October is National Energy Awareness Month, when Americans are called up to work together, "to achieve greater energy security, a more robust economy, and a healthier environment for our children," President Obama said in an official proclamation.
This year marks the 21st anniversary of October as National Energy Awareness Month.
Windows and doors, appliances and electronics, insulation and energy audits, there is much to do in October. There are some common culprits.
Virtually every building component in a home needs to be replaced at some point, and windows are no exception.
Window experts recommend the following do-it-yourself tips to gain an initial impression of how well your current windows and patio doors are functioning:
- Examine the inside of your windows and patio doors for hot and cold "drafty" spots (or drafty areas). This indicates air infiltration which can lead to reduced energy efficiency.
- Check every window and door to make sure there is adequate weatherstripping and caulking around the units. This helps eliminate air infiltration and ensure a weather tight, secure seal.
- If your windows no longer open or close easily, or if they need to be propped open, it could mean key components within the units are damaged or need adjustment. It could also mean the unit needs to be replaced entirely.
- Check the "fit" of your current windows or patio doors by having someone stand outside the units at night. With a small flashlight, stand inside and "travel" around the edge of the units. If the person outside sees light coming through the edges, this indicates a poor installation and is resulting in energy loss.
In checking for air leaks in the home, the U.S. Department of Energy recommends a visual inspection.
On the outside of your house, inspect all areas where two different building materials meet, including:
- All exterior corners.
- Outdoor water faucets.
- Where siding and chimneys meet.
- Areas where the foundation and the bottom of exterior brick or siding meet.
Inside the home, inspect around the following areas for any cracks and gaps that could cause air leaks:
- Electrical outlets.
- Switch plates.
- Door and window frames.
- Electrical and gas service entrances.
- Weather stripping around doors.
- Fireplace dampers.
- Attic hatches.
- Wall- or window-mounted air conditioners.
- Cable TV and phone lines.
- Where dryer vents pass through walls.
- Vents and fans.
Also look for gaps around pipes and wires, foundation seals, and mail slots. Check to see if the caulking and weather stripping are applied properly, leaving no gaps or cracks, and are in good condition. Check the exterior caulking around doors and windows, and see whether exterior storm doors and primary doors seal tightly.
You may also wish to consider replacing your old windows and doors with newer, high-performance ones. If new factory-made doors or windows are too costly, you can install low-cost plastic sheets over the windows.
Home Electronics Tips
- Look for energy-saving Energy Star home electronics.
- Unplug appliances, or use a power strip and use the switch on the power strip to cut all power to the appliance, to avoid "vampire" loads. Many appliances continue to draw a small amount of power when they are switched off. These vampire loads occur in most appliances that use electricity, such as DVD players, TVs, stereos, computers, and kitchen appliances. Unplug battery chargers when the batteries are fully charged or the chargers are not in use.
- Use rechargeable batteries for products like cordless phones and digital cameras. Studies have shown they are more cost effective than disposable batteries. If you must use disposables, check with your trash removal company about safe disposal options.
Refrigerator-Freezer Energy Tips
- Don't keep your refrigerator or freezer too cold. Recommended temperatures are 37 degrees to 40 degrees for the fresh food compartment and 5 degrees for the freezer section. If you have a separate freezer for long-term storage, it should be kept at 0 degrees.
- Check the refrigerator temperature by placing an appliance thermometer in a glass of water in the center of the refrigerator. Read it after 24 hours. Check the freezer temperature by placing a thermometer between frozen packages. Read it after 24 hours.
- Make sure your refrigerator door seals are airtight. Test them by closing the door over a piece of paper or a dollar bill so it is half in and half out of the refrigerator. If you can pull the paper or bill out easily, the latch may need adjustment, the seal may need replacing, or you may consider buying a new unit.
- Cover liquids and wrap foods stored in the refrigerator. Uncovered foods release moisture and make the compressor work harder.
- Regularly defrost manual-defrost freezers and refrigerators; frost buildup decreases the energy efficiency of the unit. Don't allow frost to build up more than one-quarter of an inch.
Other Kitchen Tips
- Place the faucet lever on the kitchen sink in the cold position when using small amounts of water; placing the lever in the hot position draws hot water even though it may never reach the faucet.
- Look for a natural gas oven or range with an automatic, electric ignition system, which saves gas since a pilot light is not burning continuously.
- Look for blue flames in natural gas appliances; yellow flames indicate the gas is burning inefficiently and an adjustment may be needed. If you see yellow flames, consult the manufacturer or your local utility.
- Keep range-top burners and reflectors clean; they will reflect the heat better, and you will save energy.
- Use a covered kettle or pan or electric kettle to boil water; it's faster and uses less energy.
- Match the size of the pan to the heating element.
- Use small electric pans, toaster ovens, or convection ovens for small meals rather than your large stove or oven. A toaster or convection oven uses one-third to one-half as much energy as a full-sized oven.
For more ideas, visit www.energysavers.gov.