The Red Wing Sustainability Commission and Xcel Energy hosted a program about ways to reduce energy usage Thursday, Oct. 18. Senior citizens from the community were invited to attend the event at Pier 55 and learn helpful tips for keeping the cost of energy low on the environment and their wallets.
Paul Drotos, staff liaison for the Sustainability Commission, acted as emcee for the event. He opened the program stating, "There is not cleaner, cheaper or better energy than the energy that we do not waste."
Red Wing, as a city, has been taking steps to become greener. As the Republican Eagle has reported, a new electric vehicle charging station will be installed in the "Mural Lot." According to Drotos, Xcel Energy currently provides Red Wing customers with energy that is 67 percent carbon free.
Stacey Boots Camp from the Center for Energy and Environment took the floor after Drotos to provide tangible suggestions for energy savings.
According to Boots Camp, the average home in Minnesota spends $1,860 on energy each year. Boots Camp stated that by following her suggestions on energy efficiency, people would have lower energy costs, an increased comfort at home and a reduction in their environmental impact.
Boots Camp focused on the four areas of houses that use the most energy:
• Water heaters and water, which account for 10 percent of a house's energy costs
• Appliances, 15 percent
• Lighting and electronics, 20 percent
• Heating and cooling, 55 percent of energy bills
There are ways that homeowners (and renters) can save on energy costs and usage in all four of the categories. Below are some of Boots Camp's suggestions.
Water and water heaters
Water heaters should be set to 120 degrees. Since the water heater is always working to keep water in the tank at the set temperature, a lower temperature requires less energy. Using a water heater blanket also helps to insulate the appliance and keeps the water hotter longer. Home owners can also flush sediment from their water heater a couple of times a year, this improves the efficiency and life expectancy of the appliance.
In the rest of the housing unit owners/renters can install high-efficiency water fixtures to reduce the amount of water used.
According to Boots Camp, 90 percent of the energy used when washing clothes is from heating the water. Clothes should be washed in cold water to save energy. This also prolongs the life of clothing, which results in less clothing waste.
Dryer vents should be cleaned out regularly. Though lint traps are important and useful, they do not catch everything. People should check their external vent to make sure that there is nothing blocking airflow. Boots Camp has found that birds sometimes try to make nests in the vents.
The final appliance that Boots Camp mentioned was the fridge. The fridge is continually running to keep food cold, so homeowners can save a lot of money by installing an efficient fridge. According to Boots Camp, if your fridge, or any other appliance, is old enough to vote, it is probably time for a replacement.
Before you throw-out your appliance, check for appliance recycling programs.
Lighting and electronics
One of the easiest ways renters or owners can conserve energy is switching from incandescent light bulbs to LEDs. An LED light bulb uses 85 percent less electricity than an incandescent bulb and can last much longer. Some companies claim that LEDs can last up to 50,000 hours. Even if a house has solely LED lights, the most energy is saved when a light is not on. The Center for Energy and Environment encourages everyone to turn off lights that are not being used.
Electronics that are not in use should also be turned off. Even when something like a television is "off," but plugged-in, it is using small amounts of electricity. Boots Camp explained that if an electronic has a light on, even when it is turned off, (a computer, DVD player, radio, etc.) it is using electricity to be ready to be turned on. By putting electronics on power management systems - either manually unplugging electronics when they are not in use or installing timers that turn them on and off - families can save about $10 per year, per entertainment area.
Heating and cooling
One of the easiest ways to save on heating and cooling costs is changing the temperature when people are not home. If a house is empty, it can be kept cooler or warmer (depending on the season) than when people are home. Now, homeowners can buy thermostats that can be pre-programmed or accessed using Wi-Fi.
There are other ways to reduce heating and cooling costs such as: moving furniture away from vents and registers, covering windows in plastic during winter months and caulking windows and doorways.
For more information about and services for energy efficient living, visit www.mncee.org.