Sim­ple tricks to save power and money

The Glengarry News - Glengarry Supplement - - News -

Im­prov­ing your home’s en­ergy ef­fi­ciency doesn’t have to in­volve ex­pen­sive up­grades or months of ren­o­va­tions. With a few tweaks to your habits and a lit­tle DIY, you can make your home more com­fort­able and save money, too.

Tend your fur­nace

New high-ef­fi­ciency fur­naces use the least amount of en­ergy, but older mod­els can also be made more ef­fi­cient. An­nual ser­vic­ing by a pro­fes­sional is the first step. That will in­volve clean­ing the parts you can’t see or reach and mak­ing sure it isn’t work­ing harder than it has to. For your part, re­plac­ing fil­ters ev­ery three months — more if you’ve done ren­o­va­tions or have pets — en­sures air moves eas­ily into the unit and also pro­longs its life.

Wrap the wa­ter heater

On-de­mand wa­ter heaters are of­ten the most ef­fi­cient choice, since wa­ter isn’t be­ing heated when not in use. For elec­tric hot wa­ter tanks, try wrap­ping it in an in­su­lat­ing blan­ket to re­duce heat loss.

Seal duct work

Hot air can es­cape through joints in duct­work. That means you’re pay­ing to heat places you don’t want to (for in­stance, an un­fin­ished base­ment) and not get­ting heat to ar­eas you do (up­per floor rooms). Ap­ply­ing heat­ing-vent tape to all vis­i­ble joints will help.

Test win­dows and doors

With­out an air­tight seal, you’re wast­ing en­ergy when heat­ing and cool­ing your home. Check for drafts by hold­ing a lit can­dle around win­dow frames and doors. If it flick­ers, you have a draft. Use caulk­ing around frames, in­stall or re­place weather strip­ping, and add a door sweep. In colder months, ex­te­rior win­dow film will in­crease ef­fi­ciency even fur­ther.

Use ceil­ing fans

Ceil­ing fans are great when you need to cool bed­rooms but not the whole house with the air con­di­tioner, espe­cially at night. The fan will also help in cold months — most come with a “re­verse” op­tion that pushes hot air down into the room.

Off-peak hours

The washer, dryer and dish­washer all use a lot of en­ergy and of­ten run for long pe­ri­ods. Try shift­ing your sched­ule to wash clothes or dishes dur­ing off-peak hours, typ­i­cally af­ter 7 or any time on week­ends and when en­ergy costs are at their low­est. Also con­sider us­ing the air-dry op­tion on the dish­washer and wash­ing clothes on a shorter cy­cle.

In­stall a clothes­line

Dry­ers can ac­count for up to six per cent of a home’s to­tal en­ergy use. Hang your clothes out­side in warm months and in­side to air dry dur­ing the win­ter when pos­si­ble.

Clean large ap­pli­ances

When the vent at the back of the re­frig­er­a­tor and the clothes dryer ex­haust get clogged with dust, the mo­tors work harder, re­quir­ing more en­ergy. Vac­uum those ar­eas a cou­ple of times a year.

Au­to­mate Au­to­mate us­age

A pro­gram­mable ther­mo­stat can re­duce heat­ing and cool­ing costs by up to 10 per cent if you ad­just the tem­per­a­ture for hours you’re away or sleep­ing. For lights, in­stall dim­mer switches and mo­tion sen­sors that turn off when you leave the room.

Fight phantom power con­sump­tion

Plug counter top ap­pli­ances and elec­tron­ics into a power bar and pro­gram it to switch off at night. Re­mem­ber that tele­vi­sions, ca­ble boxes, PVRs and game con­soles suck en­ergy even when not in use. If you have them all on a sin­gle power bar, it’s easy to switch off be­fore ev­ery­one goes to bed.

Watch the charg­ers

Plugged in charg­ers draw power even when no de­vice is at­tached. Once your phone, tablet or other de­vices is fully charged, un­plug it - it keeps draw­ing en­ergy if you don’t.

In­vest in an en­ergy au­dit

Once you’ve done ev­ery­thing you can ac­com­plish your­self, a pro­fes­sional can tell you where there’s room for im­prove­ment - and more sav­ings.

Here are five sim­ple projects you can do while the win­ter winds swirl: 1. Brighten your home. EN­ERGY STAR-cer­ti­fied light fix­tures use the lat­est LED tech­nol­ogy. Un­like in­can­des­cents, LEDs pro­vide light in de­fined di­rec­tions, which means you get more light where you want it and less where you don’t, mak­ing spa­ces such as kitchens, home of­fices and bath­rooms brighter and more com­fort­able. Plus LED lights use up to 90 per cent less en­ergy than in­can­des­cent light­ing. 2. Take it up a notch.

When you’re switch­ing out lights, why not in­stall dim­mer switches? Dim­mer switches let you set the mood, from ro­man­tic din­ner for two to dance party cen­tral. By al­low­ing you to con­trol how much light you need, they also help save en­ergy and make your bulbs last longer. 3. Dodge the drafts.

If you feel cold air com­ing in around a door frame, win­dow or wall out­let, it’s time to seal the leak: weather strip­ping is an easy and in­ex­pen­sive way to block drafts from en­ter­ing your home.

And you can in­stall foam gas­kets in wall out­lets in a mat­ter of min­utes. Don’t for­get to check for drafts in other places too, in­clud­ing cut-throughs for vents or pipes, and gaps around chim­neys or re­cessed lights. 4. Wrap your tank.

If your hot wa­ter tank is more than about 10 years old, it may not be as well in­su­lated as it should be. Wrap­ping your tank in a spe­cially de­signed blan­ket could help save you up to nine per cent on your en­ergy bills–-and make sure your hot shower stays hot. 5. Get with the pro­gram.

Ther­mostats have come a long way in the last few years. Not only do the lat­est mod­els al­low you to turn your heat on and off, up or down, but they can also help you keep track of your en­ergy use through­out the day and take steps to re­duce it where you can. You can even get pro­gram­mable ther­mostats for elec­tric base­board heaters.

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