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Reduce Electric Bills

July 3, 2008

By Caleb Chapman, Kerrville Daily Times, Texas

Jul. 3–A hot June set a record for Kerrville energy use and that means high electric bills.

Bill Taylor, president of Kerrville Public Utility Board, urges customers to do what they can to cut back on consumption.

“Weather is a big contributing factor to how much the energy bills are going to be,” Taylor said. “June was one of the hottest on record, and if customers can conserve and cut back on energy use, it will help everyone.”

Here are some ideas.

Residential energy audits

Through the Texaswi$e program, KPUB offers free residential energy audits. During the audit a KPUB representative will inspect and make recommendations for improving the home’s energy efficiency.

The audits include inspections of air conditioning, insulation, ventilation, appliances, etc. KPUB staff does not make repairs but makes an evaluation of where improvements are necessary.

Appliances and electronics

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, appliances and electronics are responsible for about 20 percent of energy bills in a typical home. But there are ways to achieve real savings by considering a few things.

–The Department of Energy reports that 75 percent of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off because of “phantom” loads. This can be avoided by unplugging the appliance or using a power strip and using the switch on the power strip to cut all power to the appliance.

–Screen savers do not reduce energy use in computer monitors. Automatic switching to sleep mode or manually turning the monitor off always is the best energy-saving strategy.

–Turn off your computer and monitor when not in use.

–Look for the Energy Star label when buying home appliances, electronics or other products. Energy Star products meet strict efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.

–Air dry dishes instead of using your dishwasher’s drying cycle.

–Consider air-drying clothes on lines or drying racks.

Heating and cooling

Heating and cooling account for about 56 percent of the energy use in a typical U.S. home, according to the Department of Energy. Some simple ways to cut heating and cooling costs include:

–Clean or replace filters about once a month.

–Use fans during the summer to create a wind-chill effect that will make your home more comfortable. By using a ceiling fan, the thermostat setting can be raised by about 4 degrees with little or no reduction in comfort.

–Install a programmable thermostat that can adjust the temperature according to when people will be in or out of the house.

–Insulate the hot water heater and hot water pipes to prevent heat loss.

–Insulate uncooled or unheated areas of the home, such as attics and crawlspaces, to prevent the loss of cool or hot air.

–When installing windows, select windows with air leakage ratings of 0.3 cubic feet per minute or less.

–The Department of Energy suggests applying sun-control or other reflective films on south-facing windows to reduce solar gain and installing awnings on south- and west-facing windows.

Lighting

Light can affect many things, such as health, safety and comfort and, of course, how well someone can see. There are ways, however, to reduce energy while maintaining good light quantity and quality.

–Consider using high-intensity discharge (also called HID) or low-pressure sodium lights.

–Use outdoor lights with a photocell unit, motion sensor or both to reduce the amount of time the light remains on.

–Take advantage of daylight by using light-colored, loose-weave curtains on windows to allow daylight to penetrate the room while preserving privacy. Also, decorate with lighter colors that can reflect daylight.

–Three-way lamps can make it easier to keep lighting levels low when brighter light is not necessary.

–Use task lighting. Instead of brightly lighting an entire room, focus the light where it is needed.

–Turn off lights in any room not in use, or consider installing timers, photo cells or occupancy sensors to reduce the amount of time lights are on.

–Installing a skylight can provide the home with daylighting and warmth. When properly selected and installed, an energy-efficient skylight can help minimize heating, cooling and lighting costs, according to the Department of Energy.

Landscaping

Well-designed landscaping can add beauty and reduce energy costs. On average, landscaping for energy efficiency provides enough energy savings to return an initial investment in less than eight years, according to the Department of Energy.

–Plant trees to shade the home and reduce cooling costs in the summer months.

–Planting shrubs, bushes and vines next to the house creates dead air spaces that insulate the home in both winter and summer. Plant so there will be at least one foot of space between full-grown plants and the home’s wall.

— Caleb Chapman

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Copyright (c) 2008, Kerrville Daily Times, Texas

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