You probably cringed at news of approval of a 7.7% rate hike for Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P) customers, on the heels of a 22.4% increase that went into effect earlier this year. The rates for United Illuminating customers in new Haven and Bridgeport are soaring by 50%. Connecticut electricity customers have seen their rates double in the past four years. According to Home Energy Saver, the average home in Woodstock has an annual energy bill of $2022.
Rate increases have been attributed to the rising cost of wholesale electricity. You may feel powerless over the situation, but you can take control of big and little energy hogs in your home. The top five are: Kitchen Appliances (26.7%), Air Conditioning (16%), Space Heaters (10.1%) and Water Heating (9.1%), and Lighting (8.8%). (Source EIA, 2001).
It is actually possible to cut your energy use by up to 25%. Here are some steps anyone can take to reduce energy use and costs. They don’t require purchase of new appliances, although newer energy-saving models are more efficient. You may have heard these tips before, but at current electricity prices, you can not afford not to give them a try now.
- Believe it or not, a single 100 watt light bulb left on 24 hours a day uses almost $140 of electricity a year. Replace regular light bulbs with compact fluorescents, which use 75% less electricity and last up to10 times longer. Turn lights off when not in use.
- Set your water heater thermostat at 122°F to save up to 15% of water-heating energy. Wrap the heater in a special insulated blanket. Drain a quart of water from your water tank every 3 months to remove sediment that impedes heat transfer and lowers efficiency. Insulate hot water pipes. Install flow restrictors or low flow shower heads. Convincing everyone in the house to shorten each shower by just 2 minutes could save you more than $200/year.
- For laundry, wait for a full load or adjust the water level to match load size. About 85% of the energy used to wash clothes is for heating the water. Use cold water with cold-water detergents whenever possible – the new detergents get clothes just as clean. Remove lint from the dryer filter after every load, and dry several loads in succession to take advantage of heat build up. When the weather warms up, hang clothes outside to dry.
- Only run the dishwasher when it’s full. Let dishes air dry. If you don’t have an auto switch, turn off the control knob after the final rinse and prop the door open a little. These two tips alone can cut the dishwasher’s energy use by 35%.
- Pick up an inexpensive refrigerator/freezer thermometer at the hardware store, and set the fresh food section of your frig at 32-40°F, and the freezer at 0°. Keep the freezer full, but allow air to circulate around things in the fresh food section. Cover liquids and wrap foods – moisture makes the compressor work harder. Vacuum condenser coils at 1-4x/year, especially if you have pets. If you have manual defrost, don’t let frost build up to more than about the width of a pencil.
- Set your thermostat at 68° when it’s cold out, and 78° when it’s hot out to save up to 20% on heating and cooling costs. Programmable automatic thermostats are reasonably priced now, and are available for oil, gas or electric heat.
- You can save 10% or more on your energy bill by reducing air leaks. Caulk, seal and use weather stripping. Close shades at night to reduce heat loss through windows.
- In 2007, CL&P will be offering a free residential conservation program called “Home Energy Solutions” for customers with electric or natural gas heat (there will be a $100 co-pay for others). Technicians will come out and assess, test, recommend AND install some energy efficient measures like energy efficient light bulbs and water saving devices. The details are still being finalized, says Joseph Swift, CL&P Operations Supervisor for Conservation and Load Management, so wait till the second week of January to call 877-947-3873 (877-WISE-USE) for details and scheduling.
The bottom line: the more efficient your systems are, and the less you use them, the less energy you will waste. See www.woodstockconservation.org/energy.htm for more information.
Some statistics courtesy of CL&P.
- Sign up for free home energy audit with CL&P
- Guidebook to energy efficient appliances
- Tips for consumers shopping for energy-efficient washing machines and other appliances (from the 8/24/08 Worcester Telegram & Gazette:
- Do research in advance, including going to www.energystar.gov to learn about energy-efficient products and programs. Think about frequency of use, size of the space for the washer, and service support before making a purchase.
- Watch for annual sales tax holidays that take place in more than a dozen states for energy-efficient and other products. Check the Federation of Tax Administrators’ Web site to see if your state is among them; the direct link is www.taxadmin.org/fta/rate/sales—holiday.html
- . Look for the Energy Star label on product models, signifying they have the government stamp of high energy efficiency.
- Be wary of first-year models that may ultimately need to have kinks worked out — caution that applies to any product claiming breakthrough innovations.
- Seek out rebates offered by some manufacturers and stores for Energy Star products, and check with your tax preparer to see if there is a government tax credit.
- In assessing the higher price for an energy-efficient washer, remember that there are effectively two price tags: the purchase price and the lifetime operating price, says Kristina Skierka, an energy-efficiency consultant.