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Heating & Cooling

HEATING
Making a few low cost no cost changes can increase comfort in your home and boost your bottom line! Here are a few ways to get started:

  • Make sure heat vents and return air vents are not blocked by furniture or drapes.
  • Change HVAC filters twice a year and clean it monthly during the heating season. Return filters should be changed each month. TIP: change the filter when the rent/mortgage payment is due.
  • Set the thermostat at the lowest possible setting. Rocky Mount Public Utilities recommends setting the thermostat at 68º Fahrenheit during the winter months to maximize comfort and savings.
  • Set back the thermostat a maximum of 10º at night, unless you have a heat pump.
  • Install a programmable thermostat to properly regulate the temperature. Programmable thermostats allow you to set a schedule to automatically set back the thermostat during the night or times of day when the home is unoccupied.
  • If you suspect your thermostat is not accurate, place a thermometer nearby and see if they record the same number.
  • Do not use the oven to heat your kitchen.
  • Install weather stripping and caulk around all doors and windows to prevent air infiltration.
  • Keep dampers closed when fireplace isn't in use. Unblocked, a good chimney can draw up to 20% of the warm air out of the house each hour.
  • Open shades and drapes on the sunny side of the home to help heat it during the day. Be sure to close the shades or drapes at night to prevent heat loss.
  • Use ceiling fans to distribute heat around the room.

COOLING
Here are a few low cost and no cost ways to save on cooling costs:

  • Set the thermostat at the highest comfortable setting. Rocky Mount Public Utilities recommends setting the air at 78º Fahrenheit during the summer months to maximize comfort and savings.
  • Install a programmable thermostat to properly regulate the temperature. Programmable thermostats allow you to set a schedule to automatically set back the thermostat during the night or times of day when the home is unoccupied.
  • Use drapes or shades to block the hot sun during the warmest hours of the day.
  • Strategically placed landscaping can cut down on energy costs. Planting trees and shrubs near south and west-facing windows will create more shade and help cool your home.
  • For a quicker solution, add a lattice screen with a vine plant on it. Be sure the screen is far enough from the house to prevent the plants from attaching themselves to the facade of the home.
  • Use cross-ventilation. Open a window high on one side of your house and another one low on the other side. This will promote natural cross ventilation. Do this in the cool of the early morning or evening.
  • Keep windows closed during the heat of the day.
  • Install weather stripping and caulk around all doors and windows to prevent air infiltration.
  • Take advantage of warm weather and cook outdoors when possible. Cooking outdoors can prevent oven and stove heat from contributing to your home's temperature.
  • A 100-watt standard light bulb puts out about 90 watts of heat and halogen torchiere uplights are equivalent to small space heaters. Changing lights that are turned on for extended periods of time to a cooler operating fluorescent can reduce the lighting-related heat in your home.

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Water Heating

The second largest energy user in most homes is the water heater. Here are a few ways to save on water heating costs:
  • Set the water heater at 120º Fahrenheit. Be sure to shut off power to the water heater before making the adjustment.
  • Fix leaky faucets immediately. One drop of hot water per second can waste 2,300 gallons of water per year... and the electricity needed to heat it.
  • Keep hot tub water at a maximum of 104º Fahrenheit for safety reasons. For each 10º drop in temperature, you can save up to 5% in water-heating energy costs.
  • Use cold water instead of hot water to operate a garbage disposal.
  • Do not run hot water continually when washing dishes by hand.
  • Install low flow showerheads. A quick shower uses less hot water. Because less water is being used, less electricity is needed to heat it.
  • Proper water heater maintenance will help the equipment operate more effectively and efficiently.
  • If your water heater is in an unconditioned space, wrap it with an insulation blanket. These blankets can be found at most home improvement stores.
  • Wrap hot water pipes that are in unconditioned spaces with insulation.
  • Check hot water pipes in crawl spaces for leaks and repair them.
  • If you have an electric water heater, consider installing a water heater timer. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, customers can save an additional 5-12% of energy by installing a water heater timer that turns the water heater off at night or during times when you are not using hot water.

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Appliances

Refrigerator/Freezer
Because they operate around the clock every day of the year, refrigerators and freezers are usually the third biggest user of electricity in the home.
  • Vacuum the condenser coils in the back or bottom every few months.
  • Set refrigerators no colder than 37º Fahrenheit and freezers at 0º Fahrenheit. Consider installing a refrigerator/freezer thermometer.
  • Defrost your freezer regularly.
  • Fill refrigerators and freezers to capacity when possible to allow them to operate at maximum efficiency. Allow enough room for air to circulate around food.
Oven and Range
  • Thaw foods before cooking to prevent longer cooking times.
  • Microwave ovens and small appliances typically consume less energy than an oven or range.
  • If a food takes more than an hour to bake it can be placed in a cold oven - no need to pre-heat.
  • Do not open the oven door. Each time the oven door is opened, up to 25% of the heat is lost.
  • Decrease the oven temperature by 25º if you use glass or ceramic dishes.
  • Match the size of your cooking utensil to the burner. The bottom of a pan should completely cover a heating element but not extend more than an inch beyond it.
  • Finish cooking most foods on low-heat settings.
Dishwasher
  • Wash only full loads.
  • Use the energy-saving cycle.
  • Use the no-heat dry feature (or open the door to air-dry the dishes.)
Clothes Washer
  • Use full loads and adjust the water level to the size of the load.
  • Use the coolest water setting that will clean clothes adequately.

If you're shopping for a new clothes washer be sure to check out the Energy Star® models!

Clothes Dryer
  • Check the dryer vent annually to be sure moist air is being vented outside your home.
  • Operate your dryer only when full (not overloaded).
  • Use the lowest heat setting appropriate to the clothes fabric being dried.
  • Clean the lint filter after each load of clothes has been dried.
  • Remove clothes before they are bone dry and wrinkles are set to reduce the need for ironing.
Household Appliances Operating Costs
There's been much emphasis on weatherizing your home to use less energy. Equally important is understanding appliance operating costs and energy consumption so you can make informed choices.

Your house can use all sorts of energy, even if you are not home. To increase convenience, many appliances are always on, even when you are not using them. Televisions and other appliances with an "instant-on feature may eliminate delay in the appliance being ready for use, but there is an energy penalty to pay. Computers and monitors are other items that are often always on. As a rule, just about any device with a remote control is always on. The water heater, refrigerator and freezer are other examples of appliances that consume energy, around the clock, whether you use them or not.

Use the Appliance Comparison Tool below to compare operating costs and energy consumption. This tool is very helpful if you are shopping for new appliances. Use it to compare consumption by entering the wattage of current vs. new appliances and measure the costs.

APPLIANCE COST CALCULATOR
Wattage of Appliance Watts
How long is it used each day? Hours
Cents per KWh
     
Cost per day $
Cost per month $
Cost per year $

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Lighting

  • Turn off lights when you leave a room.
  • Use timers in garages, attics and other areas where lights may be accidentally left on for long periods.
  • Use motion sensor controlled lights outdoors.
  • Use dimmers and three-way bulbs whenever possible so you can adjust the light to your need.
  • Keep lamps and light fixtures clean because dirt absorbs light.
  • Replace the five most frequently used light bulbs with Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFL's). According to ENERGY STAR, CFLs last 6-10 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs and use significantly less energy to produce the same amount of light. When shopping for CFLs, instead of looking for the number of Watts, look for the Lumens (or light output). Below is a guide to help determine which bulbs to choose based on the amount of light needed:
Incandescent Bulbs
(Watts)
Minimum Light Output
(Lumens)
Energy Star Qualified CFLs
(Watts)
40 450 9 to 13
60 800 13 to 15
75 1,100 18 to 25
100 1,600 23 to 30
$15 2,600 30 to 52

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While You Are Away

Your house can use all sorts of energy, even if you are not there to use appliances. Here are a few tips to help you save energy while you are away:
  • The water heater uses energy even when you are not using hot water. It uses a lot of energy just keeping the water in the tank hot. Turn off an electric water heater at the breaker box or set a gas water heater to "pilot" if you are going to be gone for more than three days. You'll need a few hours to heat the water when you return.
  • Unplug your waterbed heater, or lower the thermostat to 70º Fahrenheit when away from home seven days or more. Like water heaters, waterbeds will take time to warm up.
  • For security and energy conservation, install photocells or timers for lights. Photocells will turn the lights on at dusk and turn them off at dawn. Timers will turn the lights on and off at predetermined times.
  • The refrigerator is usually the largest user of energy in an unoccupied home, but it is not practical to unload, defrost and unplug it if you are only away for a week or two. If you leave your refrigerator on, remove perishable food, set it to a warmer temperature and fill it with gallon jugs of water. This will reduce temperature fluctuations and save energy.
  • Don't forget to unplug the TV, computer, monitor and printer, and any voltage transformers for rechargeable and multi-voltage appliances. Any device with an "instant-on" feature or a cordless remote control uses energy even when it is turned off.
  • During the winter, lower the thermostat to 50º. At settings lower than 50º you run an increased risk of frozen pipes in cold weather.
  • The only way to know for sure that an appliance is not drawing energy is to turn off the power supply by unplugging it or turning off the breaker.

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