INCREASE YOUR ENERGY QUOTIENT & SAVE MONEY
by Rochelle LaMotte McDonald
Energy conservation has become a major concern in the United States; we're all
beginning to realize that the world's fossil fuel resources aren't infinite. The more we
deplete these resources, the more expensive the remaining fuels become. It's just common
sense to limit our use of energy-both to save our resources and to save money.
If you're like most Americans, by far the
largest part (over 46 percent) of your residential energy use will go for the heating and
cooling of your home. Regardless of what kind of home you live in, and regardless of the
type of heating and cooling system you have, you probably can make significant reductions
in the amount of energy you are using almost immediately. Consider the following
- Dress wisely. The human body is a type of combustion chamber or heater, giving off some
350 British thermal units (BTUs) of heat an hour. In winter, instead of allowing this heat
to dissipate into the surrounding atmosphere, wouldn't it make sense to trap more of the
heat closer to your body to make you feel warmer? Wearing several layers of clothes
instead of one heavy piece can equal as much as five or more degrees in warmth. So instead
of wearing one heavy sweater, wear a sweatshirt over another shirt, and then add a lighter
sweater. The layers of air between the layers of clothing act as added insulation to
retain more of your body's natural heat.
- Adjust your thermostat. [Ed. note: This applies to homes that have both air
conditioning and heating systems.] You can lower your energy consumption immediately
by turning the thermostat up in the summer (78 degrees F is recommended) and down in the
winter (65 degrees F during the day and 60 degrees F for sleeping are recommended). Every
degree you lower your thermostat in the winter or raise it in the summer will save dollars
on your energy bill and extend the life of your heating or cooling system. And if you're
dressing sensibly, you'll hardly feel the difference.
- Test your house for airtightness. Feel around windows, doors, and cracks to discover air
leaks. You should also check around pipes, electrical wires and outlets, ceiling fixtures,
and foldaway stairs to the attic. Caulk or weatherstrip anyplace that leaks air. Caulking
and weatherstripping, if you do the work yourself, costs about fifty dollars for the
average house, and might save you as much as 10 percent on your energy bill.
- Install double-pane glass or storm doors and windows. Double-glazed (thermal) windows
and storm windows are similar. They both have an extra layer of glass with an air space,
which adds extra insulation, between them. Storm windows are installed over regular
windows and can be taken down, while double-glazed or thermal windows are permanent. If
you can't afford any of these, seal your windows with plastic film to cut down heat loss,
which you can do yourself for about ten dollars.
- Check out your home's insulation. Consult with an insulation contractor, a local
insulation retailer, or with the local building inspector to determine how much insulation
your home needs based on the climate in which you live. Check with your utility companies
to see if they will do an "energy audit." They can also suggest alternative
insulating ideas and contractors who will be able to do the job. Your utility company may
even offer you a low-interest loan to upgrade your insulation. Although insulation is
expensive when you buy it, it can save you as much as 30 percent per year on your heating
and cooling bills, so it pays for itself very quickly.
- If you have a fireplace, use it sparingly. Fireplaces are pretty and create a romantic
or cozy atmosphere, but they are terribly inefficient as heaters. The heat from a
fireplace is mostly confined to the room in which it is located, and heat from the rest of
the house tends to move into that room and flow up the open chimney. Keep the damper in
the chimney closed when the fireplace is not in use; otherwise, the chimney will suck warm
air out of your house. When you do light a fire in the fireplace, close off the remainder
of the house if possible. If isolating the fireplace is not a viable option, then lower
the thermostat so the other heat source will not run unnecessarily.
- Use fans instead of air conditioning as much as possible. Fans use a lot less energy
than an air conditioner, and they are usually a lot quieter and perhaps even healthier for
you and your family. In the summertime, a ceiling fan can make as much as a six-degree
difference. Many ceiling fans are also reversible, making them useful in the wintertime
also for better heat distribution.
- Consider buying insulated curtains and shades, which work like insulation to reduce the
unwanted flow of heat either into or out of your house.
- If you have a gas furnace with a pilot light, turn it off in the summer. Caution:
Be certain you know how to relight the pilot before turning on the furnace in the fall;
otherwise, you might be pinching pennies in heaven.
From How to Pinch a Penny Till It Screams, by Rochelle LaMotte McDonald. © 1994
by Rochelle LaMotte McDonald. Excerpted by arrangement with Avery Publishing Group. $9.95.
Available in local bookstores, or call 800-548-5757 or click here.