more efficient windows and doors and weather sealing before purchasing a heating/air conditioning system.  Those changes may well affect proper sizing of the system.  (US DOE)
  • New central AC systems should have a minimum SEER rating of 13. (US DOE)
  • Keep lamps and electronics away from thermostats.  They add heat that can fool the AC unit into believing it is warmer than actual temps and make the system overwork.  Similarly, that heat can fool the furnace unit and keep rooms cooler than they should be in winter.  (ComEd)
  • Not using some rooms?  Close vents and doors to those not being used regularly.  (ComEd)
  • Vacuum the coils on the back of refrigerators/freezers at least twice a year to promote efficiency.  (ComEd)
  • Run high use appliances like dishwashers and washing machines after dark.  (ComEd)
  • Plug-in chargers should be unplugged once the item is charged.  The chargers continue to draw electricity even when not charging.  There have been reports of them overheating when they are not actually charging and causing home fires.  (ComEd)
  • Check and clean furnace/air conditioning filters monthly and replace dirty/clogged ones.  (ComEd)
  • Air Ducts (US DOE)
    • Heating/cooling ducts that leak conditioned air can add hundreds of dollars per year to your bills.
    • All ducts should be properly sealed to prevent air leaks.  All ducts should be joined properly.  If you have access, check for separations at junctions and for any obvious holes.  This is a repair you may be able to accomplish without professional help, but evaluate your ability before tackling the project.  If you use tape to seal ductwork, do not use “duct tape” – it tends to fail quickly.  Rather, use mastic, butyl tape, foil tape or other heat-approved tapes.  Look for tape with the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) logo.[/tab][tab title=’Outdoor – Landscape’]
  • Proper tree placement and selection can have a significant impact on heating/cooling costs.
  • Trees that lose leaves in winter help cool the house in summer and allow solar gain in the winter.
  • For maximum benefit, trees should be planted to the south, east and west of the house.  The most benefit comes from west exposure coverage.
  • Place your air conditioner on the north side or plant a tree or bushes to reduce sun exposure, BUT keep at least 3 feet of open air space surrounding the unit. (ComEd)
  • Water charges are increasing across our region. Without going too deeply into the science and math of good watering procedures, the following tips can help you save. (U of I Extension)
  • You need to decide in spring whether or not you will let your grass go dormant (turn brown) during hot dry periods.  It will go dormant to protect itself as much as possible to come back when conditions are better.
  • Once you decide on dormancy, DO NOT alternate back and forth by letting it go dormant and then deciding to water.  That can lead to unhealthy lawns.
  • If you decide to water to prevent dormancy, the best time to apply is between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m.  Ideally, there would be dew on the grass when you start.
  • In this part of the country, lawns need about 1” of water every 7 – 10 days – that means from both rain and irrigation.  More frequent watering encourages shallow root growth and can actually weaken the turf making it more susceptible to disease.
  • Avoid watering on windy, dry days – you stand to lose 50% of the water to evaporation before it ever gets to the roots.
  • Avoid watering in the late evening/night – that can promote mold growth on the plants.
  • A strong and solid lawn will have root depths of approximately 6” and proper watering for healthy plants should go just beyond the depth of roots encouraging further root growth and healthier lawns.
  • If you allow lawns to go dormant, they still need ¼ to ½ inch of water every two to three weeks to keep root and crown tissue alive.
  • Plan your watering to be a day before mowing.  That procedure will help prevent brown tips.
  • As temperatures increase, it is a good idea to raise the blade height to 3” thereby shading the roots and helping to keep weeds out.[/tab][tab title=’Outdoor – Home’]
    • Weatherization of a home’s outer shell is important for controlling heating/cooling costs.  The natural tendency of temperature is to move from warm to cool – meaning that summer hot temperatures outside the house will find every method to get inside where it is cooler.  Of course, the opposite is true in winter when outdoor temps want to share the warmth inside your home by pulling it outside.  (ComEd and US Department of Energy)
    • Seal air leaks.
    • Test your home for air tightness by holding a lit “incense” stick or a smoke pen next to doors, windows, electrical outlets, plumbing fixtures, ceiling fixtures and any other places that you think may allow air in or out.  If the “smoke” moves sideways, you have an air leak that needs to be addressed.  (US DOE)
    • Caulk and weatherstrip around leaky doors and windows.  (ComEd)
    • Caulk and seal leaks where plumbing, ducting, or electrical wiring comes through walls, floors, ceilings and soffits over cabinets.  (ComEd & US DOE)
    • Install foam gaskets behind outlet and switch plates on walls.  (ComEd & US DOE)
    • Inspect “dirty” spots in insulation for leaks and mold.  Seal the leaks with low-expansion spray foam made for that purpose.  (US DOE)
    • Look for “dirty” spots on ceilings and carpets which may indicate air leaks.  (US DOE)
    • Cover single pane windows with storm windows or replace them with double or triple pane.  (ComEd & US DOE)
    • Use foam sealant on larger gaps that you may find around windows, baseboards and any other places where air may leak in or out.  (US DOE)
    • Check your dryer vent to be sure it is not blocked with lint or anything else that may inhibit proper and efficient drying.  Lint fires do occur.  (ComEd & US DOE)
    • Replace door bottoms and thresholds with ones that have pliable sealing gaskets.  (US DOE)
    • Seal air leaks around fireplace chimneys, furnaces, and gas-fired water heater vents with fire-resistant materials.  (US DOE)
    • Keep the fireplace flue tightly sealed when NOT IN USE.  (US DOE)
    • Insulation – how much is recommended in this part of the nation?
    • Attics = R38 to R60.  You need 11 inches of fiberglass or rock wool or 8 inches of cellulose to reach R30.  An attic is the easiest for a DIY project. (US DOE)
    • Cathedral Ceiling = R30 to R38 for any heat sources using gas, oil or a heat pump and R30 to R60 for electric.  (US DOE)
    • Walls = R13 to R15 for non-electric and R13 to R21 for electric.  Thinking of residing?  Consider adding rigid foam insulation to outside walls before new siding is applied.  Insulation factors range from R-4 to R-6.5 per inch.  (US DOE)
    • If planning to make upgrades yourself, there are situations like recessed lighting that require special attention.  It would be best to check with a qualified professional before attempting insulating around those types of fixtures.  (US DOE)
    • Always follow manufacturer’s installation instructions and wear protective clothing if this will be a DIY installation.  (US DOE)
  • [/lts_tab][lts_tab title=’Household Energy Tip – Lighting ‘]
    • The US EPA estimates that if every American home replaced just one conventional light bulb with a compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulb, there would be enough electricity saved to light more than 3 million homes a year.
    • According to ComEd, CFLs use on average 75% less electricity and typically last 10 times longer than incandescent light bulbs.  Select an Energy Star rated bulb.
    • Planning to purchase new light fixtures?  Look for Energy Star labels. That means the fixture has been tested to be flicker free, emit no hum, start instantly and come with at least a two year warranty. (ComEd)
    • Energy Star rated fixtures generate about 70% less heat than incandescent lighting — allowing your air conditioning to run more efficiently (ComEd)
    • Simple, but not always easy – turn off lights with you leave a room  (ComEd)
    • As funds allow, add dimmers or occupancy sensors to your home system.  (ComEd)
    • 100 watt & 75 watt “regular” incandescent bulbs have been phased out and on January 1, 2014, 40 and 60 watt bulbs will be unavailable.  (US Department of Energy – DOE)
    • LED replacements are becoming less costly, are more efficient than a CFL and have longer lives.
    • New “lighting facts labels” give you information on brightness, estimated cost per year, lifespan and watts used — an aid in purchasing decisions.  (DOE)
    • Use some caution when replacing old bulbs with modern energy efficient replacements.  Some may not be suitable.  Check www.energystar.gov to find the right replacement for your fixture.  (DOE)
    • Best to look for the Energy Star label for replacement bulbs.  Not all meet performance standards.  (US DOE)
    • The best method for saving on lighting – TURN IT OFF when no one is in the area.  (DOE)
    • CFLs and LEDs can be used for outdoor lighting.  Check the label for suitability.  (DOE)
    • CFLs and fluorescent bulbs should be recycled properly.  Retailers like Ace Hardware, Lowes, Home Depot and Menards have been taking care of the used lamps.  (DOE)
  • [/lts_tab][lts_tab title=’Energy Tips – Water’]
    • Want to see how much water a leaky faucet or appliance might be wasting.  Check out the Drip Calculator at:  www.awwa.org/resources-tools/public-affairs/public-information/dripcalculator.aspx.  You’ll have to look at your water bill for the rate to see how much that leak is costing you.  (US EPA)
    • Fix the leak! Repair or replace old or damaged fixtures.  If you’re not sure you have a leak, check the water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water was used.  If the meter does not read exactly the same, you have a leak.  That assumes the meter itself is not faulty (extremely rare but possible).  (US DOE)
    • Run your dishwasher ONLY when it is full.  Scrape off excess food, but do not pre-rinse dishes – tests show pre-rinsing does not improve cleaning and you’ll save as much as 20 gallons per load.  However, if food has been baked- or has dried-on plates and utensils, you may have to soak before washing.  (US DOE)
    • Don’t overload dishwashers or washing machines.  (US DOE)
    • When you have to get a new dishwasher, look for one that is water-efficient using as little as 4 gallons per load.  Look for the WaterSense label.  (US DOE)
    • A typical five-minute shower using a water-efficient showerhead consumes about 15% of the water for a full bath.  (US EPA)
    • An average washing machine uses over 40 gallons of water per load.  Wash only full loads or if your machine has a load size option, select the appropriate size setting.  When it is time to replace or if you are buying new, look for the Energy Star label and find a high efficiency washer that uses less than 28 gallons.  For further savings, use cold water wash and rinse cycles.  (US EPA)
  • [/lts_tab][lts_tab title=’Driving’]
    • Don’t top off your gas tank – especially in hot weather.  Gas stations in the Chicago area use vapor recovery systems that actually feed “spills” back into underground storage tanks.  That is gas you paid for and ends up going back into the storage tank to be resold.  (US EPA)
    • Use manufacturer’s recommended oil grade.  A different grade can lower gas mileage by 1% – 2%.  (US DOE)
    • Have a need to “warm-up” the car?  Anything longer than 30 seconds simply wastes fuel and increases emissions.  (US DOE)
    • Avoid quick starts, speeding and hard stops.  Those actions can reduce your mileage by up to 33%.  (US DOE)
    • Generally, speeds above 60 mph decrease miles per gallon by 6% – 8% for every 10 mph increase.  (US DOE)
    • Avoid keeping heavy items in the car.  Each additional 100 pounds decreases gas mileage by 2%.  (US DOE)
    • Using roof top carriers can decrease fuel economy by 5% or more.  (US DOE)
    • Inflate tires per auto manufacturer’s specifications, not necessarily the maximum pressure indicated on the tire’s sidewall.  (US DOE)
    • Pay attention to regular maintenance recommendations.  A clogged air filter reduces efficiency by up to 10% and can result in engine damage.  (US DOE)
  • [/lts_tab][/lts_tabs]

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