Free Ways To Save Energy At Home - Part II
by Damien Andrews
Keep windows closed: If you are conditioning the air in your house, make sure ALL the windows are tightly closed. Even one window open just one inch will allow an appreciable, constant flow of conditioned air to escape, thus causing the system to run longer and harder. Be sure to check kids' rooms and bathrooms.
Dress for the weather: In the winter, this means wear more clothing while indoors. In the summer, wear less clothing. Most people have little difficulty with wearing less clothing in the house during summer. Conversely, people seem to have great difficulty wearing more clothing in the house in the winter. In the summer, it's pretty easy – just grab some shorts and a top and you're ready for the day. In the winter, it can mean any number of things, including putting on long underwear. Wearing long handles in the house? Yes – you won't believe the difference. Most people want to don a sweater and then say they are dressing for the weather. Many sweaters are not really designed for warmth, though wearing them does make the wearer warmer to some extent. But if you put another cotton shirt on you'll also be warmer. If you wear a sweater around the house, make sure it's one that is made to really warm the wearer – and not just one to look nice. Most people never even consider wearing long underwear in the house, but they should. Long underwear is incredibly efficient at keeping people warm, and also wicking away any unwanted moisture. If you've spent much time camping or hiking, then you know that maintaining good body temperature is best accomplished by "layering" your clothing. The same is true in the house. Don some lightweight long underwear and then put on or take off further layers as needed to remain comfortable. By taking this simple step, you can turn down your heat in the winter – several degrees, in fact. This will save you untold dollars in your monthly energy bills. Remember, you may be spending as much as half of your energy dollars on heating and cooling – so reducing those costs make a big impact on the monthly bills!
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Close off the fireplace: If you have a fireplace, be sure to close it off when it's not in use. In the winter, close the flue damper inside the chimney when the fireplace is not being used. If you have doors on your fireplace, close those also. In the summer, again close the chimney flue off with the damper and close the fireplace doors – if you have them. Since fireplace flue dampers frequently don't seal completely, anything you can do to further seal off the chimney is worthwhile. Be absolutely sure to remove anything you use as additional sealant BEFORE using the fireplace again.
Turn off computers: Since the advent of email and instant messaging, more and more people are leaving their computers turned on so that they can quickly, conveniently check their systems for correspondence. This can be an expensive thing to do in terms of energy use. It's better if you turn the systems off, and then back on again when you are ready to work on them. If you must leave the computer on, then be sure to set it for minimal power use, sometimes called sleep mode or standby. This will reduce the amount of power the computer system uses. This is particularly important with today's larger color computer monitors. If you have dual screens, leave one turned off when you are not actively using the computer, such as when you leave it on only to intermittently check email, etc.
Close window coverings: Sunlight that enters any enclosure that is sealed creates heat within the enclosure. Basically, this is the greenhouse effect. This phenomenon is easily experienced in an automobile during the summer. If a car is parked in the sun and the windows are sealed, then the inside temperature of the car will exceed the exterior temperature. During the hotter summer months, closed car interiors can easily get well above 120°F. So during the summer months, close the window coverings on the south, east, and west windows of your home. Block as much sunlight from entering the house as possible. Use the greenhouse effect to your advantage during the winter months by opening the window coverings on the south, east, and west windows of your home.
Add a blanket: During the colder winter months, add another blanket to your bed. This will allow you to turn the thermostat down a little more and thus allow the house to be cooler while you sleep. Also, if you happen to have them, using flannel bed sheets during the colder winter months will make the bed much warmer – this is especially noticeable when you first get into your bed. If you have flannel sheets on your bed, they will not feel cold when you climb into bed at night.
Use a fan: During the summer months, turn your air conditioning system thermostat warmer, and use fans for supplemental cooling. Oscillating fans are ideal for this as they will send cooling streams of air over several people in several room locations at one time. Also, they prevent people from becoming irritated by a constant breeze of air blowing over them. Fans use considerably less energy than air conditioning systems use, and they are very effective at cooling people.
Close vents: If you have rooms in your house that are not being used, then close off the heating and cooling vents in that room. Also consider closing off rooms that are used rarely, such as guest bathrooms, is a great way to save even more energy. Setting the vents properly in the active rooms is also a good way to save energy. Not all rooms require that the vents be fully open, and some rooms require vent adjustments for summer and again for winter. In the winter, rooms that will receive a lot of sunlight can have the vents closed a bit more than in the summer. Closing some doors can also help – experiment and find out what makes the house the most comfortable. You can tell a lot just by listening for the heating and air conditioning systems to turn on and off.
Fill the washers: Don't run the dishwasher or the clothes washing machine until you have full loads. This will not only save energy by virtue of running the machines less often, it will save you some more money on detergents. Of course you'll also be using less hot water, which will save even more energy – and money. Dishwashers are real energy hogs, so consider doing some or all of the dishes by hand. If you want to see a huge difference in your monthly energy costs, do all the dishes by hand for one month, and then compare your bills. You'll be shocked at the savings.
Dry clothes on the line: Consider drying clothes outside on a clothes line. Even if you don't want to dry all of your clothes outside on a line, seriously consider drying large items such as rugs and bath towels outside. One added benefit of drying clothes on an outdoor clothes line is that your clothes (and other washed items) will last longer. The dryer is a tough event for clothing – that's why the lint filter in your dryer fills up after each load – it's stripping the threads out of the clothing as it tumbles in the heat. If you don't dry outside because you want that dryer 'fluffiness,' then dry the clothes outside and then put them into the dryer for a few minutes (5-15 minutes is usually adequate) of cool tumbling – no heat. This will fluff them up, but not consume nearly as much energy.
Change bathing habits: No – you don't have to skip bathing, merely change you and your family's bathing habits. First of all, don't take a bath unless it's absolutely necessary – take a shower. Sometimes it really is necessary to take a bath, such as when a wound or sore joint requires a hot soaking. But otherwise, skip the bathtub and use the shower. Now that you're using the shower, limit your activities while doing so. The introduction of shower shelving and racks started a whole new way of showering. Men shave in the shower, as do women, for example. This means that hot water (and cold water) are running while they are not needed. This not only wastes the energy and cost of heating the water, it also wastes water. Don't brush your teeth in the shower, either. Avoid using hair care products that specify leaving them in your hair for more than two minutes. Try to get your shower completed in seven minutes or less.
Use a thermal carafe: When your coffee maker is done brewing your morning pot of java, instead of leaving it on the heated plate or in the heated percolator, simply pour the hot coffee into a thermal, insulated carafe. Then turn off the coffee maker. A good thermal carafe will keep your coffee piping hot for a couple of hours – much longer than is usually necessary.
You and your family can save energy without spending a dime. This is a win/win situation: you save energy, which is good for America and the planet, and you save money, which is good for everyone! Try getting the family together and talking about taking some energy saving steps in your home. The sooner you get started, the sooner you'll start saving energy and saving money.
Return to Part I