Seasonal Tips For Your Home
October is Energy Awareness Month!
As temperatures dip and days get shorter, energy bills can climb. Heating and lighting combined make up more than 60 percent of a home’s energy use. You can dramatically reduce your energy bills all year round with discounts on efficient lighting and rebates for a whole-home energy makeover.
Energize Delaware can help you say good-bye to inefficient lights, old furnaces, drafty doors, floors, walls and windows that waste energy and money. Here’s how to get started:
- Count the number of light fixtures in your house and replace old bulbs with more energy efficient compact fluorescent bulbs.
- Schedule a home energy audit with an Energize Delaware home energy makeover expert and receive a rebate for implementing recommended energy solutions. The more energy saved, the higher the rebate! Plus, now financing is available to make it even easier!
- If you’re in the market for a new home, get a rebate for purchasing a home built to high efficiency standards.
Did You Know?
- CFLs use 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs and last 10 times longer.
- If every home replaced just one light with an ENERGYSTAR-qualified CFL, we would save enough energy to light three million homes for a year, save about $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year, equivalent to those from about 800,000 cars.
- Today’s CFLs switch on quickly and provide quiet, consistent, bright-white light. They come in many shapes and sizes and can be used indoors and out.
- A small crack around windows and doors can cause a complete change of inside and outside air in the home every hour. That’s a lot of wasted energy and money!
- New energy efficient heating systems can use 30 percent less energy than older models.
Use the ENERGYSTAR home energy yardstick.
- Use weatherstrip or caulk around windows and add door sweeps.
- Replace screens with storm windows or install plastic film on window frames. Use double-sided tape to attach thin plastic film to the inside window frame. A blow dryer will tighten the plastic.
- Close draperies, shutters, and shades to insulate against the cold and reduces drafts.
- Check for leaks around electric outlets and switches, and use inexpensive premade foam gaskets from your local hardware store to seal them.
- Use caulk or spray foam to seal leaks around pipes and vents between the heated space in your home and the attic or basement.
- Remove window air conditioners. If they have to stay put, seal them with caulking or tape and cover them with an insulated jacket.
- You may also choose to hire a certified auditor. They’ll make sure your home is sealed properly, but not too tightly.
- Your water heater will use less energy to keep water warm when insulated. Kits are typically available at hardware and home supply stores.
- Set your thermostat to 110-120 degrees—only as hot as needed—to prevent scalding and to save energy. Consult your water heater owner's manual for instructions on how to operate the thermostat.
- Wrap preformed foam pipe insulation sleeves around exposed pipes to prevent heat loss and reduce the risk of pipes freezing.
- Change filters once a month for standard fiberglass filters and every two or three months for newer pleated filters to improve air flow. Dirty filters can overwork your furnace.
- Remove leaves and branches from the area around your outdoor heating equipment, and consider hiring a qualified contractor to perform an annual maintenance checkup.
- Let the sun warm your home by opening drapes and shades during the day.
- Make sure your damper is working properly. When you’re not using your fireplace, make sure the damper is closed.
- If you use your fireplace often, consider installing glass doors since the fireplace is a major source for heat loss in the home.
- Only use your kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans when you need them, as they remove heated air from the room.
- A programmable thermostat can save up to $180 in energy costs each year.
- Use the ENERGY STAR® setting, if possible, to get the greatest comfort and savings.
Keep the thermostat set at energy-saving temperatures for long periods of time, such as during the day when no one is home and at bedtime.
Set the “hold” button at a constant energy-saving temperature when going away for the weekend or on vacation.
- Well-insulated attics can save up to 20 percent on heating costs. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends that Delaware attics maintain an R-38 insulation level (about 12-15 inches of insulation).
- Redirect the airflow on your forced-air furnace from the summertime pattern (more air to higher parts of the house) to the winter pattern (more air to lower parts).
- Close registers in unused rooms.
- Keep registers and returns clear of furniture or drapes.
- When you turn on the radiators for the season, bleed the radiators or baseboard units to ensure efficiency and release air that is trapped in the coils.
Record breaking snowfalls in Delaware remind us that winter can be tough--on our homes and on our wallets. Here are some winter weather tips from Energize Delaware to help you stay warm and save energy.
The way the snow melts (or doesn’t) on your roof can tell you something about the energy efficiency of your home. The best case scenario is for the snow to stay where it landed and melt from the sun as a heat source (not your roof).
If you see uneven melting and ice building up around the eaves, you may have a problem to fix.
Thick bands of ice form along the eaves of houses are caused by heat escaping from attics that are poorly insulated and/or ventilated. Melted snow runs down the slope of the roof and refreezes around the edges. As the ice builds up at the bottom edge of the roof, it creates a dam that causes water to back up under the shingles and potentially leak into the house.
Damage caused by ice dams can be costly, including water-soaked insulation, stained or water-soaked ceilings and water accumulation in wall cavities, damaging walls and interior finishes.
Excess heat can find its way into your attic in many ways:
- Not enough insulation in your attic.
- A lack of insulation around fireplace chimneys that allows heat to escape into the attic.
- HVAC systems with un- insulated or leaky ductwork in the attic.
- Recessed lights on the top floor that leak or are un-insulated. Have an electrician replace them with insulated, air sealed cans.
- Insulation that is out of position, allowing heat to enter the attic.
- Poor attic ventilation
Did you know that your attic hatch is basically an outside door. It should be weather stripped to a tight seal and insulated above. This is one of the most common sources of energy loss in most homes.
The way to stop ice dams from forming is to keep the entire roof cold. In most homes this means stopping heat from escaping , blocking all air leaks leading to the attic from the living space below, and ensuring proper ventilation.
Properly weatherizing your attic can cut 10 to 30 percent off your heating and cooling bills.
While most residential roofs are designed to hold a reasonable amount of snow, the exceptional accumulation in our region this winter may be more weight than your roof can handle. Your risk increases with older homes, and homes with low or no slope to their roof.
If you are concerned about your roof, consult with a roofing contractor. They should be better able to assess the design load of your roof and have the skills and tools to clear it safely if needed. Getting up on a ladder or on the roof is unsafe and can damage the asphalt shingles used on most homes if done improperly. In addition, walking on a roof only adds weight and may hasten a collapse. If you see any signs of leaking, or bowing of roof structures, evacuate the home immediately and call for help. Lastly, remember that ice weights more than snow – so if you see evidence of ice damming your roof is already under greater stress.
- Keep thermostats at 68 degrees or a lower, comfortable setting to save energy. Each one-degree reduction lowers consumption and costs.
- When out for the day or evening, turn down the thermostat. When you’re away for a weekend or longer, lower it to 55 degrees to save on heating costs.
- Lower the temperature by 5 to 10 degrees at night, and turn it up again in the morning. This could save up to 10 percent on heating bills.
- Consider a programmable thermostat, which keeps the heat up when you need it and turns it down when you don’t. It can save up to $180 in energy costs each year.
- Turn the thermostat down when you have company over. Each guest is equivalent to a 175-watt heater, and will naturally provide warmth to the home.
- Close blinds and drapes at night to keep warm air inside. Open them during the day to let in warm sunshine.
- Weatherize and insulate. Seal the air leaks in your home with weatherstrip, caulk or insulation in attics and around windows, door sweeps, pipes, water heaters and vents. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends that Delaware attics maintain an R-38 insulation level (about 12-15 inches of insulation). Four in ten Delawareans live in homes that were built more than 30 years ago, and only 20 percent of homes built before 1980 are well insulated.
- Clean your heating system’s air filters to maximize efficiency and improve airflow. Check your filter each month and be sure to replace any filter that is more than three months old.
- Check your Chimney. Make sure your damper is in good working order, and when you’re not using your fireplace, make sure the damper is closed.
- Turn on ceiling fans. Warm air from heating systems tends to rise and collect near ceilings, making the rest of the room feel cool. In winter, set your ceiling fan to run in a clockwise direction, which will disburse this air and circulate heat around the entire room.
Spring is in the Air – Smart Energy Tips to Energize Delaware
Delawareans are welcoming the warmer weather by opening the windows, heading back outside for barbecues and block parties, and undertaking the annual tradition of spring cleaning. This is the perfect opportunity to evaluate how you use energy in and around your home. The SEU’s Energize Delaware offers some simple steps you can take around the house that will save you money, help the environment and even bolster the economy.
How: Most of Delaware saw record-breaking snowfall this winter, and all of that snow can take a toll on your house. Look for anything that may need repair, including siding, windows, doors, gutters, foundation, and locations where wires, pipes, etc., enter the walls. Use binoculars to see the roof, chimneys, vents and flashing. Note anything that is chipped, cracked, broken or separated.
Why: Small cracks or other holes that may have formed over the winter can be costly on many fronts – a one-inch crevice allows up to 30 quarts of water vapor to enter your home over the course of a season. Effectively sealing up and insulating your home will save you upwards of 30 percent on annual utility bills.
How: Turn down the thermostat several degrees from your current setting.
Why: As the temperature outside gets a bit warmer, you can lower your thermostat just a bit and may not even notice the difference in your comfort level. But you will notice the difference in your pocketbook – you can cut up to 10 percent on your utility bill by setting the thermostat to 65 degrees when people are sleeping or out of the house. If radiators heat your home, consider only turning them on in rooms you use most often.
How: You should inspect and, if needed, change the air filter in your air conditioning unit(s) on a monthly basis. The closer summer gets, the busier contractors will be – so spring is the time to get a trained professional to perform some simple maintenance on your air conditioner. They should check your unit’s evaporator and condenser coils, refrigerant levels and blower components. They also can walk you through simple maintenance activities you can do on your own.
Why: Equipment not performing at top-notch will make conditions inside your house uncomfortable as temperatures rise during the spring months, and they’ll send your utility costs through the roof as well. For example, dirty coils make your air conditioner work harder – driving up energy costs and reducing the life of the unit. Likewise, airflow problems can reduce your unit’s efficiency by 15 percent.
How: Wash your clothes using cold-water detergent whenever possible - the warm or cold water settings on your washer are typically just as effective as the hot setting. Paying attention to the water level setting is another important way to save energy – for smaller loads, remember to adjust your washing machine appropriately.
Why: About 90 percent of the energy used for washing clothes goes towards heating the water. Switching your washer’s temperature setting from hot to warm or cool will cut your energy usage in half – and, washing clothes in warm water could help you save $50 or more a year.
How: Hang your clothes outside to dry.
Why: Tumble dryers are big energy consumers – often one of the costliest appliances in a household, costing about $1530 to operate over the course of its expected lifetime. Dryers essentially microwave your clothing – often shrinking them and damaging metallic components such as zippers. When you are using your dryer instead of a clothesline, there are a few simple steps you can take to make sure you’re using the appliance as efficiently as possible – you should check the lint filter regularly, and consider investing in a dryer with a moisture sensor. This will ensure the machine shuts down as soon as your clothes are dry, rather than running for an unnecessarily long period of time.
How: You can purchase a variety of solar lights at your local hardware store, from lanterns to torches to ground lighting.
Why: Lights on a timer, floodlights or other types of common outdoor lighting can consume enormous amounts of energy – particularly if they’re left on unnecessarily. Solar lights require no electricity to operate. Many communities are already making the move toward solar lighting in a variety of unique ways – including tiny black boxes perched on street signs that provide increased illumination at night. Also, as summer approaches, cooking outside will help keep your home cool and cut down on air conditioning bills.
How: Showerheads are measured by the gallons of water per minute (gpm) they disperse. You can measure the flow rate of your showerhead by holding an empty gallon container under the running showerhead. It should take approximately 24 seconds to fill with a low-flow showerhead. If it’s filling more quickly – say in 15 seconds – your showerhead is needlessly wasting water and energy. If you’re buying a new shower head, toilet or other water fixture, look for the EPA WaterSense label to quickly spot water efficient produts.
Why: Many showerheads have a flow of 5-8gpm per square inch (psi). Not only does this waste water, but it needlessly consumes energy – all that water has to be heated. Converting to low-flow will save you about five gallons of water in a typical 10 minute shower – and over $200 a year on your heating bill.
Energize Delaware and the Summer of Savings
With the temperatures warming up outside, Delawareans are reminded of summer – vacations, longer days and those hot days spent trying to stay cool! But keeping comfortable comes with a price. Energize Delaware and our red knot mascot "SEU" are here to help you with a variety of energy solutions for the summer season that can keep your consumption down, reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fuels burned to produce electricity, and put more “green” back in your wallet.
How: Each month, check and change your filters in your heating/cooling system.
Why: Dirty air filters restrict airflow and can make your entire cooling system up to 15 percent less efficient. Air filters are well worth the expense, especially if you or your other members of your family suffer from airborne allergies. Dirt and neglect are the primary causes of system failure. Consider scheduling an annual, pre-season maintenance checkup with a licensed contractor to ensure your cooling system is operating efficiently and safely. Taking preventive steps and making minor repairs can extend the life of your system, and save you money!
How: Check your room air conditioner or central air system now, before that first 95 degree day!
Why: Replacing a 10-year-old central AC unit with an ENERGY STAR qualified model can cut 20-40 percent off your cooling costs.
Another option to consider is a geothermal heating and cooling system, which utilizes pipes running from the more stable, ambient temperatures found five feet underground into your home, where they pump heat in or out, depending on the season.
How: We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again… programmable thermostats equal savings!,
Why: The advantage of a programmable thermostat is that you can program it to have your AC unit turned to a higher temperature when you are not home and then have it return to your desired temperature shortly before your arrival. Keep this in mind: setting your AC to the “off” setting when you are not home could end up using more power getting your home back to your desired temperature. A programmable thermostat, set and used properly, can save about $100 in energy costs each year.
How: Clockwise or counterclockwise? There is often confusion about which way to run your fans in the summertime. The bottom line: test it and see which way makes you feel cooler. It’s the best way to get the results you want.
Some fans come with a forward and a reverse setting. On "forward", the fan blows the air down. Standing under the fan, you feel a breeze. On "reverse", the fan blows the air up.
During the summer, turn it to "forward" to create a wind-chill effect as the air moves against your skin and cools you.
Warm air collects near the ceiling. During the winter, the "reverse" setting circulates the warm air down where you are.
Remember to adjust your thermostat when using your ceiling fan — additional energy and dollar savings could be realized with this simple step!
You can find out more about energy efficient ceiling fans at the ENERGY STAR website.
Why: Stagnant air is much less comfortable than feeling the cool breeze of a fan. By running your fans this way, you’ll circulate the air, feel cooler and be able to set your AC a few degrees higher. But turn the fan off when leaving the room. A ceiling fan only cools people. Ceiling fan/light combination units that have earned the ENERGY STAR rating are about 50 percent more efficient than conventional fan/light units. This can save you more than $15 per year on utility bills.
How: When direct sunlight is coming through your windows, draw the curtains or shades.
Why: You will keep the cool air in and the hot sunlight out. Another way to reduce cooling costs in the long run is to plant trees or shrubs so that your house is more shaded, especially on the sunnier side.
How: Cracks in your home can keep your AC running overtime in the summertime, draining your wallet and hurting the environment. Consider hiring a contractor to inspect your house for cracks and crevices, particularly the ones you may not be able to see with the naked eye.
If you’d rather do it yourself, you can feel around baseboards, windows, doors, light switches and electrical sockets for air leaks. Air can escape or enter anywhere that two different building materials meet. You can also walk around your house with incense to see if the smoke blows in when you pass windows or doorways. Leaks can be sealed with foam or caulking, which you can find at the hardware store. By upgrading your insulation you may also eligible for federal tax credits.
Why: If you added up all of the costs associated with leaks and cracks in your home, it would be like keeping a window open 24 hours a day all year long. Properly sealing and insulating your house can save up to 20 percent on your heating and cooling costs!
How: Avoid running your appliances during peak hours—4-6 p.m.—or anytime an electricity emergency is declared. You can do your laundry efficiently and effectively by using the warm or cold water setting for washing your clothes. Always use cold water to rinse clothes. In the kitchen, conserve energy by running your dishwasher only when it’s fully loaded, and turn off the dry cycle – try air-drying your dishes instead.
Why: You can see significant savings on your utility bill by getting smarter about how and when you use your appliances. For example, drying clothes outside on a clothesline can cut costs by up to five percent. Activating the moisture-sensing setting when you do use the dryer can help conserve more.