How to Get the Most Bang for Your Energy Buck
With the U.S. Department of Energy estimating Americans will spend 20 to 25 percent more in heating costs this year, whether using oil, natural gas or electricity, many homeowners will be looking for ways to save – not just on home heating but in all areas of energy consumption.
Ken Ely, a home heating and energy efficiency expert with Lennox Industries – a leading provider of customized home comfort systems – offers the following look at how the average dollar is spent on household energy consumption and advice for controlling expenses to make that dollar go further.
Heating and cooling accounts for approximately 45 percent of the average home’s utility bill – or about 45 cents of every dollar – and is typically the largest energy expense. To cut down on climate control costs, be sure to schedule annual routine maintenance on your heating system to ensure it’s running as efficiently as possible. If the heating system is more than 15 years old, consider replacing it with an Energy Star-qualified system, which will be more energy efficient and can help lower utility bills. For example, by replacing an older furnace that is 60 percent efficient with one that is 95 percent efficient, homeowners can save approximately 57 percent on energy bills and up to $5,513 over a five-year period. Programmable thermostats are another way to maximize energy efficiency. These devices automatically control the temperature to use less energy at certain hours of the day, such as nighttime or when homeowners are away from home.
Household appliances, such as refrigerators and clothes washers, are responsible for about 20 percent of a home’s energy bill. Make sure appliances are clean and free of dust and lint to ensure proper ventilation and to increase their efficiency. In addition, check refrigerator and freezer doors to ensure they are sealed tight to prevent cool air from escaping. When washing dishes, use the air-dry setting on automatic dishwashers rather than heated drying to conserve energy. Finally, be sure to clean the lint trap in your clothes dryer before every load of laundry, which will help increase the drying efficiency of the machine.
Heating water is another major energy expenditure and accounts for approximately 13 percent of a household’s energy bill. Consider insulating the water heater with a water heater jacket that can be purchased at most hardware stores. Homeowners also can lower the temperature setting on the water heater to save energy. Some water heaters come from the factory already set at 140 degrees or higher, but a setting of 115 degrees can provide comfortable hot water for most uses. Finally, consider replacing a water heater if the existing one is more than 10 years old, as it probably is operating at an efficiency level of 50 percent or lower.
Eleven percent of the energy budget for an average household – or about 11 cents of every dollar – goes to lighting. Switching out traditional incandescent lights with more efficient fluorescent lighting is a quick and easy way to save on utility bills. In fact, by replacing 25 percent of lights in high-use areas with fluorescents, homeowners can save about 50 percent on lighting-related energy expenses. Energy Star-qualified fluorescent lamps also last six to 10 times longer. For exterior lighting, be sure to use compact fluorescent or high-pressure sodium fixtures, which are more efficient, and consider motion sensors that operate lights automatically.
The energy lost through windows can account for about 10 percent (and as much as 25 percent) of a home’s heating bill. Look for cracks or holes around windows, and apply a sealant where necessary to prevent air from escaping the home. During the winter, be sure to keep blinds open during the day to allow sunlight to enter and heat the home naturally. Also, consider installing tight-fitting, insulating window shades on windows that feel drafty after weatherizing. Finally, to maximize a home’s energy efficiency, replace single-pane windows with double-pane windows or windows with low-emittance (low-e) coatings that can reduce heat loss.
Lennox Industries is a leading provider of customized home comfort systems, residential generators and indoor air quality products that are designed to deliver customized comfort, efficiency and functionality, with the most innovative and reliable features available. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy have selected Lennox as an ENERGY STAR Manufacturer of the Year four out of six years for its outstanding contribution to developing and promoting energy-efficient products. For more information about Lennox home comfort products, visit www.Lennox.com or call 1-800-9-LENNOX.