By Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen
For many, 2020 brought financial hardships, so finding new ways to save money is important in beginning the new year off right. Saving energy at home to lower your monthly bills is a good start. Here are a few simple tips to help you get organized and start an achievable path to saving energy. First, take a look at these three important steps when considering energy efficiency projects: information gathering, planning and taking action.
Start by gathering information.
Begin by reviewing your past energy bills. Knowing how and when you use energy can help you decide how ambitious your plan should be. If you have questions about your past bills or energy use, give your electric co-op a call –– they’re available to help you understand your energy bills. Your co-op may also offer a free app that can show you exact data about your home energy use.
Next, visit your electric co-op’s website to see if they offer additional assistance, like energy improvement rebates, free energy audits or other special rates and programs.
Finally, the most important step is to schedule an energy audit or conduct an online energy audit. (Remember: your electric co-op may offer free audits.) If you plan to live in your home for many years to come, hiring an energy auditor may be the best investment you can make. An energy auditor can tell you which energy efficiency actions will save you the most money or provide the biggest improvement in comfort. If you’re looking for a faster, DIY (socially distanced) method, try an online energy audit like energystar.gov’s Home Energy Yardstick.
Develop a plan.
Now that you gathered the information you need, you can develop a plan. It can be simple or more comprehensive. If your priority is cutting energy costs, you can select the measure that will deliver the most savings. Maybe you’re already planning to do work on your home, such as roofing or renovating, and you can incorporate energy efficiency strategies into that project. To complete your plan, you’ll likely need to check with local contractors or suppliers about costs.
Now that your planning is done, it’s time to take action. If you’re tackling any major energy efficiency projects that require a contractor, remember to do your research and hire a licensed, reputable professional.
In addition to energy efficiency projects and upgrades, there are other ways you can get organized to save energy:
• Replace filters regularly. A clean filter can improve the performance of your heating and cooling system, and reduce the electricity needed to pump air through your ductwork. Replace the filter now if it’s been a while, then set a reminder on your phone, online calendar or paper calendar for the next replacement. Filters should be replaced every month if you’re using an inexpensive filter, or every three months if you’re using a higher-quality filter. A better filter will do a better job and last longer.
• Program your thermostat. Heating and cooling your home account for the most energy use, so setting your thermostat to match your lifestyle can make a major difference. If you don’t have a programmable or smart thermostat, get in the habit of manually adjusting your thermostat throughout the day or setting it to the most energy efficient setting when you’re away.
• Label the circuits in your breaker box. It may not reduce your energy use, but it’s an easy way to get organized and will save a lot of headaches down the line.
We hope by taking a little time to complete these steps, you’ll be well on your way to a more energy efficient 2021!
Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen of Collaborative Efficiency write on energy efficiency topics for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56% of the nation’s landscape. For additional energy tips and information on Collaborative Efficiency visit collaborativeefficiency.com/energytips.