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Becoming more energy efficient

May 4, 2011

According to information on U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer's website, the average New York family spends $2,400 on utility expenses each year. And fuel prices have risen considerably since that report was released (on Dec. 30, 2009).

In just 10 years, the cost of home heating fuel and electricity has skyrocketed. Americans have seen the price of heating oil, kerosene, propane, natural gas and electricity double, triple, even quadruple. And the price is going to continue to redouble as worldwide demand increases. Most everyone I talk with agrees that the best way to ensure an affordable, secure and sustainable energy future for everyone is to reduce our energy demands immediately.

This doesn't necessarily mean sacrificing comfort (although higher fuel and electricity prices are becoming increasingly burdensome for many in our region a dilemma that poor and middle class Americans are faced with nationwide). It does mean we all need to become more energy efficient.

It's simple. If we stop wasting energy, we start saving money. Small conservation measures can add up to substantial savings. And money that we save on fuel is money that we have to spend on other goods and services. Given the choice, wouldn't you rather spend your hard earned money on your children and grandchildren - instead of handing it over to corporate energy giants?

Start thinking of ways to use less. Set your thermostat to the lowest comfortable setting possible. And turn it down when you go to bed and when you're not at home. You can cut heating costs by 3 percent or more for every one degree that you lower your thermostat. Get into the habit of wearing a sweater.

Turn lights off when you leave a room. Turn appliances off or unplug them when they are not in use. Idle TVs and VCRs waste tremendous amounts of energy and cost U.S. consumers more than $1 billion a year. Activate the sleep feature on your PC, printer, scanner, fax, etc, so that they automatically power down when they are not in use. Turn your computer off at night and during long periods of non-use.

You can significantly reduce the cost of heating your home by eliminating drafts. A few dollars spent on weather stripping, polyurethane expanding foam, and caulk can go a long, long way! Seal around windows and doors, etc. And better insulate your home to keep the cold air out. You will use less energy and stay just as warm.

Want to save even more money? If you have not done so already, you need to replace incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). Although CFLs cost more, their life expectancy is 10 times that of comparable incandescent bulbs. And they consume only about one-fourth of the electricity.

Consider this. Replacing just one 100-watt incandescent bulb (that burns for four hours a day) with a 23-watt CFL will save about 140 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity a year. If every household in America did this, we'd reduce national fuel consumption by an amount equal to that used by more than a half million cars over that same period of time.

Whenever possible, maximize lighting effectiveness by using task lighting for reading, etc. (as opposed to illuminating an entire room) and by keeping lighting fixtures and bulbs clean.

Insulating older hot water heaters, turning your hot water heater off at night, and leaving it off if you are going to be away for several days will also save considerable amounts of energy and money. Get used to taking cooler, shorter showers, especially in preference to baths. And don't leave the water running when you're not using it.

Do these things at your office or place of business, too. And encourage others to take similar steps. Remember, practicing energy efficiency benefits everyone economically, socially and environmentally.



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