The average American family spends $2,000 or more in energy costs during the winter, according to the Department of Energy. Turning off the lights isn’t the answering either – the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that nearly 30 percent of electric bills are from heating and cooling and 9.5 percent is water heating.
Carol Garrette, Member Service manager at Duck River Electric Membership Corporation said these areas are where savings on electric bills are burning away.
“Wintertime is when people typically have the highest bills. Winter heating is the toughest,” Garrette said.
The largest contributor includes leaky windows, leaky roofs and leaky duct work. Solutions to this range from no cost to high cost.
“Heating and cooling is the number one user of electricity by far. Water heating is your next one,” Garrette said.
If a water heater is in an uninsulated space, Garrette suggest purchasing a water heater blanket, which can run for $30 at Home Depot.
“Your water heater is just sitting there, trying to maintain whatever temperature you have it set on. We recommend 120 degrees to be energy efficient,” Garrette said.
She added that the tank’s job is to maintain water temperature and will do so at all times. A water heater blanket helps insulate the tank and reduces heat loss between 25-45 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
If going away on vacation for a week or longer, Garrette recommends turning off the breaker that controls the hot water heater to reduce energy costs.
Another cost effective way to help reduce heating costs is to change the HVAC filter monthly. If dirty, the filter allows less air flow and chokes the system, causing it to work harder.
A cheap solution is to purchase and install foam outlet insulation behind all electric outlet plates and electric switch plates, especially on outside walls. These foam cutouts reduce airflow.
The quickest thing a person can do is set their thermostat to 68 degrees and maintain that setting, Garrette said.
Costly, but the best option to keep heat in, is adding attic insulation to the home. Garrette likes to drive around in the winter and she often spots roofs covered in snow, while their neighbor’s roof is completely cleaned off. This is often caused by lack of insulation – the heated from within the home rose and escaped through the attic and roof, thus melting the snow.
Even if a home has attic insulation, it may be time to change it out.
“Over time, insulation settles, wears down and is not as effective anymore,” Garrette said.
In the past, the Tennessee Valley Authority offered a $250 rebate for attic insulation. The program has since ended, but DREMC put it on themselves to continue it for their members. For more information on this rebate, contact DREMC.
According to DREMC Residential Energy Advisor Pat Garrett, the cost to upgrade attic insulation in a home depends on many variables such as house size, what type and amount of attic insulation already exists, what type of insulation they are upgrading to and more. The average price he typically sees for attic insulation jobs is $0.60 per square foot. So, in an average size home of 2,000 square feet, it can cost around $1,200 to add attic insulation.
The DREMC $250 rebate is, essentially, a 20 percent off coupon, Garrette said. In the past, DREMC has done special promotions and offered a $500 rebate with TVA’s contributing. Garrette is unsure if this will be offered in 2019, but said members can follow the DREMC Facebook page to see when the promotion will be running again.
If a room has a ceiling fan, turn the blade rotation to clockwise to force the hot air back down to the floor. There is a switch on the base of the fan to do this. Garrette cautioned about using this often, as the ceiling fan will cool skin, thus making the person feel colder, but it does not cool the room.
Open blinds during the day to allow the sun in the room and help heat up the home and close them at sunset to help insulate the room.
Although lighting isn’t high on the list in terms of costly sections on an electric bill, there are things that can be done to improve efficiency.
“Replace incandescent with LED bulbs – LEDS are so much more affordable now. When they first came on the market – I’m not spending $20 on a lightbulb! Now they cost as much as incandescent and are much cheaper to run,” Garrette said.
LED lights about 30 times longer than regular lightbulbs and give out the same amount of lumens of light, Garrette explained.
When it comes to holiday lighting, the stress on energy bills depends on how many decorations and lights are being used. Garrette said the best thing someone can do to cut down the cost is to use LED holiday lights as well, and ensure the lights aren’t old and faulty.
Advanced meters have been deployed in Manchester, meaning Manchester members can receive a daily detailed analysis of their energy usage at home delivered to their phone or email, if the member so wishes.
“It tells me what I used in my home yesterday. I can immediately see, ‘oh man, it was cold yesterday and I used 60 kwh” and it equates what that is in dollars too,’” Garrette said.
“You begin to learn what’s normal at your home. You can tell when it’s been really hot or really cold and you can also spot if something is wrong. Let’s say if something happens when heating and cooling, if it’s running constantly. I can spot that in just a few days and not wait until I get my bill next month,” she added.
“That daily information to me is very powerful,” she said.
DREMC also has a website portal that allows members to see a chart that further breaks down energy usage in the home.
DREMC’s Beat the Peak is a system that warns members to use less energy, if possible, during peak electric hours on certain days. The day is determined by the weather – the colder it is, the more demand is put on electricity, therefore the higher the cost. DREMC pays TVA for electricity and during peaks, their bill can go from cents to upwards of $10 per kilowatt hour. This expense trickles down to members, thus raising their bill.
Other services offered include a do-it-yourself home audit for energy efficiency. Pat Garrett will also do a free walkthrough audit of the home and suggest improvements for energy efficiency.
DREMC’s headquarters is located in Shelbyville. Their number is (931) 684-4621.
The Manchester branch can be contacted at 931-914-1295.