Utility Watchdog in San Diego

 

  1. Get rid of the leaks. Whether you are trying to heat or cool your home, caulking and weatherstripping are the easiest and least expensive weatherization measures and can save you more than 10% on energy bills. If you can see daylight around door and window frames, then the door or window leaks. Check for holes or cracks around your walls, ceilings, windows, doors, light and plumbing fixtures, switches, and electrical outlets that can leak air, and seal them up! Less than $20 for most caulk and weatherstripping. Rebates: $3 per home for caulking; $5 per door for weatherstripping.
  2. Get "incensed" with those leaks. On a breezy day, hold a lit incense stick next to your windows, doors, electrical boxes, plumbing fixtures, electrical outlets, ceiling fixtures, attic hatches and other locations where there is a possible air path to the outside. If the smoke stream travels horizontally, you have located an air leak that may need caulking, sealing or weatherstripping. In addition, recessed light fixtures can be a major source of heat loss. Almost free.
  3. Check windows for old glazing. The putty-like substances around the panes in your windows can get old and allow drafts to enter your home. Reglazing can help seal up those air paths. Less than $20 for glazing.
  4. Remember, close your chute. We mean, your chimney flue. When the fireplace is not in use, keep the flue damper tightly closed. A chimney is designed to let smoke escape, so until you close it, air escapes--24 hours a day! Keeping the damper open is like keeping a 48-inch window wide open during the winter. If you never use your fireplace, plug and seal the chimney flue. Free.
  5. Get time-savvy. Want your lights or appliances to turn on and off at specific times of the day? Timers ensure that devices are properly turned on and off when you're asleep or away from home. Less than $20.
  6. Don't be dim - use dimmer switches. Rheostats allow you to control the brightness of a lightbulb with a dial, and are easy to install. We even show you how to do it at www.ucan.org. Less than $20.
  7. Ahhh, a hot water wrap. That is, with jacket insulation: This is especially valuable for older water heaters with little internal insulation. Be sure to leave the air intake vent uncovered when insulating a gas water heater. Savings up to 10% on water heating costs. Less than $20. Rebate: $5 per blanket for gas water heaters.
  8. Keep your fridge full - with water. An empty refrigerator is a terrible waste of energy. Filling the unused space in your fridge and freezer with plastic water jugs will minimize the loss of cold air when the doors are opened or closed and will keep your food chilled during a power outage.In addition, it lets you use UCAN's low-cost "Texas" air conditioner (see next tip). Free.
  9. Try our "Texas" Air Conditioner. If you're sweating to death during the daytime this summer, keep a rotating stock of water-filled gallon containers in your freezer (see above). Put the frozen gallons in a large tub or basin and place a fan behind the tub, aimed at yourself. This is cheap evaporative cooling, folks. For the cost of running your fan, you can stay nice and cool. Free.
  10. Hug a tree. Plant trees or shrubs to shade air-conditioning units - but don't block the airflow. A unit operating in the shade uses as much as 10 % less electricity than the same one operating in the sun. Shade trees planted in front of west-facing windows will cut down on the amount of heat that gets into your home during the summer. Carefully positioned trees and vines can save up to 25% of a typical household's energy used for heating and cooling. The Dept. of Energy predicts that just three trees, properly placed around the house, can save an average household between $100 and $250 in heating and cooling energy costs annually. Trees can also deflect winter winds. Cost: A little more than $20.
  11. Get audited ... with no tax penalties. There are a few local licensed contractors who can perform a whole-house energy audit and suggest conservation upgrades that will save money. For more information, call or visit UCAN's website. If you would like your company added to this list, contact UCAN. If you meet certain low-income guidelines, you can have the Energy Team conduct a free energy audit that may include upgrading your insulation, weatherstripping and conservation products and appliances for no cost.
  12. Make your refrigerater purr. Gently brush away dirt and dust from the exposed tubes at the back of your refrigerator, and make sure it has breathing room. Also, check the seals on the doors to make sure they are tight. If you can put a dollar bill in the door and pull it out after it is closed, you probably need new seals. If your fridge is more than ten years old, it may pay to get a new one. Cost: nothing to clean it; new seals vary.
  13. Light up your life, not your electric bill. Use CFLs. Lighting typically costs about 25% of your electric bill. And chances are, 90% of the lighting portion of your bill comes from 10% of the lights in your home! For example, one 22-watt compact flourescent light (CFL) throws as much light as a 100-watt incandescant bulb and uses less energy. What's more, screw-in flourescent bulbs last six to ten years on average. Cost: $5 to $15 per bulb.
  14. Reduce the flow - Use low-flow showerheads and aerator faucets. If you don't have them already, low-flow showerheads and faucets can drastically cut your hot water heating expenses. Saves of 10-16% of water heating costs. Cost: Well under $20 for most showerheads, a little more for faucets. Rebate: $3 per showerhead, $1 per faucet aerator.
  15. Go three-ways. Bulbs with three different settings allow you to select a lower watt setting than bulbs with only one level of lighting output. Three-way fluorescent bulbs are also available on the market. Less than $20 for most 3-way flourescent bulbs.
  16. Get on a powerstrip. Many small appliances continually use energy whether you are using them or not. Put any VCRs, stereos, computers and other smaller appliances that tend to remain on (even when not being used) on the same power surge protector strip. This way, one switch turns off all of these appliances easily. This will also help to protect your appliances from the power surges that can follow a rolling blackout. Cost: Under $20.
  17. Turn down the heat .... on your water heater. There are two ways to reduce the amount of energy used to heat water - use less water and use cooler water (about 80% to 85% of the energy used for washing clothes is for heating the water). Switching your temperature setting from hot to warm can cut a load's energy use in half. Turning your water heater down by a few degrees will also trim your utility costs. Free
  18. Light-activated photocells. Light-sensitive devices turn lights on when ambient lighting gets too dark and turns lights off at daylight. Don't keep those outdoor or indoor lights turned on when they're not needed. Cost: $10
  19. Clothes lines. This cheap investment can cut your bill by as much as 20%. Check with your homeowner's association before installing. Cost: less than $3.