How to Lower Home Energy Costs
Think the only answer is to turn down the heat and break out the flannel underwear? Then you need to back away from the thermostat--and take this quiz.
(MONEY Magazine) – 1) After two years of double-digit hikes, the price of heating fuels are expected to moderate this year. One energy source, in fact, may even fall in price. Which one?
[A] Electricity [B] Natural gas [C] Heating oil
ANSWER: B. Natural gas prices are expected to drop 8.9% this winter. But keeping your home toasty will still be no bargain: The 56% of U.S. homes that heat with gas face average bills of $903 this winter; those that use oil (7% of households) will pay about $1,698, and those with electricity (29%), $836.
2) Ouch. What's the best way to cool that pricey heating bill?
[A] Sealing air leaks in window jambs, door frames, vents [B] Improving insulation in the ceilings, walls and floors [C] Turning down your thermostat 5°while you're at work [D] Bribing the meter reader
ANSWER: B. Installing adequate insulation can result in savings of up to 30%, according to the Conservation Services Group. (Find the best type for your house at ornl.gov/~roofs/Zip/ZipHome.html). But sealing leaks can also cut energy costs--by as much as 10%. As for your thermostat, each degree you turn it down should trim about 1% off your bill. So keep it lower when possible.
3) After heating and cooling, what makes up the next-biggest chunk of the average energy bill?
[A] Electronics and appliances [B] Hot water [C] Lighting [D] Plug-in air fresheners
ANSWER: A. Appliances and electronics are responsible for some 20% of the typical home energy bill, according to the Department of Energy. And that low hum you hear is your refrigerator siphoning off your paycheck; at about $90 a year, it costs more to operate than any other household electric appliance. Save yourself some lettuce by operating the icebox at 37°F to 40°F and keeping it stocked. (The more food, the less space needs to be cooled.) A few other money-saving tips: Run washers and dryers only when full, set your computer to slip into sleep mode if left inactive and turn off power strips when not in use.
4) Uncle Sam wants you...to save energy. So he'll give you a break if you install which of these?
[A] New windows [B] A new hot-water heater [C] A geothermal Jacuzzi [D] A and B
ANSWER: D. Install energy-efficient windows and you may be able to take a $200 tax credit; claim $300 for a new water heater. Some fans, furnaces and roofs are also eligible. Visit ase.org (click on Consumers) for details. But act fast: These deductions, courtesy of the 2005 energy bill, are available only through the end of 2007.
5) Electricity costs are expected to go up 4.3% this year, so it'd be a bright idea to switch to which of the following types of lightbulbs?
[A] Incandescent [B] Fluorescent [C] Funkadelic [D] Halogen
ANSWER: B. How many dollars does it take to screw in a lightbulb? A lot fewer if you replace incandescents--the familiar pear-shaped bulbs--with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). A 20-watt CFL produces as much light as a 75-watt incandescent and lasts 10 times as long. The average household could save about $100 a year by switching to CFLs, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
TRUE OR FALSE: Appliances that have a stainless-steel finish are, by design, ultra-energy-efficient.
ANSWER: FALSE. A facade is just a facade when it comes to energy savings. If an appliance is truly efficient, it'll be marked with the government's Energy Star logo. A washing machine with this rating will save you $50 a year over one without it--and that's a clean winner.