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Help Conserve Energy This Winter

December 13, 2006

Help Conserve Energy This Winter


Although it may not seem like it during our six-month summers, Alabama can get quite chilly in the winter. Unfortunately, winter brings more than colder weather. As the temperature drops, the need for energy rises. A dark, dreary winter day can do more than chill our bones; it can also hurt our checkbooks.


Energy isn’t cheap, and with the recent spike in energy costs, along with natural gas and electricity prices continually on the rise, Alabama could have another pricey winter. However, there are ways to combat prices and conserve energy at the same time.   


The best way to conserve energy is by cutting down our power usage at home and at work. Lighting accounts for about a quarter of all electricity consumed in the U.S. As the days get darker earlier, we turn the lights on earlier and leave them on more each day. Here are some ways to lessen the energy load while still lighting your home.


Turn off non-essential lights and appliances, including unplugging appliances that continually use electricity though not in use. Also, turn off incandescent lights when you’re not using them, even if you’re just leaving the room for a few minutes.


You can also replace standard bulbs with compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs. They cost a little more, but are far more efficient and last up to ten times longer.  For example, over the life of one CFL, you can avoid replacing up to 13 incandescent bulbs and use 75% less energy. You can also use lighting controls, which control lighting according to natural light levels.


Another simple way to conserve energy is by monitoring your home thermostat. Turning your thermostat down to 68 degrees or below and reducing the setting to 55 degrees when leaving for the day or before going to sleep is an easy and efficient way to save energy. For each degree you turn down the thermostat in the winter, you'll save up to 5% on your heating costs.


As the weather gets colder, it's also time to think about your windows. Windows can waste plenty of energy and plenty of money, too. Experts say as much as 25% of your home's heat can escape through leaky windows. You can keep your power bill low and your home cozy by installing weather-stripping on drafty doors and windows, removing window air conditioning units, or replacing old, drafty windows with new, double-paned windows. 


Check your hot water heater. Water heating is the third largest energy expense in your home, typically accounting for nearly 15% of your utility bill. By checking the heater’s thermostat, making sure that its pipes are well insulated, and reducing the temperature to approximately 115 degrees, you can help decrease your usage.


Energy conservation isn’t confined to your home. Try a few ways to save energy at the workplace, too. Turn off all unnecessary lights, especially in unused offices and conference rooms, and turn down remaining lights where possible. Set computers, monitors, printers, copiers and other business equipment to their energy saving feature and turn them off at the end of the day. While this may not affect your personal energy costs, less energy usage helps lower the overall price for everyone.


By practicing a few of these easy, common sense tips, we can all help keep energy prices low, while keeping our homes cozy during the upcoming winter months. As you settle in for winter, it’s nice to remember that in Alabama, spring weather will be here before we know it.