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November 20, 2014
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Top tips for saving energy


Most, if not all, homeowners would fix a window broken by a wayward softball. What many people don’t know, though, is that there are often small air breaches in many different places of the home that, if combined, could easily be the size of a softball or bigger. As a result, much energy, and many dollars, can be lost.

This was just one of many facts presented by SEEDS and Pennsylvania Power and Light (PPL) during a recent workshop addressing techniques homeowners can use to be more energy efficient. “We’re just here to offer quick and easy ideas to save energy at your homes,” said Jocelyn Cramer, executive director of Honesdale, PA-based SEEDS, or Sustainable Energy Education & Development Support. About two dozen people attended the free workshop at the PPL Learning Center in October, which is Energy Awareness Month.

SEEDS is a nonprofit organization committed to developing a local renewable energy infrastructure and promoting more sustainable living. It also offers a free home energy assessment program each summer to residents of Wayne and Pike counties.

As for house windows, SEEDS volunteers Jim Sanders and Pete Snyder offered numerous tips that are both simple and inexpensive. They said homeowners should run their hands around windows and doors to feel where air is entering or escaping, and then use caulk to seal the spots.

“Caulking is extremely important,” Sanders said. He said caulk is inexpensive and easy and quick to apply. “None of this is very complicated,” he said. “And you’ll be saving energy and money.”

Another way to cut down on bills is to make sure a home is properly insulated. “Insulation is designed to keep heat in, not keep the cold out,” said SEEDS volunteer Phil Buckingham.

Buckingham talked about the importance of wrapping water pipes, which is “very easy and inexpensive to do,” especially with pre-made pipe wrap tubes. Wrapping hot water pipes will cut down on time waiting for hot water to reach the faucet. It also will reduce condensation and protect pipes from freezing, he said.

He also suggested homeowners wrap their water heaters in a water-heater blanket. Newer models have insulation inside the shell, but additional wrapping makes it cheaper to heat and can keep water hot longer in the event of a power outage.

It was noted that water heating accounts for the second largest use of energy in most homes. One of the easiest ways to save is to set the water heater thermostat to 120 degrees. Also, turning down the thermostat about one degree will save homeowners about 2% on their heating bills, according to SEEDS. Turning it down five degrees will save about 10%.

Jenna Wayne, an official with PPL Education and Public Outreach, talked about “phantom power,” energy that is wasted when appliances—from toaster ovens to televisions to coffee machines to microwave ovens to phone chargers—remain plugged in when not in use. “It’s sucking power out of your life,” she told the crowd, noting that 10% of power, or about $200 a year, is wasted when appliances remain hooked up when not in use.

“It’s really simple to unplug something when you’re not using it,” Wayne said. “When it’s plugged in, it’s in standby and it’s using energy.”

Lighting also is a significant part of a household’s energy bill. Energy-saving bulbs such as CFLs or LEDs can save 75 to 90% off the lighting portion of an electric bill, according to SEEDS. Homeowners should decide which lights they use most often, changing them first. Any light used more than two hours per day is a good candidate for a more efficient bulb. PPL customers may visit www.pplelectric.com to find out how much energy they are using.

Water is another resource that can be reused. And it is vital to do so, said Jamie Knecht, a watershed specialist with the Wayne County Conservation District. She noted that 97% of the earth’s water is saltwater. She also noted that it takes an abundance of the resource to produce clothing and cook food, from cotton shirts to hamburgers.

Water can be reused in numerous ways, such as using pasta water to water plants. Knecht recommended that people just be generally aware every time they go to pour water down the drain, and to ask themselves can the water be used elsewhere.

The watershed specialist also suggested homeowners use water aerators on faucets and low-flow shower heads and toilets. By doing the latter, a homeowner will save over a gallon of water on each flush. For well owners, using less water means using less electricity to pump it; and for metered water systems, using less water cuts down on the bill.

SEEDS Chairwoman Katharine Dodge talked about the importance of reusing products. The tips she gave included reusing jars and pots, which can be used as small containers to store odds and ends; newspapers, cardboard and bubble wrap can be useful packing material when moving or storing items; envelopes can be reused by sticking labels over the address and, alternatively, can be used as scrap paper; carrier bags can be reused while shopping or as bin bags around the house; paper bags make useful wrapping paper; twist ties can be used to secure loose items such as computer wires; and egg cartons and foil can be given to schools to be used in arts and crafts projects.

Less garbage going to a landfill means less fossil fuel being used, Dodge noted. “Reusable is a great idea,” she said.

Dodge also recommended people think ahead when cooking or baking. Can you put more than one vegetable in a pot, such as placing corn on the cob on top of beans? “And cut your items in smaller pieces to cut down on the cooking time,” she said.

SEEDS works with private residents as well as area businesses to find ways to help them save energy and operate more efficiently. Anyone seeking more information can visit www.seedsgroup.net, call 570/245-1256 or email Jocelyn@seedsgroup.net.