Energy saving ideas: what not to do

October 14, 2013 by  
Filed under Solar Energy Tips

The weather is getting cooler which means it is time to start thinking about saving energy (again!).

The October issue of Consumer Reports features several ways to slice your bills, but these are things most of us are aware of by now…LED bulbs, programmable thermostats, plugging air leaks and getting an energy audit.

More interesting (to me anyway), are the things you should watch out for.

Did you know the only way you can save money with a Smart Meter is if you are also offered time-of-use rates which let you control costs by running your appliances during off-peak hours?

Georgia Power for example offers a Residential Nights and Weekends program. If you sign up, you agree to reduce your energy usage between 2 – 7 p.m. on summer weekdays during June – September. That means shutting down your appliances, and AC for that five hour time period. Even though you only do it during the summer months, your commitment is for a year in order to get the reduced rates. See the website for additional details.

Here are a few more energy saving highlights:

Get an energy audit, but only from reputable companies. Apparently there are “Blow and go” companies that charge major fees upfront, promise upgrades, then vanish into the night. Audits cost between $250-$800 depending on the size of your home. Of course, you can always get a free 45 minute in-home check up from Georgia Power (you must be a customer).

Appliance upgrades are great, but claims can be misleading. Wi-Fi enabled appliances are convenient, but won’t save you money unless you have those time-of-use rates mentioned above.

Cover your bases with alternative energy sources. Interested in geothermal pumps and solar roof panels? Get multiple bids from licensed contractors, make sure they cover any installation related property damage and understand what happens if you move. With an investment in the range of $17,000 – $20,000 with a 5-10 year payback period you want to make sure you’ve considered all options, including the possibility of leasing (solar panels).

Hybrid water heaters can help. If you have an electric water heater that is 13 years old or more, it may be time to updgrade. A hybrid heater — which uses electricity and a heat pump — can lower your heating bills, but avoid the tankless heaters that are expensive and limited.

Be selective with LEDs. These are promising, but some bulbs are dim, according to Consumer Reports. Their top energy saving bulbs include $14 LEDs from IKEA and Great Value CFL bulbs from Walmart for $1.25. 

Watch your windows. Houses leak air. You can fix some of these yourself, but if you are considering replacing your windows, know that the FTC recently ordered five companies to stop inflating the promised savings that come with their replacement windows. The companies claimed 40 to 50 percent savings on utility bills. Consumer Reports put savings closer to 7  to 15 percent.

What steps have you taken to reduce energy costs in your home. How much did you save?



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