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Saving on Utility Costs

There are more warnings every day that heating costs will rise this winter. This is even more of a disaster in Europe and Great Britain. The U.K. is preparing for 3 hour long outages during peak hours and warning families to prepare for limited firewood. In Germany they are limiting the purchase of firewood and the cost has more than doubled. Poland has banned the export of firewood. Europe is prepared to drive up the cost of everyone’s heating bills further by out bidding other countries if necessary in order to secure its supply of natural gas for the upcoming winter. European media is accusing the United States of price gouging when sending fuel which is due to the fact that we are now producing so much less than we were two years ago, which the Europeans do not understand. Bakers who can't afford to heat their ovens are talking about giving up, while fruit and vegetable growers face letting greenhouses stand idle. In Germany, the wait for an energy-saving heat pump can take half a year. Restaurants run the grills no more than necessary and use motion detectors to turn off lights in storage areas. Some are facing a 750 per cent increase in electricity bills since the beginning of the year. It is really a crisis.

We can begin preparing now for rising utility bills this winter.

1. Audit your home energy use. Ask your local electric or gas utility for a free or low-cost home energy audit. The audit may reveal inexpensive ways to reduce home heating and cooling costs by hundreds of dollars a year. Keep in mind that a payback period of less than three years, or even five years, usually will save you lots of money in the long-term. This year you want to save as much as possible.

2. Weatherproof your home. Caulk holes and cracks that let warm air escape in the winter and cold air escape in the summer. Your local hardware store has materials, and quite possibly useful advice, about inexpensively stopping unwanted heat or cooling loss.

3. Check weather stripping on all doors.

4. Keep the sun out in summer and invite it in in winter. Keep your blinds or curtains closed during hot summer days. Use mylar blankets on windows to block the sun’s rays. In winter tape mylar blankets to the moldings forming a pocket of air between the window and blankets trapping drafts and cold being transferred thru the glass.

5. Lower the temperature on your water heater to 120 degrees. For every 10-degree reduction in temperature, you can save up to 5 percent on water heating costs.

6. Reduce your “always-on” appliances. If your home has a smart meter and you can see your hourly consumption, then examine your consumption during the day and in the middle of the night. It should be significantly less. If it isn’t look for electronics that you don’t use (like VCRs!) or can switch off or turning off the extra refrigerator or freezer. Any appliance or device with a light that stays on or a clock on it is drawing power. Place appliances like this that you use often on a power cord and switch off when not in use.

7. If your utility company reduces rates during peak hours take advantage of the savings. Shift your power use to off-peak times, run your dishwasher and do laundry late in the evening or early morning. Set a timer on your phone as a daily reminder of the onset or end of the peak time. During peak hours adjust the thermostat a few degrees to reduce the number of times the heater or air conditioner comes on.

8. Hang curtains and drapes. Covering windows at night with more than just a blind reduces the cold air bringing down the temperature. Hang drapes or blankets in hallways and doorways that do not have doors. Our grandparents did this to keep the rooms they were using warmer in winter. Contain the heat in rooms where you will be, even your body heat contained in an area will keep it warmer.

9. Get out the space heater and turn down the thermostat. Heat the room you have closed off and gather in there.

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