Electrical Systems Instructor Offers ‘Energy Smart’ Tips

Surry Community College Electrical Systems Instructor Joey Boles teaches an Energy Use Analysis class as a part of the Electrical Systems Technology program.

Posted: Mar 05, 2018

Spring is only a couple of weeks away, but homeowners are still reeling from the cost of their winter electrical bills. With this in mind, Electrical Systems Instructor at Surry Community College Joey Boles is making some suggestions on how homeowners can save money on their electrical bill during the winter and year-round.

“The top three energy users in a home are the heat pump, hot water heater and lighting,” Boles said. “One of the best things a homeowner can do is to install a programmable, automatic setback thermostat that will save energy by adjusting the temperature based on the time of day and the habits of the occupants.”

If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, you can manually adjust the thermostat at night or when you leave your home. Reducing the temperature by one degree Fahrenheit can save 3 percent of your heating energy, which is a 10-percent savings for every eight-hour period of 10-degree setback.

Boles recommends setting your home temperature on 68 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter and 65 degrees Fahrenheit at night.

“You can wear warmer clothing when you are home, and you are under the covers at night,” he said. “You can also turn the thermostat down when you leave for work or plan to not be at home.”

During the summer, Boles suggested setting the thermostat at 77 or 78 degrees to save energy.

The reason electrical bills are so high in the winter is because the backup heat source inside heat pumps comes on when the outside temperature is below 30 degrees F. Most heat pumps use resistive or heat strips to warm air.

“When the weather is in the teens like it was in January, the heat strips stay on constantly. For example, these heat strips could run you an extra $10 per day or $300 per month more to heat the home,” he said.

If you have the option, select natural gas as the heat pump backup instead of resistive strips, and when purchasing a new heat pump select one with the highest SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating, which is a calculation of air conditioning and heat pump cooling efficiency.

“Natural gas is a hot heat and one of the cheaper heat sources,” Boles said. “Wood is the cheapest, but only if you own the trees.”

The second energy user in a home is the hot water heater. Reducing the hot water temperature 10 degrees can save about 13 percent of your hot water energy consumption.

“Homeowners should set their hot water heater on 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Usually, the factory default is 135 degrees Fahrenheit, so be sure to change this setting,” Boles said. “You can also buy an insulation blanket for your hot water heater to prevent heat tank loss. These blankets can be purchased at your local hardware store for around $30. You will get your money back in three months, and then see energy savings from this simple tactic.”

Timers can also be purchased for hot water heaters based on when the occupants need to bathe or wash laundry.

“If you are only going to use the hot water in your home for a couple of hours a day, you can set the timer based on this schedule to save money,” Boles said. “You can also reduce hot water energy consumption by installing reduced flow shower heads along with washing your clothes in cold water. The less hot water you actually use, the more you will save. Be sure you do not have any leaky hot water faucets. A simple drip can cost up to $30 per year.”

Homeowners can also insulate hot water pipes in their home, and this insulation can be purchased from a local hardware store and is a good do-it-yourself project, Boles said.

Lighting is the third biggest user of energy consumption in a home, and Boles recommends that homeowners install LED (Light Emitting Diode) bulbs. One traditional incandescent bulb uses 60 watts whereas an LED bulb uses 9 watts.

“A homeowner will save 80-90 percent on their lighting bill by going with LED bulbs,” Boles said.

Boles teaches an Energy Use Analysis class as a part of the Electrical Systems Technology program at Surry Community College. Students in his class do a home energy analysis as a part of their studies.

“Students have been amazed at how much money they can save,” Boles said.  “All these ideas are simple and can save homeowners hundreds of dollars each year. One student discovered the air ducts in her home weren’t attached properly to the vents costing her hundreds of dollars in wasted energy, while another student identified a water pump that wasn’t properly working and also wasting energy.”

Surry Community College offers a degree, diploma and certificate in Electrical Systems Technology in the Electrical Track and the Photovoltaic or Solar track. Follow the program on Facebook @surryelectric.

Registration for the summer and fall semester classes will begin April 3 for new students. For more information, call (336) 386-3264. 

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