DOVER – With winter just around the corner, it’s a good time to prepare your home and car for cold weather. You want to stay warm, of course, but that can mean using more energy in your home and more fuel in your car – and having less money in your pocket. To tip that balance more in your favor, DNREC’s Division of Energy & Climate offers the following no- and low-cost tips to help you use less energy and save more money this winter and year-round.
• Be smart about your thermostat. Set your thermostat lower at night and during the day when you might be away. Turn the heat down an hour before bedtime or before leaving the house. When you get home, be patient – don’t turn the thermostat higher than its normal setting in an effort to warm the house faster. Adding a programmable thermostat to your home system will allow you to “set and forget” day and night temperatures.
• Snuggle up to save. Before deciding to turn up the heat, put on a sweater, hat and warm socks, and keep throws or blankets on the couch to use while watching TV or hanging out. 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. Put warm winter bedding – flannel sheets, warm blankets, comforters or quilts – on beds to keep the family comfortable with the house cooler at night.
• Weather-proof your windows and doors. Close shades or curtains at night to help keep cold out and open them during the day to let the sun’s warmth in. Keep windows completely closed and latched. Check doors and windows for drafts and add weather-stripping if needed. Place a towel along the bottom of the door jamb as a temporary block for cold air until you can install more permanent weatherproofing like a door skirt. Remove or cover window unit air conditioners to keep out drafts.
• Improve home comfort and efficiency through regular maintenance. Have your furnace and/or HVAC system cleaned and serviced as soon as possible for maximum efficiency and reliability over the winter months. Replace air filters to help systems run better and more efficiently. Check to make sure your water heater and hot water pipes are well-insulated; add pipe insulation or wrap-around insulation to those that aren’t. Turn down the temperature on your water heater by 10 degrees (staying above 120 degrees) to save on the energy and cost it takes to heat water. To feel warmer and alleviate dryness, increase home humidity by using an energy-efficient humidifier or by evaporating water in open containers. Take note of home improvement projects like adding insulation, caulking cracks, or replacing your old hot water heater or furnace with a more energy efficient model.
• Visit de.gov/wap to see if you qualify for free weatherization assistance. The Division of Energy & Climate’s trained professionals can weatherize your home with actions like these and help cut your energy bill.
• Use less hot water. The less hot water your family uses, the less you pay to heat it. Install flow restrictors on faucets and shower heads. Run the washing machine or dishwasher only with full loads, and use warm water to wash and cold to rinse.
• Cut your energy use throughout the house. Turn lights off when you leave the room, and turn off or unplug appliances, chargers and electronic devices when they are not in use. These items can sneakily drain energy from your home, even if you’re not using them. Use a power strip to easily turn multiple items off all at once. Looking to buy new appliances, or replace old ones? Compare Energy Star-rated appliances and look for the Energy Guide label on refrigerators, washing machines, heaters, and more. You’ll pay less to run the appliance over its lifetime.
• Be efficient in the kitchen. Plan to use the oven for three or four items at a time so you only have to heat it once. Choose a day when everyone is home to enjoy the extra warmth and delicious scents. Set your refrigerator at 38°F to 40°F and your freezer at 10°F. Keep your freezer full, and try to minimize the number of times you open refrigerator and freezer doors.
• Do lower-impact laundry. Use a clothesline or drying rack instead of the dryer. When items require a dryer, run full loads and separate 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 to dry the next load.
• Skip the morning warm-up. Idling your car to warm it up wastes fuel and creates air pollution. Bundle up and just start driving – modern car engines are better warmed up by driving than by idling.
• Plan ahead with friends and co-workers. Consider joining a workplace carpool or using public transportation – you’ll save on fuel costs, tolls, and wear and tear to your vehicle. On weekends, save gas and time by planning errands in the shortest circular route starting and ending at home instead of traveling in random directions or making several trips. You can also plan to take care of errands during the week along your daily route to work or school.
• Save fuel through mindful 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.
• Check your tire pressure. Underinflated tires decrease fuel efficiency.
• Schedule regular maintenance checks. Oil and filter changes and other recommended maintenance keep your vehicle operating efficiently.
• Play favorites. If you have more than one vehicle, use the one with the best gas mileage more frequently. Smaller cars with smaller engines typically get better gas mileage than larger vehicles.
• Know your options before buying a new vehicle. Gasoline isn’t your only option. Major manufacturers like Ford, Chevy, Nissan, and BMW make electric cars that offer all the same design, comfort and safety standards as gas-powered cars, with a fraction of the maintenance and ‘fuel’ costs. Plus, federal tax breaks, manufacturer rebates and rebates from Delaware’s Clean Transportation Incentive Program (de.gov/cleantransportation) may significantly lower the cost of your vehicle. If you’re set on a gas-powered car, consider size and fuel efficiency in your purchase.
How DNREC can help you save on energy costs
The Division of Energy & Climate works with local non-profit agency Catholic Charities to provide energy conservation services for the homes of low-income Delawareans. For example, 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, please contact the Division of Energy & Climate at 302-735-3480, or visit de.gov/wap.
Delaware’s Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU) offers the Home Performance with Energy Star Performance Program for all Delaware residents, regardless of income. Homeowners can receive an Energy Star Audit for just $100, along with free energy-saving items up to a $220 value, including light bulbs, showerheads, faucet aerators, pipe insulation and smart power strips installed during the audit. The program also offers incentives for completing energy efficiency improvements identified during the energy audit. Visit http://www.energizedelaware.org/for more information.
Electric cars or alternative fuel vehicles provide low-fuel, cost-saving transportation opportunities – the Division of Energy & Climate’s Clean Transportation Incentive Program offers rebates for purchasers or leasees of electric or alternative fuel vehicles, and cost assistance for charging equipment as well. The program has already provided rebates for almost 300 electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in Delaware across all three counties. For more information, visit de.gov/cleantransportation.
For more information on the Delaware Division of Energy & Climate and its programs, including the Energy Savers Guide, call 302-735-3480, or visit http://www.dnrec.delaware.gov/energy/Pages/Portal.aspx.
Media contact: Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902.
Vol. 46, No. 415