Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Oh those energy bills are a comm'n

Tis the week before daylight savings and my thoughts turn to my upcoming heating bills.

Here’s what I’m doing over the next few weeks to reduce this winters energy bills.

I’m planning to re-caulk and install weather-stripping around windows and doors, around outdoor faucets, dryer vents, and vents for bathroom and kitchen fans etc.

Install plastic shields around basement windows to seal and reduce air infiltration. Cut and install foam panels inside the basement against the basement windows.

I’ve replaced most bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, which they say uses 75 percent less energy than an incandescent bulb. Supposedly they last up to 10 times longer (providing you’re not always turning them on and off as you might do in a hallway.) I’m told that once I put them on I should allow them to burn for at least 15 minutes before shutting them off. They do not work with certain timer devices.

I’ve already replaced my round thermostat with a programmable one that automatically sets the temperature to suit our living schedule. Why heat the house when no one is in it? They say that an Energy Star programmable thermostat will save me about $150 in the first year of operation. I paid less than $100 for mine so I’ll recover the cost before this winter is over. It’s easy to use. Installation was easy. All I had to do was reconnecting four wires from my old thermostat to the new one (I had to reread the instructions four times before I understood just how easy the installation really was.)

Though we do not have to replace our clothes washing machine they say that you should consider replacing one’s made before 2004 as new one’s with the Energy Star rating may save you more than $100 a year on utilities. Certain washers use 40 percent less energy than standard washers and about half as much water. Interestingly enough they say that you can hang on to the old dryer until it expires -- most dryers use similar amounts of energy, and none has earned the Energy Star rating.

I’m hoping that the utility company will once again offer an energy inspection service. Previously they were helpful in pointing out energy wasters in my home and suggested some inexpensive improvements and they installed an insulation blankets on our hot water heater.
* * *
Tax breaks for installing and replacing energy-efficient doors, windows, water heaters and heating and cooling systems are set to expire at the end of the year.

To encourage homeowners to buy energy-efficient components for their homes, the federal government is offering tax credits that reduce the cost of certain upgrades. But there is a time limit: The breaks expire at the end of this year.

Here are a few of the things covered.
• Windows, skylights and storm doors. Recoup 10 percent of the cost of materials, up to $200 for all qualifying windows, skylights and storm windows.
• Roofing. Install an Energy Star-certified metal roof and get back 10 percent of the cost, up to $500.
• Insulation. Material must meet the 2004 International Energy Conservation Code. If it does, you can get back 10 percent of the cost, up to $500.
• Water heaters. Certain high-efficiency models qualify for a $300 credit.
• Solar power. Install a photovoltaic system to power your home and get 30 percent of the cost back, up to $2,000.
• Heating and cooling systems. Qualified air-conditioning and heating units provide up to a $300 credit.

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