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For Immediate Release: November 2, 2005
Media Contact: Rob Schlichting - 916-654-4989

Energy Commission offers tips
to control this winter's bigger energy bills

Sacramento - As November begins, the energy picture in America's devastated Gulf Coast remains grim: 54 percent of the area's natural gas production remains off-line because of damage caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. As a result, supplies of natural gas will be tight this winter, leading to higher prices throughout the country. The U. S. Department of Energy forecasts that homeowners can expect to pay an average of $350 more during the upcoming winter compared to last year, an increase of 48 percent.

California utilities like Pacific Gas and Electric are predicting nearly a 50 percent rise in natural gas costs for consumers this month, when compared to last November. For the average homeowner, that means a November gas bill of $80.30, $26.61 more than a year ago.

While some utilities say higher gas prices won't affect the cost of electricity, others are predicting electricity rates may rise approximately 10 percent as well.

This winter is clearly not the season to be wasteful with energy. Fortunately, the California Energy Commission's Web site has a number of simple, inexpensive steps homeowners can take to help them manage their heating bills. The first few on this list cost nothing to implement.

Turn down your thermostat to 68 degrees. For every degree you lower your heat in the 60-degree to 70-degree range, you'll save up to 5 percent on heating costs. Wear warm clothing like a sweater and set your thermostat to 68 degrees or lower during the day and evening, health permitting. Set the thermostat back to 55 degrees or off at night, or when away from home for an extended period. This is easy to do if you have a programmable thermostat - consider buying one if you don't already have one. Controlling the temperature should reduce your heating costs by 5 to 20 percent. (If you have a heat pump, set back the temperature 2 degrees to prevent the unneeded use of backup electrical strip heating.)

Make the most of free solar energy. Open your drapes and let the sun heat your home. Close them again at sundown so they help keep the heat inside the house.

Rearrange your rooms. Move your furniture around so you are sitting near interior walls - exterior walls and older windows are likely to be cooler and drafty.

Traditional fireplaces are energy losers - in a house with central heat, they pull warmed air out of the house and send it up the chimney. When not in use, make sure the damper is closed. Before closing the damper, make sure that you don't have any smoldering embers.

Don't waste energy. Turn off lights in unoccupied rooms. Unplug that spare refrigerator in the garage if you don't truly need it - this seemingly convenient way to keep extra drinks cold adds 10-25 percent to your electric bill. Turn off kitchen and bath-ventilating fans after they've done their job - they can blow out a house full of heated air if they're inadvertently left on.

Take shorter showers. Simply reducing your shower by a few minutes can save hundreds of gallons of hot water per month for a family of four. Cutting your showering time in half will reduce your water heating costs by 33 percent.

Use your appliances efficiently. Do only full loads when using your dishwasher and clothes washer. Use the cold water setting on your clothes washer when you can. Using cold water reduces your washer's energy use by 75 percent. Be sure to clean your clothes dryer's lint trap after each use. Use the moisture-sensing automatic drying setting on your dryer if you have one.

Replace or clean furnace filters once a month. Dirty filters restrict airflow and increase energy use. Consider a furnace "tune-up." Keeping your furnace clean, lubricated and properly adjusted will reduce energy use, and save up to 5 percent of your heating cost.

Remember that hot air rises. If your ceiling is uninsulated or poorly insulated, think about increasing your insulation to up to R-38 to reduce heating costs by 5 to 25 percent.

Seal up the leaks. Caulk leaks around windows and doors. Look for places where you have pipes, vents or electrical conduits that go through the wall, ceiling or floor. Check the bathroom, look under the kitchen sink or inside your closets. If you find gaps at the point where the pipe or vents goes through the wall, seal them up. Caulk works best on small gaps. Your hardware store should have products to close the larger ones.

Set your water heater to the "normal" setting, or 120 degrees, unless the owner's manual for your dishwasher requires a higher setting. (Many dishwashers have built-in water heaters that boost the temperature of 120-degree water.) Using the normal temperature setting can save you as much as 11 percent on your water heating costs. Insulate the pipe coming out of the top of your water heater until the pipe goes into the wall. Easy-to-install pipe insulation is available from your hardware store.

Consider replacing your old gas appliances with an ENERGY STAR® water heater or furnace. The best indicator of a water heater's efficiency is the Energy Factor (EF). The higher the EF, the more efficient the water heater. The minimum EF required for gas utility rebates in California is 0.62. If your gas furnace is more than 15 years old, consider replacing it with an newer ENERGY STAR rated model that is nearly 15 percent more efficient than standard models. New Title 24 Energy Efficiency regulations went into effect October 1, 2005 that require duct inspections when a furnace is replaced. Leaking ductwork accounts for more than 25 percent of heating costs in an average California home.

For more energy and money saving tips this winter, check the Energy Commission's Web site at:

www.energy.ca.gov/consumerfuels/

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