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Small steps can cut energy bills

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From Staff Reports

Monday, January 22, 2018

Warmer weather may be on the horizon, but winter isn't over yet, and utility companies want customers to better prepare for colder temperature costs.

Most Twin Counties customers receive their electric utilities from either Duke Progress Energy, ElectriCities or Edgecombe-Martin County EMC. Duke is a private company, ElectriCities is a public utility with Rocky Mount and Tarboro among its members and Edgecombe-Martin is an electricity membership cooperative.

Regardless of how customers receive their power, usage causes higher bills. There are a few important steps customers can take to reduce their bills.

ElectriCities offers the following tips to reduce costs:

■ Insulate. Think of insulation as a big blanket for your home. It improves your home’s energy efficiency by preventing hot air from escaping through your roof. A good rule of thumb is to have at least 12 inches of insulation lining your attic.

■ Seal leaks. Inspect windows and doors for air leaks. See if you can rattle them, since movement means possible air leaks. Weather-strip, seal and caulk leaky doors and windows and install foam gaskets behind outlet covers. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, decreasing drafts can your reduce energy use by 5 – 30 percent.

■ Change filters. Clogged filters make it harder for air to flow through, which puts more strain on your heating system. So change your filters every month or so; cheap filters work just as well as the more expensive kind.

■ Use the ‘original’ solar power. When the sun’s out, open your blinds and let natural solar heat warm your house. Letting the sunshine in can keep cash in your wallet.

■ Keep it low. Your thermostat, that is. We recommend setting it at 68 degrees. Every degree you raise the temperature can add three percent to your bill. Consider this: at 72 degrees, your bill can jump 12 percent.

■ Dress up. We’re not talking formal attire here, instead put on a sweater or sweatshirt when indoors. By simply bundling up a bit you can lower your thermostat while still remaining warm and cozy.

■ Keep vents clear. Your vents and heating registers should be unobstructed so your home gets maximum heating exposure. Make sure furniture, draperies and other items aren’t blocking the heat flow coming from your vents.

■ Water Heating. Water heating can account for 14-25 percent of the energy consumed in your home, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Turn down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120°F). You'll not only save energy, you'll avoid scalding your hands.

Duke suggests the following steps to lower home heating bills:

■ Check your furnace filter monthly and replace it when it appears dirty.

■ Lower your thermostat temperature to the lowest temperature that is comfortable to your family. You may save as much as 3 percent on your energy bill for each degree you lower your thermostat. Reduce your thermostat setting at night and when you are away. The “auto” thermostat setting on central heating systems may save you money.

■ If you have a heat pump, keep the outdoor unit clear of grass, leaves and especially drifting snow around the outdoor coil. Never switch a heat pump to the “emergency heat” setting on the thermostat, unless the unit is malfunctioning. This switch will turn off your energy-efficient heat pump. Using only your backup electric or gas furnace without the heat pump could double your heating costs.

■ Keep your fireplace damper closed when not in use. Consider installing doors over the fireplace opening to reduce drafts and heat loss through the chimney.

■ Do not use a fireplace during extreme cold. Most fireplaces that are open to the living space will increase winter heating costs.

■ Air infiltration can account for one-half of your heating costs in a leaky home. Seal air leaks with caulking, weatherstripping and sheets of plastic on large areas.

■ Close and seal heat registers that attempt to heat a cold, uninsulated garage, porch or attic storage room.

■ Have a professional verify proper insulation levels in walls and ceilings and check to be sure they meet standards or have not been damaged.

■ Keep windows and doors located near your thermostat closed tightly.

■ Keep heat sources such as lamps away from the thermostat.

■ Keep draperies and shades open on sunny days but close them on cloudy days and at night.

■ Keep all heating outlets and return-air grills free from obstructions, such as draperies, furniture and rugs. Clean vents regularly with a vacuum or broom.

■ If you have ductwork in the attic or garage, be sure it is covered with at least 6 inches of insulation. Seal seams and joints in ductwork with duct sealing compound.

■ If your home has a crawl space with air vents in the walls, close the vents and seal with insulation from the inside during the winter.

■ Insulate basement and crawl space walls. If your basement or crawl space is a cold, unoccupied area, then the floor between the cold area and the living space should also be insulated.

Edgecombe-Martin County EMC makes the following recommendations to lower heating costs:

■ Sign up for budget billing, if available. Under these types of plans, monthly payments are based on a 12-month average so each month the payments are the same amount.

■ Use an app to look at your daily usage so you will know how much energy you are using during extreme weather periods.

■ Look for ways to seal air leaks for the cold air coming into the house.

■ Leave the temperature set at 68 degrees. Any increase on the thermostat beyond 3 degrees at a time is less energy efficient and actually costing more money.

■ Limit the number of times a home is entered and exited. Every time a door is opened, a tremendous amount of warm air is lost, and the house’s heating source has to run more to recover.

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