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Save energy and money this winter

Mayor’s Message: Bernie Platt

As Old Man Winter prepares to settle in, remember that there are many ways to save energy and money in these cold months ahead. Small actions can yield big savings during the approaching winter.

1. Turn down your thermostat. You can save 3 to 5 percent on your heating bill for every degree you lower the temperature. Turn the thermostat down 10 degrees when you go to work, and again when you go to bed. The recommended winter setting is 68 degrees during the day, and 55 degrees at night.

2. Use fans wisely. In just one hour, a hard-working bathroom or kitchen fan can expel a houseful of warm air. Turn them off as soon as they’ve done their job.

3. Keep the fireplace damper closed. Heat rises, and an open damper is like a hole in the roof. Also, limit use of the fireplace, since fires actually suck heat from a room.

4. Close off seldom-used rooms and shut the vents inside. Make sure vents in other rooms are not blocked by rugs and furniture.

5. Turn down the water heater. The water heater is the second-largest energy user in most homes. Hot water heaters have adjustable thermostats, and again, you can save 3 to 5 percent of your water heating energy for every 10 degrees you lower the water temperature. Lowering the temperature of a water heater to 115–120 degrees reduces power use without a noticeable difference.

6. Insulate water heater and pipes. Covering your water heater with an insulated “jacket” ($17 to $20) will keep costs down, especially if your heater is in an unheated place such as a garage. A water heater blanket can save 5–10 percent of the energy it consumes.

7. Use curtains. Opening curtains and shades on south-facing windows during the day allows solar radiation to warm a living space; closing all curtains at night helps retain that heat. A drape can reduce heat lost through a window by one-third. An insulated drape can reduce it by half. Drapes save energy effectively only if they fit tightly against the window and the floor.

8. Block leaks. Plugging the small gaps surrounding windows and doors can save you up to 10 percent on your heating bill. Use door sweeps for exterior doors, and caulk or tacky rope caulk to block around window frames. Apply weather stripping to movable joints.

9. Winterize windows. If you can’t afford storm windows, put plastic film on those windows where a clear view isn’t crucial. This will curb drafts and keep windows from rattling.

10. Keep your furnace in shape. Replace the air filter ($4-$16) according to manufacturer’s directions and your heating system will operate more efficiently. Oil-fired boilers should be cleaned and tuned annually, and gas systems, every two years ($100-$125).

11. Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs. Replace any candescent lights in your home with CFL bulbs ($3 to $5). You can achieve the same level of brightness with a 17-watt energy-efficient fluorescent bulb as you can with a traditional 60-watt bulb. The lower wattage bulb uses up to 75 percent less energy than its candescent counterpart — and lasts ten times longer. Each bulb you convert can save $5 to $8 on electric costs per year or an average of $30 in savings over its lifetime, in addition to preventing hundreds of tons of greenhouse gases from reaching the atmosphere.

Heating your home is essential, but can be one of our biggest household expenses.

With that said, many people may still find it difficult to cover the cost of heating their homes. With that in mind, the state’s department of community affairs is again accepting applications for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). This federally funded program helps qualified homeowners pay their heating bills and makes provisions for emergency heating system services and emergency fuel assistance.

For more information on this program, go to www.state.nj.us/dca/divisions/dhcr/offices/hea.html or call DCA at (800) 510–3102.

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