This week, Pinching Pennies is written by our Energy Specialist, Art Nash. I thought that you might enjoy the advice that Art has on saving on your energy bill this season. If you find it interesting and would like to contact him for more information, he can be reached at 907-474-6366.
Nobody has to tell you energy costs are high. Alaskans pay some of the highest energy bills in the U.S. — in fact, 300 percent more than the national average.
Reducing energy bills will likely come through two actions. Conservation, such as turning off a light when you leave a room, is one route. And efficiency, by using tools or devices that save money, such as LED light bulbs, is another way. Check out www.akenergyefficiency.org to see how this can be done.
For each $100 you spend on electricity, the usage breakdown goes something like this: 65 percent for appliances, 21 percent for space heating and 14 percent for domestic hot water, although the latter can higher.
One thing you can do right off is weatherize your home regardless whether you are on the North Slope, in the Interior or in Southeast. Then look into ways of generating heat and electricity through solar or wind power or geothermal/ground source pumps to bring down your total energy bills.
Insulating is key to weatherization, and there are several tips if you do it yourself with fiberglass or blown-in insulation to retain more space heat:
· Do not overstuff
· Do not leave gaps
· Wrap outside pipes
· Put a blanket on your hot water heater
· Use a smoke stick to find leaky places
· Check gaskets on your garage door for leaks
· Caulk cracks and gaps less than ¼-inch wide
· Repair and put film over windows
With space heating, turning down the thermostat 7 to 10 degrees can save 10 percent. Alaska rural homeowners pay $4,000 on average for heating annually. Adjust your home’s temperature to between 62 to 68 degrees to maximize your savings and turn the heat off in summer. Have a professional tune your heating system and check ducts for leaks.
When it comes to conserving electricity, keep this in mind: compact fluorescent light bulbs use 75 percent less electricity and last six to 10 times longer than regular incandescent bulbs. And LEDs use 85 percent less electricity and last 33 to 100 times longer. In Fairbanks, at 21 cents per kilowatt-hour, a 60-watt bulb uses $110 of electricity a year if on 24/7 or about $79 in Anchorage. Use a timer on your outside lights. You can store multiple daily settings that you can override and put occupancy sensors on your lights.
With smaller cooking and heating devices, remember to never use your propane, gas or electric stove for space heating because it’s expensive. Propane and gas stoves can also cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Microwave ovens use 50 percent less electricity than traditional ovens. A space heater running five hours a day can cost $50 to $125 a month.
Here’s a few other ideas to save energy. Seal your fireplace when not in use. Prevent any mineral/corrosion buildup on the element of your electric hot water heater tank or buy an on-demand water heater that fits your needs. You can also install low-flow showerheads, which provide 30 to 50 percent savings on hot water. Fix leaky water faucets and running toilets, and install low-flow aerators on faucets. For washing clothes, wash only full loads and wash in cold water. Dry outdoors on a sunny day, and clean the lint filter on your dryer when you do dry inside.
For other ideas on energy efficiency, take a look at a video that former Extension energy specialist Rich Seifert and I shot while looking over a summer cabin that was going to be converted to a year-round home, at http://youtu.be/QVlZlNepjuw. Feel free to call me at 907-474-6366 with any questions on saving money in your home.
Art Nash is an Energy Specialist of the Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Questions or column requests can be e-mailed to him at email@example.com or by calling 907-474-6366.