Home Energy Audits: With home energy costs ever increasing, fall is a good time to plan for your home heating fuel use for the upcoming heating season. One of the best ways to consider the heating needs for your household is to have a home energy audit. There are several ways to approach a home energy audit:
- Do it yourself with a computer-guided website such as The Home Energy Saver (Lawrence Berkeley Lab) or homes on Energy.gov (US Department of Energy).
- Hire a contractor to do an audit.
- Get an energy audit from your gas or electric utility company. These audits usually provide estimates of the costs of do-it-yourself vs. contractor-installed improvements, and give you the estimated payback for your investment. Many of the utility company audits only cost $15, but will save you much more if you follow their recommendations. For LG&E and KU customers in Kentucky, call 1-800-251-7808 to schedule an audit.
- Any way you do an audit, you will save money by implementing the improvements that save the most energy. You will also help breathers everywhere when you use less energy.
Energy Vampires: Do you have Energy Vampires in your home? Many appliances are silently sucking energy, even when they are turned “off.” These include instant-on appliances such as TVs, VCR and DVD players, and the adapters for rechargeable battery-powered phones, cell phones, power tools, and other electronic devices. This loss costs U.S. consumers about $28 per household, $5.8 billion overall, and sends 87 billion pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere every year.
If you want to minimize this phantom energy loss, you may wish to unplug certain devices when not in use, or plug them into a power strip—also using phantom energy-- and turn the power strip off with one switch. The red light can serve as a reminder to “kill the vampires.”
When buying equipment, choose the model that uses the least power for regular and standby operation, like ENERGY STAR models.
Energy-Saving LED Holiday Lights: While you’re shopping for holiday decorations, here’s a smart purchase that may light up your heart and lighten your financial load. The new LED (light emitting diode) holiday lights use 99% less energy than the old incandescent lights. In fact, the comparative energy cost for a season of holiday lighting is about $105 for large lights, $6 for mini lights, and 58 cents for the new LED lights.* The energy savings and improved air quality will brighten your holidays even more.
*Costs based on 10 strings of lights burning eight hours a day for 30 days at Kentucky’s average residential rate of 7 cents per kilowatt-hour (rate from US EIA, Nov. 2007).
Washer & Dryer Tips: Small changes can add up to big savings on our utility bills. You may know it’s best to wash full loads of clothes, but if those full loads include both light and heavyweight items, such as synthetic shirts and heavy towels in the same load, the shirts may be drying 2-3 times longer than necessary. Consider washing and drying lightweight items together, with heavy items in a different load. If you have the space and time, line-dry the heavy jeans and towels to reduce energy use and help humidify your home in winter. It’s a simple way for us all to breathe easier.
What Price, That Old Refrigerator: How many of us have an old refrigerator in the garage or basement that we only use for soft drinks? The older the refrigerator, the more energy it uses, so you may be paying $6 to $10 every month, or up to $120 a year just to chill drinks. Unplugging the old fridge saves a lot of cold cash. If you entertain often and need the extra space, consider investing in a more efficient EnergyStar refrigerator. You’ll save money and help us all breathe easier.
Your Mom was Right; You Should Make Your Bed! If your bed is a waterbed, the daily habit of making your bed will also save you money. Leaving a waterbed unmade in winter can double the amount of energy it uses and drive up your household energy bill. However, making the waterbed with a heavy comforter each day (think of it as adding a blanket of insulation) is an easy way to keep the bed toasty warm at a savings of $6 or more a month and help us all breathe easier.
Is heat lurking in the closet? Sometimes we forget just how much heat is generated by incandescent bulbs. By now many of us have purchased compact fluorescent bulbs for most of the fixtures in our homes, but you may want to check on closet lights and out-of-the way places like basement lights that still have incandescent bulbs. They tend to get left on and heat up our air-conditioned homes. Automatic closet-door fixtures close doors automatically, and turn off the light at the same time. The switch turns the light on when you open the door, and off when the door closes, much like a refrigerator. They are easy to install and save three ways: by using fewer lights and less air conditioning, and by helping to keep the air cleaner.
Do you leave your dehumidifier on 24/7? Dehumidifiers are actually cooling appliances that collect moisture from the air using cooling coils, and send the moisture to a drain or container that must be emptied. Like other cooling appliances, they also use a lot of electricity. They are very useful for drying damp basements when heat and air conditioning are not being used. But both heating and air conditioning remove moisture from the air, so it is often unnecessary to operate both a dehumidifier and heating/air conditioning equipment at the same time. Save money—and the air—by using the dehumidifier when heat and air conditioning are not being used.
3-5% Rule: We know that natural gas and other fuel prices will be going up for a couple of years, so prepare to economize more or spend more. One important thing to know about the temperature setting for your thermostat: For every degree you turn your thermostat down in winter—and up in summer—you will save 3% to 5% of the heating/cooling portion of your utility bill. If the heating/cooling portion of your bill is $100 and you turn your thermostat down 2 degrees (up 2 degrees in summer), you will save $6 to $10. That is a good saving for a twist of the wrist! It’s also a good savings that helps to clean the air.
Using a fan makes your air-conditioned air feel 7 degrees cooler. Use ceiling, table, or floor fans along with air conditioning, while setting your thermostat for $$ savings. For every degree you turn your thermostat up in summer you save 3%-5% of your cooling bill.
A programmable thermostat will help you save money by automatically adjusting your thermostat when you are away from home or when you are asleep, and re-adjusting to comfort level when you get up in the morning or arrive home from work. Natural gas, oil, and propane furnaces recover more quickly from a setback than an electric heat pump, so find out your optimum setback from your furnace repair company. While you’re at it, schedule a furnace check-up. A properly tuned furnace will save money and last longer. Don’t forget to change the filters monthly, or as recommended, so the furnace does not have to work as hard.
Not only do these things save $$. They all add up to cleaner air.
When a fire in the fireplace costs you: When outside temperatures are in the 30s or lower, you’ll be warmer if you don’t burn a fire in your fireplace. Fireplace fires use heated air for oxygen, which causes more cold air to be pulled into your house through cracks and crevices. This makes your furnace work harder, and increases your energy costs. Save energy and money and our air, by NOT burning a fire when the weather is extremely cold. It all adds up to cleaner air.
Compact Fluorescents Are Cool: Switch from the old style incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs to reduce energy use up to 70%. They fit in any receptacle used with incandescent bulbs, and last 8-10 times longer. This is especially important in warmer months, as 80% of the energy used by incandescent bulbs wafts away as heat, making your air conditioner work harder. For an even better buy, purchase Energy Star bulbs for better efficiency, quality and longevity. As always, when you reduce energy use, you save money and help the air.
Light Up Your Life: Did you know that cleaning your light fixtures and bulbs regularly can save money and increase the light from the bulbs? Also, if you position floor lamps so they reflect light off two walls instead of one and use local light over a work area, rather than lighting an entire room, you will save energy. Consider occupancy sensors for rooms where too many people forget to turn off lights; they will automatically turn off lights when the last person leaves.
Cool Cooking: Keep your house cooler during hot weather by relying on cold foods and cooking a lot with the microwave. No flames or burners to heat up your kitchen. You’ll save energy, money, and the Air!
Scrub Hot Water Costs: Hot water is one of the largest energy expenses in your home, especially if you have teenagers in the home. A standard showerhead uses about five to seven gallons of water per minute. Low-flow showerheads reduce water use by 50 percent or more, saving two ways: save water and save energy. You’ll save money and help keep the air clean.
Saving hot water is easier than ever before. Instead of keeping your water heater temperature very hot so your dishes will be cleaner, set your water heater at about 120 degrees, and use the water heater “booster” on your dishwasher for very hot water. This way, you will have your dishes germ-free without keeping your hot water temperature scalding all the time. You will also save money on hot water, and breathe easier for the money saving.
See also: Energy Savings Q & A
See more energy saving tips from Go Green Louisville!
Lawn & Garden Care
Greenbacks for Your Old Lawn Equipment? To every thing there is a season, and when it is time to roll out your lawnmower, here is something to think about before firing up that gasoline lawn equipment. Kentuckiana Air Education offers cash rebates to Jefferson County residents who trade in their gasoline powered lawn care equipment for electric, battery or muscle-powered equipment. KAIRE offers cash rebates because mowing with a typical gasoline-powered lawnmower for one hour produces as much air pollution as driving almost 200 miles in a typical car. Our small two-cycle gasoline string trimmers and blowers actually pollute even more than lawnmowers. You can help spare the air and save money because every gasoline lawnmower traded in adds up to cleaner air for our community.
Instant rebates are available at certain Louisville participating retail outlets. More information is available by e-mail or by calling 574-5322 or visiting the Lawn Care Rebate Program on APCD's website. KAIRE is a community outreach effort of the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District.
If you're not ready to trade-in your mower, giving it a tune-up and sharpening the blades helps reduce the amount of air pollution it produces. Limiting the use of your gasoline-powered lawn care equipment helps improve our hometown’s air quality.
It all adds up to cleaner air!
Grow More, Mow Less: Give your yard a makeover with low-maintenance landscaping. A low-maintenance yard is good for the environment in a variety of ways. By reducing the amount of grass that needs to be mowed you reduce air pollution. Adding native plants to your yard improves habitat, reduces the need for chemicals, and filters water runoff before it goes into nearby streams. Make your own mulch from fallen branches and improve your soil by creating a compost pile. It’s an easy way to recycle all your yard waste without having it hauled off, and burning it is illegal in Jefferson County. Don’t have a green thumb? Check out our website's links to other low-maintenance landscaping ideas.
For additional information on Low-Maintenance Landscaping or the Lawn Care Rebate Program please e-mail us, call 574-5322 or point your web browser to Lawn Care for Cleaner Air.
Prepare a Low-maintenance Island in Your Yard: Fall is a great time to designate part of your yard as a low-maintenance area. That will allow you to keep your gasoline-powered equipment in the shed. This area could be under a tree (where grass does not like to grow anyway), a border, an island, or a flower bed. Here is a quick way to prepare the area with almost no work:
- Spread cardboard or thick layers of newspapers over the area.
- Cover with mulch or a thick layer of shredded leaves.
- Spray the area thoroughly with water and place a few rocks or tree branches to keep it from blowing or scattering, and leave until spring.
Next spring, plant right through the cardboard or newspapers, using plants that need little care. They will fill the area without mowing year after year. With a little mulch, this will not only save you time, but will reduce your mowing and leaf raking. And that will help keep the air cleaner. For more information on low-maintenance yards, visit Lawn Care for Cleaner Air on the APCD website, e-mail us or call APCD at (502) 574-6000.
Idling Costs $: Whether we are warming up our car or waiting for your child at the bus stop, idling is a losing situation. Here’s why:
Transporting and Storing Gasoline: One way to reduce emissions is to be careful when you transport and pour gasoline. Use a gasoline container that you can handle easily and securely, and a funnel or spout with an automatic stop device to prevent overfilling and spills. Even small gasoline spills cost you money and pollute the air and soil.
One size does not fit all. Find transportation alternatives that fit you. Most folks know that our vehicles are a major source of air pollution. Vehicles on the road create more than 25% of all air pollution nationwide. But you may not know that a small change in the choices we make can help improve our hometown’s air quality. Here are simple steps to try on for size.
Know before you go. If your area has a travel and transit information network, use it by calling, visiting the web site or tuning into the cable station. Get traffic updates before you leave home and you won't get stuck in a jam.
Alone no more! Take the bus; share a ride or car pool. Even if you do it just once or twice a week, you'll reduce traffic congestion and pollution, and save money. The average driver spends about 44 cents per mile including ownership and maintenance. Carpooling also saves money spent on gas and car care.
Telecommuting: Access to the Internet has changed everything. Ask your employer if you can work from home sometimes. You'll save time and money, and reduce emissions and traffic congestion.
Make the trip fun! Ride your bike. It's a great way to travel and it can help you and our air get in shape.
Take things in stride. Walk or in-line skate for short trips instead of driving. They're easy ways to get exercise and they're easy on the air. It All Adds Up To Cleaner Air.
Pump Prices, Your Money - Do the Math:
Care for your car. Regular maintenance and tune-ups, changing the oil and checking tire inflation can improve gas mileage, extend your car's life and increase its resale value. It also reduces traffic congestion due to preventable breakdowns and it could reduce your car's emissions by more than half.
Avoid excessive idling. It gets you zero miles per gallon.
Put out the light. If your car’s Check Engine light keeps coming on, it’s trying to tell you something. When a vehicle's "check engine" light is on, it usually is an indication of significant problems with the emissions control system and/or other systems detected by the vehicle's onboard computer. Visit your local service center and “put out the light.”
Refuel when it's cool. At night, gasoline produces less vapor and is more dense than in the heat of the day. So if you refuel early in the morning or after dark, you'll save money and reduce pollution.
Don't top off the tank. It releases gas fumes into the air and cancels the benefits of the pump's anti-pollution devices. So stopping short of a full tank is safer and reduces air pollution.
- Do you top off your gas tank to round off your dollar sale or squeeze a few extra drops of gas when you find gas at a “good price”?
- Do you like buying gas, and donating it back to the station?
All pumps in the Louisville area are designed to return the gas vapors back into the station’s underground storage tanks to prevent vapors from escaping into the air and contributing to air pollution. Any additional gas you try to pump into your tank will be drawn back into the vapor return line and fed back into the station’s storage tanks.
Don’t forget that gasoline vapors are harmful to breathe, may increase ozone and smog formation, and are a source of toxic air pollution. Evaporation from spillage also contributes to air pollution.
Remember: you pay for the gas that evaporates, is spilled on the ground, or is returned through the vapor return line!
Motivation: Motivation to change how we have always done things comes at different times and in different forms. As consumers, we are all price sensitive with differing levels of tolerance of the “pain” when price for a particular commodity increases. Historically, money is a big motivator. And you know “It doesn’t grow on trees”.
Gasoline is one such commodity. As price increases, alternatives to low-mileage vehicles become increasingly appealing to consumers. Automobile manufacturers, as have consumers, have taken note and are responding accordingly.
All motivation, however, is not always simply about cost. Care and concern of our health and environment (i.e., air pollution) is an important social issue for many. According to one source, for every gallon of gasoline that is consumed, approximately 24 pounds of global warming pollutants are released into our air.
Where to Go for More Info
- More Hybrids, More Savings. Hybrid technologies are being offered by numerous auto manufacturers and are becoming increasingly more available. See vehicles on Energy.gov (US Department of Energy).
- Tax benefits: Hybrids from some manufacturers qualify for a tax deduction up to $3,000 based on model and year purchased. Check fueleconomy.gov (U.S. Department of Energy) under hybrid vehicles for details.
- Green Vehicle Guide. The U.S. EPA’s official guide for choosing the cleanest and most fuel-efficient vehicle that meets your needs.
- Calculate Your Cost.