Radford Words: Save Energy, Save Your Budget

Radford Words
Save Energy, Save Your Budget

It's that time of the year again--chilly temperatures and rising fuel costs are here. Whether staying warm at home or driving to your next destination, there are steps you can take to conserve energy, cut costs and help the environment.
The utilities that we use, such as electricity and heating and cooling systems, make us comfortable, but they are also responsible for releasing carbon dioxide, which adds to global warming, and sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that cause acid rain. You can help reduce these effects by evaluating your energy usage and finding ways to conserve. It will save you money and help the environment.
The most effective way to cut costs is to maintain and upgrade your equipment when needed. Energy efficiency can save money and decrease pollution. Rick Roth, associate professor of geography at Radford University, says something as small as a light bulb can play a major role in energy conservation and reduce the risk of global warming. As an exercise in his environmental studies class, Roth and his students examine the "life cycle cost" of the standard incandescent bulb versus the compact fluorescent bulb (CFL). They find that the CFL, while ten times more expensive to purchase, ultimately saves money because it lasts longer and uses less energy.
"Similar energy-efficient choices are available in home appliances, furnaces, and other energy-using technologies," says Roth. CFL bulbs produce the same amount of light as incandescent bulbs but use less electricity, which reduces the amount of coal that must be burned (most electricity is produced by burning coal). Replacing your old bulbs with fluorescents can save a significant amount on your lighting bill and reduce the emission of carbon dioxide. CFL lighting only uses one-quarter of the energy used by incandescent bulbs.
Roth adds, "We have two possibilities for using less energy: make do with less light, less heat, less air conditioning; or improve our energy efficiency, and have just as much light, heat, or air conditioning while using less energy." You can conserve energy by simply being aware and focused on efficiency.
These tips from the U.S. Department of Energy can help you save energy and cut costs at home and in the car year round:
At Home
* Set your thermostat as low as is comfortable in the winter and as high as is comfortable in the summer.
* Clean or replace filters on furnaces once a month or as needed.
* Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters, and radiators as needed; make sure they're not blocked by furniture, carpeting, or drapes.
* Turn off kitchen, bath, and other exhaust fans within 20 minutes after you are done cooking or bathing; when replacing exhaust fans, consider installing high-efficiency, low-noise models.
* During the heating season, keep the draperies and shades on your south-facing windows open during the day to allow the sunlight to enter your home and closed at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.
* During the cooling season, keep the window coverings closed during the day to prevent solar gain.
* Install exterior or interior storm windows; storm windows can reduce heat loss through the windows by 25% to 50%.
* Repair leaky faucets promptly; a leaky faucet wastes gallons of water in a short period of time.
* Lower the thermostat on your water heater; water heaters sometimes come from the factory with high temperature settings, but a setting of 120_F provides comfortable hot water for most uses.
* Take more showers than baths. Bathing uses the most hot water in the average household. You use 15-25 gallons of hot water for a bath, but less than 10 gallons during a 5-minute shower.
* Turn off the lights in any room you're not using.
* Use task lighting; instead of brightly lighting an entire room, focus the light where you need it.
* Consider three-way lamps; they make it easier to keep lighting levels low when brighter light is not necessary.
* Use CFLs in all the portable table and floor lamps in your home.
* Exterior lighting is one of the best places to use CFLs because of their long life.
In the car
* Idling gets you 0 miles per gallon. The best way to warm up a vehicle is to drive it. No more than 30 seconds of idling on winter days is needed. Anything more simply wastes fuel and increases emissions.
* Aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration, and hard braking) wastes gas. It can lower your highway gas mileage 33% and city mileage 5%.
* Avoid high speeds. Each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying $0.10 more per gallon of gas.
* Use air conditioning only when necessary.
* Clear out your car; extra weight decreases gas mileage.
* Use the grade of motor oil recommended by your car's manufacturer. Using a different motor oil can lower your gasoline mileage by 1%-2%.
* Keep tires properly inflated and aligned to improve your gasoline mileage by around 3.3%.
* Get regular engine tune-ups and car maintenance checks to avoid fuel economy problems due to worn spark plugs, dragging brakes, low transmission fluid, or transmission problems.
* Replace clogged air filters to improve gas mileage by as much as 10% and protect your engine.
* Combine errands into one trip. Several short trips, each one taken from a cold start, can use twice as much fuel as one trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm.
* Check into carpooling and public transit to cut mileage and car maintenance costs.

Article courtesy of Radford University (www.radford.edu).