Ed Ryan can tell you how to save money on electric and heating bills this winter.
Scot Sacks can, too.
Frank Tedesco has some tips. So does Ernest Moniz.
And a lot more people have hints on ways consumers can cut down on the heat and energy they waste every day — and the money they waste with it. They involve improving home insulation and increasing appliances’ efficiency and more simple, tested ways to save on the bills that go up as the temperatures go down.
Ryan, owner of GreenLife Energy Solutions in Egg Harbor Township, said crews can detect where heat leaks out doors, windows, attics, vents and outlets.
Sacks runs Art Handler’s Appliance Center in Pleasantville, which sells lots of refrigerators and washing machines and dishwashers rated as Energy Star appliances — although he said that prized title gets stricter every year.
Tedesco is a spokesman for Atlantic City Electric, which regularly includes lists of electricity-saving tips in its bills to customers and posts them on its website.
And Moniz is secretary of the U.S. Energy Department, which offers its own detailed ways on its site to save energy and cash — and is just one of many government-sponsored sites loaded with free information on this expensive topic.
Both the federal and state governments strongly encourage energy efficiency, and Egg Harbor Township’s GreenLife works through two state programs to help local homes save energy.
The services start with an energy audit, in which workers examine a house from crawl space to attic to appliances to find out where they use and lose the most heated or cooled air, and power.
That job sends staff member Brian Workman into some tight, unpleasant spaces, places that are cold on a windy December day, even inside a small, aging Pleasantville home with a mostly finished attic.
A key to the process is the “blower door” the crews use, which works with high-powered fans that depressurize homes by blowing the air out, then using meters to see where outdoor air rushes in.
He found entry places around windows and in the attic — “The insulation material isn’t doing its job,” he said, as outdoor air whizzed past him like an indoor cold front. But another big energy-waster was the refrigerator.
“You can control when you cook, when you turn the air or heat on,” said Workman, a six-year GreenLife veteran. “But a refrigerator can be draining you and you don’t even know it, because it runs when it needs to. ... I can already tell this one is failing.”
So his report will recommend replacing it.
A few miles away, Art Handler’s has a showroom full of Energy Star models to pick from. Sacks, the owner, said the vast majority of shoppers now actively look for the logo of Energy Star, a program the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency started in 1992.
In 2000, surveys said 40 percent of consumers knew about Energy Star, the EPA says on the program’s website, energystar.gov. By 2014, that figure was up to 85 percent, and most of the country’s biggest appliance brands and retailers are partners in the program. As of 2012, Americans had bought more than 5 billion appliances carrying the label and were buying more at the rate of 300 million a year.
That’s despite the fact that the program has gotten more stringent.
“This was an Energy Star box last year,” Sacks said, waving toward one refrigerator. “Now, it’s not.”
And a lot of the draw of that blue Energy Star label is financial. The EPA reports that in 1980, the average annual cost to run a washing machine was $209. Now, that cost is down to $50 — meaning that replacing a vintage washer with a new one that costs $650 would pay for itself in just over four years.
“You use less detergent and less water, and they have more capacity, so you do fewer loads,” Sacks said. “It’s all about how much conservation you can have.”
New appliances better conserve electricity, and Atlantic City Electric has its own suggestions on how consumers can do more of that.
On the list: “During the winter, if health permits, set your thermostat at 68 degrees during the day and 60 degrees at night. You can save 3 percent on your heating costs for every degree you reduce the temperature below 70 degrees. ... To save energy in the laundry room, put a dry towel in the dryer with each load of wet clothes. The towel will absorb dampness and reduce drying time.”
Tedesco said those ideas and more are available on the utility’s website, atlanticcityelectric.com.
The federal Energy Department has its own lists — as do many other government agencies. But on energy.gov, lots of the tips focus on heating and cooling, on the grounds that they “use more energy and cost more money than any other system in your home — typically making up about 48 percent of your utility bill.”
Here’s one simple tip for the next few months:
“During winter, keep the draperies and shades on your south-facing windows open during the day to allow the sunlight to enter your home, and closed at night to reduce the chill ... from cold windows.”