Even in New Orleans we occasionally get winter weather that's chilly enough to warrant turning on the heat. And though most of us expect that we will be saving a bit of money on our utility bills during the wintertime, those dollars can be stretched even further by implementing some energy-saving tips during the heating season. Actually, you can use some of these tips all year long, especially during our long, hot summers when electric bills are higher than other regions of the country.
Let the Sun Shine In — or Not
It's all about heat gain and heat loss: in the winter you want to prevent heat loss, and in summer, prevent heat gain. In the winter, open the blinds, curtains or shades and let the sun in for passive solar heating; in the summer, keep the window treatments closed to block out the sun.
Prevent Energy Vampires
Did you know your appliances may still be pulling electricity, even when they're turned off? The U.S. Department of Energy estimates the average household can save as much as 10 percent on utility bills by unplugging unused appliances. Do you leave your cell phone charger plugged in even when it's not charging your phone? It's actually still drawing power, even when you're not using it. It's the same for your cable box: a cable box with DVR capacity tallies up an estimated $40-plus a year in utility charges when it's not in use. To be sure, there are some appliances such as your refrigerator you have to leave on, but be sure to turn those that you don't need off. Better yet, use a power strip to plug in several of these energy wasters and turn them all off at once.
Use Efficient Light Bulbs
You can save a bundle on electricity charges by switching from incandescent bulbs to fluorescent bulbs. One incandescent bulb costs about the same as what six to eight fluorescent bulbs cost to operate, and fluorescents last much longer.
Whenever possible, use your microwave to cook instead of the range. You can bake potatoes in the microwave, for instance, and savor the fact that baking them in the oven would take 18 times as much electricity. Some other tips:
An electric tea kettle or microwave will boil water faster than you can boil it on the stove top.
In the summer, try to cook big meals in the morning when it's cooler, so the air conditioner doesn't have to struggle as much to maintain your cooling set point.
The Springs maintenance staff will keep your HVAC system in good working order so that it runs at optimum efficiency, year-round. But as you can see, there are plenty of things you can also do to save money on utilities, no matter the season.