With winter weather straight ahead, and as the dollar becomes tighter, ways to save energy around the house become more important.
There are several ways to save energy, and thus dollars, around the home.
PPL spokesman Kurt Blumenau said a homeowner has to customize their energy-saving efforts.
“Every home is different, and the level of energy savings can vary significantly based on many factors, such as the size, age, location and construction of the home,” Blumenau said. “There’s also the number and type of light bulbs, age and type of existing appliances, water heaters, and HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) systems, existing levels of insulation, and number of people in the home.”
Blumenau offers these tips, along with their potential savings:
■ Replace 20 incandescent light bulbs with LEDs: about 700 kilowatts per year savings.
■ Recycle an old, second refrigerator or freezer: about 1,000 kilowatts per year savings.
■ Reduce the temperature setting on a hot water heater from 130 degrees to 120 degrees: about 150 kilowatt hours per year savings.
■ Replace a standard thermostat with a smart, WiFi-enabled, programmable thermostat: about 1,000 kilowatts per year savings.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) says it takes far less energy to lower the thermostat and then raise it later than to keep it set at the same temperature at all times. If a thermostat is kept at 68 degrees in the winter, every degree it is raised or lowered can offer a difference of up to 3 percent in energy costs.
■ Install water-saving devices such as a low-flow showerhead and a faucet aerator in the kitchen, if it is attached to an electric water heater: about 230 kilowatts per year savings.
■ Replace a standard electric water heater with a heat pump water heater: about 1,300 kilowatts per year savings.
“In general, a household could save about 4,000 kilowatt-hours per year, which would save the customer about $ 520 per year, if they pay 13 cents per kilowatt-hour for their energy and distribution service, if they implemented all of these improvements,” Blumenau said.
PPL also endorses all energy-saving recommendations from reliable sources like the PUC and the U.S. Department of Energy.
“Energy efficiency is often a matter of taking many small steps that add up,” Blumenau said. “Many of these actions take relatively little time or expense, so rather than single one out as a preferred tip, we suggest customers take as many steps as make sense for their homes.”
Don Brominski, a spokesman for UGI, said people will begin to turn on heating systems in coming weeks as temperatures cool.
He said it’s important to have a heating system professionally serviced.
Having the system cleaned and serviced regularly could reduce fuel costs by 10 percent or more, he said. It also reduces the likelihood of needing emergency service in cold weather.
The service technician should:
■ Make sure the pilot light (if there is one) and thermostat are working correctly.
■ Check the fuel pipe and heating exchanger for cracks or leaks.
■ Test the efficiency of the heating system, or how effectively the furnace or boiler converts fuel to heat.
Since all conventional heating systems produce carbon monoxide as a byproduct of combustion, getting it checked is a safety issue, too.
■ Clean or replace the filter. Filters that are properly fitted and cleaned or replaced regularly can have a significant impact on energy costs and the air quality of a home. They should be replaced, depending on their type, about every three months. Those who experience fall allergies may benefit.
A home’s residents need to ensure that the exhaust flue or chimney is clear of obstructions and in good condition. Blocked or improperly lined chimneys and flues are a common source of carbon monoxide in homes. Residents should contact a qualified professional if they suspect they may have a blocked or improperly lined chimney.
Also, appliances should have proper air flow. If the furnace and the water heater are in an enclosed room or closet, make sure they get plenty of air. Furnace rooms or closets should have door louvers or a duct directly to the outside to provide sufficient combustion air.
The PUC offers tips that center around making sure a home is sealed from the outside, and making sure all appliances inside are working as efficiently as possible.
Making sure cold air isn’t getting into a home is important. Air leaks occur in and out of a home around plumbing and wiring, around windows and doors, and where walls meet ceilings. Sealing them is important to conserving energy.
A quarter-inch gap at the base of a 3-foot-wide exterior door leaks as much air as a 3-inch hole in the wall of a home.
Homeowners should weatherstrip all doors and windows or install storm windows and doors to prevent drafts. Lack of adequate weatherstripping can cost $ 50 or more a year in lost energy cost.
Brominski recommended paying particular attention to the attic hatch or pull-down stairs and to any interior-wall top plates in the attic, as these areas leak frequently.
Also, he recommends ensuring that vents in the house allow air to flow. A home’s vents make sure that the air inside the home can be circulated properly. If vents are not allowing air to flow because of an obstruction or clogged filters, the heating system will work harder to heat the home evenly, leading to higher energy bills.
“Seal tight and ventilate right” should be the guiding principle when it comes to sealing air leaks and keeping vents unobstructed, Brominski said. The trick, he said, is making sure a home doesn’t lose valuable heat but does provide enough fresh air to maintain good indoor air quality.
If air flow is blocked or restricted by placing furniture over heating and cooling registers, the heating system and air conditioner will have to work harder.
Customers can set up a payment plan for their winter gas and electric bills that is spread out over the year, not just the winter months.
PUC: www.PAPowerSwitch.com and www.puc.pa.gov
UGI: www.ugi.com, Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ugiutilities or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ugi_utilities