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energy saving tips that save you money

By on Jun 19, 2008

The day you take possession of your new house or condo is a day you will want to celebrate - but not by going out. You'll want to stay home and relish the fact that it's all yours - the walls, the windows, the floor, the sink...and the utility bills.

Okay, realistically, you may not be thinking of utility bills on that first day, but you will be soon. They're part of the yin yang of home ownership and whether your dream home uses electricity, natural gas or old fashioned home heating oil, it's in your best interest to be conscious of what you use. This applies to those paying a monthly maintenance fee covering utilities as well. The monthly fees are, in part, a reflection of what the building management pays, so if you and your neighbours use energy wisely you just might reduce your future maintenance fee increases.

There are so many easy ways to save on your energy bills. So many in fact, that I will only be able to cover a couple in this space. One of my favourites ways to save is through light bulb use. It may not sound very exciting, but consider it the training wheels of being energy conscious. I'm not referring to simply turning off a room's lights when you exit, or about your everyday light bulbs ? the incandescent ones we are all familiar with. I'm talking about the compact fluorescent light bulbs that are now in every hardware store, and even quite a few supermarkets. I've installed compact fluorescent bulbs in sixteen ceiling fixtures or table lamps in my home. With incandescent bulbs at 60 watts each that would normally be about 960 watts. Instead, my compact fluorescents use a grand total of 192 watts! That's an average of 12 watts per light, instead of the typical 60 watts! I'm no electrician ? or mathematician ? but the way I figure it I've reduced my electricity spending on those lights by 80 per cent.

Do compact fluorescents give off less light than conventional bulbs? No. The actual light given off is measured in "Lumens" and the packaging for most compact fluorescents show a comparison of their Lumens with a standard bulb. One of my 15 watt bulbs claims to produce the same light as a standard 75 watt bulb, and personally I've found the comparisons to be pretty accurate.

The compact fluorescent bulbs generally cost from $5 to $10 each, so they are definitely more expensive, but they can last 5 years or longer. I put in most of mine over two and a half years ago, and I haven't had to change one yet. Their only quirk is that the compact fluorescents take a second or so to go on. Guests have visited my home and flipped the lights on and off repeatedly thinking there was something wrong. This quirk is a small one however, and well worth it. I like to describe the time you have to wait as roughly equal to the time it takes you to take one step. One more thing to keep in mind is that if you have an older lamp you may want to check that the mounting around the lampshade allows room to put these bulbs in; something this is not usually a problem with more recent shades.

Another energy saving purchase you might consider once you've moved into your dream home is a Programmable Thermostat. Basic ones will allow you to set different temperature settings for different times through the day. More advanced ones will let you have multiple daily settings for each day of the week ? a good feature considering most of us are home on the weekends and will not want the weekday settings to apply. Lowering the temperature a couple of degrees when everyone is tucked warmly in their beds for the night can result in significant savings. According to the Office of Energy Efficiency at the Department of Natural Resources, every degree Celsius you reduce the temperature will mean a two-percent savings on your heating bill. Try it yourself this summer: if no one is home during the day set the temperature up so that the air conditioner is not running all day to cool an empty house. Installation of a programmable thermostat is straightforward and can be done by most do-it-yourselfers, without adding to the $50 to $120 price tag of the unit.

Conserving energy will save you money and lessen your personal environmental impact, without cramping your lifestyle. It?s a win-win situation, with so many varied ways to save. Check back regularly for more money and energy saving tips in future issues.

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