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Save Energy, Save Money

When winter’s chill returns, energy costs are on just about everyone’s mind. While the price of oil and gas fluctuates even more than the barometer, the trend toward higher costs is clear. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to save energy . . . and money.

One of the most important— and simplest—ways to save is simply turning down the thermostat when you leave the house. Just by turning heat down to 60 degrees while at work and at night, you’ll save a significant amount of energy. Or, use programmable thermostats that do this for you automatically.

Upgrade efficiency

Check the age of your heating and hot water systems, because older systems may be sending too much heat up the chimney. If you have an oil-fired system that is more than 15 or 20 years old, have your oil company come in and evaluate it. There have been significant improvements in the efficiency of boilers and burners in recent years. Also, have your heating system tuned up every year to make certain it’s running at peak efficiency. If not properly maintained, those midnight service calls can get very expensive

While oil prices are well off their historic highs, some homeowners have turned to alternative fuels to reduce their own dependence on oil. For many, the answer has been investing in a pellet-burning stove.

Pellet advantages

Wood pellets offer advantages over wood-burning stoves, including more convenience and greater efficiency. Alternative fuels can be a good way to complement an existing heating system, rather than replacing it. Many people use a pellet stove or propane fireplace insert to ‘space heat’ one or two rooms. This allows them to be comfortable in the main living space, while letting the rest of the house go cooler. Cost savings isn’t the only reason people choose alternative fuels. For many, using pellets is a way for them to avoid being held captive to other fuels and gives them greater flexibility. It helps put them in charge

Keep the heat in

No matter how you generate heat, taking steps to make sure it stays inside your house also makes sense. Replacing drafty old windows and doors with new energy-efficient units can deliver a major cost savings. Depending on the house and the replacement units installed, upgrading windows can reduce energy use up to 20 or 30 percent. In addition to energy savings, modern windows can make your home quieter and a lot more comfortable. At an average cost of about $400 per unit, upgrading your windows is a significant investment, but one that can deliver savings for years to come.

Other ways to save are all around you. Here are a few more ideas:

  • Use compact fluorescent light bulbs.
  • Air dry dishes instead of using your dishwasher's drying cycle.
  • Turn off your computer and monitor when not in use.
  • Plug home electronics, such as TVs and DVD players, into power strips; turn the power strips off when the equipment is not in use (TVs and DVDs in standby mode still use several watts of power.
  • Lower the thermostat on your hot water heater to 120° F.
  • Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes.
  • Drive sensibly. Aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking) wastes gasoline.

Visit the U.S. Department of Energy web site at www.energysavers.gov to learn more about home energy efficiency initiatives. After all, using energy wisely saves you money, while benefiting us all. Now that’s a “win-win” we can all warm up to!

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