Energy-savers to harness

You already may have straw bales stacked around the house foundation and plastic tacked over windows in anticipation of winter. But the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority suggests other measures that can help keep cold weather from blowing through your winter utility budget. Here are seven big ones:

Upgrade your energy eaters: The $1,500 Federal Tax Credit for Home Energy Improvements expires Dec. 31. Energy-efficient furnaces, hot water heaters, windows, doors, insulation and other measures qualify. Hurry. They must be installed by Dec. 31, and contractors already have busy installation schedules.

Buy a “thinking” thermostat: A programmable thermostat for your heating system will automatically lower temperatures when no one’s home or at night — and warm it up just before you get up or get home. It’ll save nearly $200 a year without sacrificing comfort.

Run your fans: Ceiling fans can keep you comfortable in the winter, too. Reversing the direction of the blades pushes warm air down into the room.

Reduce cable’s impact: Are you sitting down? Two cable/DVR set-top boxes use as much electricity as a standard refrigerator! Request an energy-efficient cable box from your cable provider.

Buy a new power strip: Plug your home entertainment system and electronics into an advanced power strip to reduce standby power. You’ll find them at electronics stores.

Replace five bulbs: Replace your five most-used bulbs with Energy Star-qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and save more than $50 on your annual energy costs. They last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs and use 75% less electricity.

Lower your water temperature: If your water heater thermostat is set at 140 degrees F, you can save big dollars by lowering it to 120 degrees F.

Want to save even more? New York state homeowners may reduce energy bills as much as 40% by having an accredited home performance contractor conduct an energy assessment and recommend improvement options.

NYSERDA provides financial incentives and financing options to help pay for them.

Other Northeast states also offer special energy audit programs. Check with your county Extension office for more details. All you’ve got to lose is your high heating bills.

Source: New York State Energy Research and Development Authority

This article published in the December, 2010 edition of AMERICAN AGRICULTURIST.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.