Mark the change in seasons by changing your energy habits

Sep. 28, 2013 @ 02:09 AM

We are entering that blessed time of year when we can open our windows and let the fresh air in without the need for heating or cooling. 

But that doesn’t mean we should stop thinking about how to save energy.  All too soon, winter will be upon us and it makes sense to do some things now to save money in the months and years to come.  Duke Energy just raised their rates again, so there’s even more incentive to find ways to use less energy.

October is National Energy Awareness Month, a perfect time to take care of those home projects or to learn more about how you can change some habits and save energy.  For example, did you know that you can use your ceiling fan in the cooler months to keep you feeling warmer and allow you to keep your thermostat lower?  You can reduce energy use by 3 percent for every degree you lower your heat.

Ceiling fans have a switch at the top to allow you to reverse the direction of the blades.  In the summer you want the fan to push air down to cool your skin.  In the winter, you want the fan to draw air up so it will circulate the hot air that rises to the ceiling back down to where you are sitting in the room.  Now is a great time to flip the switch.  A good rule is to look at the way the blades are angled and remember that in the summer you want the blades to move like they are spreading icing on a cake and in the winter the blades should be scraping the icing off.  Any time of year, fans should be turned off when no one is in the room.

Here are some other tips for saving energy during colder months and throughout the year:

-- Install a programmable thermostat and program it to turn your heat down at night and when you are out of the house for more than 5 hours during the day.

-- Change your air filters regularly.  Dirty filters mean that the system has to work harder to push air through, losing efficiency.

-- Air seal around windows, doors and pull-down attic stairs.  You can buy air stripping at hardware stores and install this yourself in just a few minutes. You will be more comfortable, too, by reducing drafts.

-- Reduce your water heater temperature to 120 degrees.  Insulate your water pipes to make sure the hot water isn’t cooling as it travels from the tank to your faucet.  This is a great activity to do with friends and neighbors.

-- If you use your fireplace, make sure you close the damper after the fire is out. Use a fireplace sealing balloon (sometimes called a pillow) to stop leaks when the fireplace is not in use.

-- Buy Energy Star appliances during the first weekend in November (Nov. 1-3).  This is North Carolina’s last Energy Star Tax Holiday so do your research now and be ready to buy efficient ceiling fans, programmable thermostats and other appliances. For a complete list, go to

Contact me to set up an energy saving workshop.

The City and County Sustainability Office will launch a program called Charge Ahead Durham in the new year to help households make more small changes that add up to big environmental and financial savings.  For more information, go to

Tobin Freid is the sustainability manager for Durham City and County.  She can be reached at, 919-560-7999, or @GreenerDurham.