Simple steps can help make homes energy efficient
By EILEEN ALT POWELL
By EILEEN ALT POWELL
NEW YORK — Along with rising gasoline prices, Americans are going to have to deal this summer with higher costs for cooling their homes.
The U.S. government's Energy Information Administration recently estimated that electricity prices will run about 5 percent higher this year than last while natural gas prices are expected to increase some 7 percent.
The average homeowner will spend about $2,170 for energy this year, about half of it for heating and cooling, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
Holding down cooling costs by doing such things as installing ceiling fans often doesn't require a big investment. Such steps can pay off, experts say.
"There's little question but that we're probably in for a period of high — and rising — fuel prices," said Jennifer Amann, a senior associate at the council and co-author of its "Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings." "So every investment you make in efficiency is also a hedge against the uncertainty in energy prices."
A Web site created by the Energy Star program rates products based on energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Energy Star spokeswoman Denise A. Durrett said the site, www.energystar.gov/home, aims "to get people thinking and talking about energy-efficient products, energy-efficient services and ways to save energy in the home."
The site features a two-story home with basement and attic. Click on stars around the house and cooling tips will pop up.
If you click on the star on the ceiling fan in the living room, for example, you'll be told: "In summer, run the blades counterclockwise (downward) to cool more efficiently. On hotter days, dialing up the thermostat by only 2 degrees and using your ceiling fan can lower air conditioning costs by up to 14 percent over the course of the cooling season."
Click on the air conditioner in the bedroom and learn that units with Energy Star certification "use at least 10 percent less energy than standard models."
For many families, energy efficiency is a year-round issue.
Samantha Pearson of Lewisburg, Pa., said she and her husband have tried to adopt an "energy-efficient lifestyle."
Pearson, an architect, said the family recently purchased a new Toyota Prius, which combines a gas engine with an electric motor.
The couple has renovated an old brick home "and didn't even consider central air," relying instead on good ventilation and shade from neighborhood trees.