Energy Saving

January Deep Freeze Results in Higher Energy Bills

Snow in Atlanta

Frigid air from waves of Arctic cold fronts will cause consumers to take notice when they receive energy bills for January.

The average high temperature for the first 18 days of the month was only 45 degrees, about 10 degrees cooler than normal. The lowest temperature during the same period was 14 degrees, with 12 of 18 mornings being below 26 degrees. The average low is 31.

That means it took a lot of heat to stay warm. The first 18 days of January required more than twice as much heating as the same time period in 2017.

That also means heating systems ran twice as much, sometimes for hours on end, causing consumers' energy bills to increase significantly. That's true no matter what fuel source - electricity, natural gas or LP gas - the heating system uses.

"Consumers should not be surprised when their energy bill covering January is up significantly," said Greg Brooks, Walton EMC spokesperson. "Heating costs may be double of what they were last year."

For electricity, heating can be as much as 60 percent of the total bill. For natural and LP gas, that figure could rise to as much as 80 to 100 percent.

Here are some tips to take a bite out of the Arctic chill:

  • Make sure your home is properly insulated and weather stripped. The most cost-effective place to add more insulation is the attic. Caulking gaps in the outside of your home is also an economical energy fix.
  • Open blinds and drapes facing south during the day to take advantage of solar heating.
  • Keep exterior doors closed as much as possible.
  • Wear heavier clothing indoors, like a jogging suit or thermal underwear and socks. That allows you to keep the thermostat at a lower temperature. Every degree lower can save three to five percent in heating costs.
  • Help your heating system run more efficiently. Change filters regularly and don't block vents with furniture or rugs.
  • Sign up for Walton EMC's and Walton Gas's levelized billing program. These programs shift some of the cost of higher months to lower months, making your bill a more even amount year-round.

Natural Gas Appliances: A Gas Dryer

You may have heard that natural gas appliances can be very energy efficient. This is often true, so even though the initial cost of the natural gas appliance may be a bit more, you can save energy and money in the long run. If you are thinking about upgrading your dryer, think about making it a gas dryer.

Buying a Gas Dryer

Unfortunately, a dryer is one of the least energy efficient appliances, but you can help matters by choosing one with good energy efficiency. Gas dryers are known to be energy efficient. When looking at a gas dryer, the price is going to be somewhere between $350 and $1,600. The cost on a monthly basis is going to depend on the gas prices in your area.

As far as a gas dryer goes, you need a gas line as well as space for outdoor venting in order to install a gas dryer. Since this process requires a gas line, it is recommended that you hire a technician to install your gas dryer.

Advantages of a Gas Dryer

There are a lot of reasons to go out and buy a gas dryer. One of those is energy efficiency. Another is the fact that you can dry your clothes very quickly and often for less money. Gas Dryers also sense when your clothes are dry and they are able to reduce the amount of wrinkling because the heat dissipates quickly.

If you are upgrading your appliances this year, try for energy efficiency with a gas dryer. 

Tips for Conserving Energy

We all want to conserve a little energy to make that energy bill go down a little bit. There are several easy ways to conserve energy just by being more conscious about your energy usage.

When thinking about your home appliances, there are a couple easy ways to conserve energy:

1. Use your clothes washer only on warm or cold water settings. If you eliminate or cut down on the “hot” loads you do, it can conserve energy from your water heater.

2. Fill your dishwasher completely before you run it, so you won’t waste water or energy.

3. Replace old appliances with more energy efficient ones. This is not something you have to do all at once because it could get expensive, but if you are looking to get a new appliance anyway, check out appliances with the Energy Star label because they will save energy and prevent pollution.

There are other ways to conserve energy aside from just using your appliances well. Some of those ways could be by making small investments:

4. Try installing low-flow shower heads. These shower heads will help you use less water when you are taking that daily shower.

5. Another good idea to help conserve energy is weatherizing your house or apartment. You can use caulk or weather strips to block air leaks around doors and windows and this can save your precious energy from slipping out the door.

When you conserve energy, you can save money, so keep these tips in mind to save a little bit on energy this fall. 

Rising Natural Gas Prices due to Cold Weather

Cold weather brings many things: snow, cautious travels, and rising natural gas prices. The colder the weather, the higher natural gas consumption. About half of the households in the U.S use natural gas as their primary heating fuel, so many businesses and private homes turn their indoor heating on as the outdoor weather gets colder.

With natural gas having limited short-term alternatives, prices reflect the changes in supply as well as demand. A decrease in the supply will push prices up, and most likely discourage production and sales from storage inventories. An increase in the supply will do the exact opposite.

The winter weather will raise the demand for heating, as the summer will bring the need for cooling. This winter has brought many spontaneous storms and unpredictable weather, which results in even higher prices for natural gas, as there was not enough time for the supply to react.

With the cold temperatures this season, it’s important to keep an eye out for wellhead freeze-offs. What exactly is a freeze-off? The natural gas coming up the well pipe includes moisture. When the temperatures outside drop below freezing, the moisture will freeze at the surface, if not properly insulated.

Thankfully, natural gas has kept up with the severe winter storms this season through their consistent production. Hopefully Groundhog’s Day will reveal that we only have a few short weeks to go!

How to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient

Large home

Energy isn't the biggest expense associated with a home, but keeping the house warm and the lights on can add up over time. A few simple strategies to increase the energy efficiency of your home can make a big difference in the long run, saving you a lot of money.

1. Use energy efficient appliances

Many common household appliances have been redesigned to improve their energy efficiency. Light bulbs are a common one: different types of bulbs might be a shade dimmer than standard, or get up to full brightness slowly, in the interest of conserving energy in small ways you won't notice. Anything with a display, like televisions and computers, can be run in energy efficient mode, which usually means a slightly dimmed screen, and plenty of other modern appliances can be programmed to use less energy at certain times of day.

2. Insulate your roof

Heat rises, and in cold months most of the heat in your home escapes through the roof. If you own a home, make the investment of properly insulating your roof: the up-front cost will more than pay for itself over time in the energy saved. If you're in an apartment or a condo that's not on the top floor, you can use blankets as stylish ceiling hangs that prevent losing too much heat to your upstairs neighbors. Certain types of ceiling fan are also designed to push warm air back downwards from the ceiling, preventing heat from escaping.

3. Use low-flow appliances

Usually a faucet or toilet at full pressure is much more water than you need for everyday tasks like washing dishes. Installing low-flow appliances saves money on water by reducing the flow of faucets, toilets and shower heads, usually by little enough that the only difference you notice is in your monthly water bill.

Types of Air Filters and How Often to Change Yours

Change your furnace filter

With the rising cost of energy, more people are on the lookout for new ways to conserve energy and lower their utility bill at the end of the month. But you’d be amazed by how much more efficient your home heating and air conditioning can function by simply changing the air filter.

But when should you change your air filter? Some people will change their filter between seasons, and others will go so far as to change the filter each month. In reality, how often you should change your air filter is based on a variety of different factors.

First and foremost, if your air filter is dirty, then it needs to be changed – regardless of how much time has passed. Granted, your general living conditions and the type of filter – as different types of filters have different life spans – also factor in. But it is recommended that you check it on a regular basis during the winter and summer, when your system is likely working harder than usual.

You should also consider the air quality of your home. If the air feels less fresh, it might be worth checking the condition of your air filter. Having pets in the house or a large number of residents can also cause your filter to more easily become clogged with dust, dirt and dander.

There are five different types of home air filters:

  • Economy Panel Filters
  • Pleated Filters
  • Electrostatic Filters
  • Electronic Filters
  • HEPA Filters

Knowing what type of air filter your home uses is half the battle, as each one has a different lifespan. But as a general rule of thumb, make a habit of checking your air filter at least once a month. If you are unsatisfied with the performance of your air filter or notice an increasing lack of fresh air quality, consider changing to a different type of air filter.

Improving Energy Efficiency Through Your Attic

Insulate your home

During the cold winter months, heating your home is imperative. What you might not realize is that heat rises in your home, ultimately escaping through the attic. This is counter to the goal of keeping your home warm, and can add to your energy bill at the end of each month. Not to mention during the summer months, when the sun is bearing down on your roof and passing additional heat into your home, requiring you crank up the air conditioner in response.

Taking the steps to improve your attic space can help slow the transfer of heat through your roof, and ultimately save you money on your energy bill.

Sealing the air gaps in your attic. Don’t neglect air sealing in your attic simply because it isn’t a habitable space.  The sealing on your interior walls and floors can be less effective than the exterior walls. Are there ducts in your attic? Those should also be inspected and sealed, as well.

Improving the insulation in your attic. Your attic is exposed to a substantial amount of heat from the roof. By insulating the attic walls, you’re able to slow both heat gain and heat loss. Not sure what type of insulation to use? Consult your local HVAC technician for advice on what to purchase.

Properly ventilating your attic space. Even if your attic is not a habitable space, proper ventilation is important. Increased humidity in your attic due to poor ventilation can degrade the insulation or lead to mold and fungus. An attic with good ventilation will also help keep your home cooler during the summer months by expelling the warm air.

Even if you feel you are satisfied with your energy bill each month, it never hurts to consider making upgrades to your attic. Your home environment could be improved, at the very least.

Reducing Your Business’ Energy Bills

Paying bills online

We all know the feeling. When that utility bill ends up on your desk at the end of each month, you open it with a sense of dread, wondering how much of your bottom line will come at the cost of utilities.

But it would be safe to assume that, as a smart and savvy businessperson, you’re likely keen on finding and hearing new ideas for how you can keep that utility bill low.

Here are a few tips that could help accomplish that for you and your business:

Check with your utility company about conducting an energy audit. Several companies will offer to audit your building to determine if you are using energy efficiently. This will be help identify areas where you could improve your energy use and potentially lower your bill.

Use energy efficient light bulbs. You would be amazed at how much you could save by simply upgrading to more efficient light bulbs in your office building.

Standardize more efficient practices. Ensure that whoever closes up the office at the end of the day is doing their due diligence. Turn off the printers, computers, fax machines and even the coffee makers when they are not being used overnight.

Use power strips for all personal electronics. When you use a power strip to plug in cell phone chargers, radios and other personal items, be sure that they’re plugged into a power strip that can be turned off. This will save on energy during the night, as well.

Reduce the amount of paper used in your building. Think about it. The less paper you print, the less energy your printers are required to use. Not to mention the cost of additional paper and printer supplies when their uses become excessive.

These are just a few tips that can be helpful in reducing your energy bill and improving your bottom line.

Myths About Electricity

close up of a light bulb filament

Conserving energy is something that most of us strive for. But there are quite a few popular misconceptions about how to reduce the amount of electricity you use. By examining a few of the most common myths here, more people can become better educated on how to best conserve energy, rather than relying on misconceptions that have been debunked over the years.

Myth: Leaving the lights on is better than shutting them off, considering how much energy is required to turn them on in the first place.

This myth was fact several years ago, before manufacturers stopping using activators in florescent lights. The activator required a significant amount of energy to start the light, estimated to be about 15 minutes worth of light. Modern florescent lights are much more conservative, requiring less than one second of light when turned on. So be sure to turn the lights out when you leave a room!

Myth: Keep the heater at the same temperature, even when no one is in the building, because returning it to the designated temperature will require more energy than maintaining the same temperature.

This is not true, because lowering the temperature reduces the amount of cycles for the heating or air conditioning system. The few hours that the system runs, the less energy is used. To avoid freezing the pipes, don’t turn the heat completely off, but keeping it at a lower temperature when no one is around will help conserve more energy.

Myth: You no longer have to turn off office equipment, in large part because of technological advances that have allowed these machines to become more energy efficient.

While these machines are idle, most of them are still functioning at full power, ready and waiting to be used. Even computer screensavers are not as efficient as you might think. At the very least, turn off the monitor or shut down all unneeded machines overnight, during the weekends or while on vacation.

Ways to Conserve Energy

Adjusting a thermostat

Energy is a vital resource which is often taken for granted. Without it, our lives would be entirely different. We would be without lights and lamps, gas and electric, air conditioning and heat. It is a necessary commodity for us day in and day out. With such high demand, it is no surprise that energy comes at a cost- to our ecosystem and our checkbooks. Fortunately, within our own household there are many simple ways to conserve energy, as well as time, money and the environment.

First and foremost, it is important to begin monitoring your energy expenses. Knowing where the majority of your energy is being spent will help you know how to more efficiently cut back.  To better track your usage, you might also consider purchasing a plug load monitor. This device can be plugged into an outlet and will display how much energy is being consumed and when. Some are even programmable to automatically cut power.

Next, turn your attention to your house’s lights. If you are not willing to let go of any lamps or radiant bulbs, then you may want to think about a dimming switch. Dimming a light by just 10 percent will more than double a bulb’s life. Another option would be motion sensors for outdoor fixtures or indoor rooms that are not used as frequently or purchasing LED or fluorescent bulbs.

During the brisk winters, it can be difficult to manage the heating bill. To help these costs, you should lower your thermostat when you leave the home or during the night, minimize the use of expensive portable heaters, be sure not to block any air vents and utilize the sun’s heat by leaving shades and blinds open during the daytime. Similarly, much can be done to keep a home cool in the summer. Make use of ceiling fans, close exterior doors and windows when the air conditioning is on, block the sun by pulling blinds and shades, clean the AC’s air filters and set the thermostat to “auto” rather than “on” when air is constantly running.

These quick and effective tricks will keep your home running in tip-top shape while keeping your energy costs and usage down.