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Energy conservation: It starts at home

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Using energy wisely at home is an important way for everyone to control electric costs and reduce the environmental impact -- a win-win.

Lowering your energy use puts more money back in your pocket and reduces the harmful emissions released into our environment in the energy generation process.
You don't have to overhaul your home or make a major investment to reduce energy consumption. There are many easy, effective things you and your family can do to save energy at home. Here's a list of tips and ideas from Balfour Beatty Communities to get you started.

Home Appliance Tips
· Opt for short showers over baths. Reducing the amount of hot water you use, and the energy used to heat it, is a cost effective way to lower your energy bills as well as help the environment.
· Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes.
· Wash clothes in cold water. Water heating consumes 90 percent of the energy it takes to operate a clothes washer. Switching the temperature from hot to warm can cut energy use in half. This will also help reduce shrinkage, wear on your clothing and preserve fabric color.
· Activate the high spin speed option. If your clothes washer has spin options, choose a high spin speed or the extended spin option to reduce the amount of remaining moisture in your clothes after washing.
· Clean the lint filter after every load. Do this to improve air circulation and avoid a potential fire hazard.

Electronic tips
· Plug home electronics, such as TVs and DVD players, into 'smart' power strips; these power strips can automatically turn several outlets off or on when they detect that the TV (plugged into the "master outlet") either enters a low powered sleep mode, is turned off or is turned on.
· If you aren't using smart strips, unplug electronics when not in use; equipment still plugged in can become a "Vampire Load," drawing up to 40 percent of its intended power even in the "off" or "standby" mode.
· Unplug chargers and adapters too. Chargers for cell phones, music players, portable games and other mobile devices continue to draw power even when you remove the device. To eliminate this energy waste, be sure to unplug chargers or turn off the power strip they're plugged in to when you remove the device.

Cooling Tips
· Use window blinds and shades. Closing your blinds, shades or curtains on warm days keeps the sun's rays out and helps keep your home cool. If you have air conditioning it can also help you save energy, blocking as much as 45 percent of the sun's warmth and reducing the load on your AC system.
· Turn off unnecessary lights. Much of the energy from a light bulb is heat.
· On mild days, open windows for natural ventilation and turn the air conditioning off.
· Use portable or ceiling fans. Run ceiling fans counterclockwise for maximum cooling.
· Use small appliances in the kitchen. Use a crock pot, toaster oven, or microwave instead of your full-sized range or oven to keep your home cooler and save energy. These small appliances use only 20 to 50 percent of the energy needed to power your stove top or oven.

Heating Tips
· Let the sunshine in! Use the natural warmth of the sun to help heat your home during the winter. Open the shades on south facing windows during the day to let the sun in and close them at night to keep the warmth inside.
· Lower your heat settings -- ideally around 68 degrees when you are home and awake and around 55 degrees when you are sleeping or away from home.
· Keep your heat flowing. If you have furniture or curtains in front of your vents, you could be blocking the flow of heat--be sure to check for and remove any obstructions.

A Few Extra Tips
· Drive sensibly! Aggressive driving such as speeding, rapid acceleration and breaking can waste fuel.
· Ensure your tires are properly inflated according to the manufacturer's spec; this can improve gas mileage as much as 3.3 percent.