Win tickets to see the smash hit musical Mamma Mia at the Roanoke Civic Center. Two winners will each receive four tickets!
Saturday, July 6, 2013
July is here and with it comes what’s normally some of the warmest days in Southwest Virginia.
Many of us will be cranking up the air conditioning to stay cool, but that means you could be feeling the heat when your monthly utility bill comes. Luckily there are some small adjustments you can make in your home that will conserve energy and save you a few dollars.
Virginia Energy Sense is a statewide energy education program under the guidance of the State Corporation Commission. The organization’s goal is to teach Virginians about the sensible things they can do to conserve energy in their daily lives.
Andy Farmer, manager of the Energy Sense program, said that they did some surveys and found out that 90 percent of those surveyed thought saving energy was important, but only 27 percent felt they were highly knowledgeable about how to save.
“Everyone was interested in hearing new ideas and learning the steps they could take, so that’s why we’re here,” Farmer said.
Simple, cheap changes
According to Farmer, there are some very simple steps that can be taken that won’t cost much or require any major changes, so they’re appropriate for renters as well. Closing the blinds during the day , using the grill or microwave instead of the oven or stove, turning off unnecessary lights and unplugging unused appliances and devices are some basic and free adjustments that can be made daily.
Farmer also suggests installing a programmable thermostat, which can adjust the temperature automatically when you’re not in the house . If you don’t have the option to install a new thermostat, just pick a comfortable setting and try to remember to cut it back while you’re away at work or out of town. Ceiling fans can be a huge help in circulating the air, as well.
“Simple things like adjusting the thermostat can have a big impact [on bills], because about 40 percent of your usage is going to be for heating and air. Then comes your other major appliances, lighting and electronics,” Farmer explained.
There are some surprising, less obvious changes that can be easily made as well.
Farmer suggests looking for air leaks and stopping them with some caulk or spray foam. Some common spots for leaks include windows, doors, mail slots and electrical outlets. Foam insulation made for electrical outlets and mail slots can be found in home improvement stores and online for less than $5.
You can also conserve by adjusting the temperature on your water heater. Farmer suggests turning the temperature down to about 120 degrees. Some water heaters also have a “vacation” setting, which should be used if hot water won’t be needed for days at a time.
It’s important to monitor air filters and change them as necessary, which is usually earlier than what the package states, Farmer said. If you have pets this is especially important. Pet hair and dander can clog the filter even quicker, causing your heating and air system to work harder and cost you more.
If you have trouble remembering to take care of your air filters, Farmer recommends investing in a filter whistle. As your filter begins to clog, you’ll start hearing a reminder whistle to change it. Air filter whistles can be easily found for only a few dollars.
Charging & outlet tips
These days many households have a handful of electronic devices per person — cellphones, tablets, laptops, mp3 players and eReaders all need to be charged often.
Farmer suggests making a charging station out of a power strip to avoid having each device plugged in for long amounts of time throughout the house. Just put a power strip in a convenient location and plug in any devices that need to be charged. Then, once everything is charged you can switch of the power strip and conserve some energy.
If you’d like to invest a little more you can buy a charging station that will automatically turn itself off once everything is charged. The same idea can also be used for entertainment centers where multiple electronics are plugged in.
If you’re interested in monitoring individual outlets, there is a variety of wireless outlet controls available, many for well under $20 for a multipack. These controls vary in abilities. Some have timers, some have remotes and some can be connected to a phone app so you can monitor them from anywhere.
To find out how much energy various products in your home are using, basic usage monitors can be found for $20 to $30. You can plug in appliances, electronics or other devices and find out just how much energy they’re using while running or turned off.
After purchasing a monitor and figuring out areas where you can conserve energy, Farmer recommends setting a goal to reduce your consumption by 10 percent. Look at how much energy you used on your last bill, make some adjustments and then compare the next month’s bill. You should see a change.
“About 10 percent of what you use to power electronics is probably wasted for power flowing through a system that’s not in use or you fully charged the device and it’s sitting there plugged in,” he said. “It’s not a whole lot of electricity, but when you think about all of the devices that stay plugged in it adds up.”
To take a quiz and learn about your own energy consumption, learn more do-it-yourself tips and find links to local resources for conserving energy, visit www.virginiaenergysense.org.
How do you conserve electricity and cut costs? Join the conversation on the Shoptimist blog at blogs.roanoke.com/shoptimist.
On the blog:
Weather JournalNext system: Possible ice/snow Sat.