Energy Saving Tips

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Cooking

Microwave ovens use 50 percent less energy than conventional ovens. Using them for thawing and small portions is a good energy saving move. Pressure cookers are also more efficient than conventional ovens. Make sure the seal (door gasket) on the oven holds the heat in the oven. Test the thermostat in your oven to make sure it measures temperatures accurately. Be sure to turn off range vent fan after cooking. Don’t open the oven door frequently. Each time it’s opened, the temperature drops anywhere from 25-50 degrees. Use the right size pan and burner for the food being cooked. Use lids when possible. Thaw foods before cooking. When possible, clean self-cleaning ovens right after use to take advantage of residual heat. Don’t preheat ovens longer than necessary and only when it’s required. Also, don’t cook with too high a temperature as it wastes energy and gives poor cooking results.

Clothes Washing/Drying

Most of the energy used for washing goes to heat the water. When possible, wash with cold water to reduce energy required to heat water. Make sure to wash full loads versus small ones as each load requires 32-59 gallons of water depending on the machine. Clean the lint filter in your dryer after each use. Try drying loads consecutively to take advantage of built-up heat If your machine has a moisture sensor setting, try using it to shorten run time.

Dishwashing

Wash full loads using short cycles when possible. If your dishwasher has an air dry energy-saving setting, consider using it for savings. If rinsing dishes before loading dishwasher, use cold water and don’t run continuously. If your dishwasher is one that heats the water, you may be able to reduce the temperature setting at your hot water tank.

Lighting

When leaving an area, turn off the light. Consider placing signs near switches as a reminder for others to turn off lights when they leave. As lamps and reflective surfaces become dirty, light output is reduced while energy consumption remains unchanged. Cleaning of bulbs and lenses is recommended at least once a year. In addition, bulb wattage may be able to be reduced with regular cleaning. Don’t over illuminate an area. Light output should match tasks or activities being performed. Disconnecting ballasts or bulbs is sometimes a good energy-saving move. Areas to look at are near windows, hallways and places having little or no furniture. When possible, use natural light in place of artificial light. If painting, note that rooms with dark walls will absorb light while light-colored walls will reflect light.

When possible, use fluorescent lights instead of incandescent bulbs as they use much less energy for the same amount of light output. Many incandescent light fixtures can accommodate newer, more energy efficient compact fluorescent bulbs requiring less energy to operate. Replace lenses on fixtures if deteriorated or yellowed to increase light output and avoid over sizing of bulbs. Newer non-yellowing acrylic type lenses last longer and won’t diminish light output. Use photocell controls or timers on outdoor lights. Also, metal halide or high-pressure sodium bulbs are more efficient than floodlights or quartz lights for outdoor lighting. Direct lighting where it is needed. This may involve using task lighting in some areas. Bulb sockets on light fixtures are rated up to a specific wattage. Never exceed these wattage ratings as it can create a potential fire hazard or damage the light fixture On large-scale fluorescent light fixture installation or replacement, consider purchasing energy efficient fixtures in conjunction with energy efficient bulbs for the lowest total life cycle cost. Energy efficient bulbs put out more light, last longer, and consume less energy than standard bulbs offering a lower life cycle cost. The cost of the energy a bulb uses is 2-3 times the initial cost of the bulb.

Refrigeration

Clean condenser coils on refrigerators and freezers to improve the heat transfer characteristics and air flow. When dust or pet hair builds up on the coils, the motor and compressor must work harder. When cleaning, care should be used to avoid damaging the coil surface and fins. Recommended cleaning schedule is monthly and recommended method is vacuuming. Make sure door gaskets maintain a tight seal to prevent warm room air from infiltrating the unit and causing additional cooling load on the compressor. To check the seal, close the door on a piece of paper and try to pull it out. If it slides out easily, the seal probably needs replacing. Extra refrigerators/freezers with little contents will waste energy and should be avoided. Keep temperature settings at the correct levels. Refrigerators should be between 38-42 degrees while freezers should be between 0-5 degrees. Check temperatures with an accurate thermometer that can read at least down to minus 10 degrees. Allow leftovers to cool before putting them in the refrigerator.

HVAC (Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning)

Have a service technician periodically check the accuracy of your thermostat or check it yourself with an accurate thermometer (a 3 degree variance between the dial and actual temperature is normal). This can be done when technicians service your units in either spring or fall. In addition, thermostats should be kept as high as is comfortable in the summer and as low as is comfortable in the winter. A 1% increase in thermostat in summer can save as much as 5%. Programmable thermostats can be utilized in areas that are only partially occupied during any 24 hour period. If thermostat tampering is a problem, consider installation of locking devices. Never install your thermostat in an excessively cold, drafty or hot area. Consider adding or removing layers of clothing before adjusting thermostat If possible, open windows and cool off the inside of the building the old-fashioned way using cooler outdoor air.

Inspect filters monthly to insure they are clean and unobstructed. Clean filters reduce the amount of energy consumed while maintaining good indoor air quality. The schedule for cleaning and/or replacement of filters is at 3-month intervals. Regular inspection of bearings, belts and drive assemblies for wear should be done to insure proper operation. Proper bearing lubrication and belt tension helps reduce friction and torque, thus avoiding overheating and power loss. Fan blades and bearings should receive similar inspection. Suggested inspection interval is monthly, with lubrication at 6 month intervals or as needed. When technicians service unit, be sure to have the freon charge checked as well as pressures to be sure the unit operates correctly. Clean indoor and outdoor coils once prior to the heating and cooling season. Care should be used so as not to damage coils or fins as this will reduce the energy efficiency. The recommended cleaning method for indoor coils is vacuuming. The recommended method for cleaning outdoor coils is using a mixture of detergent and water in a pressure-spraying unit or by vacuuming. When purchasing a new or replacement air conditioner/heat pump, look at the SEER (seasonal energy efficiency rating) and buy an efficient one.  The minimum SEER is 13 (Refer to www.energystar.gov) for more information.  Also, don’t oversize the unit as this can reduce comfort level. Humidity levels inside will rise from a short run time.

Ventilation dampers, air registers and their linkages should receive periodic maintenance to operate properly. This would include such things as: regular cleaning, lubrication and adjustment at 6 month intervals. In addition, air ducts should be tightly sealed and insulated all along the distribution system. Be careful not to place furniture or other items over supply ducts thus restricting the airflow. Try to minimize the frequent opening and closing of doors to reduce the introduction of outside air that must be cooled or heated. Areas surrounding window air conditioners and attic fans should be properly sealed to minimize infiltration. Gas furnaces should be tuned up every 2 years to insure proper combustion and efficiency. This can be performed by your service technician. Where possible, install or utilize ceiling fans to increase comfort while saving energy.

Ceiling fans consume as little energy as a 60 watt bulb. They produce air currents that carry heat away from the skin, so even air-conditioned rooms feel cooler. Many times thermostats can be adjusted to accommodate for increased comfort levels. Rooms with the highest ceilings are normally the best initial candidates for ceiling fans. Exhaust fans, especially those located in hoods, are often forgotten and left running when their use is no longer needed. Be sure to turn them off after use.

Doors

The doors to be concerned about are the ones that open from indoor spaces to the outside. A good seal on all four sides of the door will help reduce infiltration. In addition, adding a storm door over exterior doors will improve efficiency so long as the exterior door isn’t left open when the storm door is closed. Proper mechanical operation of latches and closing devices will assist in making sure doors don’t remain open too long. In commercial buildings, a set of double vestibule doors can act as an airlock to reduce the amount of air that can enter or escape from the building. Sometimes reducing or disconnecting heating/cooling to vestibule areas is an alternative. Loading dock doors are another common area for savings. A curtain of plastic strips, electric eye sensor switch or a forced air curtain can help in these areas.

Windows/Panes

Double pane windows retain twice as much heat as single pane windows. In the absence of double pane windows, storm windows will improve efficiency. Standard aluminum type frames leak twice as much heat around the glass as do higher-quality wooden ones. Good weather-stripping and caulking around windows dramatically increases the efficiency for a nominal cost. Curtains and blinds should be closed or turned to reflect sun away from the building in the summer. This may also reduce lighting requirements. Curtains or drapes may provide some insulation for windows when they fit tightly against the window or floor. In geographic areas requiring more air conditioning, window film can be installed to reduce heat gains on large windows or ones with east/west exposure. In commercial applications, drive-through windows may offer some potential for savings if windows can be opened less frequently or have a forced air curtain installed.

Water Heating

Most of the energy used for heating water is expended in keeping water hot in case you need it. This creates what is known as stand-by energy loss. It may be more economical to install point-of-use water heating if demand is low or infrequent. Hot water heaters have thermostats and shouldn’t be adjusted hotter than 140 degrees unless special circumstances require the higher temperature. Some can be set as low as 120 degrees. Each 10-degree reduction in the thermostat can save 6 percent in the energy used to heat water. It’s recommended to check the accuracy of the thermostat by measuring water temperature with a thermometer. At a minimum, the first 5-6 feet of pipe entering and leaving the tank should be insulated with pipe insulation. If possible, locate your water heater closest to the point of greatest use. When locating a water heater in an unconditioned space (not heated and cooled), an insulation blanket around the tank can help reduce heat loss through the walls of the tank. Electric water heaters are sometimes candidates for timer controls to turn the heating elements off during periods of low or no use.

Typical Family’s Hot Water Consumption (24 hour period) Activity ::

  • Gallons/Hot Water Bath :: 20
  • Shower (3 min) :: 15
  • Clothes Washer (hot/hot cycle) :: 35
  • Clothes Washer (hot/cold cycle) :: 18
  • Clothes Washer (warm/cold cycle) :: 10
  • Automatic Dish Washer :: 15
  • Manual Dish Wash :: 4
  • Wash Face and Hands :: 2
  • Prepare a Meal :: 3

Insulation

This is the thermal barrier that exists between the indoor occupied portion of a building and the outdoors. The ceiling, perimeter walls and floor are the areas to be concerned about with the ceiling being the highest priority. Insulation material will be rated with an R-value, which is a measure of the material’s ability to insulate. The R-value will vary depending on the type of material and the thickness being used. The higher the R-value, the better the insulating capacity of the material. Ceilings should have a minimum R-value of 30 and walls should have a minimum R-value of 11.

Floors with accessible crawl spaces should have an R-value of 19 while slab floors must be insulated when the structure is built. Slabs are typically insulated along the perimeter with Styrofoam. It is always easier and cheaper to insulate a building during the construction phase as opposed to after it is built. Insulation that becomes compressed or wet will loose some of its R-value thus reducing its insulating ability. The key is maintaining the dry air pockets between the insulation. Refer to the Department of Energy for R-Value recommendations by zipcode at www.ornl.gov/sci/roofs+walls/insulation/ins_16.html

Infiltration

This is the air that enters and escapes the building structure through cracks and gaps near windows, doors, walls, plumbing, electrical, etc. Sealing up these gaps with caulk, weather-stripping and other sealing materials can save as much as 15 percent on cooling. Besides saving money, sealing these cracks and gaps has an additional benefit of increasing the level of comfort. One of the most overlooked areas in this category is electrical outlets and switches on perimeter walls. Thin Styrofoam gaskets are available that fit behind cover plates to seal out drafts. Many times infiltration improvements have the biggest bang for the buck when considering spending money to make improvements.

Attics

In the summer, solar heat radiates through the roof and heats up the attic. By properly venting the attic this built up heat doesn’t negatively affect cooling as much. Proper attic ventilation will reduce excessive moisture and humidity, which can cause problems or damage to the structure. Vapor barriers on perimeter walls and ceilings help reduce moisture build up in the attic space. It should be noted that these normally must be installed during the construction phase of a building. Be sure to seal holes where pipes and conduit enter the attic from the outdoors or conditioned (heated and cooled) spaces. When storing items in the attic, don’t place them on top of insulation, as compressing it will lower the R-value. Whole house fans in the attic can reduce the need to run the air conditioner in some months. When using whole house fans, try to keep run time to a minimum as the fan can sometimes use more energy than you save.

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