BY MIRANDA BOUTELLE
Helping people feels good. Supporting community is sewn into the fabric of your electric co-op, which is guided by seven cooperative principles that put the needs of members first. On National Good Neighbor Day, which is Sept. 28 – or any day this month – join in the cooperative spirit and help your neighbors, friends and family save at home with these do-it-yourself energy-saving tips.
Change lightbulbs. Prioritize changing lights that are used the most, such as incandescent porch lights left on all night. LEDs use about 75% less energy and last up to 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs. Some neighbors can’t climb step stools or ladders, so help them out if you are able. Be sure to check for overhead power lines when using ladders outside.
Swap the filter. Furnace filters should be checked regularly and replaced when dirty. Simply writing down the dimensions of the furnace filter can help your neighbor, so it makes it easy when they pick up a pack of new ones in the store or order online.
Open the dampers. Register dampers allow heated and cooled air to properly circulate throughout the home. If you have a central air heating or cooling system, dampers should be left open. The idea that closing registers saves energy is a common misconception. If furniture is on top of dampers, move it to a new permanent spot so it does not block air flow.
Adjust the water heater. Check the water heater to be sure it is set to 120 degrees F. It’s also worth your time to test the water temperature. You can do this by checking the faucet nearest the water heater, turning on only the hot water and waiting until it gets hot. Let the hot water run into a glass and place a kitchen thermometer in it. Wait until it registers the highest temperature. If the water heater is set too high, you can save energy by lowering the setting.
Keep outdoor units clear. Remove brush and debris from around the air conditioner or heat pump. If leaves or plants pile up around the outdoor unit, it can reduce the airflow, which makes the system work harder than it should. That in turn uses more energy and can reduce the life of the unit.
Remove the window AC unit. By removing the unit before wintertime, the window can close properly. This prevents heat from escaping and wasting energy during cold months. It also keeps the room more comfortable. Window AC units are heavy and awkward, so this project is best done with a buddy. Get that person to commit to helping put the unit back next spring.
Share energy-saving programs. Information is a great way to help, and it’s free. Look into programs your local electric cooperative offers and share that information with your neighbor. Don’t forget to check the U.S. Department of Energy for federal tax credits for upgrades.
Miranda Boutelle writes on energy efficiency topics for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.