Energy Diet: Make home comfort a priority

The Northwest Colorado Energy Diet Challenge is a tool that encourages us to take steps to reduce our energy usage and thus reduce how much we pay in our monthly energy bills. The Energy Diet Challenge checklist includes a number of “Do Right Away” action items under the “Nice & Easy” category. This week, we take a look at some of those possibilities.

■ Install motion sensors on outdoor porch lights.

We all leave outside lights on for extended periods even though we may be not home or have gone to sleep. Any outside lights (porch, garage, etc.) can be turned into a positive for energy usage and home security by installing motion sensors. Installing motion sensors provides savings and security. The light goes off when timed out by the sensor (the savings) and will turn on when motion trips the sensor (the security).

■ Install weatherstripping on exterior doors and windows.

“Complicated” and “labor-intensive” best describes the tasks undertaken by anyone serious about stopping the air leaks into and out of the home. The simple rule of “Hot goes to cold” gives an easy way to understand window and exterior door leak issues. Most 20-year-old homes have enough leakage to be equivalent to leaving a window fully open at all times.

Conduct a simple test: Stand by any closed door or window with a lit candle and move it along the sealing area. The candle will move easily with any air motion at the seal. The greater the motion from the candle flame, the greater the leak. Some sealing leaks air in, and some sealing leaks air out dependent upon the exterior wind direction and side of the home being measured. Air leaks are the primary reason for the cold drafts felt within a home, especially when the wind is strong and constant.

■ Install ceiling or circulating fans.

Many homes do not feel uniformly warm throughout. Much of this problem can be addressed by putting ceiling fans in the highest ceiling areas and in hallways. Warm air rises to the ceiling, thus being trapped in this higher space unless forced to circulate around by a fan. Hallways are a primary area for trapped warm air. Air circulation in the hallway will aid in the balance of heat in the adjoining rooms. For bigger rooms and stairways, a ceiling fan in the room and stairways will move the air between multiple floors and out into the home for a more uniform heating effect. Floor fans can be effective as an intermediate action, but ceiling fans are the best solution.

■ Use a power strip when turning off computers, TVs, stereos and appliances.

The discussion for this item is limited to a few words of caution before taking action. Not all appliances, TVs, stereos and computers can just be turned off at the switch on the power strip. Proper shutdown and boot-up procedures should be followed to avoid data loss or warranty noncompliance.

■ Replace or clean the filter on your furnace monthly.

Forced-air heating systems circulate warm air much more efficiently when the air is not blown through dust, dirt, pollen and cat and dog hair trapped in the filter. By changing or cleaning your filter regularly your heating system will work more efficiently, thus saving you money.

Energy reduction tips

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

■ Adjust the thermostat to 78 in summer and 68 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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