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Home Improvement: Experts give advice on appliance energy usage

How much energy can you save by drying your clothes on a clothesline instead of using an electric dryer?
What a great question. I’d estimate a savings of about $10.20 per month or just over $122 per year.
Here’s the math: Electric clothes dryers demand between 1,800 and 5,000 watts. If we calculate based on a 3,400-watt dryer and a drying time of 45 minutes per load, then one dryer load uses 2.55 kilowatt hours. Multiply that by 322 (the average number of loads per year in an American home), divide by 12 months, and you’re looking about 68 kilowatt hours of use per month. Last thing: Multiply those monthly kilowatt hours by the current average Vermont electric rate of 15 cents per kilowatt hour and you get that monthly estimate of about $10.20 to dry your clothes.
I should add a tip about air drying: Just be sure to do it outdoors. Air drying indoors adds moisture to a house. That can create undesirable conditions, like window condensation, mold, wood rot, and compromised indoor air quality. Compensating for that with a dehumidifier will add to your electricity bill. So be cautious about hanging clothes inside, but outdoor air drying definitely is a money saver, not to mention a way to get great smelling laundry!
– Kathleen for Ask The Home Team
 
We are 11 years old and 9 years old. Our parents are the energy police. They make us unplug the TV after we watch it. They say it wastes energy plugged in. Are they wrong? Lamps don’t do that so why would the TV? They will believe you. Thank you.
You’re right about lights not using power when they’re switched off. Your parents, though, are right about the television. You see, many TVs and other kinds of electronics don’t really turn off when you press “off.” They go into standby mode, and they continue to use electricity. Lots of people don’t know that they could be paying $100 or more, over the course of a year, to keep all their electronics in standby mode.
Unplugging the TV solves the problem, but many people find that it’s easier to plug the TV into a power strip, which they switch on and off. If your parents are interested in looking into that, they can find one at the hardware store. In fact, there is an advanced power strip that senses when the TV is turned off and then shuts off power to the TV and to other machines at the same time. For example, your parents could set up an advanced power strip to cut power to the TV, game consoles, and recording devices when the TV is turned off.
It sounds like you two are important members of the team that can save money for your family.
– Bob for Ask The Home Team
 
I’m going to be adding some insulation to my home, and I hear you have programs to help pay for projects like that. Do I have to use a certain kind of insulation?
I’m glad that you contacted us before doing the work, because our rebate programs require an initial home energy audit, performed by a certified Home Performance with EnergyStar contractor.
The contractor will perform a series of diagnostic tests and identify areas for improvement in your house and can even project estimated savings. Together, the two of you can decide which projects make the most sense to tackle, based on your personal budget and comfort goals. Often times, insulation and air sealing are one of the top recommendations. Your contractor will have ideas for which types are best for your home.
From there, most people have the contractor do the work for them. Another approach, and it sounds like this might be what you’re interested in, is to do the work yourself under the guidance of the certified contractor. Either approach is eligible for rebates from Efficiency Vermont — up to $2,000 — and both will save energy and make you more comfortable in your home. The right choice for you just depends on your skill level and the amount of time you have.
Visit our website at www.efficiencyvermont.com to get started.
– Li Ling for Ask The Home Team
 
I’m afraid our furnace won’t make it through another year. There are a lot of options on the market. What do you recommend?
The right heating system really depends on the house. To choose the one best for your home, contact a Home Performance with EnergyStar contractor. These pros can do a whole-house evaluation, and will let you know what type of furnace would be best. They’re not actually selling you a furnace, so you can depend on their unbiased advice. They will also determine steps you can take to lower your heating costs overall.
That said, we do have a section of our website dedicated to home heating and the various systems Vermonters use. To learn more about home heating, and to find a list of Vermont contractors, visit www.efficiencyvermont.com. Best of luck!
– Bob for Ask The Home Team
 
I know that CFLs use less energy, but I feel like the one on our porch takes so long to get bright, it’s not practical. Are traditional bulbs better for outside?
As it gets colder outside, it takes a bit longer for compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) to come to full brightness. So they aren’t a great fit for lights in outdoor spots where you want short periods of instant light; at least not in our Vermont winters.
For a bulb that isn’t affected by the cold and saves energy, too, you might take a look at light emitting diodes (LEDs). These are a newer technology and still a bit more expensive than CFLs, but their performance and longevity are really impressive. And right now, some Vermont lighting retailers — in partnership with Efficiency Vermont — offer already-discounted pricing on LEDs, or an instant coupon good for $10 off the regular price.
An added bonus of LEDs is that their light is more concentrated in a specific direction, whereas both incandescent and CFL bulbs emit light in all directions. The more directional light of LEDs is perfect for outdoors. You get the light where you need it most (on your porch) and not where you don’t (like the sky, or your neighbor’s lawn).
-Li Ling for Ask The Home Team
 
I think it’s time for a new refrigerator. Can you recommend a good one?
I can’t recommend a specific model, but EnergyStar qualified refrigerators use 20 percent less electricity than non-qualified models. And if you have an older refrigerator, it likely uses more electricity than any other appliance in your home.
Old refrigerators can make up to 12.5 percent of your total electricity use, so replacing one of those with an EnergyStar model is going to make a real difference in your bills. Plus, when you purchase select EnergyStar refrigerators and freezers, you could be eligible for a $50 rebate from Efficiency Vermont.
-Kathleen for Ask The Home Team
 
You have to help me do an intervention with my dad about air conditioning! I’m 12 and I learned in school about how to save energy. Air conditioning is an energy hog but my dad acts like he’ll die without it. He says that if I can find another way to stay cool, he’ll do it. I know you can help, so please will you give me information that will help?
It’s true that some houses in Vermont can stay cool without air conditioning. I don’t know if your house is one of them, but I’m glad to share some tips that I give to homeowners who want to reduce the need for air conditioning. Good luck to you and your dad!
In the cooler evening and early morning hours, turn off the air conditioning and open windows on opposite sides of the house to create cross-ventilation. Use a window fan, blowing toward the outside, to pull cool air in through other windows and to push hot air out. As the day warms, you may find that you feel more comfortable with windows and coverings closed against direct sunlight.
On hot days, delay heat-producing tasks, such as dishwashing, baking, or doing laundry, until the cooler evening or early morning hours.
Use a bath fan to remove heat and moisture generated by showers. And, if the kitchen range hood fan exhausts to the outdoors, use it to remove hot air created by cooking.
Keep cool air in and hot air out: Caulk around window and door frames, use weather stripping on exterior doors, and have a professional (see the final tip, below) seal gaps where air can travel between the attic and your living space.
To reduce both cooling and heating costs and make a home more comfortable year-round, homeowners can take a whole-house approach: A Home Performance with EnergyStar contractor can find and fix the causes of high energy bills, uncomfortably hot or cold/drafty rooms, moisture problems, ice dams, and more. Efficiency Vermont offers financial incentives to homeowners for energy-saving improvements completed by these contractors. If your dad wants to learn more or to find a contractor, he can visit our Home Performance with EnergyStar section to get started.
– Kathleen for Ask The Home Team
 
Editor’s note: “The Home Team” at Efficiency Vermont — Li Ling Young, Bob Murphy and Kathleen Brown — answer questions about saving energy. Read more tips or ask your own questions at www.efficiencyvermont.com/askthehometeam or call, toll-free, 1-888-921-5990.

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