cost saving tips of going solar in New JerseyBy Theresa Ficazzola
Need an extra push to help you reduce your energy costs this year? How about a handy top 10 list and a deadline? The Canadian Energy Efficiency Alliance established January 10 as National Cut Your Energy Costs Day, so mark that date down, review the list below and get to work!

1.Consider a home solar energy system. Installing solar panels on your roof to generate your own electricity from the sun can help you go green and result in real savings on your electric bills. While many different factors impact direct savings from solar, a typical homeowner may be able to eliminate between 70% – 100% of their current electric bill. However, since everyone’s home is different, results may vary. Contact SI Solar today for a no-obligation solar assessment.

2.Revisit your heating and cooling systems. Replace your furnace and air conditioning units with energy efficient models. Energy Star heating equipment can be up to 15% more efficient. Your savings over the long term are worth the initial expense. To ensure they run at peak efficiency, change filters once a month in winter and every three months in summer, and schedule an annual tune up with a pro.

3.Install a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat enables you to set different temperatures at different times to operate at peak efficiency, which can save you about $100 – $150 a year. For example, lower the heat at night while you’re sleeping, throw on an extra blanket, and program the heat to crank up 30 minutes before you wake up. The Department of Energy recommends 68 degrees in winter and 78 in summer. The more you adjust, the more money you’ll save, typically between 5% – 15% a year on your heating bill.

4.Upgrade your appliances. Upgrading your major appliances to energy efficient models, which use less energy, can save you money. For more cost savings, keep them running at optimal efficiency by ensuring vents are kept clean (saving you 5%) and running them when they’re full. Since 90% of the energy used by your washing machine is consumed by heating the water, use a cool or cold water setting for additional savings.

5.Weatherproof your home. The Department of Energy estimates that about 40% of the energy in your home escapes from various cracks, leaky ducts and poor insulation. Replace windows and doors with energy efficient models, caulk or weather strip, insulate your garage, basement and attic (including the hatch and stairs). And don’t forget to wrap your water heater and pipes and seal ducts.

6.Replace light bulbs with LEDs or CFLs. These new bulbs can last 6 – 10 times longer and use 75% – 80% less energy than old, incandescent bulbs. And, don’t forget to turn off the lights when you leave the room.

7.Power down or put electronics in “sleep” mode. Use power strips and unplug any electronics when they’re not being used. Remember, even if something is plugged in but not turned on, it’s still draining energy.

8.Keep your fireplace sealed. Close your chimney flue damper when your fireplace is not being used to avoid drafts and heat loss and have your chimney cleaned once a year. However, it’s critical that you remember to open the flue damper before starting a fire to avoid having your home fill up with smoke.

9.Curb your water usage and turn down the temperature. Heating your water uses a lot of energy. The industry standard temperature for hot water heaters is 140 degrees, but lowering it to 120-125 degrees can save you about 10%. Conserve water by taking shorter showers, turning off the water while you do dishes and brush teeth, and installing a low flow shower head, faucet and toilet. And, fix any leaks as soon as they occur.

10.Keep your car tuned up. Extend your energy savings on the road by keeping your car tuned up, changing oil and filters regularly, driving the speed limit (every 5 mph over 65 mph decreases your fuel economy by 7%), combining trips, and limiting idling. Better yet, walk, bike, carpool, or take public transportation.