|Energy savings: Getting the most for your money
Here are some more energy/money saving tips:
Let there be inexpensive light
One of the easiest energy-saving improvements involves light bulbs. Get rid of those incandescent bulbs and replace them with compact florescent light bulbs -- or CFLs.
Michael Lowndes says the average household pays 15 percent of the energy bill on lighting alone.
"That can add up to hundreds of dollars a year wasted on inefficient lighting. The solution is CFLs. They use 75 percent less energy than a standard incandescent bulb of the equivalent wattage. If someone tells you CFLs flicker or they're slow to start up, that was 10 years ago. This is a new generation of CFLs -- they have indoor, outdoor, three-way and dimmer switches."
Lowndes says one 60-watt equivalent CFL typically will last as long as 13 incandescent bulbs. You'll pay more -- the average cost of a 60-watt CFL is about $8 -- but you'll get it back in energy savings. Plus, CFLs don't throw off the heat that incandescent bulbs emit -- and that can help keep air-conditioning bills down.
Be sure to check with your utility company for rebates whenever you install energy-saving equipment. Long Island Power Authority, for instance, gives its customers $6 for every CFL they buy, up to 10 per household.
Look to the 'Star' stickers
If it's time for a new washer, dryer or kitchen appliance, look for the "Energy Star" sticker. That shows the appliance meets or exceeds standards set by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. If you're in the market for a washing machine, Lowndes says take a look at front loaders.
"Front-loading machines rotate on the horizontal axis. They use tumble wash technology, which uses 50 percent less energy -- that's one-third less water. They get clothes 25 percent cleaner than a traditional top-load washer and they're gentler on the clothes. In addition, during the spin cycle, they remove far more water, and that translates into a savings in dryer time."
Lowndes says a front-load machine saves more water in one year than an individual drinks in a lifetime. The typical family, he says, will save $100 per year in utilities, water and detergent bills.
Find your inner SEER
If you're having central air conditioning installed, the representative should be able to determine the most energy-efficient unit. The bigger problem, according to Lowndes, is room air conditioners.
"The key is proper sizing. It's a major factor in overall efficiency of the system. Many people make a mistake in choosing a window unit; they think a larger unit will run less. That's not true -- it will work harder. Know the dimensions of the room, the direction it faces. Does it have a southern exposure? Does the room have a lot of windows? If you go to a store and the salespeople can't relate to this information, choose another store."
Your new central air-conditioning unit or room air conditioner will have a SEER number -- seasonal energy efficiency ratio. It should be 13 or better, says Lowndes.