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New Year, new you! Some energy facts to consider

It’s a new year, a time when most of us vow to never again eat anything covered in chocolate and to hit the treadmill on a regular basis. But there is another type of cutting-back that you should think about as well -- cutting-back on your energy use. Like a broken record, we keep reminding you that efficiency saves money and the less you spend on your energy bill, the more you can spend on fancy weight-loss smoothies! We bet you didn’t realize that the U.S. houses 5 percent of the world’s population, but uses 23 percent of the world’s energy. You can do your part to conserve energy in your home this year by considering these facts as you plan your energy-reduction strategy:

1.      Every time you open the refrigerator door, up to 30 percent of the cold air can escape. Each time you close the door, the motor starts and begins to re-cool the interior. You can save a little energy by keeping the door open and getting everything you need all at once, ensuring that the motor only re-starts once rather than multiple times over several trips.

2.      A hot water faucet that leaks one drop per second can add up to 165 gallons a month. That’s more water than the average person uses in two weeks! Check your sinks and tubs and make sure you don’t have any leaks. Then mosey on over to your water heater and set the thermostat to 120 degrees. If your old tank-style water heater is looking a little rough around the edges, consider an on-demand natural gas water heater; it ensures you have endless hot water and can save you money on your energy bill.

3.      If every U.S. home replaced just one light bulb with an ENERGY STAR® efficient light bulb, the amount of energy saved could light more than 3 million homes for a year and prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year, equivalent to the emissions of about 800,000 cars. A compact fluorescent bulb (CFL) uses 75 percent less energy than a traditional incandescent bulb, and light-emitting diode bulbs (LEDs) use even less than that! Keep your eyes peeled on your next trip to the home improvement store; most run regular sales on the latest lighting technologies. Worried about spending extra money replacing every bulb in the house? Not to worry! Just replace the bulbs that you use the most and then change out the rest when you find a good sale.

4.      In the average home, 75 percent of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off. Yup, you think you’re saving energy by turning off the TV when you leave the room…but think again! The average desktop computer idles at 80 watts, while the average laptop idles at 20 watts. A Sony PlayStation 3 uses about 200 watts (more energy than your refrigerator!) and nearly as much when idle. Avoid this drain on your wallet by plugging electronic devices into a power strip that can be easily turned off when your electronics are not in use.

5.      The most efficient appliance in your kitchen is your microwave, which uses just 1/3 of the wattage of most ovens. When possible, cooking items in the microwave not only saves the energy that would be used by the oven, but also keeps the temperature in the kitchen lower, preventing your HVAC unit from working harder to cool the space in hot summer (or unusually warm winter) months.