Energy conservation: It starts at home

  • Published
  • By Balfour Beatty Communities
  • Staff Reports
Using energy wisely is an important way to control electric costs and reduce environmental impact. Lowering energy output helps put money back in people's pockets and reduces the harmful emissions released into our environment in the energy generation process.

Reducing energy consumption doesn't require a complete overhaul of a home or major investments. There are many easy, effective things one can do to save energy at home. Here's a list of tips and ideas from the Balfour Beatty Communities to get people started.

Home appliance tips
· Opt for short showers instead of baths. Reducing the amount of hot water, and the energy used to heat it, is a cost effective way to lower energy bills as well as help the environment.
· Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes.
· Wash clothes in cold water. Water heating consumes 90 percent of the energy it takes to operate a clothes washer. Switching the temperature from hot to warm can cut energy use in half. This will also help reduce shrinkage, wear and tear of clothing and preserve fabric color.
· Activate the high spin speed option. If the clothes washer has spin options, choose a high spin speed or the extended spin option to reduce the amount of remaining moisture in clothes after washing.
· Clean the lint filter after every load. Do this to improve air circulation and avoid a potential fire hazard.

Electronic tips

· Plug home electronics, such as TVs and DVD players, into 'smart' power strips, which can automatically turn several outlets off or on when they detect that the TV plugged in either enters a low powered sleep mode, is turned off, or is turned on.
· Use smart strips and unplug electronics when not in use; equipment still plugged in can draw up to 40 percent of its intended power even in the off or standby mode.
· Unplug chargers and adapters. Chargers for cell phones, music players, portable games and other mobile devices continue to draw power even when the device is removed. To eliminate this energy waste, be sure to unplug chargers or turn off the power strip after removing the device.

Cooling tips

· Utilize window blinds and shades. Closing blinds, shades or curtains on warm days helps keep sun rays out and helps keep homes cool. It can also help save energy when using an air conditioning system as it can block as much as 45 percent of the sun's warmth and reducing the load on the AC system.
· Turn off unnecessary lights. Much of the energy from a light bulb is heat.
· On mild days, open windows for natural ventilation and turn the air conditioning off.
· Use portable or ceiling fans. Run ceiling fans counterclockwise for maximum cooling.
· Use small appliances in the kitchen. Use a crock pot, toaster oven, or microwave instead of the full-sized range or oven to keep homes cooler and save energy. These small appliances use only 20 to 50 percent of the energy needed to power a stove top or oven.

Heating tips

· Let the sunshine in! Use the natural warmth of the sun to help heat homes during the winter. Open the shades on south facing windows during the day to let the sun in and close them at night to keep the warmth inside.
· Lower heat settings to around 68 degrees Fahrenheit when home and awake and around 55 degrees Fahrenheit when asleep or away from home.
· Keep heat flowing. If furniture or curtains are in front of the vents, the flow of heat can be blocked. Be sure to check for and remove any obstructions.

Extra tips

· Drive sensibly. Aggressive driving, such as speeding, rapid acceleration and breaking, can waste fuel.
· Ensure tires are properly inflated according to the manufacturer's spec. this can improve gas mileage as much as 3.3 percent.