Energy adviser: Take little steps to big energy savings

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While a single energy-saving step may not seem like a big deal, taking several steps can add up to real savings.

Here are tips from the team of Clark Public Utilities energy counselors:

• Thermostat settings. When you’re home and awake, lower your indoor thermostat to 68 degrees. Drop the temperature even lower when you are sleeping or away. For every degree you lower the thermostat for eight hours, you’ll save between 1 and 2 percent on your heating bill. A programmable thermostat automatically adjusts your home’s temperature settings and can save more on energy costs.

If you have zoned heat, turn thermostats to low or off in unused rooms and close the door to the room. Make sure your zoned heat thermostat is accurate. Older units can sometimes be off by 5 to 10 degrees.

For a heat pump, a six degree setback is generally safe, but check with the manufacturer’s recommendations or a heating specialist regarding lowering the thermostat.

• Air sealing. When it comes to inexpensive ways to save energy in your home, air sealing is one of the most cost-effective. That means finding cold drafts and plugging them to keep more heat inside.

Look for air leaks around doors and windows, where plumbing pipes or cables enter the house, around ceiling fixtures and exhaust fans, and where the foundation meets the sill plate. Often, you can see light coming through cracks or feel the outside air seeping in if the areas aren’t sealed tightly. Use canned foam, caulk or weather stripping to block air leaks. Even a rug rolled up in front of a door will help stop drafts.

Also make sure chimney dampers are tightly closed and unused chimneys are sealed.

• Lighting. Even though Tom Edison’s incandescent light bulb won a nine-month reprieve from Congress last month, you may want to start the conversion anyway. Now-delayed efficiency rules were to require a phase-out of the old bulbs and a phase-in of more efficient bulbs such as compact fluorescent light bulbs or LED lights. Those more-efficient bulbs have a bit more expensive initial cost compared to a less-efficient light. But lower energy usage and a longer life from the new bulbs will make up for the higher purchase price.

Resolve this year to replace your incandescent light bulbs with CFLs or LEDs as they burn out, and start to save.

• Water heating. Heating water is the second-largest energy user in a home, so fix any dripping faucets. Otherwise, you’re wasting water and the energy needed to heat it. After turning off electricity to the water heater at the service panel, set the water heater thermostats to 120 degrees. You might experiment by gradually reducing your water heater thermostat settings to find out what temperature works for you. Most have two thermostats, so be sure to set them both. Put insulation around your water pipes including the inlet and outlet piping above most water heaters.

Only run the dishwasher and clothes washer with full loads. Take showers instead of baths. Wash laundry in cold water, when possible. It all makes a difference over time.

• Heating and cooling tune-up. Check your furnace filters monthly and replace as necessary to keep your system running as efficiently as possible. Service your heating and cooling system annually, just like you do with your car. Schedule a service technician to clean the unit, ensuring that the equipment is running at its most cost-efficient and optimum capacity.

• Energy Star labeling. Buy appliances and electronics with the Energy Star label, which certifies that refrigerators use 15 percent less energy than their non-Energy Star peers, that dishwashers use 25 percent less, and clothes washers use 50 percent less. The orange Energy Forward sticker on TVs also indicates energy efficiency.

Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to energyadviser@clarkpud.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.