Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Energy $aving Advice:
Before Looking into Solar

There are many ways to save real money on energy costs before going to solar or wind systems. Several of these ideas will be passed along in this feature, Energy $aving Advice.

Having sold photovoltaic (PV) system kits over the phone around the country I've been amazed at the range of electricity rates. In fact, I had a customer who was paying just five cents per kWh and thought he was paying too much! Well, compared to the three cents he paid just awhile back, the rate hike was alarming for him. As they say, it's all relative.

SAVING AT HOME: If you want to cut your family's electricity bill, here's a clever friends of mine in Phoenix did it. Discussing the plan beforehand, the parents went over the most recent electricity bill with their daughters after breakfast one Saturday morning. In an amiable, non-threatening way, they suggested to the girls that together the family would work hard to reduce the bill next month. The usual things were laid out:

  • turn off lights when not in use
  • use power save modes on computer screen & harddrive
  • turn off computers when away for more than two hours;
  • turn off radios and DVD players when away
  • keeping the air conditioning at 77 degrees
  • don't use the TV for background noise
  • unplug different "instant on" appliances that use stand-by power.

These parent said conserving energy was going to be a team effort AND the girls would split the savings from the last bill to the new bill. That galvanized the daughters into action. The younger girl even followed her Dad around one day shutting off lights after him! The savings can be meager or significant but it's easy money for kids and a great lesson is learned. Repeat once or twice a year to instill those good habits.

SAVING AT WORK: Whether a business owner, CEO or COO, electricity charges are a major part of overhead cost. Chances are--just as at home--there are several ways to cut or at least, control power costs. Things to do:

  • replace any incandescents with compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) or LEDs
  • update overhead lamps to efficient fluorescents
  • install automatic shut-offs in restrooms or "Turn Off Lights" signs
  • set air conditioning to 78 degrees; AC can be an energy hog!
  • turn off all non-essential computers overnight
  • install energy efficient windows, if only on the south and west sides
  • be sure copiers are set for "Energy Savings" mode
  • install awnings or plant trees, if only south and west sides
  • check to see that your on the best rate schedule with your utility

Of course, the benevolent business leader can also take the savings from a month or a quarter and add it to annual bonuses. Or use the savings to take the staff out to lunch or to fund the Holiday party. Smart energy use can save a ton in the long run.


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