The U.S. Department of Energy is joining the Alliance to Save Energy in a "Powerful Savings" campaign designed to educate consumers on ways to save energy in their homes.
Many easy-to-do tasks around your house can save energy and make the home more comfortable without sacrifices. You won't need to wear your winter coat to bed or keep the home dark in the evenings to keep your energy bills affordable.
Here are just a few ideas from this education campaign for you to consider:
Plug the air leaks in your home.
The easy way to do this is to hold a candle near doors, windows, light fixtures and other places where wiring and piping come into the home. If the smoke is drawn outdoors, you've found a leak that needs to be caulked, weatherstripped or otherwise sealed.
These are easy do-it-yourself jobs that can save 10 percent or more on your energy bills.
Keep your heating system properly maintained.
Nearly half of the average family's energy bills go for heating, so be sure your furnace or heat pump has been maintained and is working properly.
The same goes for air-conditioning equipment as well. Have it inspected and maintained before the cooling season, and you'll enjoy the benefits of lower utility bills.
Don't keep ventilating fans running longer than necessary.
Those fans in your kitchen and bathroom are important in getting rid of odors and moisture, but if they run too long, they can be huge energy-wasters.
Operating a fan for one hour can draw a whole houseful of warmed air outside this winter. Energy-savvy builders often install timers on these fans to make sure their operating time is controlled.
Curtains and drapes are often called "movable insulation" because you can control them.
Keep them open in the daytime in winter to let the sun's warmth in; then close them tightly at night to keep that heat from escaping outdoors.
If you have a lot of appliances and electronics that you're not using, turn them off or unplug them.
All of the little energy-users in a home add up to a significant monthly charge.
One of the most important features every homeowner should think about is insulation.
This includes keeping the right amount of insulation in your attic, ceilings and walls, as well as insulating your hot water pipes, water heater and ductwork.
The Alliance to Save Energy is a coalition of business, government, environmental and consumer leaders who promote the efficient and clean use of energy. You can get lots of energy-saving tips on its Web site, ase.org.
There's also a booklet called "Energy Savers" that's available in English and Spanish from www.eere.energy.gov/consumerinfo/energy_savers, or 877-337-3463.
Ken Sheinkopf is associate director of the Florida Solar Energy Center in Cocoa, a research institute of the University of Central Florida. The Orlando Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.