As the weather gets colder and the holiday season begins, area homeowners are likely to use more energy to keep warm and light up the night.
But there are ways to be more energy-efficient without skimping on warmth this winter. With some quick and easy changes, residents can help keep costs down while also being greener.
People can use less energy simply by turning off lights and replacing less efficient ones, said Cammie Tutwiler, public relations representative with Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative.
“Definitely replace old lights with more efficient LEDs,” she said.
LED lights use up to 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs, reports the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, part of the U.S. Department of Energy, at its website, energy.gov/energysaver">energy.gov/energysaver.
“By replacing your home’s five most frequently used light fixtures or bulbs with models that have earned the ENERGY STAR, you can save $45 each year,” the site states.
Turn off lights when you’re out of a room or away from home, Tutwiler said. In the case of Christmas lights, she recommends using a timer when you’re away from home, so lights don’t stay on longer than you want them to.
That goes for appliances, too, which continue to draw from energy sources even when devices are turned off. Unplugging appliances and electronics when not in use will help save more energy, according to the Department of Energy.
“We may not notice it, but standby power is a big issue,” a story published on energy.gov explains. “It accounts for 5 percent to 10 percent of residential energy use, costing the average U.S. household $100 per year.”
Residents might also consider buying Energy Star appliances or using power strips with switches they can use to turn off electronics without having to unplug them.
Washer and dryer units can be a source of energy use, but Tutwiler said limiting usage to full loads only will save on energy, heating and water.
“Wash with a full load and using cold water,” she said. “Of course that will definitely help you. Hot water uses more energy.”
Use hot water for very dirty laundry only, she said. “Save where you can.”
“As far as drying, I would suggest using the low temperature,” she said.
Though hot water is a must for washing dishes, she said running the dishwasher only when full will save energy and water.
Ovens and stoves use a lot of energy, but she said there’s room for saving there too.
“When possible, use the microwave for cooking,” she said, since microwaves use less energy than ovens. Keep oven doors closed whenever possible to prevent heat loss while baking.
“Use pot lids to help food cook faster,” she said.
“One of the biggest components of your bill is heating and cooling of your home,” Tutwiler said.
Have your HVAC system and filters checked to make sure they’re clean and running as efficiently as possible, she said.
“Another big one,” she said, “...is having your water heater set no higher than 120 degrees.
That is something that’s pretty significant.”
Closing shades and drapes at night can help keep the heat in, she said. Homeowners should also use caulking and sealing to cover cracks around windows and doors where cold air could be coming in.
On the subject of space heaters, Tutwiler said they’re not likely to be an efficient heating source.
“First of all, they run constantly,” she said. Since thermostats can be set to limit energy once a house reaches a certain temperature, she said space heaters would continue using energy regardless of the room temperature.
“Secondly, they don’t put out enough to be efficient,” she said about trying to heat a large space.
For those using oil or electric heating, she recommends setting the thermostat and leaving it there, so the system won’t work as hard trying to heat up the house again.
“For me, I’d say set the thermostat to 68 degrees,” she said.