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Small steps can add up to big savings
1. Defang energy vampires
Today’s electronic devices, from computers to coffee makers, continue to use energy and drain power, even when they are turned off. How much can you save by unplugging? As much as 20 percent of your electric bill, according to Duke Energy.
2. Get a programmable thermostat
If you can let the house get a bit warmer when you’re gone, and cool it off when you get home, you can save as much as 20 percent from your heating and cooling bills, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. If you’re leaving your pets at home, never let the house get hotter than 80 degrees; if you have a long-haired pet, keep the house slightly cooler. And keep lamps and TVs away from the thermostat.
3. Draw the blinds during the daytime
About 76 percent of sunlight that hits your windows enters to generate heat inside your home, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. A recent study found that 75 percent of blinds stay in the same position every day. The Energy Department says that medium-colored draperies with white-plastic backings can reduce heat gains by 33 percent, so put down the blinds when the sun is blazing.
4. If you have a ceiling fan, use it
The Energy Department says that if you use air conditioning, a ceiling fan will let you raise the thermostat about four degrees (at least in those rooms that have one) in the summer. Fans that carry the Energy Star label move air 20 percent more efficiently than those that don’t. In the summer, you should set ceiling fans to go counter-clockwise to blow air downward, according to Home Depot.
5. Give your outdoor air conditioner a cleaning
The coils on your outside air conditioning unit get dirty, and that reduces their efficiency. Spend the money to have bugs and grass clippings washed from the coils, and have the unit checked and tuned every year. It will last longer and keep you cooler more cheaply.
6. Lower the temperature on your water heater
Hot water is a wonderful thing, but it accounts for about 18 percent of energy use. You shouldn’t heat water to more than 120 degrees to prevent scalding. If your setting is higher, turn it down. And you probably don’t want a steaming hot shower in July, anyway.
7. Replace your air filter
Replacing a dirty AC filter makes it easier to push air through the system, and reduces energy consumption by 5 to 10 percent, according to the Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative.
8. Get out of the house
Specifically, get outside and use the grill. An indoor stove can raise your temperature as much as 5 to 10 degrees. Just don’t leave the door open while you’re grilling. You don’t want to air condition the whole neighborhood.
9. Earn peak energy credits
Some power companies will pay you to reduce your energy usage on summer days when energy demand is highest — typically between noon and 8 p.m. Pepco, for example, will take off $1.25 per kilowatt hour you save below your average energy use.
10. Use your major appliances wisely
Run full loads of laundry and use cold water when you can. Run your dishwasher only when it’s full, and use air dry, rather than heated dry. If you have an electric oven (and you can’t grill), use the microwave instead.