Save energy – and money – this winter

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer,

Darlington Professional Women welcomed guest speaker Jeff Singletary of Pee Dee Electric Cooperative to their November 18 meeting at the Darlington Country Club, and Singletary offered a number of great suggestions and tips for cutting energy bills in the coming cold weather.

Jeff Singletary                                Photo by Samantha Lyles

Jeff Singletary Photo by Samantha Lyles

“One of the biggest things we always talk about is heating and air conditioning – that’s what about 55-percent of your electric bill is made up of, or it’s a big part of your gas bill if you have a gas pack. We try to encourage you to keep your thermostat set around 68 degrees (in winter),” said Singletary, adding that buying affordable furnace air filters and changing them monthly can make your system more efficient.

He advised those looking for a quick payback – the amount of time it takes to recoup new equipment costs via energy bill savings – to look at upgrading insulation in attics and under floors. Singletary cautioned against costly window replacements, noting that if you have storm windows and all your present windows close securely, new insulated windows (at an estimated cost of $200 each) may not offer much savings and can take forever to recoup their cost.

Another potential cost inefficiency is the tankless water heater, which Singletary says can require the installation of new electrical breakers to handle power demands. Several installed in the same home might require so much power that a new transformer could be needed.

Replacing old incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient LED or CFL bulbs is also a smart move, and Singletary noted that Christmas tree lights and decorations are now available as LED products, which can save money on power bills during the holiday season.

Savings can also be found by maintaining the ventilation system on your clothes dryer, cleaning the lint filter after each use, ensuring there are no kinks or blockages in the vent hose, and the external exhaust vent is clear enough to permit easy airflow.
One quick and easy tip? Change the rotation direction of any ceiling fans during cold weather to better distribute warm air around the room. Singletary said the spin direction should be clockwise in winter and counter-clockwise in summer.

A booklet listing 101 easy ways to save energy and money is available from Pee Dee Electric Cooperative, and more info can be found on

Check these areas of your home to conduct your own informal energy audit:

Appliances and Lighting:
Clean condenser coils on refrigerator
Make sure the refrigerator door gasket seals tightly
Unplug all unused refrigerators and freezers
Set water heater temp at 120 or below
Turn on any energy saving features on dishwasher
Use cold water in washing machine when possible
Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) or LED bulbs
Use outdoor lighting that is motion or darkness triggered
If you use a well pump, make sure it has good pressure and no leaks

Air Infiltration:
Check windows for aged gaskets or unsealed/unpainted trim.
Make sure all windows close and lock properly.
Doors should close and latch properly and have adequate weather stripping.
Openings around electrical wires and plumbing pipes – especially under sinks or in cabinets – should be sealed.
If you have a fireplace, ensure the damper is sealed tightly.

Heating and Cooling:
Air supply vents and return registers should not be blocked by furniture or curtains.
Replace HVAC filters regularly – every 60 to 90 days.
If you have a programmable thermostat, set it to maintain 78 degrees in summer and 68 degrees in winter.
Get an annual maintenance check for HVAC system.

Insulation and Ductwork:
In the attic, ensure insulation is spread evenly and in good condition.
Keep attic vents clear of blockages and attic doors insulated and sealed.
Optimally, perimeter walls should have R-19 value insulation and floors should have R-25 value (R-value indicates insulation’s resistance to heat flow; the higher the value, the better).
Underneath the house, ductwork should be insulated and sealed to prevent leaks.
Hot water pipes and water heaters should be insulated, especially is the heater is outdoors or somewhere without climate control.

Author: Duane Childers

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