Five Specific Energy Saving Hints

We’ve all read the same information on energy conservation:

1. Use-energy-saving-lights

2. Insulate-your-house

3. Turn-off-lights-when-not-in-use.

4. Take-shorter-showers

5. Use-energy-saving-appliances

And so on, and so on. But what happens to “saving energy” when a person rents instead of owns a house or doesn’t know exactly which products to use?

Take a trip to the nearest “DIY” (do-it-yourself) store. There are thousands of products, from light bulbs to insulation. Hundreds of manufacturers and name brands to choose from. The task can be daunting. Not to mention the price at the check-out.

“Two light bulbs! All I got was two light bulbs! THEY COST WHAT!!!!”

True, as more and more manufacturers join the “green” (energy saving) revolution, increased supply will take some prices down a bit. Some.

I am one of the “greenaholics,” “greenies”, or “green freaks” (as I’ve been called) out there. I confess I live in two places: my home of residence and at the local DIY store. I’m surprised they don’t have a shopping cart with my name welded to it.

From experience, I’ll try to guide you through some of the “generic” information out there. Although entire books are written on each subject, I’ll keep it brief so you can make an informed decision or continue your own research.

1. Energy-saving-lights. Fluorescents do save energy. Which to use? First, check the wattage on the current light bulb. Turn it off first. At the store, read the fluorescent package. Pick the equivalent bulb. For example, one bulb is listed as 13w. This bulb uses 13 watts of electricity. It also shows a picture of a regular light bulb listed as 60w. This bulb is the equivalent of a 60 watt light bulb, used in lamps or ceiling fixtures. There are also bulbs manufactured just for ceiling fans. These use even lower amounts of electricity. Some bulbs are made to imitate natural sunlight, others, to enhance the room’s dÃ?©cor and some are rated “full-spectrum” to imitate full sunlight. Nearly every package shows a typical year’s energy saving for that bulb. How long do they last? I started using florescent bulbs 20 years ago and have only had to change 1 bulb so far. No, I don’t walk around with lanterns.

2. Insulate-your-house. Ok, with what? How much to use? Where? The US Department of Energy has a website which shows the R-value ratings for housing insulation by area and state, and what R-value to use different parts of the house. R-value is not a secret code. The R means resistance to heat. Or better, resistance to the movement of heat. Simple physics: heat moves to the cooler area. For example: in the summer heat from the blistering attic moves into the cool house, forcing the air conditioner to work harder and cost more to use. Proper insulation stops that movement. There are several types of insulation available. Read articles, ask at a DIY store, watch DIY shows to learn more. There’s too much information for 1 paragraph. Here’s a helpful piece of information: The R-value of a single pane window is 2. So is your t-shirt. In my area, attics should have R-49. Quite a difference.

3. Turn-off-lights-when-not-in-use. Common sense. I do see porch lights in my area though that burn 24 hours a day. Some are placed on a light sensor to come on at night and turn off during the day. My porch is shaded so the light would have burned constantly. I found a simple solution: A motion-detected solar powered porch light. I mounted it with 2 screws, attached it to the roof with two small galvanized nails. The light is a halogen light bulb that’s as bright as a 100 watt bulb. I paid $90 for mine off the shelf 5 years ago. An internet search yesterday revealed the same product for less than $50. There are solar lights that stay on continuously. Decorative lights aren’t that bright, though, look for ones with a halogen bulb.

4. Take-shorter-showers. In my house? With my family? Yeah. That’s gonna happen. Installing a low-flow shower head only takes a wrench. There are many on the market and are designed to give a strong stream, pulse, etc. of water while using less. Installing an “on demand” water heater also saves energy. In a regular water heater, energy is used 24 hours a day to heat water while it’s not in use. In an “on demand” heater, the heating element (gas or electric) only heats water when it’s asked for.

5. Use-energy-saving-appliances. Easy to say. Some are very expensive. Remember the light bulbs and watts? Take a refrigerator for example. Don’t compare a 10cu.ft. to a 25cu.ft. Compare similar sized appliances. Look at the labels. There should be a yellow tag to show how much energy it uses. If it’s not there, look inside the door. There should be a label on the side. The one that uses the least energy will cost less over the long run, even if it costs more up front. Make sure that the features on the appliance are the same when you compare. Look for the “energy star” label. This label is given to appliances by the DOE when it meets strict criteria. Even with the label, compare. That’s how you’ll save the most money.

By next year there will also be a new label for appliances that use water- the “water saver” label. Washing machine and dishwasher manufacturers are already scrambling to get the new designation. Buying (after comparing) the most efficient appliance with both labels will save the most in the long run.

But, what if you rent instead of own? Adding insulation, switching out water heaters, hanging new porch lights may violate the rental agreement. Check with your landlord/landlady to see what can be done. There are house owners that will let a renter renovate the house, then charge the next tenant higher rent. Renters can’t take insulation or other permanent things with them when they move. Until landlords/landladies are forced by law to upgrade their properties a renter would be wise to learn about insulation and such, then apply it to their first house as funds permit.

I changed an old 14cu.ft. refrigerator out for a new energy star model 2 years ago and danced when I saw the electric bill had dropped by a full 1/3! Fluorescent lights have also affected my bill in the right direction- down!

Remember that although some products are expensive up front, they are designed to save money in the long run. And over time, that savings can pay for the product.

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