5 On Your Side

Going green to save green

Posted November 18, 2008

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— Turning on a light, hot water, computer or TV, burns electricity and cash.

The Green family burns a lot of green. Despite their name, Paula Green doesn’t think her family lives a very green life.

Progress Energy's Hal Lowrance agreed to check the Greens' home to show them how to save money by going green.

“The appliances that use the most energy in your house…are your heating and cooling system first,” Lowrance said.

Lowrance said people can save 20 percent on heating and cooling costs by adjusting the temperature by 5 or 10 degrees when they come and go and at night. One caveat, if you have a heat pump, to do this you’ll need to have a programmable thermostat with “intelligent recovery.”

Filters should also be checked and changed often, he said. The Greens’ filters were found to be clean.

Next, Lowrance checked the Greens’ hot water heater.

“One-hundred-twenty degrees is an excellent setting for the water heater,” Lowrance said.

If you're gone for more than three days, Lowrance said money can be saved by turning off your electric water heater. It only takes about an hour to re-heat.

Another way to save is washing laundry in cold water, which amounts to about 4 cents a load compared with 40 cents a load.

As for the refrigerator, it may pay to get a new one.

An older model can cost up to $12 a month to operate, while a new, energy efficient model costs about $2 monthly, Lowrance said.

Also the fuller a refrigerator/freezer is, the more efficiently it operates. A second garage fridge may also not be a good idea.

“You’re putting it in an unconditioned space so the temperature difference between the inside and outside is greater than inside the house where it's in a conditioned space so it costs you more to operate,” Lowrance said.

As much as 10 percent of the monthly energy bill goes towards lighting, Lowrance said.

“They leave the lights on a bit, but I’m the chief violator,” Paula Green said.

People can save by changing light bulbs to compact fluorescents, which will give the brightness of a 60 watt bulb with only 9 watts.

“You’re saving 75 percent of the energy and it lasts 10 times longer,” Lowrance said.

The compact fluorescents are now available in much warmer colors.

“I always thought it would be that ugly blue light,” Green said.

There is also a way to go green when getting a television.

“The plasma (television) can probably use $10 to $12 a month where an LCD might use $2 or $3 a month,” Lowrance said.

More money can be saved by completely shutting down TVs, computers and other electronics when you're not using them. Otherwise, they constantly use power.

Lowrance also recommends people do not shut vents in unoccupied rooms to save energy. Progress Energy said the practice saves little energy and may actually raise operating costs.

While the Greens are greener than Paula Green thought, she still believes her family can do more.

“I think everything is very simple. Everything that he suggested is a very simple fix,” she said.

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