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For Electric Cooperative Members

Trinity Valley EC News

The Energy Advisor: Keep What You Make for Maximum Energy Value

Strategies for winter energy savings

Welcome to this new monthly column about energy and how to get the most out of your electricity budget.

For a quick introduction, I am a former lineman and now spend my days helping Trinity Valley Electric Co-op members with energy usage concerns as well as coordinating our renewable energy program.

In most of my home energy conversations, you are likely to hear “Try to keep more of what you make.” If that sounds more like financial advice, that really isn’t far off the mark.

As we enter the coldest part of the year, a large portion of your electricity usage is spent on heating air for the comfort of your home. And keeping what you make, in that context, is a matter of keeping the heat, and the warmed air, inside the house.

That sounds simple enough, but once your home is up to temperature, it turns out that both the heated air and the heat itself want to get away.

As anyone who slept on the top bunk can tell you, hot air travels up to the ceiling. But it doesn’t just stop there. Any crack, crevice, door frame and leaky window opening is a means of escape, taking the hot air and your dollars out into the world. As a result, colder air from outside is also pulled in creating drafts and causing heaters to run more.

The heat energy itself also wants to equalize with the outdoors. Adding insulation isn’t always an option, but in the key areas of windows and doors it can really pay dividends to use curtains, window films or other treatments to minimize heat loss.

A few winter energy reminders:

  • Check door and window seals to locate and repair air escape routes.
  • Use ceiling fans in the upward blowing direction to circulate warm air back down from the ceiling.
  • Use space heaters as sparingly as possible as they are inefficient heat producers.
  • Look for and repair hidden hot air escape routes like light fixtures, HVAC vents and ductwork and attic stair openings.
  • Don’t use the “Emergency Heat” setting on your heat pump central heating unit unless it is truly unable to maintain your home’s warmth. The heat strips that come on in that setting use a lot more energy to warm you up.

Every home is different, but no building gets better at energy efficiency as it ages. Just like every other part of home maintenance, energy management is a constant battle. Keeping the heat you’ve paid for is the best start to saving on your energy expenses as the cold of winter sets in.