Deck the Halls With Minimal Cost
We’re noticing lots of holiday decorations up already! You can make your home festive for the holidays without ruining your energy efficiency efforts. Read on to learn a few simple ways you can make sure your home is full of holiday cheer with minimal impact on your utility bill this season:
Tip 1: Get Creative
Skip lights and go for old-fashioned and edible decor. Gingerbread men, candy canes and popcorn strings make great decorations— and require zero energy!
Make your home sparkle by strategically placing tinsel, glittered stars and other shiny to catch lights already in use. They will give off a twinkle similar to lights and keep your energy use down over the holidays.
Tip 2: If you can’t skip lights, choose LEDs
Did you know it costs about $10.00 to light a six-foot tree for 12 hours a day for 40 days with incandescent lights? To light that same tree with mini-LEDs for the same amount of time costs about $.82—now that’s what I call savings.
As you pull decorations out of storage, check your lights. If they’re damaged or you’re using incandescent bulbs, consider swapping them for LED bulbs and mini-lights.
You can find energy efficient lights in a variety of colors at most local hardware and retail stores. Before you buy, search ENERGY STAR’s Special Offer/Rebate Finder to find deals and other incentives. Enter your zip code to find rebates near you.
Tip 3: Set a Timer
Automatic timers make it easier for you to schedule your holiday lights to shine… when you want them to! Look for timer models that come with dusk/dawn sensors or shut off after a specific length of time. Newer models also have settings to create a light show and can even be combined with music—a fun addition if you’re hosting a holiday party.
If you don’t have a timer, consider plugging lights into centrally located power strips to make it easier to turn them off before you go to bed or leave the house.
Six Quick Steps to Ready Your Home for Winter
Did you know that this Sunday, November 4th, our clocks “fall behind” for the fall and winter? As you switch your clocks back, take a few extra minutes to make sure your home remains energy efficient all through the cold weather months.
Six Quick Steps to Ready Your Home for Winter:
1. Plug laptop AC adapters, cell phone chargers and other electronic devices into a power strip. These electronics continue to draw electricity, even when they are not in use. Look for green power plugs that allow you to leave some electronics turned on, like your DVR.
2. Clean your refrigerator coils on the back of the fridge where dust builds up. You’ll help one of the biggest energy hogging appliances in your home run more efficiently and longer!
3. Reset your programmable thermostat to the coolest comfortable temperature to save on heating costs. Decrease the temperature when you go to bed or leave your home for the day. Ready your home for winter; install storm windows and reduce heat loss through the windows by 25-50%
4. Replace five regular light bulbs with ENERGY STAR qualified light bulbs and save an average of 1,880 kWh over the lifetime of the bulbs. That’s enough energy to light your whole house for nearly 11 months.
5. Grab a can of spray foam and seal all the gaps where air can leak in or out of your home, including those around windows, doors, wiring holes, recessed lights, plumbing vents, your attic hatch, and more. Stopping drafts can make you feel more comfortable and reduce energy bills.
6. Switch the direction of your ceiling fans. Most ceiling fans have a switch on the motor which allows you to control the direction of the blade. In the winter, the blades should move clockwise to force the warm air down.
Looking for home energy efficiency incentives and rebates? The search is over—
Looking to make some big energy-efficiency changes in your home? We can help!
Virginia Energy Sense has compiled an easy-to-use list of all federal, state and utility incentives available to Virginians. These can help you offset purchases and installation costs of energy efficiency upgrades and equipment, and can even help you lower your tax bill. Now that’s a deal!
Here’s a brief overview of the incentives available, but be sure to visit our Incentives page to find direct links to more information.
Renewable Energy Rebates
- Renewable Energy Tax Credit – 30%tax credit for renewable energy purchases
Appliances and Energy Efficiency Equipment
- Charlottesville Gas Residential Energy Efficiency Rebate – $100 rebate for energy efficient equipment
- City of Danville Utilities Home$ave Rebate Program – $25-$350 rebates for energy efficient products
- Columbia Gas Energy Efficiency Rebate – $50-$300 rebates for energy efficient appliances
- Geothermal Heat Pump Rebate – 20% rebates for geothermal heat pumps
- Load Management Program for Electric Water Heaters and HVAC – Rebates for energy efficient hot water heaters and/or HVAC repairs
- Thermostat Rebate for Charlottesville Gas Customers – $100 rebate for the purchase and/or installation of a programmable thermostat
Audits and Home Efficiency Improvements
- Dominion Virginia Power Free Home Energy Audit for Income-Qualified Customers – A free in-home energy audit for Dominion customers
- Dominion Virginia Power Smart Cooling Rewards for Smart Switch Installation – A $40 rebate for Dominion customers who participating in Smart Switch program
- Home Energy Loss Prevention (HELP) – Free visual energy audit; rebate for selection of energy efficient equipment and other energy and cost-saving home repair benefits
- NEXT STEP Energy Efficiency Rebates (Hampton Roads Area Residents) – $1500 rebates for non-appliance Energy Star Upgrades; $2,500 for air sealing, duct sealing, & insulation
- Rappahannock Electric Cooperative – Free energy audit
- WarmWise Home Savings Evaluation – Free online energy audit
- Weatherization Assistance Program – Financial assistance for weatherization
Window Efficiency 101
The region is heating up and warm days are here to stay across Virginia. If you’re seeking refuge from the heat and want to make sure your home stays cool, consider what you know about your home’s windows. Are they efficient?
Many homeowners lose an estimated 30 percent of the money they spend on cooling costs due to inefficient windows. Now that’s a lot of energy waste! ENERGY STAR qualified windows, doors and skylights can help you reduce your energy use and keep your cool air inside the house.
To help you prepare for your window project, we’ve gathered some information you should know:
Key Terms to Know:
- The insulation in windows is measured by U-factor. U-factor refers to the rate of non-solar heat transfer through a window. The lower the U-factor, the more insulation the window provides. U-factor ratings generally fall between 0.20 and 1.20.
- Familiarize yourself withsolar heat gain coefficient (SHGC), which measures the fraction of solar energy transmitted and tells you how well the product blocks heat caused by sunlight. SHGC is measured on a scale of 0 to 1; values typically range from 0.25 to 0.80.
Identify Materials and Contractors
Make sure the materials you choose are suited to the type of climate in which you live. Get started by determining your climate region
- Next, locate an ENERGY STAR retailer in your neighborhood. Just type in your zip code for product suppliers near you.
- In addition to the long-term energy savings you’ll enjoy, take advantage of financial incentives that lower your initial investment. Check with your local utilities and state to see if they provide financial incentives or rebates for purchasing ENERGY STAR qualified windows.
If upgrading your windows to make them more energy efficient isn’t in your budget, you’re not out of luck! There are many ways that you can improve the efficiency of your windows and the comfort of your home with a limited budget. Check out these DIY projects to help keep the cool air inside your home.
Already taken on a project to make your home more energy efficient? Share your story with Virginia Energy Sense on our Facebook page and we’ll feature you in an upcoming blog!
How to: Use a Programmable Thermostat in Your Home
A programmable thermostat makes it easier for you to save energy by offering specific settings to regulate temperatures in your home while accounting for variables including, time of day, seasons and your schedule.
Using standard settings, homeowners will see a significant savings in energy since more than half of the money spent on powering a household goes to heating and cooling costs. In fact, installing and correctly using a programmable thermostat can help you reduce your home utility bills by as much as $180 a year. Now that’s what I call savings!
If you’re thinking about purchasing and installing a programmable thermostat, here are some things you should know:
Options: Typically, thermostat models come in a variety of schedule functions. Homeowners’ with schedules that change daily can opt for models that allow the flexibility to set separate settings for each day of the week, based on whether you’re home or away. For those with more consistent schedules, 5-day models offer the option to keep the same settings throughout the week while switching to different settings for weekends. Depending on your preferences and home needs, programmable thermostats can range in price from $20 to a few hundred dollars. While $20 will get you a basic model, more advanced models have some other handy options you may want to consider:
- Digital, backlit displays
- Touchpad screen programming
- Voice, mobile phone and/or Wi-Fi programming
- Hold/Vacation features
- Indicators which tell you when it’s time to change air filters
- Indicators that signal malfunctioning of heating/cooling systems
- Adaptive Recovery/ Smart Recovery features that senses the amount of time it will take to reach the next set-point temperature
How to Install and Program Your Thermostat:
· Before installing your programmable thermostat, be sure to shut down your electricity and read the instructions that accompany the thermostat of your choice.
· Select a location on an interior wall in your home. The location should be away from heat or air sources that could impact temperature readings.
· As you develop a schedule for your thermostat, you should take into consideration when you’re normally away from your home and when your family typically goes to sleep. A sample schedule might look like this:
o 6am – 9am: Thermostat is set at 68°F
o 9am – 5pm: Thermostat is set at 55°F
o 5pm - from 10pm: Thermostat is set at 68°F
o 10pm – 6am: Thermostat is set at 60°F
*** Setting your home’s thermostat to 68°F during winter and turning the thermostat back 10°–15° while you are asleep or at work can save about 5%–15% a year on your heating bill—a savings of as much as 1% for each degree if the setback period is eight hours long. In the summer, you can follow the same strategy with central air conditioning, too, by keeping your house warmer than normal when you are away and lowering the thermostat setting to 78°F when you are at home and need cooling. ***
Programmable thermostats are a low voltage wiring project and involve anywhere from 2–10 wires, depending on your type of heating and cooling system. If your home requires a more extensive installation or you’re concerned about risks involved with installing electrical equipment, consider contacting an HVAC professional.
Are You Discussing Energy Efficiency with Your Kids?
Are the kids looking forward to snow days? While they’re home, it’s a great opportunity to talk to them about saving energy, especially during the winter months where energy usage can be at its highest. You can also conduct a few energy efficiency experiments around your home to help the energy-saving lessons come alive! To spark the conversation, here are some helpful resources you can share with the kids to promote energy savings:
- Make energy efficiency projects fun! Light an incense stick and let kids wave it (or for safety, watch you do it!) in front of windows to detect drafts. Together you can then help them apply caulk to plug air leaks around door frames.
- The U.S. Department of Energy’s Kids Saving Energy site has games, tips and facts just for kids of all ages who want to become more energy conscious.
- Print and post the Easy Energy Action Plan on your fridge so kids can keep track of how they use energy wisely every day.
- Energy Star Kids can also help teach children why their planet needs them and how they can help. Energy Star’s word banks also offer a great vocabulary lesson for kids to learn about energy and environment concepts.
- The U.S. Energy Information Administration Energy Kids site has lesson plans, energy career articles and games and activities—all for students.
You can also help your kids make energy saving resolutions through our contest launching in early January. Check our site for more details coming soon!
For ways kids and adults can help apply their energy-saving knowledge when they return to school, check out Virginia Energy Sense’s At School page. You can also read about schools across Virginia working to make their buildings more energy efficient.
Energy-Saving Tips in Time for the Holidays
You’ve decorated, gathered gifts and cooked. Now it’s your turn to host a holiday celebration. Before you rush around taking care of last minute details, check out these tips to help you have the most energy efficient party on the block!
- Expecting a large crowd? Since more bodies translate into more heat, turn down your thermostat a few degrees. You’ll keep everyone comfortable and keep your heating bill in check.
- If your home is already in decent order, skip major cleaning before the event. Instead, leave the cleaning until after the party so you don’t use cleaning appliances twice, saving time and energy during this busy time of year.
- If your guests plan to move between inside and outside areas, consider using candles to light your walkway or patio to save energy throughout the party. Make sure to follow fire safety guidelines
- If your tree lights are on, consider turning off some room lights. Lights on your tree should provide enough light to navigate a room, and a festive atmosphere for your party.
Energy-Saving Tips in Time for the Holidays
Cooking up a storm or storing leftovers from holiday gatherings? Consider the following tips to reduce your energy use in the kitchen this season:
- Your refrigerator loses its cool every time you open the door. To save energy, try gathering all your ingredients in one trip.
- Defrost your food in the refrigerator to cut down on time and energy spent cooking. It also helps keep your fridge cooler!
- Waking up early to roast that ham or turkey? Since it takes several hours to cook, skip preheating and help your oven save energy where it can.
- When your dish is close to finished, turn your oven off and let the remaining heat complete the cooking process.
- Keep the oven door closed tightly! Use the oven light instead to check on food instead of opening the door. Opening the door can let heat (and money!) escape.
- If you’re cooking side dishes or only entertaining a small crowd, consider using your microwave instead of an oven. Microwaves use up to 50% less energy than conventional ovens.
- When you need to use the stove top, make sure the size of your pot or pan matches the size of the burner. A six-inch pan on an eight-inch burner will waste more than 40% of the energy.
- When you’re finished cooking, leave the oven door cracked to release heat into the house to make use of the energy you’ve already used.
- After all the holiday cooking, your oven is bound to be dirty. If you self-clean the oven right after cooking, you can use existing heat to save energy.