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Archive for Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Easy ways to save on energy costs

September 12, 2007

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Cutting Carbon Footprints

Did you know that even simple daily activities can contribute to global warming? The average American is responsible for 20 tons of carbon dioxide per year - the equivalent of four passenger cars driven for one full year.

The amount of greenhouse gas your lifestyle lets loose into the air is called your carbon footprint. Consumer Reports suggests some easy ways you can reduce you carbon footprint and help combat global warming:

  • Turn lights off when you leave a room.
  • Put computers, monitors, DVD players, VCRs and other electronics into sleep mode when you're not using them.
  • Wash only full loads in washing machines and dishwashers.

- Consumer Reports

You want to save money as well as do your part to combat global warming. But what's the best way to get started? Consumer Reports has come up with 10 tips to help consumers save money while they save the planet based on its testing and advice from its experts.

  • Change your lightbulb. Those curly Energy Star-qualified compact fluorescent lightbulbs (or CFLs, at right) may look strange, but they must save users at least $30 in energy costs over their lifetime of roughly 7,500 to 10,000 hours.
  • Program your thermostat. Lowering your home's thermostat by 5 to 10 degrees at night and when no one is home can slash heating costs by up to 20 percent per year.
  • Boost heating efficiency. Replacing a furnace or boiler probably won't save you enough to recoup its $4,000 to $5,000 cost so, instead, make your current system work more efficiently. You can save up to 40 percent on your annual energy bill by sealing cracks or gaps in ductwork, insulating ducts, and caulking any holes in your walls, especially if they open onto an unheated basement or attic space.
  • Add insulation. Improving your home's insulation can save hundreds of dollars a year on energy bills and pay for itself in as little as two years. Start by sealing large gaps around chimneys, furnace flues, plumbing pipes, light fixtures and attic soffits. Then add or increase insulation between attic-floor joists and on the hatch or door. Next, seal air leaks in the basement and insulate ceilings in unheated basements, around the walls in heated basements and in unvented crawl spaces.
  • Save money on hot water. Insulating hot-water pipes and lowering your water-heater temperature from 130 to 120 degrees can save up to 5 percent on your energy bill. If you need a new water heater, choose a model with a nine- to 12-year warranty, since they typically come with thicker insulation and more powerful burners.
  • Replace worn-out windows. Replacing old, single-pane windows that are beyond simple repairs, such as caulking and weather stripping, can lower your heating bill by between 10 percent and 25 percent.
  • Understand Energy Star. Energy Star appliances typically are more efficient than others and generally cost less to run. However, consumers should take the energy-use estimates with a grain of salt. Some energy drains are not factored into energy-use figures, including refrigerator lighting, icemakers and special settings on dishwashers.
  • Use fires for ambience. Wood-burning fireplaces may give off a warm, romantic glow, but they actually suck the heat from your home out the chimney. Glass doors help, but only slightly.
  • Avoid energy scams. Beware of pitches from door-to-door salespeople, unsolicited letters and phone calls that promise to save consumers big bucks on their heating bills. You could sign up only to find that your monthly bill is even higher due to hidden charges such as switching, service, late and cancellation fees. And even if the offer is legit, read the fine print.

Visit the Consumer Reports Web site at <a href="http;//www.consumerreports.org">www.consumerreports.org</a>.

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