The Washington Times-Herald

January 3, 2013

Be aware of energy usage when temps are low

By Andrea McCann
Washington Times Herald

WASHINGTON — Decreasing winter temperatures correspond directly to increasing energy bills as homeowners and renters crank up their thermostats. But there are simple ways to help keep the thermostat - and electric bill - dialed back, according to Washington Municipal Utilities Office Manager Anita Ash.

“The easiest thing, and the cheapest, is light bulbs,” Ash said. “Change out the incandescent bulbs to CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs.”

Energy Star rated CFL bulbs use 75 percent less energy and last six to 10 times longer than standard incandescent bulbs, according to a WMU information sheet. Though CFL bulbs cost more initially, Ash said they save an estimated $30 over the bulb’s lifetime.

“The second thing would be a programmable thermostat,” she continued. “People will say ÔI have my furnace on 68.’ But if it’s extremely cold outside, it’s still gonna run.”

If a programmable thermostat is not in the budget, Ash said dialing the thermostat back when no one is home, then back up again only when someone is in the house, will help save money. Also turning the heat down at bedtime, when everyone is tucked in under the covers, is suggested. Setting the thermostat back two degrees around the clock is estimated to save about 5 percent on the heating bill.

“When the sun goes down, close the curtains to keep warm air in,” Ash said.

“When air is dry it takes more energy to heat, so if you use a humidifier that helps.”

She said the energy used by the humidifier isn’t enough to counter its positive effect.

If a resident has gas heat that gets turned off in the winter, she said it’s not effective - or safe - to use space heaters and ovens for heat.

Other tips from WMU include:

* Turn lights, appliances and electronics off when they’re not in use. Unplug power adapters and cell phone chargers when not in use. Ash said these items, and even lamps, continue to pull some electricity when plugged in but not in use. 

* Regularly change or clean furnace filters. Doing so monthly can save $5 or more on each month’s bill.

* Keep the temperature on electric water heaters at 120F, and insulate the water heater and its pipes.

*  Use ceiling fans on reverse to pull cool air up and force warm air down.

*  Close vents in rooms that are not in use and keep the door shut.

* Keep furniture and drapes away from vents so air can flow freely.

* Perform basic weatherization: Repair holes and cracks that let in drafts. Use weather stripping or caulking around doors and windows; plug leaks and gaps in insulation on ducts and pipes; insulate attics, basements and crawl spaces as well as living spaces; and install storm doors and windows for an extra layer of insulation.

* Try washing most clothes in cold water, and always rinse in cold water. Clothes will fade less and have fewer wrinkles, and using the water heater less could save up to $100 annually. Also, wash only full loads.

* Dry lighter items first to give the dryer a chance to heat up before drying heavier items. Don’t over dry clothes. Running the clothes dryer 15 minutes less per load can save up to $35 per year.

* Place a refrigerator in a well-ventilated, relatively cool spot and keep condenser coils clean. Keep it full but not overloaded, and set refrigerator temperature at 37F to 40F and freezer temperature at 5F. If there is an old refrigerator or freezer in the home that gets little use, unplug it and use just the main one to save up to 15 percent on the electric bill.

* Use a microwave whenever possible. It will use one-third to one-half the energy of a conventional oven.

* Air dry dishes instead of using the dishwasher drying cycle. Wash only full loads.

“When you do it all, it adds up,” Ash said, adding consumers can find energy-saving tips by going online at www.washingtonin.us, clicking on the “city government” tab, dropping down to “departments,” then to “utilities office.”

She said an energy audit can help homeowners get started with energy-efficiency measures. Energizing Indiana, an energy-efficiency program through Indiana Municipal Power Agency (IMPA), provides energy advisors to analyze energy use in homes and recommend appropriate actions. They assess heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, inspect air duct sealing, insulation levels and more.

“They’re very thorough,” Ash said. “I highly recommend anybody get it done.”

The free audits include replacing up to nine traditional incandescent bulbs with CFLs, installing up to three low-flow faucet aerators and two low-flow shower heads, and placing insulation wrap on electric water heaters.

To request an audit, sign up at www.energizingindiana.com  or call 1-888-446-7750. One other way to sign up for an energy audit and also help the community is to go through one of eight local organizations, which will receive $25 for each audit requested.

They are Catholic Community of Washington, YMCA, Daviess County Young Professionals, Retired Senior Volunteer Program, Senior and Family Services, Women’s Giving Circle/Daviess County Community Foundation, Connections and PowerHouse.