How to conserve energy and money at home

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Lauren Sahagun
  • 97th Civil Engineer Squadron
The spring months in Altus present us with a great opportunity to conserve energy in our homes and dollars in our pockets.

The first steps toward improving the energy efficiency of your home include "air sealing" and insulation. Air sealing is the process of plugging the many cracks and voids through which air can get in and out of your home and insulation reduces heat transfer from one area to another. The most obvious example of insulation is in the attic. A thick layer of insulation prevents heat loss through the roof in cold weather and heat gain in warm weather. Adequate insulation and air sealing throughout your home can help eliminate escaping air that you paid money to heat or cool.

Energy savings can be measured in terms of dollars but it is important to understand the different forms and uses of energy to get a hold on better ways to conserve.

The four most common forms of household energy are electricity, natural gas, propane, and oil.
Electricity powers lights, appliances, and electronic devices in your home. It also provides energy to air conditioners, water heaters, washers, driers and in some cases, it is used for space heating. Natural gas, propane, and oil are most commonly burned to provide heating and hot water in your home.

Electricity enters your home through a service-entry cable, then passes through a main electrical service panel and is distributed to the rest of your house through wires, receptacles, and switches. As the consumer, you are billed by the kilowatt-hour at about seven cents per kWH.

What exactly is a kWH in tangible terms? One kWH is one thousand watts of electricity used for one hour. For example, burning a 100-watt light bulb for one hour will use 100-watts of electricity and burning it for ten hours will use 1000-watts or 1 kW of electricity and will cost you about seven cents.

Natural gas enters your home through a network of underground pipes where it travels to your furnace, boiler, water heater, and gas fireplace. Natural gas is billed to you by the cubic foot.

Propane, or liquefied petroleum gas, and oil are brought to your home by truck and are stored in storage tanks. Both energy sources are piped from your storage tank to the rest of your home and are burned very similarly to the way natural gas is consumed. Propane and oil are charged to the consumer by the gallon. Oil is not commonly used as an energy source in Oklahoma because natural gas and propane are more readily available and less expensive.

The majority of energy consumption in your home is due to space heating and cooling. Because environment control is most commonly your largest energy expenditure, it is also the most expensive. The best way to save energy and money in your home is to simply moderate your thermostat. Dialing down the thermostat one degree during cold weather can result in about 1-3 percent less energy use. The same is true for setting the thermostat one degree higher during warm weather. From a logic point of view; why pay to heat or cool the entire volume of air in your home when you could simply change your personal body temperature by slipping on a sweater or taking off a jacket?

Another way to avoid heating and cooling all the air in your home is by closing rooms in your home that are not being used. Isolating "empty" areas of your home means less demand on your heating and cooling systems and lowers the energy bill each month.

Lastly, you can drastically reduce energy use at night by turning your heating, ventilation and air conditioning system off. Why pay to heat or cool your entire home at night when family members are in their bedrooms? Does the kitchen, living room, den, etc. need to be heated or cooled when you are in your bed? Instead of continuing to shell out money and burn through energy, open your window or add an extra blanket to reach a comfortable sleeping temperature.

For more information about how to increase energy conservation, contact the 97th CES at 481-6709.