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HOME GROWN – Helpful tips on saving energy

Suzanne Griffith

HOME GROWN – Helpful tips on saving energy

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I don’t usually extend my words beyond my usual remit of kitchen gardening and agriculture, but I know that this week many of my readers are acutely aware of the upcoming increase in electricity rates.
There are, of course, long-term alternative energy solutions that the householder can pursue in order to reduce, and in many cases eliminate, energy costs, but these returns are realized over time and at significant capital cost. 
My household is small, and we are cautious with our consumption, so I thought that I would share with you some of the strategies that I employ around the home to cut back on energy costs.
One of the easiest things that you can do is to replace, wherever possible, all of your standard incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. 
I’ll be the first to admit that the light generated by compact fluorescent bulbs is not the warmest, most beautiful thing, but the energy savings alone have helped me to see them, no pun intended, in a different light. 
If you are moving into a new home, make changing over the bulbs your first task, and if you have occasion to move again, take your bulbs with you. They are designed to last a long time.
I am guilty of not changing the bulbs in the lighting fixtures that are in high ceilings. With the help of a neighbour’s ladder, I’m making that my project for this weekend.
Moving on from light bulbs. It should go without saying that as you leave a room the lights and appliances, be they stereos, TVs, DVD players or computers, should go off. When my family leaves the house, all lights and appliances, with the exception of the refrigerator, are off. 
We’ve all grown accustomed to plunking down in front of the computer, tapping the space bar and finding ourselves online in a matter of moments. This convenience likely translates into the computer and its various peripherals running in “standby” mode 24 hours a day. Limit your family’s “electronics time” – unlimited access and 24-hour a day programming come with an energy cost.
Surge protectors are an excellent way of simplifying the “unplugging”, for example, of an entertainment area, and also serve to protect fragile appliances in the event of a surge.
Digital clocks and displays on appliances are another unnecessary extra. When they are not in use,  microwaves, coffee makers, ranges and the like should be unplugged. My range plugs in for the express purpose of providing electronic ignition and a digital clock. Although the cost per day is likely minimal, the long-term cost over months and years is not. The same goes for the microwave. When it is not in use, keep it unplugged. Of course, this measure should be implemented only by adults.
Limit access to the refrigerator. It takes time and persistence to implement this habit in the home, but all family members need to adopt the view that the refrigerator is not there for the express purpose of cooling the kitchen. Staring into an open refrigerator or freezer for minutes on end is a big energy waster. As my son has grown up, I’ll admit it can be easier for me if he helps himself, but in reality it is best for adults or older children to access the fridge and keep energy usage in check.
Be certain to regularly check the temperature setting in your refrigerator. The optimal range is between 3° and 5° Celsius. With an inexpensive thermometer you can monitor the temperature and adjust the number dial accordingly.
One final thing that you can do is to shield your refrigerator from direct sunlight. Keeping the refrigerator cool means that it will be able to run more efficiently. 
When doing the laundry, run full loads. The energy usage is the same whether you are washing four shirts or a full load of towels. Only use the clothes dryer when absolutely necessary; I’ll admit that I don’t even own one. We have the sun. Take advantage of it!