Do a Little, Save A Lot
Looking to reduce your electric bill but don't want to spend a ton of money on home improvements?
Every household uses energy differently, but whether you're living by yourself in a small home or have a large family in a big home, you can take quick and easy steps to conserve energy and save money.
Interested in doing your own online energy audit? Try the Department of Energy's Home Energy Saver Audit.
Cooking, combined with lighting and energy use of other appliances accounts for about 33 percent of a home's energy bill.
- Cooking on gas barbeque grills in the summer is much more efficient than using a conventional stove. Gas grills use no electricity, and do not release heat into the kitchen, forcing your refrigerator and other cooling systems to work harder and use more energy.
- Microwaves, toaster ovens and slow cookers can use 75 percent less energy than a large electric oven.
- Make sure refrigerator and freezer seals fit tightly when doors close.
- Keep outside coils clean. Dirty coils make your refrigerator compressor work longer to remove heat.
- Setting your freezer below 0° uses extra energy.
- Setting your refrigerator below 37° uses extra energy.
- Don't over-dry your clothes. If 50 minutes works, don't set it to 70 minutes.
- Make sure to clean the inside lint filter before each drying cycle.
- Periodically check your flexible metal dryer vent hose to ensure it is tightly connected and not kinked.
Homes are increasingly using more electronics to power their lives. Many new electronics are energy efficient, but there are ways you can prevent them using "phantom" energy, or energy used even when a device is turned off.
- Electronic appliances can draw power even when they are turned off. Avoid leaking energy by unplugging your appliances or turning off the switch on the power strip. Energy saving circuits that have a hard off switch can save up to 90 percent of the potentially lost energy.
- Turn off computers and other office equipment when they're not being used, especially overnight, on weekend and when you go on vacation.
Outdoor Electronics & Motors
Energy isn't just used inside the home. Outdoor electronics are also guilty of using extra energy.
- Motors in fountains and water features can draw a surprisingly high amount of energy. Don't forget to consider the cost of running these items when you calculate the price of installation and maintenance.
- Consider replacing pool pumps and motors with updated, more efficient equipment.
- Set your hot tub thermostat to 102°F, which is the temperature recommended by most health departments for adults and children. Some hot tubs have been factory set to heat water to 104°F. When you're on vacation, turn down the thermostat.
- Insulated covers will help more efficiently maintain pool and hot tub water temperatures.
Heating and air conditioning account for more than 50 percent of your home energy use. The following steps can help you keep your system running efficiently, without using extra energy. If you're looking for an energy-efficient option to replace your current unit, consider installing a heat pump. Heat pumps will cool your home in the summer, just like an air conditioner, and also heat your home in the winter. Variable speed heat pumps offer fantastic comfort year-round, offer great humidity control as well as low winter heating costs. We recommend up-sizing on heating for maximum year-round savings that are lower than natural gas heating. You can also have the best of both worlds with a Dual-Fuel system that uses electricity to cool and gas to heat. Dual fuel offers the lowest operating cost and greatest comfort; lower than a heat pump alone and lower than natural gas. For Dual Fuel, the heat pump will provide warm heat and savings down to a low temperature when gas heating will start for the very coldest hours. Variable Speed heat pumps and Dual Fuel systems offer great comfort with low-cost winter heating and are well suited to the Lowcountry climate.
General Tips & Tricks
- Carefully monitor your energy use as you spend more time at home, especially around the holidays, and turn off electronics that are not being used (to avoid generating unnecessary heat).
- Use an electric heat pump to warm your home when it is as cold as 40° outside. Be aware that heat pumps are not efficient at temperatures under 35° and will often use auxiliary heat strips to maintain thermostat settings.
- More cooking and baking can increase your electric bill. Use smaller appliances whenever possible and small pots on small burners. Avoid wasting energy by frequently opening the oven to check on baked goods. Especially important during the holidays, when you're cooking more food than normal.
- Try to use microwave ovens and gas barbeques to prepare meals when possible. Not only do they use less energy, but they also won't warm up the inside of your home, forcing your air conditioner and refrigerator to work harder.
- On sunny days, open blinds and drapes to let the sun warm your home. At night, close blinds and drapes to keep heat in.
- Whole house fans help cool your home by pulling cool air through the house and exhausting warm air through the attic. They are effective when operated at night and when the outside air is cooler than the inside.
- Hang heavier clothing to dry to avoid longer drying cycles.
- By installing a programmable thermostat, energy settings are easier to maintain and the thermostat will automatically turn back the temperature while you're asleep or away. Be sure to check out our smart thermostat rebates.
- Keep your heat set at 68° in the winter and your air conditioning at 78° in the summer to see significant energy savings.
- For every 3°, you adjust your thermostat, expect to pay 10 percent more on your energy bill.
Maintaining Your HVAC System
- HVAC systems should be checked to verify they are moving the correct amount of air. Check with an HVAC technician if you have questions about your unit.
- Systems should be checked annually to verify they are properly charged, in accordance with manufacturers' guidelines.
- Inside and outside coils should be kept clean and free of debris.
- Make sure to change the return filters inside your home each month.
A considerable amount of air transfers in and out of homes through leaky windows and cracks, crevices, and holes, potentially increasing your energy consumption. Here are some helpful tips to avoid air infiltration:
- Seal around pipe penetrations coming through walls, such as plumbing or electrical conduit.
- During hot and cold weather, ensure windows are closed tightly and locked.
- Ensure weather-stripping around doors and windows is tight.
- When your fireplace is not operating, its flue should be closed tightly, with a sign hanging from the flue handle warning it is closed.
- Drop-down, disappearing attic stairways should fit tightly into the ceiling and be carefully weather-stripped.
- Whole-house attic fans should be sealed tightly during the winter.
- Make sure your outside dryer vent door closes when the dryer is not in use. This requires cleaning away lint accumulation periodically.
- Tighten and weather-strip your old windows and then add storm windows.
- When it's time to replace old windows, consider new double-glazed windows. "Low-e" coatings on glass can help reduce heat loss through windows.
Lighting has become much more energy efficient as LEDs have become more common and more affordable. Consider switching out your old incandescent lighting or newer CFLs with longer lasting and brighter LED lights, which also use just a fraction of the energy of other lighting.
When leaving a room, remember to turn off lights. In winter, lighting use increases due to shorter daylight hours. Leaving unnecessary lights on increases energy costs. For reference, a 100-watt lamp costs roughly a penny per hour to operate, or the equivalent of $88/year for a single light.
During the holidays, remember to look for LED lighting instead of incandescent lighting, and turn off lights before going to bed to avoid wasting energy overnight.
Your water heater is the second largest energy user in your home. According to the Department of Energy, water heating accounts for up to 18 percent of our home energy use. If you are building a new home or replacing an old water heater, consider purchasing a high efficiency electric water heater replacement for your hot water needs, such as a Marathon brand.
- Make sure your water heater is set at the lowest point. Try setting it to 120°F.
- Check for water leaks around your water heater and faucets. A constant drip that may feel cold could actually be hot water that has cooled by the time it reaches the faucet. Hot water leaks can waste hundreds of dollars per year in energy costs.
- Wash clothes with cold water. Many new detergents are made specifically for cold water washing.
- Overfilling your washer can increase your energy use.
- Taking extra long showers runs up the water heating (and water/sewer) bills. Reduce shower time and install low flow shower heads. You'll be surprised how much this simple device can cut your hot water costs.
- If your water heater is located in an unconditioned space, consider installing a thermal wrap around it. Take care to install it in accordance with the tank and wrap manufacturer's instructions.
- If you need to install a new water heater, choose an electric unit and receive a rebate from Berkeley Electric for allowing us to install a load management switch.
Your home's duct system carries the air from your heat pump to each room. These ducts are typically made of sheet metal, fiber glass, or other materials that easily conduct heat. Ducts are also usually located in unconditioned spaces and unfortunately, many duct systems are poorly insulated, or not insulated at all.
- 10 - 30 % of the energy used to heat and cool the air in your home is lost to conduction through duct surfaces.
- Poorly insulated duct work results in hard to maintain temperatures in rooms served by long duct runs and can add hundreds of dollars a year to your heating and cooling expenses.
- Leaks in your duct work can also lead to conditioned air never making into your home and being wasted in the attic or crawlspace.
- Be sure to contact a licensed HVAC contractor to inspect your duct work to make sure there are no leaks and that it is properly insulated.
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