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Monday, November 3, 2008

Simple ways to save energy and money at home

In "Save Energy, Save Money," we focused on big-ticket efficiency improvements, but there are plenty of lower-cost ways to slash your energy bills at home without becoming an energy anorexic, including these and those that follow:

In the bathroom
• Save hot water by taking a 5-minute shower rather than a deep soak in the tub. Replace standard showerheads with low-flow models and turn off any supplemental showerheads.

In the kitchen
• Reheat dishes in your microwave, which likely consumes only about 20 percent of the energy of a typical full-sized oven. On the cooktop, use pans that are the same size as the burner and keep the lid on the pot when you want to boil water.

• Wipe minor oven spills and splatters regularly with a damp cloth so that you don't have to rely as often on the oven's self-cleaning feature. When you do use the self-cleaning feature, start the cycle right after cooking in the oven to take advantage of the preheated space.

• Get the fridge out of the garage. During summer the unit will have to work extra hard to compensate for the 100-plus degrees that a garage can reach. Better yet, consolidate your refrigerator and freezer items into one unit and turn off other refrigerators and freezers.

Around the house
• Unplug your television(s) and most other electronic devices if you use them infrequently or when you're away from home for an extended period. Even when turned off, electronic devices like TVs continue to draw standby power. Also unplug your computer and scanner if they'll sit idle for an extended period.

• To maximize light output, position lamps in the corner of a room, where their light will bounce off two walls. Painting interiors a bright color will also augment light levels, as will regularly dusting lamp shades and lightbulbs.

• Use LED lights for task lighting. In our test of undercabinet lighting, fixtures with LED bulbs were the most energy efficient, even besting fluorescents in the lumens-per-watt department.

• If your existing exterior door is old but still in good shape, install a storm door. During the summer, replace the glass or Plexiglas panels in the storm door with a screen to improve air circulation in the home and reduce the need for air conditioning.

• Buy a humidifier. During heating season, the colder it gets outside, the lower the relative humidity will be indoors. Providing some humidification will help to improve comfort, but don't overhumidify. Use a model with a humidistat to control indoor moisture levels.

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