A New October Tradition
By Andy Farmer
October brings a number of well-known family traditions, like visits to pumpkin patches, Halloween costume shopping and eating a year’s worth of candy in a single day. This year, we’re asking Virginia’s families to add a lesser known, but equally important ritual to the mix: taking action to reduce their energy use. October is Energy Action Month, a good time to take stock of how we use energy, take steps to waste less and help others do the same before winter sets in.
Becoming more energy efficient can be surprisingly simple and inexpensive. This is the perfect time to start. In Virginia, we’ve made a commitment to help our economy and natural resources by setting a goal to reduce the Commonwealth’s electric energy use by 10 percent. It’s a goal we can reach with the support of Virginians across the state, from Arlington to Roanoke to Norfolk.
Nearly all of us recognize the importance of being mindful of our energy consumption. In a 2012 survey of Virginia homeowners, 98 percent said that saving energy is important to them. However, only 27 percent of those same respondents said they were highly knowledgeable on the best strategies to make their homes more energy efficient.
That’s why the Commonwealth created the Virginia Energy Sense program to help close that knowledge gap by providing residents with the resources they need to make their homes, businesses and schools more efficient. As the fall season approaches, there are a number of ways to prepare your home for the colder months. Here are few ideas to get you started:
- Energy is often wasted heating and cooling empty homes. Installing a programmable thermostat allows you to give the heating and cooling system a rest when you leave the house, which can save up to $180 per year. Remember that as much as half of the energy used in your home goes to heating and cooling.
- Cold weather has its way of infiltrating homes through gaps and cracks around doors and windows. You can caulk, weatherstrip and air seal around these trouble zones to reduce drafts and cut energy bills by up to 30 percent.
- Warm air travels up, meaning that your attic is a prime place to add insulation that will improve the comfort of your home. Insulation is measured in R-values—the higher the R-value, the more insulated and efficient your home will be.
- Are you better with numbers than with your hands? Take some time to carefully read and understand your energy bill. This way, you can track how the improvements you make are lowering what you pay every month. To really brush up on your kilowatt use, pick up a low-cost electricity usage monitor to help understand how much energy various home appliances and electronics are costing you, including some that use energy even when not in use.
One of the best ways to diagnose your home’s biggest energy wasters is with an energy audit. Consider hiring a professional that can evaluate your home and provide custom solutions to realize big energy savings that carry over for years to come.
These are just a handful of the numerous opportunities for Virginia’s residents to cut energy waste and save money. For a complete list of tips, we encourage you to visit our website, virginiaenergysense.org. There, you can find a guide with easy Do-it-Yourself projects; information about rebates and incentives available to help offset the costs of energy efficiency upgrades; and a home energy test that with just a few clicks and 10 minutes will help you identify parts of your home that can use some improvements. Whether you’re an energy novice or DIY warrior, there are a range of steps you can take to live more efficiently.
Every month that we delay energy efficiency improvements is another month we waste energy. Start a new tradition today by using October as a time to celebrate Energy Action Month and get started with steps to reduce the energy you consume and pay for.
It might become the most rewarding October tradition you have, except for the candy eating, of course.