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Saving money on energy is a bright idea

By: Michelle Miller-Carl Journal News Editor
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Precious dollars could be leaking out your front door or going down your drain. You may not see the money your appliances cost you (at least not until the bill arrives, anyway), but some simple steps could save you money. If your faucets are leaky, your thermostat unprogramed and your refrigerator more than 10 years old, it may be time to take action. A good place to start would be your cooling system, said Brian Swanson, media relations representative with Pacific Gas & Electric. Swanson said air conditioning and heating make up the biggest chunk of customers’ monthly energy bills. PG&E recommends keeping your thermostat at 78 degrees when you are home and 85 when away. “Every degree you set your thermostat below 78 degrees, you’re using 3 to 5 percent more energy,” Swanson said. “If people really want to focus on reducing energy usage during summer, air conditioning is one of ways do that.” Other low- or no-cost ways to save include using compact fluorescent light bulbs and washing clothes and dishes with full loads. Swanson also recommends looking at where the sun comes into your house and planting shade trees or keeping blinds closed during the day to keep your home cool. Dripping hot water faucets are literally money down the drain and can waste 212 gallons of water a month. A more costly measure to save energy would be replacing that old refrigerator. A 10-year-old refrigerator can use twice as much energy as a newer model. “Appliances are more expensive, but in the long run, they will save a lot of energy,” he said. “We have rebates available for energy-efficient appliances.” Swanson recommends checking pge.com/myhome/saveenergymoney/rebates to see if your new purchase will qualify for a rebate. The Recovery Act signed in February also provides for tax credits on energy-efficient home improvements, allowing you to write off 30 percent of the cost of your new windows, water heater, solar panels and more (see energystar.gov for more information). Some of these cost-saving measures were being put into place at one Auburn home Wednesday. A contractor for PG&E’s Energy Partners Program visited Silvia Esteban’s family home Wednesday. Low-income customers qualify for the program, which has specialists visit residences to perform free energy-saving upgrades. Residential Weatherization Inc. is the Energy Partners Program contractor in Placer County. Esteban said saving energy and money were the reasons she scheduled the appointment. Sometimes when it’s really hot outside, the air-conditioning unit could be running all day, she said. And cooking in the kitchen just makes it hotter, she added. Crew members from Residential Weatherization Inc. inspected window caulking, replaced door weather stripping and lighting fixtures, and checked faucets aerators and showerheads. At this home, the energy savings started at the front door. Weatherization Specialist Sharice LaRose ripped out the old weatherstripping from the door frame. “The other one was so old, light was coming through,” she said. Energy Specialist Eddie Punzo also replaced overhead lighting in the home with compact floursecent bulbs, which use a quarter less energy than a standard bulb. Punzo said the water heater, central air and heating and refrigerator are generally the top three energy users in the home. The Energy Parners Program, which is funded by a charge to ratepayers, could also provide a free energy-efficient refreigator or air conditioner to qualifying residents, whether they own or rent their home. Punzo said everyone, regardless of their income, is looking to save money and energy during the rough economy. “All different types of people are getting this work done nowadays,” he said. “And it feels good to help people out.” Michelle Miller-Carl can be reached at michellem@goldcountrymedia.com. ---------- Want to audit yourself? PG&E has an online tool called SmartEnergy Analyzer where customers can upload information about their home, appliances and even previous bills to pinpoint ways to save energy and find out how their usage stacks up to the average household. Check it out at pge.com/myhome/saveenergymoney/analyzer. Energy Partners Program For more information, visit pge.com/energypartners or call (800) 989-9744. ---------- Energy saving tips -Replace and recycle your old refrigerator and purchase energy-efficient models. -Insulate ceilings to R-30 standards if your attic has less than R-19. -Weatherstrip around windows and doors. -Wrap heating and cooling ducts with duct wrap, or use mastic sealant. -Install energy-saver showerheads. -Set the furnace thermostat at 68 degrees or lower, and the air-conditioner thermostat at 78 degrees or higher, health permitting. -Use compact fluorescent lamps. -Replace old windows with new high performance dual pane windows. -Clean or replace furnace and air-conditioner filters regularly, following manufacturer’s instructions. -Set the water heater thermostat at 140 degrees or "normal" if you have a dishwasher. -Fix defective plumbing or dripping faucets. -Wash only full loads in a dishwasher and use the shortest cycle that will get your dishes clean. -Install shades, awnings or sunscreens on windows facing south and/or west to block summer light. ~ Pacific Gas & Electric ---------- What does it cost you? Monthly estimated cost to run your appliances: Dishwasher - $6 Television - $5-6 Refrigerator - $9-16 Central AC - $18-35 Ceiling fan – 63 cents Clothes dryer - $5-9 Hair dryer – 13 cents-$1 Water heater - $20-38 ~ Pacific Gas & Electric