Energy-Saving Tips for Fall

Q: What’s the best way to save electricity on lighting despite fewer hours of daylight?

A: In these darker months the No. 1 thing you can do to save money on your lighting bills, experts say, is switch from incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs. CFL bulbs can reduce your lighting energy usage up to 75 percent. Still, some consumers worry about potential mercury exposure if the bulbs break and are bothered by the harsh white glow of fluorescent bulbs. Some of these concerns are allayed by widely available plastic-coated, shatterproof CFLs and bulbs on the lower end of the lighting spectrum that are designed to mimic the warmer tones of standard incandescent bulbs.  CFL bulbs, however, cannot be thrown out in the regular garbage. Instead they must be recycled properly through municipal hazardous-waste collection programs or brought to participating stores, like Lowe’s. The EPA offers recycling locations on its website. You know, CFLs have come a long way in the last few years.  You can see by the photo that there are now bulbs for chandoliers, recessed lighting and bathroom vanities.  I think you should have a house full of them.  Wait a minute.  Did I hear you say that you would need to buy a house first?  Believe me.  That can be arranged!

Q: What’s the best way to stay warm in my house while saving money?

A: Other than closing leaks, changing air filters once a month, insulating well and sealing your doors and windows, the best and most efficient way to stay warm, experts say, is by keeping the heat local. Set your programmable overall thermostat very low — especially at night while you are sleeping and during the day when you are out of the house — and keep your personal space cozy with space heaters, warming bricks, hot water bottles, heating blankets and heated slippers.

That said, space heaters should be used with extreme caution — especially around small children — and you should opt for those with the latest safety features, such as automatic shut-off when they tip. Keep them away from combustible materials and high-traffic areas of your home, and plug them directly into the wall instead of using an extension cord. Oil-fueled radiant heaters are considered to be some of the safest because they never get hot enough to ignite a fire. If used properly, the energy used by space heaters will amount to far less than it would cost to heat an entire home.

This doesn’t mean you should shut off central air registers in certain parts of the house. That can damage your HVAC system by creating too much pressure and overheating your furnace. If you want to close off some rooms, consult a specialist to see what works best for your particular system.

If you think it’s cheaper to maintain a constant temperature rather than letting your house cool when you’re out and then warming it up when you’re home, think again. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that for every degree you turn down your thermostat for an eight-hour period in the winter, you can expect a correlating percentage of energy savings.

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