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Energy Saving Tips – March 2009

Energy Saving Tips – March 2009

This month, Built By Adams is sharing 19 Ways to Slash Your Utility Bills from MSN. You may be surprised how little fixes can add up to big savings!

Electronics and appliances

  1. Unplug the beer fridge: That old clunker of a refrigerator in the basement could be costing the equivalent of 10 cases of Bud in wasted energy each year. A refrigerator built in 1993 gobbles twice as much energy as new models. Need more cold brew for a party? Plug in the fridge the night before.
    Cost: $0. Monthly savings: $12.50. Payback: immediate
  2. Plug the power drain: As much as 75% of electricity use by electronics occurs while the devices are off. Big-screen TVs, sound systems and computer peripherals are some of the worst offenders. Curtail the loss with power strips that kill power when they sense inactivity.
    Cost: $115. Monthly savings: $3. Payback: 3 years.
  3. Give the sump pump a break: A 0.5 horsepower sump pump can use $30 a month in electricity during wet spring months, estimates Bill McAnally, an advisor to the Iowa Energy Center and an instructor in energy-efficient building. “You’re better off extending downspouts another 5 feet into the yard to move rainwater away from the basement,” he says.
    Cost: $16. Monthly savings: $6.25. Payback: 2.5 months.
  4. Maximize CFLs:We’ve all heard the advice to switch to compact fluorescent lights. To get the maximum bang for your CFL buck, install the bulbs for their rated use, which will help them last longer. For example, use bulbs that are designed for down-facing, enclosed receptacles in ceiling lights. Other CFLs are rated for use in fixtures plugged into a timer. Also, for a more rapid return on investment, use CFLs in fixtures that are on at least three hours a day.Cost: $3.22 per 15-watt CFL. Monthly savings: 57 cents. Payback: 6 months.

Heating and cooling systems

  1. Seal ducts: Put away the duct tape; you need a better seal. Between 25% and 40% of the hot and cold air entering ducts escapes through joints, seams and gaps — many covered with poorly applied tape. That’s hard-earned money disappearing. Cut your losses by sealing duct joints with mastic, a paint-on putty, and patch holes with aluminum tape. If supply ducts have insulation, peel it back to seal the collars. Pay particular attention to elbows, advises Iowa Energy’s McAnally. “That’s where pressure builds and the air wants out,” he says. And don’t neglect return ducts. Leaks in returns strain your heating and cooling system and can cause pressure differentials that result in hot summer air or cold winter air being sucked into the house.
    Cost: $40. Monthly savings: $9.33. Payback: 4 months.
  2. Program the thermostat: Install an Energy Star–qualified programmable thermostat that automatically adjusts heating and cooling temperatures based on a daily schedule.
    Cost: $42. Monthly savings: $15. Payback: 3 months.
  3. Keep A/C filters and coils clean: A dirty air filter reduces airflow, and a dirty condenser coil retains heat and is less efficient. The two can increase the system’s power consumption by 10% or more. Clean the condenser coil every two years and change filters monthly during peak cooling and heating seasons.
    Cost: $50. Monthly savings: $8.33. Payback: 6 months.
  4. Catch a breeze: Ceiling fans minimize the need for air conditioning in summer, or at least allow you to nudge the thermostat up a few degrees, and they enhance winter comfort.
    Cost: $100. Monthly savings: $1.33. Payback: 6.5 years.
  5. Add humidity: Dry air retains less heat and feels cooler against the skin. Increase ambient humidity with a humidifier this winter, and edge the thermostat down a degree or two.
    Cost: $72, for three humidifiers. Monthly savings: $3.85. Payback: 1.5 years.


  1. Throttle back showers: Showers account for 26% of a household’s hot-water use. Installing a low-flow shower head can shrink that flood from 3.5 gallons per minute to 1.5 gallons.Cost: $9, for two no-frills, 1.5 gallon-per-minute heads. Monthly savings: $15. Payback: 3 weeks.
  2. Slow the flow: A faucet aerator can save 400 gallons of hot water a year. Translation: less work for the water heater. If the rated flow on your current aerator is visible, and if it’s above 2.75 gallons per minute, then replace it with a more efficient model that emits 1.5 gallons a minute or less. If the aerator’s flow rate has been scuffed off or it’s too hard to read, just replace it. The new aerator will likely have lower flow.Cost: $4.80 for three aerators. Monthly savings: 93 cents. Payback: 5 months.
  3. Stop drips: A slow leak of 10 drips per minute from a hot-water faucet wastes 526 gallons a year, or about the equivalent of emptying and refilling a 40-gallon water heater 13 times. Swapping in a new washer or O-ring is an easy fix, even for a novice do-it-yourselfer.Cost: $1. Monthly savings: 35 cents. Payback: 3 months.

Chimneys, windows, attics and basements

  1. Block the stairs: The attic may be sealed tight and insulated to R-39, but you’ve overlooked a gaping 21-square-foot hole that’s hemorrhaging money: the pull-down stairs.
  2. Cost: $120 for a pre-made tent. Monthly savings: $4.16. Payback: 2.5 years.
  3. Stuff the chimney: On average, 14% of the air leaking in and out of a house flows through the chimney. If you use your fireplace infrequently, seal it with an inflatable draft stopper or make your own with a garbage bag stuffed with fiberglass insulation.
  4. Cost: $50. Monthly savings: $2.33. Payback: 21 months.
  5. Upgrade windows: Replacing old, single-pane windows with high-performance, double-glazed, low-e windows — special coating (low-emissivity) reflects the sun’s heat, but not sunlight — seems like a good idea, but at a cost of several hundred dollars each you’ll wait awhile for the payoff. Inexpensive storm windows offer quick payback, especially for do-it-yourselfers. In testing performed by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, exterior storm windows reduced winter heat loss in single-pane windows by 29%, whereas double-pane window replacements saved 47%.

Miscellaneous tips

  1. Wash only full loads in dishwashers and washing machines. Save $51.
  2. Turn the water heater down to 120 degrees from 140. Save $22.
  3. Remove room air conditioners during winter. Save $40.
  4. Use Energy Saver features on dishwashers, dryers, fridges and freezers. Save $21.
  5. Wash clothes in cold water. Save $33.
  6. Air-dry clothes during the warmest six months. Save $57.

To view this complete article on MSN, please click here.

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