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Energy Vampires Take a Bite Out of Your Wallet

Posted on: October 31, 2019

 

On Halloween, it’s likely you have vampires lurking around your home. Not only the kind that ask for treats, but “energy vampires” that suck the money from your wallet. Our home’s appliances and electronics — from coffee makers to TV’s and gaming consoles — often suck up power even when they are not being used. Some products can even consume as much as 25% of their full power when turned off. This wasted energy can contribute to high electric bills.

 

Be aware of the most common energy vampires:

Gaming Consoles
Most kids keep their video game consoles, like PlayStation and Xbox, always plugged in, making them easily accessible for quick gaming. The scary part is that these consoles are still draining power, even while sleeping.

Toaster & Coffee Maker
Most of us only use our toaster or coffee maker for a few minutes each morning, but we keep it plugged in at all times. Toasters, microwaves, and other small kitchen appliances can quickly add unused energy to your bill and become costly. When you add up all the time your microwave spends in “standby” mode, it actually consumes more electricity powering its digital clock than it does heating food.

Cable Box
The cable box and DVR are some of the most well-known energy vampires. These boxes are always on to record shows and still operate at nearly full capacity, without providing any benefit. It’s like leaving the lights on in a totally empty house.

Small Electronics
Remember, anything with a LED display is a vampire! Alarm clocks, cell phone chargers, as well as space heaters and air conditioning units are still costing you money when unused.

 

Unused energy can account for 10 percent or more of your electricity bill. Stop energy vampires from taking a bite out of your wallet by taking these steps:

1. Unplug devices you don’t use daily. For instance, check electronics in the guest bedroom or a second fridge in the garage that is rarely used.

2. Unplug devices that are fully charged, such as electric razors and power tools.

3. Unplugging everything is unrealistic. Instead, use smart power strips with on/off switches to easily turn groups of electronics off when not in use, effectively reducing unnecessary electricity consumption and saving money. This is an inexpensive and easy solution. When you’re ready, turn the power strip on and all your appliances are ready to go!

4. Upgrade to ENERGY STAR appliances and electronics, which are vampire-proof. ENERGY STAR has made it their mission to cut standby power consumption in its products and use less energy all around.

12 Ways to Conserve Water Outdoors

Posted on: May 22, 2019

The sun is shining and summer is finally here! During these warmer months, we spend more time outdoors tending to our lawns, growing gardens, and washing our cars. All of these activities require water. More than half of the average household’s water occurs outdoors. As a result, your water bill can see a significant increase during the next few months. Using these simple tips will reduce your water bill and save you money.

  1. Inspect your garden hose and irrigation system for leaks. Check hose connectors to make sure rubber washers are in place.
  2. Add a shut-off nozzle to your hose. You can save about 5-7 gallons each minute your hose is on.
  3. Put out a rain barrel. Collecting rain water is an excellent (and FREE) way to water your indoor plants or wash your car.
  4. Water outdoor plants in the morning or late evening. Due to the colder temperatures, less water will be lost from evaporation. Avoid watering on windy and hot days.
  5. Use a broom to clean off outside living areas (decks, porches, driveways), rather than hosing them off.
  6. When cutting the lawn, set the mower blade to 2-3 inches high. The longer grass will shade the soil, allowing for better moisture retention.
  7. Keep your mower blades sharp. Dull blades tear grass, making it susceptible to disease, and causing it to appear tan and worn.
  8. Only water your lawn when necessary. Over-watering results in the growth of shallow root systems that are easily damaged. If rainfall isn’t sufficient, water your lawn once a week. This routine will encourage healthier and deeper grass roots.
  9. Mulch around plants and flower beds to keep the soil cool, reduce moisture evaporation, promote growth and control weeds.
  10. Take your car to the car wash, rather than washing it at home. Most commercial car washes recycle the water.
  11. Wash your pet outdoors in an area of your lawn that needs watering.
  12. Don’t water your lawn during a drought. The grass may turn brown, but it is not dead. Your lawn will turn dormant during dry and hot spells, but it will revive itself when wetter weather returns.

Spring Energy-Saving Tips

Posted on: March 20, 2019

Today marks the beginning of spring and a new opportunity to make your home more energy-efficient. Here are just a few simple tips to improve the comfort of your home as warmer temperatures arrive, while also saving money on utility bills.

Open Windows

Use the breeze at night to cool your home without switching on air conditioners.

Block the Sun

Shade your home from direct sunlight – use shades, drapes and awnings to block the sun from heating your home.

Grill Outside

Move the cooking outside on warm spring days to keep the heat out of your home.

Clean Out the Refrigerator

By removing unneeded and expired food, air will circulate more efficiently inside the fridge. Clear dust from the coils behind your fridge to reduce energy consumption.

Adjust the Ceiling Fan

Move the small switch on the side of your ceiling fan to make the blades rotate counterclockwise and create a cool breeze. If you feel airflow when standing directly under the fan, it’s working.

Turn Down the Water Heater

Switch your water heater temperature to the warm setting (120°F).

Give AC a Tuneup

Check and replace your air filters regularly and schedule annual maintenance with a qualified technician.

Seal Air Leaks

Use low-cost caulk or weather stripping to keep warm air from seeping in.

 

Deck The Halls with Energy Savings

Posted on: December 7, 2018

The holidays are upon us and they usually bring sky-high energy bills. You might be looking to save a few extra bucks without skimping on the holiday cheer. Keep these tips in mind while decorating for the holidays:

Switch to energy-efficient LED lights

Incandescent holiday light strings might make you feel nostalgic, but that feeling will quickly disappear when you see your electric bill. Save money by using LED light strands. They are brighter, safer and use more than 70% less energy than traditional bulbs.

Limited hourly usage

Use timers for your indoor and outdoor decorations to automatically turn on when it gets dark and turn off in the middle of the night. Limit displays to 8 hours or less to save a bundle!

Get creative

Not all decorations need to be plugged in. Reflective ornaments and tinsel make the perfect complement to traditional string lights and create the shimmer and shine you were going for. Ribbons, wreaths and garlands are also great alternatives for indoor and outdoor decor.

Don’t be Clark Griswold

Relax! Don’t recreate the Griswold home from the 1989’s classic “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” Be safe, have fun, but remember – the more you plug in, the more you pay.

Save Money at Home while on Vacation

Posted on: May 10, 2018

 

Vacation

Summer is just around the corner and you’re probably making plans for a weekend getaway or family vacation. Vacation is all about escaping your daily routines and spending quality time with family or friends. However, just because your house is empty doesn’t mean the appliances have stopped increasing your electric bill.

Before you get out of town, don’t forget to prepare your home for energy savings while you’re away. Use these tips to ensure your vacation won’t be ruined by a high utility bill.

6 Energy-Saving Tips for Your Home while on Vacation

  • Water heating can account for 14%-25% of your home energy. Turn down your water heater to the lowest possible setting, or “vacation” mode.

 

  • Unless pets are left at home, there is no reason to keep your air conditioner running. During hot summer months, the thermostat can either be set at 85 or turned off completely. If you have a programmable thermostat, set the temperature to change on the day of arrival so you can come home to a comfortable home. If you are leaving a pet at home for a few days, be sure to keep the temperature at a safe setting and have a neighbor check on the animal frequently.

 

  • “Energy vampires” are items that still use a significant amount of electricity even when they are turned off. Before you leave, walk around your home and unplug every unnecessary appliance and electronic. Pay close attention to televisions, lamps, entertainment centers, coffee pots, digital clocks, cell phone chargers, electric razors, and anything else that isn’t in use while you’re away. This also eliminates possible fire hazards.

 

  • Lower blinds and close curtains when you’re leaving for vacation. This useful tip will prevent excess heat from entering your home.

 

  • Your refrigerator is one of the biggest energy hogs in your home. Conserve energy by adjusting the thermostat to a higher temperature on your refrigerator and freezer. For extended trips lasting weeks or months, empty your fridge and unplug.

 

  • Most importantly, make sure all lights are turned off. While leaving a light on is a good safety idea, it is a complete waste of energy. Invest in an automatic timer ($10-$20) so specific lights will turn on and off at designated times. This can discourage burglars by giving the illusion that someone is home. You can also ask a neighbor to visit your home and turn a light on at night and off during the day. It’s a simple task if they are already feeding pets or watering plants.

 

Source: energy.gov

Winter Energy-Saving Tips

Posted on: November 11, 2016

Winter

The first day of winter has finally arrived. If you’ve been procrastinating, start preparing your home for the colder months today! Use these energy-saving tips to help you save money while staying warm and safe this winter:

 

Cover drafty doors and windows

Special plastic sheeting kits come with handy pieces of plastic and double-sided tape you need to secure drafty windows. Make sure the plastic is sealed tightly to the frame to help reduce air flow. Use a hairdryer on the plastic to vacuum the seal. You can also replace worn weatherstripping, adjust the door thresholds for a tighter fit, and get a door sweeper that will help block out larger drafts. If a playing card fits the crevice of an outside door or window, you need more weather stripping.

Close your curtains and blinds at night

Temperatures always drop more at night due to the lack of the sun’s energy. Close your curtains at night to reduce the chill you may feel. It may even be worth the investment to get heavier drapes that will provide you with more thermal protection. Don’t use a permanent solution, such as heavy landscaping, because opening the curtains and letting the sun in will warm your home during the day.

Adjust your thermostat

Set your thermostat for 68 degrees. Each degree above that adds to your cost, and setting it higher won’t heat your home any faster. A five-degree lower setting will conserve energy when you plan to be away for many hours.

Reduce heat loss from your fireplace

Make sure your chimney is clear of any debri and inspect your damper to make sure it opens and closes as needed. Be sure to close the damper tightly whenever the fireplace is not in use. Also, invest in tempered glass doors to prevent the warmed air in your home from escaping up the chimey while the fireplace is operating. Most importantly, if you don’t use your fireplace at all, have it professionally plugged and sealed.

Reverse your ceiling fan

Look for a small toggle switch on the fan. After switching it, the blades should be running clockwise. To make sure, stand directly under the fan. You shouldn’t feel a breeze. Running the fan in reverse creates an updraft that sends warmer air pooled near the ceiling back down into the living space.

Use LED holiday lighting

Holiday lights can dramatically increase your electric bill. LED lights are more energy-efficient and last longer than incandescent bulbs. LEDs are also much cooler so there is less risk of fire or injury. LEDs use less power so it’s possible to connecting multiple strings end-to-end safely.

Protect your water pipes

If your pipes aren’t insultaed, run water, even at a trickle, to help prevent your pipes from freezing. Even better, save money in the long run by insulating all pipes. Also, open the kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. 

Avoid unsafe heating sources

Households without utility heat often rely on unsafe heating sources, such as kerosene heaters, kitchen stoves or ovens, electric space heaters, and neglected fireplaces. Avoid these methods! Contact your utility company or Dollar Energy Fund immediately so we can help you restore and maintain a safer heating source.

Be prepared for inclement winter weather and shut offs

Always have extra blankets, flashlights, portable radios, and a supply of fresh batteries on hand if the power should go off. Report outages to your utility company immediately and get help.

Safety is the #1 priority

Check your carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors to ensure they are operating properly. Make sure your natural gas meter is visible at all times and accessible for maintenance and emergency responders. Where possible, use a broom instead of a shovel to clear snow away from the natural gas meter to prevent damage. Keep flammable items away from heating vents and sources, such as bedding, clothing, curtains, and rugs.

 

For more tips and tricks to save money this winter, follow us on Twitter and Facebook!

Sources: Peoples Natural Gas; AEP Ohio; Columbia Gas

Fall Energy-Saving Tips

Posted on: September 22, 2016

Fall energy-saving tips

Fall is finally here! Football season is underway and 60 degree mornings feel chilly. Many of you are excited to find some relief from the heat. While the warm temperatures still linger, it is important to start thinking about saving energy on the cooler days ahead.

Check out these energy-saving tips to help you save money while staying comfortable this fall:

 

Cover drafty windows

Use a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet on a frame or tape clear plastic film to the inside of your window frames during the cooler months. Make sure the plastic is sealed tightly to the frame to help reduce air flow. Use a hairdryer on plastic to vacuum the seal. To learn about more energy-efficient window treatments, click here.

Use heat from the sun on clear days

Open your curtains during the day to allow sunlight to naturally heat your home, and close them at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.

Turn down your water heater temperature

Many water heaters are automatically set at 140 degrees. Turn down the temperature of your water heater to 120°F (or warm setting). Water heating accounts for about 18% of the energy consumed in your home. Turn down the temperature and you’ll see a drastic change in your energy bill.

Lower your thermostat

Set the thermostat between 65 and 70 degrees during the day and between 58 and 60 degrees at night or when away from home for several hours.

Lower your holiday lighting cost

LED lights are very energy efficient. They consume far less electricity than incandescent bulbs, and decorative LED light strings such as Halloween and Christmas tree lights are no different. Not only do LED holiday lights consume less electricity and save money, but they also have many other advantages. LEDs are much safer than incandescent because they emit very little heat, reducing the risk of combustion. They are more resistant to breakage and last much longer. Up to 25 strings of LEDs can be connected end-to-end without overloading a wall socket. To read more about LED lighting, click here.

Remove window air conditioners

Window air conditions allow cold air to leak into your home. If they must stay in place, be sure to seal them with caulking or tape and cover them with an airtight, insulated jacket.

Make small lifestyle changes around the house

Closing the doors in unused rooms can save up to 8% of the heat. Do not needlessly open and close outside doors, allowing cold air to rush in. By reducing traffic, you are creating a warmer, draft-free home. If your house has radiators, vacuum all surfaces including hard-to-reach areas once a month. Arrange furniture with your heating system in mind. Don’t restrict air flow from vents.

 

Using these tips can help you save money and stay comfortable. Unfortunately, many limited-income families are weary thinking about how to afford the cost of warming their home during the upcoming seasons. For that reason, it is important to consider donating to Dollar Energy Fund’s Hardship Program. We want to provide the most assistance possible for those who can’t afford to be safe during the fall and winter months.

 

Do you know of any other tips? We would love to share them! Tell us on Twitter or Facebook.

 

Sources: Energy.gov, Peoples Natural Gas

Back to School Energy-Saving Tips

Posted on: August 22, 2016

back to school

Summer has officially ended for many kids this morning as they head back to school. When they board the bus, or use that shiny new license, you may notice your home is empty (or emptier) during the day. Don’t fret – the opportunities to save money on your electric bill have grown tremendously! Use these tips to save energy at home this semester.

 

Increase your thermostat a few degrees

Many of you across the country have been battling this heat wave. Now with fewer people in your household during the day, you can set your thermostat to be a bit warmer during those hours. Even better – a programmable thermostat makes things easier. A half hour before everyone returns in the evening, you can begin cooling your home by just a few degrees. In the winter, reverse the process and set your home to be cooler during the day.

 

Unplug unused devices

Many devices will still consume power when plugged in, such as iPods, laptops and especially video game consoles. Make it a habit to unplug unused items and you will see a significant decrease in your energy bill.

 

Use a smart power strip

Another alternative is the smart power strip. These hubs ensure that electricity isn’t drawn from electronics and appliances that aren’t in use. If you’re a Duquesne Light customer, you can receive a FREE Energy Efficiency Kit and Online Energy Audit for your home! The kit contains compact fluorescent light bulbs, nightlights and a Smart Strip (surge protector with power controls). The energy audit will also help you learn how to cut your energy bill by giving you a detailed analysis of your home energy use. Visit www.wattchoices.duquesnelight.com/ to learn more or contact your utility company to ask about a free energy kit!

 

Keep blinds and curtains closed

Blocking out the sun will eliminate unnecessary rays that are getting trapped inside and warming up your home.

 

Be energy smart when using your fridge

If you are preparing lunches for the kids, take out all the food you will need and close the fridge door. Constantly opening and closing it forces your fridge to work overtime to keep a consistent temperature, which results in high energy use.

 

Understand your energy cost and usage

Knowing how much electricity your household appliances use can help you better manage your overall energy and control your electric bill. If you are a FirstEnergy customer, visit their website for a complete brochure of electricity usage and costs. You can also check with your utility company for time-based rates. Electricity costs vary by time of day, and daylight rates are generally more expensive. Depending on your provider, you will likely benefit from using appliances, such as a washer/dryer and dishwasher, during the evening.

 

Sending the kids back to school can mean a lot of changes around the household. Don’t forget to make energy saving part of your daily routine. Using these tips can help you save money, which you might consider donating to Dollar Energy Fund so that we can help families who can’t afford basic utility services.

 

Sources: energy.gov, Duquesne Light, FirstEnergy

Water Conservation Tips for the Summer

Posted on: July 15, 2016

water-splash-glass-16374085This summer has been very hot, breaking records across the country. It can be tempting to take an extra-long shower or let your kids play with the water hose outside. That is, until the water bill comes. In addition to saving money on your utility bill, water conservation is a great practice for extending the life of your septic systems and reducing unnecessary pollution. When it comes to conserving water, small adjustments can have a noticeable impact. Follow these 15 simple tips and you’ll see a dramatic decrease in your water bill this summer.

 

  1. Check faucets and pipes for leaks. Simply replacing a worn faucet washer can save thousands of gallons per year. To find hidden leaks, read your water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same, there is a leak.
  2. Toilet leaks account for more than 95 percent of water waste! Drop some food coloring into the tank. Wait 20 minutes without flushing, and then look in the toilet bowl. If there’s a leak from the tank into the bowl, color will begin to appear. To fix it, try replacing the tank’s rubber flapper that lets water through.
  3. Don’t use the toilet as a wastebasket. Every time you flush, five to seven gallons of water is wasted. Throw tissues, insects, and other waste in the trash.
  4. Avoid baths and take short showers instead. Reducing your shower time by five minutes saves thousands of gallons per year!
  5. Turn off the sink water as you brush your teeth. Wet your brush and fill a glass of water for rinsing. To save time and money, brush your teeth in the shower.
  6. Only run your dishwasher and clothes washer when you have a full load. Match the water level to the proper size of the load. If washing dishes by hand, fill the sink with water rather than continually running the tap.
  7. Avoid using running water to thaw meat or other frozen foods. Defrost food overnight in the refrigerator or use the defrost setting on your microwave.
  8. Designate one glass for your drinking beverages each day, or refill a water bottle. This will cut down on the number of glasses to wash.
  9. Running tap water to cool it off for drinking is extremely wasteful. Keep a safe drinking bottle full of water in the fridge.
  10. Use a broom instead of a hose to clean your driveway.
  11. Cover your pool. Hundreds of gallons of water per month can be lost due to evaporation. Most importantly, don’t fill the water to the very top in order to eliminate water loss due to splashing.
  12. Don’t water your street, house, driveway or sidewalk. Adjust your sprinklers so that your water lands on the lawn and shrubs, not the paved areas. No sprinklers? Collect rain water in a barrel and use it to water your outdoor plants.
  13. If you wash your own car, park it on a grassy area that needs water. Make sure the hose has a shutoff valve. Even better, use a commercial car wash that recycles its water.
  14. Be sure to turn off water from the hose when it’s not in use. Set a timer to remind yourself.
  15. Avoid kids toys that require a running hose or constant flow of water, such as sprinklers and slip-n-slides. Instead, fill up water guns or balloons and use them on a dry lawn. Even better, join the community pool.

 

Click here to view more conservation tips from Pennsylvania American Water, or visit their website for information on water quality, restoration, and their H2O Help to Others assistance program. We are proud to call Pennsylvania American Water one of our utility partners.

Energy-Saving Tips for the Summer

Posted on: June 20, 2016

The first day of summer is here and the need for heat has disappeared! However, Dollar Energy Fund realizes that limited-income families in other states struggle with warm weather on a regular basis. Dollar Energy Fund partners with utility companies and community-based organizations in 11 states, including warm-weather ones like Arkansas, California, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Texas. Without the means to afford air conditioning, many families suffer from the heat throughout the year.

For that reason, it is important to consider donating to Dollar Energy Fund’s Hardship Program year-round. We want to provide the most assistance possible for those who can’t afford to be comfortable.

Regardless of where you live, as the weather gets warmer, you want your house to get cooler. We’ve compiled some energy-saving tips for the summer to help you save money while staying safe from the heat.

 

Turn the switch on your ceiling fan

A ceiling fan will allow you to raise the thermostat setting about 4°F with no reduction in comfort. Most ceiling fans are created with a small switch that controls blade rotation. Look for this switch, and then make sure it is turning in a counter-clockwise direction. It will produce the pleasant breeze that you’re used to. Remember that fans cool people, not rooms, by creating a wind-chill effect. Turn fans off when you leave the room to conserve energy.

 

Avoid placing unnecessary heat near your thermostat

Avoid placing lamps or television sets near your room air-conditioning thermostat. The thermostat senses heat from these appliances, which can cause the air conditioner to run longer than necessary. Window air conditioners cool rooms rather than the entire home or business. If they provide cooling only where they’re needed, room air conditioners are less expensive to operate than central units. Also, use blinds, drapes and shades to keep the sun out during the hottest times of the day.

 

Use natural ventilation to your advantage

If you live in a climate where the temperature will significantly drop overnight, turn off your cooling system and open your windows while sleeping. As soon as you wake up in the morning, close your windows and blinds to capture the cool air. Natural ventilation works best in climates with cool nights and regular breezes.

 

Avoid using things that generate heat

On hot days, avoid using the oven to cook. Instead, cook on the stove, microwave oven, or invite friends over to grill outside. Minimize activities that generate a lot of heat as well, such as running a computer, running a dishwasher, burning open flames, and using hot devices like curling irons or hair dryers. Even stereo systems and televisions will add heat to your home. Avoid baths and take short showers instead. Use the spot ventilation of a bathroom fan to remove the humidity in your home.

 

Using these tips can help you save money and stay cool during these harsh summer months. You might consider donating that money to Dollar Energy Fund so that we can help people who can’t afford to stay cool. Do you have any other cool-down tips? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook.

 

Source: Energy Saver (www.energy.gov/energysaver)

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