The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Division of Energy and Climate offers the following no- and low-cost tips to help you use less energy and save more money this winter - and in some cases, year-round.
• Set thermostat/heater temperatures lower at night and during the day when no one is home. Turn the heat down an hour before bedtime or before leaving the house; when turning the heat up, do not turn it above its usual setting to warm the house faster.
• Instead of turning up the heat, put on a sweater or warmer socks, and keep throws or blankets on the couch for television and video games. Use warm winter bedding - flannel sheets, warm blankets, comforters or quilts - to keep the family comfortable with the house cooler at night. Snuggle up and save money.
• Pull shades or curtains at night to help keep cold out and open them during the day to let sun in.
• To feel warmer and alleviate dryness, increase home humidity using an energy-efficient humidifier or by evaporating water in containers on woodstoves, radiators or heat vents.
• Make sure all windows are completely closed and latched. Check doors and windows for drafts and add weatherstripping if needed. A rolled-up towel makes a good temporary measure.
• Remove or cover window unit air conditioners to keep out drafts.
• Those with a furnace or other primary HVAC unit that requires regular service, have it cleaned and/or serviced for maximum efficiency and reliability over the winter months.
• Check to make sure the water heater and hot water pipes are well-insulated; if not, add pipe insulation or wrap-around insulation. Turn down temperature on the water heater by 10 degrees (but no lower than 120 degrees) to save energy.
• To save water and the cost of heating it, install flow-restrictors on faucets and shower heads.
• To make the home warmer next winter, take notes now and plan home improvement projects for spring and summer, such as adding insulation, caulking cracks, or replacing your old hot water heater or furnace with a more energy efficient model.
• Adding a programmable thermostat to a home’s HVAC system will allow to set day and night temperatures automatically.
• Reduce heating in unoccupied areas and, if possible, close off rooms with the greatest northern exposure. Make family-gathering places in sunny or southern-facing rooms.
The Delaware Division of Energy and Climate also works with local nonprofit agencies to provide energy conservation services for homes of low-income Delawareans. A family of four making less than $46,000 per year may qualify for free in-home weatherization services that can save owners and renters hundreds of dollars in annual heating bills. For more information about the Weatherization Assistance Program, contact 302-735-3480, or go to Home Weatherization Services.
• To reduce energy usage inside the home, turn off or unplug any appliances or electronic devices (such as computers) when they are not in use. Turn off lights when not in use.
• When using the oven, plan to cook three or four items at a time for the same cost as one – and choose a day when everyone is home to enjoy the extra warmth and good scents in the kitchen.
• Set therefrigerator at 38 to 40 degrees and your freezer at 10 degrees. Also, keep your freezer full, and try to open refrigerator and freezer doors less.
• Run the washing machine or dishwasher only with full loads, and use warm water to wash and cold to rinse.
• Use the dryer only for full loads, and separate loads into heavy and lightweight items to avoid using the machine longer than necessary to dry each type. Dry in consecutive loads; once the dryer is warm, it cuts down on initial energy consumption.
•· If purchasing new or replacing older appliances, such as heaters, refrigerators, etc., look for the Energy Star rating or Energy Guide label.
• Save gas by improving driving habits: accelerate from stops slowly, drive at moderate, steady speeds, and avoid unnecessary braking by coasting to red lights and anticipating traffic speed changes.
• Avoid idling as much as possible, including sitting in the car to keep warm and “warming up” the car in the morning. Idling wastes fuel and creates air pollution, so bundle up and be patient for heat when you hit the road. Also, modern car engines are better warmed up by driving than by idling.
• Schedule oil and filter changes and other recommended maintenance to keep your vehicle operating efficiently. Check tire pressure often; under-inflated tires decrease fuel efficiency.
• Drive fewer miles and save gas by planning those Saturday errands in the shortest circular route starting and ending at home, instead of traveling in random directions or making several trips. Plan for errands during the week such as picking up a few grocery items along the route you take home from work or school.
• Combine car trips with family, friends or neighbors, join a carpool or use public transportation if available.
• Smaller cars with smaller engines typically get better fuel mileage, so if you have more than one vehicle, use the smaller one more and, when shopping for a new vehicle, consider size and fuel efficiency.
For more information on the Delaware Division of Energy and Climate and its programs, including the Energy Savers Guide, call 302-735-3480, or go to www.dnrec.delaware.gov/energy.