This winter it might not cost a lot to keep your toes warm.
Energy prices see largest one-month decline since 1986 120308 BUSINESS 1 Morris News Service This winter it might not cost a lot to keep your toes warm.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Story last updated at 12/3/2008 - 2:01 pm

Energy prices see largest one-month decline since 1986

This winter it might not cost a lot to keep your toes warm.

Wholesale fuel prices plummeted by a record amount in October as energy costs continued to decline, government figures showed Nov. 25.

The Labor Department's Producer Price Index showed that energy prices fell 12.8 percent last month after falling 2.9 percent in September. It was the largest one-month decline since July 1986, when energy prices fell 14 percent.

Just because energy costs are down doesn't mean you should crank up the heat and walk around the house in your Speedo.

In these particularly turbulent economic times, it's prudent to save where you can to offset other costs.

The Alliance to Save Energy, a coalition of business, government, environmental and consumer leaders who promote the efficient and clean use of energy, offers a number of no-cost/low-cost home energy-efficiency tips that pay off in lower monthly energy bills, reduced pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and improved comfort and energy security.

No-cost ways to save energy, money

Turn off everything that's not in use: lights, TVs, computers, electronics.

Clean (or replace) AC/heating-system filters monthly. Dirty filters block air flow through your heating and cooling systems, increasing your energy bill and shortening the equipment's life.

Keep curtains open and let the sun warm your home in winter. During hot months, keep window coverings closed on the south, east and west windows.

Close the fireplace damper when not in use. Also, glass fireplace doors help stop heat from being lost up the chimney.

Activate "sleep" features on computers and office equipment that power down when not in use for a while. Turn off equipment during longer periods of non-use to cut energy costs and improve longevity.

When cooking, keep the lids on pots; better yet, use a microwave or toaster oven instead.

Set your thermostat with both cost and comfort in mind. For each degree you lower your thermostat in winter, you can save up to 5 percent of the heating portion of your energy bill, depending on your climate region. On winter nights, put an extra blanket on the bed and turn down your thermostat more.

Only heat or cool the rooms you need - close vents and doors of unused rooms.

Plug leaks. It's cheap and effective. Use sealant and weather stripping around windows and doors to ensure you're not wasting energy on heat or air conditioning that escapes through leaks to the outdoors.

Replace your four most-used incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, which use only three-quarters of the energy of incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer.

Use dimmers, timers and motion detectors on indoor and outdoor lighting.

A programmable thermostat can cut your heating and AC bills by 10 percent and quickly recoup its cost. Set it to your daily and weekend patterns, and you don't have to remember to change the settings when no one's home but the goldfish.

Duct tape doesn't work on ductwork. Insulate ducts to improve your heating system's efficiency and your own comfort. While duct tape works well on lots of things, it often fails when used on ductwork. Use mastic (a gooey substance applied with a paintbrush) to seal all exposed ductwork joints in areas such as the attic, crawl space or basement.

Make your single-pane windows more efficient affordably/temporarily with plastic sheeting installed on the inside. Or add storm windows, which can significantly reduce heat lost by single-paned windows during the winter.

Consider safer, more-efficient ENERGY STAR-certified torchiere lamps rather than halogen torchiere lamps, which are expensive to operate and can cause fires.

Look for the ENERGY STAR label, the symbol of energy efficiency, when replacing or buying new products to save on your monthly energy bills. It's found on more than 50 different products.