Cutting Edge: Utilities and Energy

Slash utility costs

greenlightbulb1Its old news that’s still putting a hurting on your wallet: soaring energy and utility costs. Don’t expect these costs to dampen anytime soon. Nationally, residential electricity prices are expected to rise 5.2% by year-end and 9.8% by next year, says Tyler Hodge, economist with the Energy Information Administration, a statistical agency of the Department of Energy. These staggering increases are mainly the effect of “the increase in fuel costs used for electricity generation. The biggest component in that fuel cost increase is in natural gas,” Hodge says. So, aside from the typical “unplugging appliances,” which he says can save you up to 5% in electricity consumption, here are a few more tips to add to your arsenal of cost-cutting strategies.

Start Cleaning: Homeowners should check the filters of their heating and cooling systems monthly and change them at least every three months, says Maria Vargas, the Environmental Protection Agency spokesperson for Energy Star. “A homeowner should have a technician clean the [air conditioning] coil in the spring and furnace heat exchanger in the fall,” she adds, which will increase efficiency.

Look for the Energy Star: Founded by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1992, the Energy Star program (www.energystar.gov/) looks for ways to reduce greenhouse gas admissions. With Energy Star “you can have a more energy-efficient product. It does the same thing but uses less energy to do it,” says Vargas. She says products must meet the EPA’s criteria to earn the Energy Star seal already found on 50 consumer products.

Mind the kids: Children are known for their neglect when it comes to saving energy, leaving faucets running, computers, game counsels, and lights on, and anything else that can run up your bill. Look after children and make sure all appliances are turned off when not in use.

Go fluorescent: Energy Star’s Compact fluorescent light bulbs can save consumers more than $30 over the life of the bulb and use 75% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs says Vargas. “They also last 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb,” she says.

Wait until the night: Wait until off-peak hours to use dishwasher, washing machines, and other major appliances. Vargas says there is a cost difference in running dishwashers and washing machines at night rather than during the day if your electricity rates vary by the time of day.

Weather-strip the doors: “Weather stripping is a good idea and does help reduce uncomfortable cold drafts in a house,” Vargas says. She also adds that the biggest air leaks in homes are usually hidden in the attic, basement, or crawlspace.

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