Energy Conservation “It all starts with you!"
Being aware of the energy you consume and learning how to use less of it is the key to successful energy conservation. We all need to begin at home by looking at our energy use habits and deciding how we can make changes. A good way to start is to call Minnesota Valley to set up an appointment for a free home energy audit by one of our Member Services Technicians. An energy audit will pinpoint the high usage equipment in your home and suggest the most effective measure for cutting your energy costs.
Energy Conservation Tips
There are many things you can do yourself to start saving energy today. This list offers energy conservation tips for operating common household appliances and equipment.
- Whole-house fans help cool your home by pulling cool air through the house and exhausting warm air through the attic. They are effective when operated at night and when the outside air is cooler than the inside air.
- Set your thermostat as high as comfortably possible in the summer. The less difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill will be.
- Don't set your thermostat at a colder setting than normal when you turn on your air conditioner. It will not cool your home any faster and could result in excessive cooling and unnecessary expense.
- Consider using an interior fan in conjunction with your window air conditioner to spread the cooled air more effectively throughout your home without greatly increasing your power use.
- Don't place lamps or TV sets near your air-conditioner thermostat. The thermostat senses heat from these appliances, which can cause the air conditioner to run longer than necessary.
- Plant trees or shrubs to shade air-conditioning units but not to block the airflow. A unit operating in the shade uses as much as 10% less electricity than the same one operating in the sun.
- Check the manual that came with your dishwasher for the manufacturer's recommendations on water temperature; many have internal heating elements that allow you to set the water heater to a lower temperature.
- Scrape off, don't rinse off, large food pieces and bones. Soaking or prewashing is generally only recommended in cases of burned-on or dried-on food.
- Be sure your dishwasher is full, but not overloaded.
- Don't use the "rinse hold" function on your machine for just a few soiled dishes. It uses 3 to 7 gallons of hot water each time you use it.
- Let your dishes air dry. If you don't have an automatic air-dry switch, turn off the control knob after the final rinse and prop the door open a little so the dishes will dry faster.
- Check your ducts for air leaks. First look for sections that should be joined but have separated and then look for obvious holes.
- If you use duct tape to repair and seal your ducts, look for tape with the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) logo to avoid tape that degrades, cracks and loses its bond with age.
- Remember that insulating ducts in the basement will make the basement cooler. If both the ducts and the basement are un-insulated, consider insulating both.
- If your basement has been converted to a living area, install both supply and return registers in the basement rooms.
- Be sure a well-sealed vapor barrier exists on the outside of the insulation on cooling ducts to prevent moisture buildup.
- Get a professional to help you insulate and repair all ducts.
- No doubt, you have seen items in stores with the ENERGY STAR© label on them. ENERGY STAR© is a government-backed program helping businesses and individuals protect the environment through superior energy efficiency. Making your home more energy efficient with ENERGY STAR© can help to reduce your energy bills and improve comfort. Look for the ENERGY STAR© label when making your next purchase of appliances, lighting, home electronics or air conditioning and heating equipment. www.energystar.gov
- If you never use your fireplace, plug and seal the chimney flue.
- Keep your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is going. Keeping the damper open is like keeping a 48-inch window wide open during the winter; it allows warm air to go right up the chimney.
- When you use the fireplace, reduce heat loss by opening dampers in the bottom of the firebox (if provided) or open the nearest window slightly - approximately 1 inch - and close doors leading into the room. Lower the thermostat setting to between 50 and 55 oF.
- Install tempered glass doors and a heat-air exchange system that blows warmed air back into the room.
- Check the seal on the flue damper and make it as snug as possible.
- Add caulking around the fireplace hearth.
- Use grates made of C-shaped metal tubes to draw cool room air into the fireplace and circulate warm air back into the house.
- In the winter, turn your thermostats down to 68o F or below. Reduce the setting of your thermostat before going to sleep or when leaving for the day.
- Turn off non-essential lights and appliances. The electricity generated by fossil fuels for a single home puts more carbon dioxide into the air than two average cars!
- Avoid running large appliances such as washers, dryers, and electric ovens during peak energy demand hours from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
- Close shades and blinds at night to reduce the amount of heat lost through windows. This also applies during the day for warm temperatures to prevent heat gain.
- Buy ENERGY STAR© appliances, products and lights.
Heat Pumps & Heat Pump Tips
Even though these systems have been around for several years, they continue to be the most energy efficient way to heat your home. A heat pump can use 30% to 75% less energy to supply the same heat when compared to other heating systems. The heat pump system is not only an efficient energy saver, but its reliability makes it an all season heating and cooling system. A heat pump transfers heat from one place to another. This is where the term "heat pump" comes from, because it is pumping the heat into your home in the winter for heating or pumping the heat out of your house in the summer for cooling. There are two types of heat pumps:
- Ground Source Heat Pump (GSHP) is comprised of the same basic parts as a standard air conditioning system. The main difference is that the heat is transferred through a fluid circulated underground to transfer heat either into or out of the house. GSHPs have become the most energy efficient heating system available.
- Air to Air or Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP) system takes its heat from the air, transferring it from one place to another. Due to temperature extremes in our area, ASHPs require a backup or supplemental heating system or the addition of a plenum heater. Since the heat pump takes its heat from the outside air, the heating capacity is reduced as the temperature falls, but the efficiency of the air to air heat pump remains higher than conventional heating systems.
- Do not set back the heat pump's thermostat manually if it causes the electric resistance heating to come on. This type of heating, which is often used as a backup to the heat pump, is less efficient.
- Clean or change the filters once a month or as needed, and maintain the system according to manufacturer's instructions.
Heating and Cooling Tips:
- Set your thermostat as low as is comfortable in the winter and as high as is comfortable in the summer.
- Clean or replace filters on furnaces once a month or as needed.
- Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters and radiators as needed. Make sure they aren't blocked by furniture, carpeting or drapes.
- Bleed trapped air from hot-water radiators once or twice a season; if in doubt about how to perform this task, call a professional.
- Place heat-resistant radiator reflectors between exterior walls and the radiators.
- Use kitchen, bath and other ventilating fans wisely; in just 1 hour, these fans can pull out a houseful of warmed or cooled air. Turn fans off as soon as they have done the job.
- During the heating season, keep the draperies and shades on your south-facing windows open during the day to allow sunlight to enter your home and closed at night to reduce the chill you might feel from cold windows. During the cooling season, keep the window coverings closed during the day to prevent solar gain.
- During the heating season, close unoccupied rooms that are isolated from the rest of the house and turn down the thermostat or turn off the heating for those rooms or zones. However, do not turn the heating off if it adversely affects the rest of your system. For example, if you heat your house with a heat pump, do not close the vents - closing the vents could harm the heat pump.
Indoor Lighting Tips
- Turn off the lights in any room that you are not using and consider installing timers, photo cells or occupancy sensors to reduce the amount of time your lights are on.
- Use task lighting; instead of brightly lighting an entire room, focus the light where you need it. For example, use fluorescent lighting for kitchen sinks and countertops under cabinets.
- Consider three-way lamps. They make it easier to keep lighting levels low when bright light is not necessary.
- Use 4-foot fluorescent fixtures with reflective backing and electronic ballasts for your workroom, garage and laundry areas.
- Consider using 4-watt mini-fluorescent or electro-luminescent night lights. Both lights are much more efficient than their incandescent counterparts; and the luminescent lights are cool to the touch.
- Consider factors such as your climate, building design and budget when selecting insulation for your home.
- Use higher density insulation, such as rigid foam boards, in cathedral ceilings and on exterior walls.
- Ventilation plays a large role in providing moisture control and reducing summer cooling bills. Attic vents can be installed along the entire ceiling cavity to help ensure proper airflow from the soffit to the attic, helping to make your home more comfortable and energy efficient.
- Recessed light fixtures can be a major source of heat loss, but you need to be careful how close you place the insulation next to your fixture unless it is marked "I.C."-designed for direct insulation contact. Check your local building codes for recommendations.
- When installing insulation, follow the product instructions on installation and wear the proper protective gear.
- Trees that lose their leaves in the fall (i.e., deciduous) are the most effective at reducing heating and cooling energy costs. When selectively placed around a house, they provide excellent protection from the summer sun but permit winter sunlight to reach and warm your house. The height, growth rate, branch spread and shape are all factors to consider in choosing a tree.
- Vines provide shading and cooling. Grown on trellises, vines can shade windows or the whole side of a house.
- Deflect winter winds by planting evergreen trees and shrubs on the north and west sides of your house; deflect summer winds by planting on the south and west sides of your house.
- Wash your clothes in cold water using cold-water detergents whenever possible.
- Wash and dry full loads. If you are washing small loads, use the appropriate water-level setting.
- Dry towels and heavier cottons in a separate load from lighter-weight clothes.
- Don't over-dry your clothes. If your machine has a moisture sensor, use it.
- Clean the lint filter in the dryer after every load to improve air circulation.
- Use the cool-down cycle to allow the clothes to finish drying using the residual heat in the dryer.
- Periodically inspect your dryer vent to ensure it is not blocked. This will save energy and may prevent a fire. Manufacturers recommend using rigid venting material, not plastic vents that may collapse and cause blockages.
- Look for the ENERGY STAR© and EnergyGuide labels.
There are many options when it comes to lighting. When looking at what to select for your lighting needs, be sure to check out at LEDs. With unbeatable efficiencies, long useful life spans and competitive pricing, LEDs are a great option.
- A light-emitting diode (LED) is a type of solid-state lighting that uses a semiconductor to convert electricity into light. Today’s LED bulbs can be six-seven times more energy efficient than conventional incandescent lights and cut energy use by more than 80 percent.
- Good-quality LED bulbs can have a useful life of 25,000 hours or more -- meaning they can last more than 25 times longer than traditional light bulbs. That is a life of more than 23 years if run 3 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Unlike incandescent bulbs -- which release 90 percent of their energy as heat -- LEDs use energy far more efficiently with little wasted heat.
- LEDs contain no mercury or other hazardous materials, making them an environmentally friendly option.
- LED bulbs also turn on to full brightest instantly compared to a delay experienced with CFLs.
- Be sure to place the faucet lever on the kitchen sink in the cold position when using small amounts of water. Placing the lever in the hot position uses energy to heat the water, even though it never reaches the faucet.
- Keep range-top burners and reflectors clean. They will reflect the heat better and you will save energy.
- Use a covered kettle or pan to boil water. It is faster and it uses less energy.
- Match the size of the pan to the size of the heating element.
- If you cook with electricity, turn the stovetop burners off several minutes before the allotted cooking time. The heating element will stay hot long enough to finish the cooking without using more electricity. The same principle applies to oven cooking.
- Use small electric pans or toaster ovens for small meals rather than your large stove or oven. A toaster oven uses a third to half as much energy as a full-sized oven.
- Use pressure cookers and microwave ovens whenever it is convenient to do so. They can save energy by significantly reducing cooking time.
Refrigerator / Freezer Tips
- Look for a refrigerator with automatic moisture control. Models with this feature have been engineered to prevent moisture accumulation on the cabinet exterior without the addition of a heater. This is not the same thing as an "anti-sweat" heater. Models with an anti-sweat heater will consume 5% to 10% more energy than models without this feature.
- Don't keep your refrigerator or freezer too cold. Recommended temperatures are 37 to 40o F for the fresh food compartment of the refrigerator and 5o F for the freezer section. If you have a separate freezer for long-term storage, it should be kept at 0o F.
- To check the refrigerator temperature, place an appliance thermometer in a glass of water in the center of the refrigerator. Read it after 24 hours. To check the freezer temperature, place a thermometer between frozen packages. Read it after 24 hours.
- Regularly defrost manual-defrost refrigerators and freezers. Frost buildup increases the amount of energy needed to maintain the set temperature. Don't allow frost to build up more than one-quarter of an inch.
- Make sure your refrigerator door seals are airtight. Test them by closing the door over a piece of paper or a dollar bill so that the paper or bill is half in and half out of the refrigerator. If you can pull the paper or bill out easily, the latch may need adjustment or the seal may need replacing.
- Cover liquids and wrap foods stored in the refrigerator. Uncovered foods release moisture and make the compressor work harder.
- Keep all south-facing glass clean.
- Make sure that objects do not block the sunlight shining on concrete slab floors or heat-absorbing walls.
- Consider using insulating curtains to reduce excessive heat loss from large windows at night.
Programmable thermostats automatically adjust your home's temperature settings, allowing you to save energy while you are away or sleeping. These units save energy by offering convenient, pre-programmed temperature settings that allow you to anticipate when it is convenient for you to scale back on heating or cooling.
Water Heating Tips
- Repair leaky faucets promptly, a leaky faucet wastes gallons of water in a short period.
- Install non-aerating low-flow faucets and showerheads.
- Buy a new energy efficient water heater. While it may cost more initially than a standard water heater, the energy savings will continue during the lifetime of the appliance.
- Although most water heaters last 10 to 15 years, it is best to start shopping for a new one if yours is more than 7 years old. Doing some research before your heater fails will enable you to select one that most appropriately meets your needs.
- Lower the thermostat on your water heater. Water heaters sometimes come from the factory with high temperature settings, but a setting of 115o F provides comfortably hot water for most uses.
- Take more showers than baths. Bathing uses the most hot water in the average household. You use 15 to 25 gallons of hot water for a bath, but less than 10 gallons during a 5 minute shower.
- First, test your home for air tightness. On a windy 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.
- Caulk and weatherstrip doors and windows that leak air.
- Caulk and seal air leaks where plumbing, ducting or electrical wiring penetrates through exterior walls, floors, ceilings and soffits over cabinets.
- Install rubber gaskets behind outlet and switch plates on exterior walls.
- Look for dirty spots in your insulation, which often indicate holes where air leaks into and out of your house. You can seal the holes with spray foam.
- Install storm windows over single-pane windows or replace them with double-pane windows. Storm windows as much as double the R-value of single-pane windows and they can help reduce drafts, water condensation and frost formation. As a less costly and less permanent alternative, you can use a heavy duty, clear plastic sheet on a frame or tape clear plastic film to the inside of your window frames during the cold winter months. Remember, the plastic must be sealed tightly to the frame to help reduce infiltration.
Besides encouraging energy conservation, Minnesota Valley offers all co-op members the option of voluntarily purchasing additional electricity produced by wind. Through Basin Electric Power Cooperative, we produce and purchase wind each month in support of renewable resources. The cost to purchase wind power from Minnesota Valley is $1.00 for each 100 Kilowatt-Hour (kWh) block purchased per month, in addition to your regular energy usage. Sign up by contacting Minnesota Valley at 320.269.2163 or 1.800.247.5051.
- Install exterior or interior storm windows. Storm windows can reduce heat loss through your windows by 25 to 50%. Storm windows should have weatherstripping on all moveable joints; be made of strong, durable materials; and have interlocking or overlapping joints. Low-E storm windows save even more energy.
- Repair and weatherize your current storm windows, if necessary.
- You can save 10% or more on your energy bill just by reducing the air leaks in your home.
- Install tight-fitting, insulating window shades on windows that feel drafty after weatherizing.
- Close your curtains and shades at night; open them during the day.
- Keep windows on the south side of your house clean to maximize solar gain.
You can find additional energy conservation resources at the following web sites: