Friday, February 26, 2010

Clean Energy: Cooking with natural gas

Continuing our focus on clean energy, did you know that cooking with natural gas costs about half as much as with a similar electric range? And, many of the new models of natural gas cooking equipment use an electronic spark ignition, rather than a continuously burning pilot. This saves as much as 30 percent on energy costs!

Natural gas is a clean burning fuel, with 99 percent of the natural gas consumed in the United States coming from North America. And, natural gas ranges, ovens, cook tops and grills are known for operating with high efficiency and reliability.

But what really makes natural gas attractive for cooking, is that it offers precision heat control. In fact, natural gas ranges are preferred by professional chefs! But don’t let that intimidate you. Even those of us whose menus focus more on good spaghetti sauces, baked chicken and simple cakes/cookies know that natural gas offers unparalleled temperature control and instant on/off settings for superior cooking and baking.

Want to learn more about how to cook with natural gas? Come visit us at the Charleston Wine and Food Festival, March 4-7, at Marion Square in downtown Charleston. Look for the SCE&G tent!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Managing hot water costs can impact your bills

Did you know that heating the water in your home makes up 14 percent or more of your utility bill each month? It comes in second only to the heating and cooling of your home. While 14 percent may not sound like much, there are ways to help keep your water heating expenses in check.

First, regardless of the type of unit you have (tank or tankless), make sure your water heater is set to 120˚F or lower. This setting is typically plenty warm for any of your household needs. However, if you have a dishwasher with a heat booster you’ll need to refer to the owner’s manual to be sure a higher setting is not required.

Second, you may consider adding a water heater tank insulation wrap if your unit is more than 5-8 years old. Adding a tank insulation wrap is an easy “do-it-yourself” project if you have an electric tank unit. If you have a natural gas tank water heater, we recommend that you contact a professional to help you install the wrap to avoid any contact with the burner and make sure the insulation wrap is installed safely.

Also, it is important to visually inspect your water heater from time to time for any leaks, rust or other abnormalities. If your unit is not functioning properly, it could be costing you extra money each month.

If you’re in the market to replace your water heater, consider a natural gas hot water heater and learn about the benefits of tank and tankless water heaters. Additionally, you’ll want to read about the S.C. Department of Energy Appliance Rebate program and the federal energy tax credit.

Do you qualify for the federal energy tax credits?

If you’re like me, you’re scurrying about trying to get all of your paperwork together so you can file your taxes and get your tax return as soon as possible. But, don’t forget to pull any receipts for home improvements you made last year. If you purchased an energy-efficient product or renewable energy system for your home, you may be eligible for a federal tax credit.

The Basics
Consumers who purchased and installed specific products, such as energy-efficient windows, insulation, doors, roofs, and heating and cooling equipment in the home can receive a tax credit of up to $1,500 for the 2009 and 2010 tax years.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 provides a credit equal to 30 percent of qualifying expenditures for purchase for qualified photovoltaic property and for solar water heating property used exclusively for purposes other than heating swimming pools and hot tubs. The credit shall not exceed $2,000.

Improvements must be installed in or on the taxpayer’s principal residence in the United States. Home improvement tax credits now apply for improvements made between Jan. 1, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2010.

Also, if you bought or leased a new hybrid gas-electric car or truck, you may be eligible for an income tax credit of $250-$3,400.

For full details visit the ENERGY STAR® Web site. You can also check out the Tax Incentive Assistance Project (TAIP).

Friday, February 12, 2010

S.C. Energy Office to offer Appliance Rebate Program

If you’re in the market to buy a new refrigerator, clothes washer, dishwasher, water heater, air conditioning/HVAC unit or furnace … now’s your chance. Beginning March 31, a total of $3.9 million in appliance rebates will be available from the S.C. Energy Office to South Carolina residents who purchase new ENERGY STAR® certified appliances in the state. The program is funded by South Carolina’s share of federal stimulus funds being distributed to each state for appliance rebates.

The program will continue until all funds are exhausted, and they’re expected to go quickly! Rebate requests will be handled on a first-come, first-served basis. Rebates will not apply to online purchases or purchases made prior to March 31, 2010.

Customers who purchase a new appliance must allow contractors and retailers to remove and recycle their old appliance. Recycling is required to ensure that inefficient appliances are removed from the power grid. Visit the Energy Office rebates Web site for information about retail vendors.

SCE&G customers who make qualified purchases and switch to natural gas could be eligible for combined rebates and credits up to $800. For example, if you switch from an electric heat pump or water heater to a highly efficient natural gas furnace or water heater, SCE&G offers a $300 bill credit in addition to the state’s rebates.

And, some customers may be able to save beyond the appliance rebates and bill credits with tax credits made available through the federal government.

So, if you’re in the market for a new appliance, start your research now. You’ll want to act fast starting March 31 if you want to get in on the rebates. Learn more about these programs on our Web site.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

This winter, cozy up to a natural gas fireplace

While South Carolina winters are not as harsh as those typically seen in northern states, we do find ourselves facing colder weather from time to time. And, on those particularly cold days, it can be nice to light a fireplace to either knock the chill out of the air or create a cozy atmosphere in the house.

If your home has natural gas, lighting that fire can be as easy as flipping a light switch. Rather than worrying about having enough wood or cleaning out the ashes the next day, a natural gas fireplace not only offers convenience, but it also assures that you’re burning a clean and efficient fuel that is reliable.

Don’t have natural gas service at your house yet? SCE&G offers a free service line up to 150 feet and a $50 bill credit*. For more information, call 1-866-301-727 or read more about switching to natural gas.

* Certain restrictions apply. These offers may expire.
Have an energy efficiency question?

Welcome to the EnergyWise® blog, a place to gain insights into energy efficiency tips and programs offered by South Carolina Electric & Gas. Have a specific question? Ask our Energy Team or comment to one of our posts below.