Edisto Electric Cooperative exists solely to serve its members. Since electric cooperatives are not out for profit, Edisto Electric never benefits when our members use more power or have higher bills. That’s why we’ve offered many different ways to save energy and reduce heating and cooling costs.
One such program is called Levelized Billing. If your electric bill varies widely from month to month, this budget plan spreads payments throughout the year. Levelized Billing makes your electric bill predictable by using a rolling average of your present month’s bill and eleven previous months’ bills, plus your current balance. With Levelized Billing there is never any sign-up fee or monthly service charge, but you must have been a member of the co-op for at least a year to apply.
For those interested in reducing their energy usage, Edisto Electric can supply a Do-It-Yourself Energy Audit pamphlet, which will walk you through the steps to a more energy efficient home and lower energy consumption.
Edisto Electric’s web site also offers many ideas for conserving energy. After clicking on the ‘Energy’ section of the web site, visitors will find not only general energy saving and safety tips, but seasonal tips, as well. In this section there is also a Home Energy Use Calculator, so participants can break down their energy usage, appliance by appliance.
As previously stated, it is likely that your heating and air conditioning costs are higher than anything else in the home. That’s not always the case, but there is a good chance of it.
There are four factors that affect heating and cooling costs: the outdoor temperature; the thermal efficiency of your home (insulation); the efficiency of your heating and cooling system; and the temperature you want to maintain inside the home (thermostat setting).
There is nothing you can do that more effectively controls the cost of keeping your home comfortable than insulating it properly. That includes sufficient R-values of insulation in the attic, walls and floor, as well as buttoning up air leaks throughout the house. Keep in mind that attic insulation should be at least R-30, wall insulation at least R-12, and floor insulation at least R-19.
Now that things are well-insulated, look for holes in the walls, floor and ceiling, such as cracks around windows, doors, light fixtures, plumbing entrances and other assorted airways. All windows should be either the self-insulating type or should have storm windows installed. Around all windows and doors, close off small gaps with caulking or weather-stripping.
Refer to the following list of possibilities when looking for less conspicuous air leaks:
• Plumbing penetrations through insulated floors or ceilings
• Fireplace dampers
• Attic access hatches
• Recessed lights and fans in insulated ceilings
• Missing plaster
• Electrical outlets and switches, especially on exterior walls
• Window, door and baseboard molding
• Dropped ceilings above bathtubs and cabinets
Any such leaks should be repaired or filled with caulk, expanding foam or some other insulation.
The thermostat is another place to take action. In the winter, adjusting your thermostat to a slightly lower setting can make a difference. Up to 7% of your heating costs could be avoided for every degree you lower your thermostat. Likewise, turning the thermostat a few degrees higher during the summer means savings.
A clock thermostat which can be set to raise and lower the temperature automatically several times a day, can keep the system from running when it’s not needed. However, heat pump thermostats should be left at one setting.
Another big factor in heating and cooling costs is the efficiency of the system itself. Without proper maintenance and cleaning, even the most energy-efficient system in the world can become an energy waster.
It is advisable to have your system routinely serviced by a qualified HVAC mechanic once a year, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to help keep the system in proper working order. Start by making sure none of the registers are blocked or restricted. Then, proceed to the unit itself and check its filter. Estimates show that up to 90% of all HVAC systems have dirty filters, and that could be costing you as much as 20% more than normal to keep your home comfortable. All duct work, whether in attic space or underneath the house, should be well insulated. That is a task that the homeowner can generally complete with no more tools than a good knife and a roll of duct tape.
Finally, the age and efficiency of your system can make a big difference. A 10-year-old system, although it may have been top-of-the-line at that time, could be much less efficient than new HVAC systems.
Barring any problems, a water well is a very economical way to supply your home with water.
High electrical usage occurs when the system malfunctions. If there is a water leak somewhere, the pump could be running much more than normal. Another common problem is a water logged pressure tank. Normally, the pump runs, pushing water into the pressure tank against the air charge until a preset pressure is reached, at which time the pressure switch turns the pump off. This way the pump does not have to operate during the whole time you are using water, because you have the tank’s pressure to draw from. If the pressure tank has lost its air charge, it is said to be water logged.
Any of these problems can cause a higher than normal bill, not to mention the extra wear and tear on your well pump.
Heating water for a family of four can easily cost $30 per month. To keep these costs under control, maintenance is, again, very important. A common cause of excessive water heating cost is a water leak at the water heater, which could force the water heater to run almost constantly.
As in the HVAC system, the thermostat setting of a water heater is an important factor to consider. Lowering the thermostat to between 120° and 130° can not only save you money, it can also reduce the scalding dangers associated with very high temperatures.
To insulate water heaters there are relatively inexpensive water heater insulation blankets at home improvement stores. Also insulate the water lines leading from the tank for the first 3 feet with pipe wrap or tubular foam insulation.
One last way to save on the cost of heating water is to simply use less of it. Install low-flow shower heads, take shorter showers, and wash clothes in cold water when possible.
Take a walk through your home with this checklist and it will help you check off wasteful energy use conditions and habits.
• Insulate your walls, ceilings and floors to at least R-12, R-30 and R-19, respectively.
• Install thermopane or storm windows/doors if they are not already on your home.
• Make sure all external doors and windows are weather stripped or caulked to seal off air leaks.
• Insulate heating and air conditioning duct work with at least 2 inches of insulation.
• Provide at least 1 square foot of free exhaust from the attic for every 150 square feet of attic space.
• Install a tight-fitting damper in your fireplace flue.
• Replace or clean the filters in your heating and air conditioning system on a regular basis, and have a qualified HVAC mechanic service the unit at least once a year.
• When buying a new heating or air conditioning system, choose one that is highly efficient and properly sized for your home.
• If you have a heat pump, set the thermostat on a constant setting appropriate for the season and leave it there, avoiding daily adjustments.
• Use the sun’s heat in the winter to help warm a room by opening curtains or shades.
• Locate your thermostat on an inside wall, away from drafts, sunlight or other heat sources.
• If using window air conditioning units, install them on the shady side of the house when possible.
• Lower thermostat settings in the winter and raise them in the summer.
• Install a clock thermostat on your HVAC system (if it’s not a heat pump) so that settings are automatically adjusted when you are at work or in bed.
• Clean HVAC registers to ensure unrestricted air flow.
• Plant trees and pull down the shades on east and west-facing windows to reduce the amount of heat entering your home through the windows in the summer.