As the cold air continues, high energy bills don't have to, Starkville Electric manager Terry Kemp says.
Energy use has reached record highs in recent months along with steady energy costs, but a little "weatherization" can go a long way, officials report.
"The weather is almost 18 percent colder than what we've experienced in the past," Kemp said. "What we'd like to do is work with our customers to be as efficient with the use of electricity as possible."
Surprisingly simple upgrades such as double paned windows and using HVAC equipment can both conserve power and money.
Starkville Electric's distributor, Tennessee Valley Authority, offers free conservation kits when home audits are requested online at: http://www.energyright.com .
The packages come with florescent light bulbs, outlet and light switch gaskets, filter whistles, faucet aerators, a hot water temperature gauge, a home thermometer and a "How to Save" brochure.
TVA allows customers to fill out a survey and, as a result, receive measures of potential savings.
Additionally, single-families can receive free in-home audits, Kemp said, and get matching rebates to cover new installations.
One of the easiest ways to conserve energy is to start with home construction literally from the ground up.
"We encourage people to really take the time and work with contractors," Kemp said.
For older homes, calking windows and more insulation will also do the trick - even wrapping insulation around the water heaters.
One telltale sign of a house that leaks too much energy is the thermostat. And room temperature is too high.
"If you need it warmer than 68 degrees, that's just costing additional money," Kemp said.
TVA suggests the following tips, which can also be found on their website, http://www.energyright.com/energytips.htm .
• Seal gaps in floors and walls around pipes and electrical wiring.
• Change air filters monthly.
• Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents – they use 75 percent less energy and last 10 times longer.
• Install aerating, low-flow faucets and showerheads.
• Fix any leaky faucets – one drop per second can add up to 165 gallons a month.
• Tune-up your heating and cooling system annually to keep it running as efficiently as possible.
• Have your ductwork inspected and repair any leaks.
• Add insulation to your attic, crawl space and any accessible exterior walls.
• Wrap your water heater with insulation or install an insulating blanket.
• Look for the ENERGY STAR® label when replacing large or small appliances.
• Use power strips for home electronics and turn off power strips when equipment is not in use.
• Replace worn-out seals on your refrigerator and freezer.
• Perform a do-it-yourself home energy audit. Online and paper versions are available.
• Reduce hot water use by taking shorter showers and using cold water for the rinse cycle in your washer.
• Turn off lights, televisions and other appliances when not in use.
• Clean refrigerator coils regularly to keep compressor running efficiently.
• Set the refrigerator temperature at 36° to 39° F and freezer at 0° to 5° F.
• Use the microwave when possible – it cooks faster and doesn’t create as much heat as a stove burner.
• Air-dry dishes instead of using the dishwasher’s heat drying option.
• Run your dishwasher and clothes washer only when full.
• Match the size of your pot or pan to the size of the burner.
• Make sure your dryer’s outside vent is clear and clean the lint filter after every load.
• Keep all windows and doors located near your thermostat closed tightly.
• Keep heat sources such as lamps and appliances away from your thermostat.
• Consider replacing your older model refrigerator, especially if it's over 10 years old, with an ENERGY STAR refrigerator.
• Install foam gaskets behind electric-outlet and switch-plate covers.
• Dry one load of clothes immediately after another to minimize heat loss.
• Defrost frozen food in the refrigerator before cooking.
• Use the oven light to check on progress when cooking or baking.
• Keep your outside air unit clean and clear of debris or weeds.
• Use low-watt bulbs where lighting is not critical.
• Place floor lamps and hanging lamps in corners. The reflection off the walls will give you more light.
• Turn off outdoor lighting during the day. Try timer switches or photoelectric controls if the finger method is a bother.
• Keep your freezer full. The fuller the freezer, the less cold air you lose when opening the door.
• Use the self-cleaning cycle of your oven right after you finish baking. That will give it a head start in heating up.
• Hang on to appliance manuals so you can refer to them for care information and possible energy-saving tips.