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Energy Lost

The United States Department of Energy (DOE) has designated October as Energy Awareness Month. This recognition comes at the perfect time because, as winter approaches, it’s easy to overlook many different areas in our homes and businesses where energy will be lost or consumed without bringing benefit. As the old Greek proverb implies, “Out of sight, out of mind.” Only when a high utility bill arrives, do most people become “aware” of the energy waste.

To heighten energy awareness, consider these often-ignored home energy efficiency errors:

  • Lights left on. Especially as the days grow shorter, lighting is needed for longer periods. But when occupants leave a room or area, the simple act of switching the light “off” is frequently forgotten. If this becomes a chronic problem, installing an occupancy sensor switch to automate the process is a simple solution. If exterior lighting regularly operates into the next day, a photosensor switch can deactivate the electrical circuit as dawn arrives.
  • Windows not tightly closed. Respite from the summer heat is often found after the sun goes down and a cool breeze can be drawn through the house by opening all the windows. While most are shut before the heat of the following day, some may not be closed all way and locked. Others may be missed in spare rooms, basements or other areas not frequently occupied. With differences between indoor and outdoor temperatures often doubling in the winter when compared to summer periods, the undesired air infiltration can significantly impact home heating costs.
  • Furnace filters unchanged. Dirty furnace filters add resistance to air flow through HVAC systems causing them to operate longer to keep the indoor climate comfortable. While the life of a furnace filter will vary due to a number of factors, it’s a good idea to examine filters at least every 60 days until a replacement schedule is established. Placing a bi-monthly reminder on a calendar helps assure it does not get overlooked.
  • Attic access unsealed. The most common type of attic access style is the attic ladder and hatch system. Others include a simple hatch in the ceiling or a door into the unconditioned attic space. Regardless of type, all should be insulated and sealed with weatherstripping to reduce energy loss.
  • Fireplace flues left open. Who doesn’t like a cozy fire on a chilly evening? Obviously, proper exhausting of smoke and fumes is necessary until the embers have completely burnt out. This usually means leaving the flue open until the next day. But the next day’s affairs regularly take priority and the open flue may be forgotten. This allows interior heated air to literally go right up the chimney! Placing reminder notes where they will be seen first thing in the next morning can be great for correcting this oversight.
  • Water heater set too high. Even though many water heaters are set at 140 degrees Fahrenheit by default, the DOE recommends 120°F for energy efficiency. For every 10 degrees the thermostat is lowered, energy costs for water heating can be reduced by 3 to 5%.
  • Plug loads drawing energy. Many home electronics, battery chargers and appliances use standby power even when they appear to be off. Any device that uses a remote control, has an external power supply or a continuous display are still consuming power. Connecting multiple electronics to a power strip makes it easier to switch off unused devices all at once to assure unnecessary energy use does not occur.

With space and water heating accounting for about half of annual energy use in the average Nebraska home, these often-overlooked energy losses can add up. Recognizing these losses is the first step to improving energy efficiency. Your local utility, can help identify other ways to gain the most value from your energy costs. For more energy-saving ideas for your home, business, or farming operation, contact your local public power utility.

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