How to Stay Comfortable at Home While Reducing Energy Costs and Saving Money

Most of us strive to reduce unnecessary expenses and lower our utility bills, but sometimes it seems like we need to trade off comfort for lower costs. Robert W. Sylvester, a retired engineer, applied many energy-reduction measures to his home and found that such trade-offs are either minimal or unnecessary.

Bob Sylvester developed the following comments about his experience with easy ways to reduce energy use and costs. Many of these actions require no additional expenditures. Perhaps some of this experience will be useful to you. Consider the specific needs of your household before acting on these ideas. If you feel that you cannot perform these actions yourself, please consult a qualified expert.

Experience Which May Be Useful to Citizens of Chester County, PA to Reduce Energy Costs©

By Guest Author Robert W. Sylvester

Reducing Home Heating Costs

Open blinds and curtains on the sunny side of the house during the day. Close all blinds and curtains during winter nights. The sun will heat our house and windows lose heat at night. My friend's dog loves to sit in the sun during winter. I do too! And more natural light makes the house so much more cheerful. My windows are designed to limit UV rays which can bleach furnishings.1

Lower the thermostat setting. The World Health Organization identifies 65 degrees Fahrenheit as sufficiently warm for healthy adults and children. Consult your physician if infants, invalids or the elderly live with you.

Find and fix the sources of drafts. These can include unsealed basement and attic access doors, damaged seals on outside doors, leaky windows, open dampers in unused chimneys, etc.

Set back the thermostat when everyone is in bed or the house is empty. I set mine to 61 an hour before leaving or going to bed. See below if your heat is from a heat pump.

Insulate pipes which freeze during very cold weather. Outdoor spigots should be drained. Even though I have insulated the pipes, I raise the thermostat set point during very cold nights, below 20 degrees, to protect the pipes.

Basements should be insulated. They may be insulated at the walls – new homes often are insulated outside the walls. Or the basement ceiling may be insulated. I've insulated the forced air ductwork, the upper basement walls and above the crawl space in one portion of the house. I also found the garage to be much warmer after I repaired the weather seal on the garage door.

If your heat is forced air, then:

If your heat is hot water radiators, then:

If you use an air supplied heat pump, do not set back the thermostat unless the control system can raise the temperature without using auxiliary heat. Most can not. Consult the owner's manual if you use a ground water supplied heat pump. I have my choice of oil heat, a heat pump, and the gas logs. I found that the heat pump always uses 200 watts of electricity to power a lubricant heater throughout the winter. Now I use the heat pump rarely and disconnect the power supply at the circuit breaker, saving $90/year of electricity used by the lubricant heater. My owner's manual says that I should not run the heat pump without waiting several hours after restarting power to allow the lubricant to come to temperature. If you depend on a heat pump, consider setting if to "off", not "heat" in the months when it is not needed.

Reducing Energy Usage by Appliances and Lighting

Saving Fuel Costs When Driving

The best way to reduce your gasoline bill this month is to find a way to drive less. Options which I have used include car pooling, riding the bus from a park and ride, working from home one day a week, and combining trips. I was sufficiently successful at doing this that I could not justify buying a new, fuel efficient car.

Change the way that you drive to get better fuel economy.

Common Problems not Always Discussed in Energy Guides

Measures of Success

About the Author

Bob is an engineer who retired in 2010 after a career which included numerous contributions to energy efficiency and reduced environmental footprint. He has helped to design new chemical plants to reduce energy consumption and has helped to find opportunities to reduce the energy consumption of many existing plants. Bob has spoken about energy efficiency to community groups, engineering classes and professional societies and has published in the magazine, Chemical Engineering Progress. Every home and household is different. You must judge the applicability of these ideas to you and you should consider using a certified contractor to make home improvements.

1 Thermal draperies can be used to reduce heat transfer. Window films that reduce UV radiation are also available.

2 Energy-efficient clothes washers conserve energy through more complete water removal during the spin cycle.

3 Some drivers shut off their gasoline engine when stopped for a long red light signal.

4 Individual experiences with energy conservation will vary.