Six smart ways to slash your energy bill

By: Joce Sterman
ABC2 News
Baltimore (June 5, 2007)- BGE rates have gone up by about 50%…which means more than one million power customers are feeling the power pinch. But there are options out there for cutting your energy costs…changes that will make a difference now and in the future. Dick McClary has worked at the Towson Home Depot store for more than a decade. He’s considered an expert at energy efficiency…and he took us aisle by aisle to find six smart ways to slash your power bill.

Our first stop – LIGHTING. Compact fluorescent bulbs may look funny but the savings they provide is nothing to laugh at. These strange lights use a fraction of the power of standard bulbs. They also come with a slightly higher price tag – about $7 a pack…but they’ll last about nine times as long as their counterparts. McClary says, “Initial cost is higher – but the savings add up very, very quickly. This is going to save you energy right from the moment you plug it into the socket.”
Another item that could put a plug in your energy drain – a CEILING FAN. McClary says, “Kitchen, bedroom, living room – any room where you spend a lot of time – the ceiling fan is going to save you by making the area that you’re in cooler or warmer depending on the season.” The spinning blades keep cooler air moving, so you can crank down your thermostat and save about 25% on cooling costs for the summer. And fans come as cheap as $29 or you can spend as much as $200 on something fancier. Either way – McClary believes you’ll see savings, “The basic element of the fan is the same – it’s still going to bring the cool off the floor or the heat off the ceiling…saves you money.”
And you can also save money with the touch of a button…thanks to a PROGRAMMABLE THERMOSTAT. This kind of unit costs about the same as a standard thermostat – about $35. But programmable thermostats allow you to program them – so they’ll turn off once you leave your house or kick back on before you return. And despite the technology, McClary says they’re easy to use and come with clear directions to change the settings to adapt to your schedule.
The next energy saver…an ON-DEMAND WATER HEATER. With the old type of heaters McClary says, “You’re keeping your water hot when you’re sleeping…you’re keeping your water hot when you’re at work.” Standard water heaters store and heat water continuously – that’s why they’re considered your home’s second biggest energy waster. But an on-demand unit could change things. These wall-mounted heaters run about $650 – but they only warm water when you need it…so you’re not purging power.
Another clear way to pay less for power over time…NEW WINDOWS. New vinyl windows help to keep that precious air conditioned air from leaking out…so you won’t spend more to keep the cool air coming. But each window comes with a $175 price tag…so the return on your investment could take awhile according to McClary, “You’re going to see a minor reduction in that energy bill and then each year there after as that energy reduction shows up…long-term it’s going to save you the cost of the windows.”
And the last stop for cutting costs…LANDSCAPING. Simply planting a few trees can cut your energy use by shading your home from the summer sun – keeping it cooler. McClary says, “A little bit of green is going to save a lot of green in the long run.
With these solutions – you’ll have to spend some of that green to save even more down the road. But how much you spend depends on how quickly you want to see results. The light bulbs, ceiling fans and thermostats are relatively inexpensive…and you’ll likely see some savings on your energy bill pretty quickly. But the water heater, new windows and landscaping are considered more long-term investments. They’ll eventually save you big – but it could take years to get back the money you paid up front for those solutions.
Quick fix or long-term investment…McClary believes any change should help get you on the way to slashing your bill. “It’s so simple just to change those few items and save the money. By not doing it – you’re just throwing it away.”
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