Friday, March 19, 2010

Have you checked your refrigerator lately?

Each week, we try to offer lots of great tips to help you save money on your energy bills. In this week’s post, we offer two more low cost tips about your refrigerator and shower:

Is your refrigerator running… and running and running?
Like the old joke goes, if your refrigerator is running you’d better go catch it. A refrigerator whose compressor is constantly running may have a leak in the door seal. Check the seal around the door to see if it needs to be cleaned or replaced; a door leak allows cool air to escape, forcing your refrigerator to use more energy to keep food cold. Also, check the temperature settings for efficient operation. The refrigerator temperature should be 36º-38° F and freezer temperature should be 0º-5° F. Appliances and electronics account for 20 percent of your energy bill.

Make your shower efficient.
Ever hear of the milk carton test? Open an empty, half-gallon cardboard milk carton and hold it up to the shower while it's fully on. If it fills in less than 10 seconds, your shower could use an energy efficient shower head or a flow restrictor. Flow restrictors generally cost less than a dollar, are easily inserted into your existing shower head and can cut the cost of taking a hot shower in half. The best part is that you’re not likely to notice the difference.

Saving energy doesn’t have to be difficult. Often, there are a number of simple, little to no cost home improvement projects that can make a big difference in your bills. Read our previous ideas about sealing gaps and installing ceiling fans here, and about managing hot water costs and programmable thermostats here.

What projects have you completed around your house? Share your ideas here! Or, learn more about how to save energy by visiting

Monday, March 8, 2010

Did you know compact fluorescent lights come in many shapes and sizes?

We’ve all seen them – those funny looking, swirly light bulbs called “CFLs.” We’ve heard they save energy, but some of us aren’t sure if we like the color of the light they emit or the fact that some don’t turn on instantly. We like our incandescent bulbs and shrink away from the change before us.

But, the facts stare us in the face. An ENERGY STAR qualified compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) will save about $30 over its lifetime and pay for itself in about six months. And, CFLs use 75 percent less energy and last about 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb.

So, for those of us loving the warm light that glows from our incandescent bulbs, it’s time to take a closer look at CFLs. Happily, I’ve learned there are some CFLs comparable to my incandescent friends.

For me, the most important factor is finding a bulb that emits the light I’ve always known. I’m not a fan of the bright white fluorescent color often seen in office buildings. The good news is that CFLs are available in an array of colors – soft white (warm), bright white (neutral) and daylight (cooler) – just like incandescent bulbs

At one time, CFLs were only available in a limited number of shapes and sizes. Today, you can find a CFL comparable for almost any incandescent bulb. There are CLFs that are spiral, A-shape, globe, tubed and candle shaped. Additionally, there are indoor and outdoor lights, three-way and dimmable bulbs and bulbs for your ceiling fan.

Instant On
Some people are turned off from CFLs because they worry about having to wait for the light to turn on. But, many manufacturers have recognized this consumer preference and now offer “instant on” bulbs. Be sure to check the packaging for this feature.

Still want more information? Check out the ENERGY STAR Choose A Light Guide. It’s a really cool interactive site where you can actually “try” different bulbs to see how they’ll work in your home.
Have an energy efficiency question?

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