Go Offense on Home Energy – And Save

December 29, 2022

As winter sets in for its long stay, New Yorkers face a season of historically high energy costs. Whether filling up on gasoline or home heating oil, consumers are facing energy prices not seen in years.

So what to do? Read on.

Heating Costs More than Cooling

Identifying the largest consumers of energy in the home helps to identify those systems that, with some attention, provide the biggest savings potential.

 

 

And that’s right. heating an item or even a home uses more energy than does cooling an item or the home. And there’s two reasons why.

Firstly, what we call “cooling” is similar to the color that we call “white.” White isn’t actually a color – it’s the absence of color. And we don’t actually “cool” something like a room, rather we remove heat from that room – we transport heat away from the room. This is what an air conditioner does.; it takes the heat of a room and moves it outside.

Heating, on the other hand is as it sounds – a process, the physical process of actually heating an item or heating a space like a home.

And making heat is considerably more energy-consuming than is transporting heat.

So heating costs more than cooling.

Secondly, the reality of our environment dictates that heating is, on balance, more energy-consuming than is cooling. Here’s why.

According to weather.com, the hottest months in New York state months are July with a daily average temperature of 76-degrees, followed closely by August with an average temperature of 75-degrees. The coldest New York months are January (35-degrees) and February (36-degrees).

If a homeowner seeks to maintain a household temperature of 70-degrees, she must continuously raise the home’s temperature by 35-degrees in January and February. Conversely, she must lower the home’s temperature by only 6-degrees in July to maintain her comfort.

 

Icicle photo by Konstantin Ignatovich

 

Even in U.S. states with extreme heat, the hot vs. cold ratio favors cooling in energy conservation. Las Vegas, for instance has a steamy annual average high temperature of 105-degrees. But still, Las Vegas’ average annual low temperature is 39. So maintaining a comfortable home environment requires more more energy to heat the home than to cool the home.

Home Systems That Heat Are Your First Target

All this to say, targeting home appliances and systems that heat is a great first step in saving home energy and dollars.

Heating your home accounts for the most home energy consumption at 29% according to energy.gov. In addition to lowering the thermostat, they recommend the following simple steps for lowering home heating costs:

  • Install a programmable thermostat and set it to at least 10-degrees below daytime temperature during sleep hours
  • Replace furnace filters once a month
  • Keep registers, baseboard heaters, and radiators clean
  • Place heat-resistant radiator reflectors between outer walls and radiators
  • Keep south-facing drapes and shades open during the day and closed at night

The U.S. Department of Energy says that a household saves about 1% in energy costs for every eight-hour-1-degree adjustment to the thermostat. Consistently lowering a thermostat by 7-8 degrees for eight hours daily (say at bedtime) will save as much as 10% annually on a home’s energy bill.

Are You In Hot Water?

The next biggest consumer of  home energy is the water heater, which accounts for 18% of a home’s energy use. Luckily, there are simple steps that will lower the amount of energy used by this device.

Turning the temperature of your water heater down to 120-degrees or lower will offer significant savings of energy and money. Adding insulation to your water heater can save from seven to sixteen percent annually on water-heating costs; insulating hot water pipes saves an additional three to four percent. And adding your water heater to an “off-peak” electricity plan offered by your utility will provide additional home savings.

 

Bathtub - photo by Thomas Despeyroux

 

Energy.com has a smart infographic outlining more aggressive solutions to efficiently heating the home’s water.

The home’s washer and dryer account for 10% of its energy consumption, and again, heating is the energy bandit. You can decrease by 50% the amount of energy used by your washing machine by washing in either warm or cold water. Better yet, you can drop washing machine energy consumption a whopping 90% by washing in cold water.

Concerned that a cold wash won’t clean your clothes? Bob Vila offers a complete guide that will convince you that washing in cold water is your new go-to.

When possible, dry clothes on a line for zero energy consumption. If you choose the dryer, be sure that the lint trap is clean with every dry and dry using a timer rather than a dryness sensor.

Vampires Are Real

There is another group of appliances that is using energy without you even knowing. “Vampire” electronics provide convenience, activating with a quick push of a button or even a sense of movement in the  room. But this convenience comes at an energy price.

That is because as these devices wait to be called into action, they are consuming “standby power,” which can account for as much as 10% of a home’s energy use. Techcentral.com reports that most any device that is plugged into an electric socket is using standby power – from the coffee pot to the television. While many of these devices use as little as 1 watt of energy, some including gaming consoles and set-top-boxes can use as much as 8 watts and have historically consumed as much as 25 watts to stay alert.

Attaching as many of these devices as possible (the average home as 40) to power strips that can be powered down when not in use will go a long way to decreasing standby power consumption. When signing off a computer at the end of the day, take the time to power the computer down completely rather than slipping into sleep mode.

Save with Community Solar

Now that you know how to save home energy, you can also save on home energy by subscribing to community solar. New York state community solar programs, like that of Delaware River Solar, provide homes with utility bill credits for clean, renewable, local solar power without the cost of installing equipment on the roof or property.

And Turn Off the Light

And of course, as you’ll no doubt have heard, turn off the light when you leave the room!

For a comprehensive review of home energy efficiency, energy.gov has a comprehensive 58-page guide outlining home energy savings.

Delaware River Solar is a leading provider of community solar in New York. To learn more, visit the Delaware River Solar website or call (845) 414-3491.

Cover photo: Junior Ferreir.

The photos in this article courtesy of unsplash.com and of the artists Moja Msanii, Konstantin Ignatovich, Thomas Despeyroux, and Kari Shea.