We all know that using energy more efficiently can save us money on our monthly energy bills. But energy efficiency is also an important personal action we can take to combat climate change.
When utility companies are planning investments to meet demand, energy efficiency can make a big difference in how many new gas plants they decide to build or coal plants they continue operating. For example, Avista’s 2017 20-year planning document predicts that the increase in energy demand over the next 20 years can be cut in half with energy efficiency measures.
Furthermore, utility companies are required to provide reliable service year round. There are often a handful of days in the coldest months of winter where demand is at its highest. Utility companies are required to have sufficient infrastructure to meet this demand, even if it’s only for a couple days out of the year. By using our energy more efficiently during the high demand months of winter we can help eliminate the need for additional energy plants to be built for those few peak days of the year.
Use this Fall checklist to make sure your home is ready for the cold months ahead. With a couple of small projects you can make a big impact-on your energy bill and on your utility’s resource use!
Home Efficiency Tips
During the cold months of winter when the demand for energy is at its highest, energy also costs more. Keep your bills low with these tips:
- Insulate your water heater with an insulating blanket kit, available at hardware stores. Learn how to do it yourself.
- Set your water heater to 120 degrees F. Many water heaters automatically set to 160, but lowering the temp to 120 can give you significant energy savings.
- Check the seal on your refrigerator-close it on a dollar bill. If you can pull the dollar out easily then its time to replace the seal. You’ll save lots of dollars!
- Vacuum refrigerator coils to keep the compressor running efficiently and don’t overfill it-room for cool air to circulate will cool items more efficiently.
- Clean your furnace and change the filter-buildup of dust and debris can significantly affect performance. Do it yourself or call a furnace maintenance company.
- Electrical outlets are holes where cold air can leak into your home. Use plugs to fill unused outlets and add foam gaskets behind the covers and switch plates. But be sure to shut off power at the fuse box first!
- Check seals around doors and windows and replace weather stripping wherever you feel a draft.
- Weatherize large or drafty windows with heavy-duty clear plastic to create an air barrier. Seal the plastic tightly against the window frame with tape to reduce infiltration.
- Open south-facing window curtains during the day to trap heat from the sun, and close curtains at night to insulate cold window panes.
- Always keep the fireplace damper closed unless a fire is burning. Check the seal on the flue damper and make sure it is as snug as possible.
- Plug and seal the chimney flue if you never use your fireplace.
The changing season also brings new safety considerations. Make sure you are both safe and "green" with these tips:
- Make sure your chimney is clean and unblocked.
- Check your car’s tire pressure– cold weather can reduce tire pressure and lower fuel efficiency.
- Use natural cleaning products during the winter to reduce air pollutants from toxic chemicals and bring houseplants indoors to help clean the air.
- Clean your roof gutters and make sure downspouts are pointed away from the house.
For more tips on living sustainably, follow us on Facebook and look for our #Greentips on Tuesdays!