Friday, May 21, 2010

Save money by switching to natural gas

If you’re looking to convert your electric or propane heating system or water heater to one that is powered by natural gas, you can earn a $300 rebate on your SCE&G bill.

Why switch to natural gas?
Natural gas is clean burning, efficient and reliable. But most of all, if you have a natural gas furnace, you’ll have hot heat coming out of your vents on those cold winter nights and no more worries that the kids took all the hot water and you’re going to get the “cold shoulder” at any moment from your water heater. Converting to natural gas is the right thing to do for most customers who want to lower their energy costs and to be more responsible for our environment.

I recently installed a natural gas tankless water heater when my 14-year-old tanked natural gas water heater bit the dust. Wow! We love it! We have virtually unlimited hot water and the lowest natural gas water heating cost available. This is helpful, since I have two teenagers in my home; I wish I’d put one in years ago.

Financial incentives
Don’t forget that many high efficiency natural gas furnaces and almost every natural gas tankless water heater are ENERGY STAR® rated and qualify for the federal tax credit. Check with your tax advisor to see if you qualify. It could be worth up to $1,500 for you – in addition to our $300 rebate.

While any rebate is great, there is so much more value when you convert to natural gas than just the up-front dollars. Visit our interactive website to see how natural gas could benefit you.

Monday, May 17, 2010

In Home Energy Consultations: Common Findings

Did you know that SCE&G offers free In-Home Energy Consultations to all of our residential customers? To participate, download and return our one-page questionnaire, then a member of our Energy Team will contact you to schedule an appointment. During this visit, our representative will visually inspect your home and offer suggestions of things you could do to make your home more energy efficient.

So, what are the “top five” findings or common issues found during our In-Home Energy Consultation?

1. Inadequate insulation
This problem is particularly common in older homes. We recommend upgrading to at least an R-38 (12-14 inches). Appropriate attic insulation can help save on heating and cooling costs. Also check to see that your attic access door is properly insulated. If it is not, you can fashion an insulation box to cover the large hole your access door leaves.

2. Caulking and weather stripping
We often find poor caulking around windows and poor weather stripping around exterior doors. If you can see light around any of your windows or doors, you may need to spruce up the caulk and weather stripping. Our representatives also find that there are occasionally pipe and wire penetrations that are larger than necessary and are not filled with insulation, foam, etc.

3. HVAC Equipment
When visually inspecting a home, the HVAC equipment is of great interest since heating and cooling your home accounts for 50 percent or more of your annual energy bill. In older homes, we find that the equipment is often older and therefore less efficient. Having your unit serviced annually by a professional should help keep it in working order.

4. Thermostat Settings
We recommend setting your thermostat to 68 degrees or lower in the winter and 78 degrees or higher in the summer, but we often find that our customers keep their thermostats at much different settings. Each degree higher or lower than recommended can significantly increase your heating costs in winter and cooling costs in summer. Also, we often observe that the older dial thermostat readings are not as accurate as their digital and programmable counterparts, so you may want to double check your own.

5. Water Heaters
Many of the customers we visit have their water heaters set a very high temperatures. We recommend setting your water heater at 120 degrees. If you have a unit that is five to eight years old, you also may want to consider a water heater tank insulation wrap. Also be sure that the hot water pipes leading from your water heater are well insulated.

Monday, May 10, 2010

HVAC maintenance can save on cooling costs

If you’re a regular reader, you know that heating and cooling your home makes up almost 50 percent of your annual energy bill. Since your HVAC unit – or heating and cooling unit – is typically the largest consumer of energy in your home, it’s important to make sure it’s in tip-top condition.

Maintaining your HVAC unit is much like changing the oil in your car – it’s not something we necessarily like to do, but it must be done or we may risk costly expenses. We recommend that you have your HVAC unit serviced by a professional at least once a year, preferably before the cooling season if you’re only planning to have it serviced once a year. This can not only help identify possible problems, but can extend the life of the system while maintaining optimum efficiency.

During routine maintenance, ENERGY STAR® recommends that your HVAC contractor check thermostat settings, tighten all electrical connections, lubricate all moving parts, check and inspect the condensate drain, and check the controls of the system.

You’ll also want to check the filters in your air return ducts inside your home monthly and change them when they’re dirty. Adequate air flow through your HVAC system is critical to ensure efficient operation. Check with your HVAC contractor or the unit manufacturer to make sure you’re using filters that are appropriate for your unit.

Of course, the easiest way to take control of your cooling costs is to monitor your thermostat setting. We recommend a setting of 78 degrees or higher in the summer and 68 degrees or lower in the winter. Each degree higher or lower can significantly increase your cooling costs in the summer and heating costs in the winter.

For even more energy saving tips, visit our website.

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.