Fighting the High Cost of Energy

When Hurricane Katrina and her younger sister, Rita, slammed into the Gulf Coast in late summer, they delivered a hard one-two punch. Energy prices prior to their arrival were already high, but the blow delivered by these two hurricanes has nearly knocked us to our knees. Nonetheless, with careful planning and creativity, we can weather the surge in energy costs.

The Big Three

According to Utah Power and Light, the appliances doing the most damage to your energy bill are the air conditioner, furnace, and refrigerator. Fifty-one percent of your energy bill goes to just these three appliances. Here are ways to lessen these expenses.

-Buy a programmable thermostat. Set the thermostat for your family’s needs. Have it automatically adjust up and down to accommodate bedtimes, mornings, and time away from home.

-Change the furnace filter every two months and make sure the cold air return is free from obstruction.

-Check the furnace belts for wear and tear and replace them when needed.

-If your home has older windows consider replacing them to eliminate heat and cool air from escaping through your windows. Caulk the windows as needed.

-Check the insulation in your attic to see if it has packed down with time. An additional four to five inches of insulation will help regulate how much heat is coming in and going out of the house.

Little Things Add Up

The next biggest offender to our energy bill is the light bulb. The lights in our homes add up to fourteen percent of our energy bill. One helpful idea is to set a goal and reward your family if they work together and lower the energy bill by a specific amount.

Another practical way to save money on the light bill is to switch to compact fluorescent lighting. The bulbs cost a little more, but they use fewer amps, less energy, and last ten times longer.

There are always new ways to save money on our energy bills. Some other simple changes include:

-Turn off curling irons, TVs, radios, game systems, and computers when not in use.

-Switch from hot water washing to cold water washing. Today’s detergents are designed to perform in cold water as well as they do in hot.

-Turn the water heater down to 110˚F.

-Purchase a surge protector for your computer with a battery backup. It cuts down on power bumps. Since you pay on amps used and not on voltage, those bumps spike your electric meter and cause you to spend more than is necessary.

On the Road Again

Unfortunately, the energy bills in our homes are not the only bills growing rapidly. Fuel costs for cars have also skyrocketed.  Try these suggestions to save money at the pump:

-Consult your owner’s manual and check your tire pressure. Under inflated or worn tires add two percent more to your energy cost for each pound under pressure.

-Don’t let your tank dwindle to empty. If you keep your tank half full or more your engine will run more efficiently and you can shop for lower prices instead of being forced to buy at the nearest gas station.

-Buy regular gas instead of high octane. Most cars are designed to run on regular gasoline; higher octane only costs more and does not make your car run any more efficiently.

-Don’t top off your tank. Reactivating the fuel pump in short bursts increases the likelihood of the pump falsely recording the amount of gas you are delivering to your tank.

-Change the oil, spark plugs, and filters when needed and keep it tuned up.

-Examine your gas cap for a tight fit and check for signs of wear. A faulty gas cap allows for evaporation.

-Lighten your load. For every hundred pounds of extra weight, your fuel efficiency declines by two percent.

-Slow down. Reducing your speed from 70 mph to 65 mph saves 10 cents a gallon. Erratic acceleration can add up to 50 cents per gallon.

While some of these suggestions seem to only save a penny here and a penny there, they can mean the difference between lean and plenty to your pocketbook. Nature may have dealt us a one-two punch, but if we always look for waste and then ways to eliminate it, we can make it through price hikes and have a little extra.

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