October 2007 issue also explains personal carbon footprints;
YONKERS, N.Y., Aug. 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As the colder months
quickly descend, consumers should take the time to ensure their home is as
energy-efficient as possible. Consumer Reports' October issue features a
full report on what consumers can do now to save hundreds of dollars on
their energy bill. The report includes results from Consumer Reports
testing, and advice from its experts to tell homeowners which programs and
products work and which promise more than they deliver when it comes to
cutting energy costs.
The energy package features tips, buying advice and ratings of compact
fluorescent light bulbs, thermostats, space heaters, and windows and
reports on the programs and products that can help save consumers money on
their energy bills, and diminish damage to the environment in the process.
1. Change Lighting. Consumers can save money and energy by swapping
compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) for incandescent bulbs. Energy
Star-qualified CFLs are required to meet certain standards, one of which is
that they have to save consumers at least $30 in energy costs over the
bulb's roughly 7,500 to 10,000-hour life. The October issue of CR contains
Ratings of various CFLs from GE, Philips, Sylvania, N:Vision, Bright
Effects, and Feit Electric and advice on choosing the best types of CFLs
based on a consumer's needs.
2. Program Thermostat. Consumers can slash home heating costs by up to
20 percent per year by decreasing their home's temperature by 5 to 10
degrees during the night or when no one is home. CR's latest tests and
Ratings of 25 thermostats reveal that while programmable thermostats can
help save energy by automatically raising or lowering temperatures when
necessary, eliminating the need for the homeowner to do it manually.
However, confusing controls on some of these devices can cause some
consumers to burn more energy than they intended.
3. Boost Heating Efficiency. Consumers can save up to 40 percent on
their annual energy bill by sealing leaks, cracks, and gaps in their duct
distribution system for their central heating and cooling system. These
savings accrue year round and are often greater than the savings from
installing a more efficient furnace or central air conditioner. CR also
advises caulking holes in walls, especially if they penetrate between
floors to an unheated basement or attic.
4. Add Insulation. Save hundreds of dollars a year on energy bills by
improving a home's insulation and the cost of the job can be recouped in as
little as two years. CR recommends first sealing larger gaps around
chimneys, furnace flues, plumbing pipes, and light fixtures. Ductwork that
is not located in a living space should be insulated.
5. Save Money on Hot Water. Consumers can save up to 5 percent on their
energy bills by insulating hot-water pipes and lowering the temperature on
the water heater from 130º to 120º. For those who need to replace their
storage tank style water heater, CR advises choosing a model with a 9- to
12-year warranty since these models typically have thicker insulation and
more powerful burners or heating elements for faster heating. Further
still, they often include better corrosion protection.
6. Use Space Heaters Wisely. There are potential energy savings if a
home's central heating system is used sparingly to prevent freezing and
only a room or two are heated with an electric space heater. However, open
floor-plans in today's homes and the desire by homeowners to be comfortable
throughout their house makes this premise unlikely. Further, the national
average price of electricity, on an equal energy basis is about 2 1/2 times
greater than natural gas, the most popular heating fuel. CR's latest tests
and Ratings of 16 space heaters show that they provide more consistent heat
than the last batch of devices that were tested. It also reveals why
temperature control is key, how safety varies among models, and why some
high-priced models disappoint.
7. Replace Worn-Out Windows. Replacing old single pane windows that are
beyond simple repairs, such as caulking and weather stripping, can save
between 10 and 25 percent on a heating bill. CR tested 19 windows for air
and water leakage, durability, and convenience. The report offers advice on
how to choose a window and how to find an expert installer.
8. Understand Energy Star. Energy Star appliances are typically more
efficient than others and will generally cost less to run. However,
consumers should take the energy-use estimates with a grain of salt.
Refrigerator lighting, icemakers and special settings on dishwashers are
among the hidden energy drains not factored into energy-use figures.
9. Use Fires for Ambience. Wood-burning fireplaces may look romantic
and feel toasty, but they actually suck the heat from the home up and out
the chimney. Glass doors only improve the situation slightly. Wood- and
pellet-burning stoves provide more heat not only because their hot surfaces
are directly heating room air, but also because they are designed as a heat
10. Avoid Energy Scams. Beware of pitches from door-to-door
salespeople, unsolicited letters, and phone callers that promise to save
consumers big bucks on their heating bill. Alternative power suppliers are
unlikely to save consumers much money unless they are using lots of energy.
Reducing Carbon Footprints
Consumers may not know or understand that their daily activities can
contribute to global warming. A carbon footprint is a measure of how much
greenhouse gas a consumer's lifestyle lets loose into the air. The average
American is responsible for 20 tons of carbon dioxide per year -- the
equivalent of four passenger cars driven for one year. Consumer Reports
suggests the following tips so consumers can reduce their carbon footprint
and combat global warming:
-- Turn off the lights of a room that is not in use.
-- Put computers, monitors, DVD players, VCRs, and other electronics
into sleep mode when not in use.
-- Wash only full loads in washing machines and dishwashers.
-- Switch to low-flow showerheads and toilets.
The Bright & Dark Side of Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs)
The average home has about 45 lights. Changing just five often-used
regular bulbs to CFLs can save consumers $25 per year on electricity. A
typical table lamp CFL costs about $2 to $3 a bulb; a price that has
dropped dramatically since 1999 when they sold from $9 to $25. Consumer
Reports tested a variety of bulbs from GE, Philips, Sylvania, N:Vision,
Bright Effects, and Feit Electric and identified the situations and areas
in a home where CFLs are best suited. CR only recommends Energy
Star-qualified CFLs because of the more stringent standards they are
required to meet. The Energy Star-qualified CFLs that CR tested performed
well. Here are some things consumers should keep in mind before replacing
all the light bulbs in their home:
CFLs last longer. As opposed to a typical incandescent that lasts 1,000
hours, CFLs can last roughly 7,500 to 10,000 hours. As of press time, CR's
spiral bulbs were still on after 3,000 hours.
CFLs aren't right for every situation. Areas that need full brightness
immediately should be lit with incandescent bulbs since they can take less
than a second to come close to full brightness. The CFLs CR tested took
between twenty-five seconds and 3.3 minutes to reach that point. Using CFLs
for short periods of time (less than 15 minutes) can also shorten their
Recycling efforts lag. CR advises recycling CFLs since the bulbs tested
contained about 5 milligrams or less of mercury, a neurotoxin which
shouldn't be released into the environment. Most municipalities don't have
residential CFL recycling programs, nor will most of the stores that sell
these types of bulbs take the spent CFLs back. CR recommends checking with
local sanitation services or the EPA's Web site,
http://www.epa.gov/bulbrecycling to find out where CFLs can be recycled.
The full report on energy-saving tips including Ratings and buying
information on light bulbs, thermostats, space heaters and windows can be
found in the October issue of Consumer Reports and at
The material above is intended for legitimate news entities only; it
may not be used for commercial or promotional purposes. Consumer Reports(R)
is published by Consumers Union, an expert, independent nonprofit
organization whose mission is to work for a fair, just, and safe
marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect
themselves. To achieve this mission, we test, inform, and protect. To
maintain our independence and impartiality, CU accepts no outside
advertising, no free test samples, and has no agenda other than the
interests of consumers. CU supports itself through the sale of our
information products and services, individual contributions, and a few