Energy Diet: 5 easy actions to save energy

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Reducing your energy consumption and costs doesn’t have to be difficult or costly.

The Northwest Colorado Energy Diet Challenge Checklist provides a list of easy energy-reducing actions to “Do Right Away.” Here are five “Nice and Easy” action items you can accomplish today:

1) Replace incandescent light bulbs with CFL or LED light bulbs.

Of the many “Nice and Easy” actions that can be taken, changing your light bulbs is the most controversial and confusing. CFL and LED bulbs vary greatly among manufacturers, and the design should be specific to the lighting situation (ceiling lights, lamps, recessed lights, outdoor lights, etc.).

We recommend speaking with a knowledgeable salesperson at a lighting store to select the correct bulb for your needs. CFL bulbs contain mercury, so they require safe disposal when broken or burnt out. A non-biased resource for a complete study of CFL and LED bulbs is the October edition of Consumer Reports magazine.

Website references listed in the Energy Diet Checklist also can help answer your questions.

CFL and LED bulbs cost much more than incandescent bulbs, but savings are based on their long lives (20-plus years) and lower energy usage. And, in the case of LED lights, the light output can surpass that of an incandescent bulb.

2) Lower your hot water heater’s temperature to 120 degrees.

The adjustment is done easily, typically by a temperature selection dial on the outside of the heater. The water heater owner’s manual or the manufacturer’s website is the best reference if more help is needed.

Along with the lowering of hot water temperature, installation of a hot water holding tank insulating blanket will result in more energy savings. These blankets can be purchased locally or through a website; just be sure you get a blanket that is the right height and diameter for your tank.

Note that not all hot water heaters can or should have a blanket. Check with your manufacturer to be sure an insulation blanket is right for your heater.

3) Clean the coils in your refrigerator and freezer.

The coils behind the refrigerators and freezers in your home provide one of the primary functions of the cooling cycle in a modern compressor-based appliance. The condensing coils are typically at the rear of the unit, look like rows of tubes within an open cage and require the unit to be moved out of normal position for a complete and safe cleaning.

Keep the condenser coils free of dust and debris while maintaining an open area for air circulating to the coils.

4) Set your refrigerator to 38 degrees and your freezer to 5 degrees.

The temperature required to keep food safe for consumption without freezing is 40 degrees, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Energy Diet Checklist suggests 38 degrees to assure the food in the refrigerator can be safe from spoilage for a bit longer if and when the door is opened frequently. There is no sense in keeping your refrigerator or freezer cooler than it needs to be.

5) Let the sun shine in during winter, and use blinds or window coverings during summer.

This is a simple and easy step to keep your home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. By opening your window coverings during winter days, you allow the warmth of the sun to warm your home.

On winter nights, close your window coverings to keep the cold out. Use the same principles but in reverse for summer.

“Nice and Easy” energy reduction tips

■ Turn off lights when they’re not in use.

■ Adjust the thermostat to 78 degrees in summer and 68 degrees in winter.

■ Replace incandescent light bulbs with CFL or LED bulbs.

■ Lower the hot water heater temperature to 120 degrees.

■ Clean refrigerator and freezer coils.

■ Set your refrigerator to 38 degrees and freezer to 5 degrees.

■ Run the dishwasher only when it’s full.

■ Let the sun heat the house in winter, and use blinds in the summer.

■ Install motions sensors on outdoor lights.

■ Install weatherstripping on exterior doors and windows.

■ Install ceiling or circulating fans.

■ Plug electronics into a power strip, and turn off the power strip when not in use.

■ Replace or clean furnace filters monthly.

Beason is a member of the Northwest Colorado Energy Plan steering committee.

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