Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Got a question on energy? Experts are ready

Homeowners’ questions about energy costs and saving energy around the house are being answered by experts from the state Focus on Energy program under a new Web site unveiled by the statewide energy initiative.

The program has launched Ask Focus on Energy, which seeks to answer questions submitted by business owners and residents about energy efficiency and renewable energy.

"Given the economic and energy climate, consumers and businesses are now, more than ever, looking to learn how energy efficiency and renewable energy relates specifically to their needs,” said Kathy Kuntz, program director with Focus on Energy. “The answer to saving money and energy is out there - all you have to do is ask."

Focus has assembled a team of experts on everything from heating and cooling to insulation and renewable energy to respond to questions. The bios of its experts are available on the new Web site.

Here are some interesting Q and As from a quick visit to the site. Both of these are answered by Lynn Clement of Focus on Energy:

Q. What is the most energy efficient way to cook—with my electric stove, a slow cooker or a microwave?

A. A microwave is a good choice.
In general, a microwave oven uses less overall energy for cooking than an electric stove or a slow cooker. Of course, if you're cooking a large roast or baking a cake, the oven is the best choice because you want a certain result. A slow cooker is a good way to cook or keep small amounts of food warm, as is a toaster oven. Use the microwave whenever possible for reheating or cooking appropriate foods.

Q. We have dimmer knobs and slider switches on flood and track lighting (the old fashioned kind of inc. bulbs)--does the use of these dimmers (lights at less than full brightness) actually save energy or is the energy consumed and just channeled away from the bulb?

A. As a general rule any time you lower wattage, you lower power consumption. If all of your lights were aided by dimmers you might notice a slight difference in the bill, but not that much.

Many consumers, and even a few electricians, think that dimmers work by converting unused electricity to heat at the dimmer switch. It's true that many old rotary dimmers worked this way; they were called rheostats. These dimmers do not reduce electricity consumption, it turns part into heat, and the rest goes to the light bulb.

Clement goes on to say that buying compact fluorescent bulbs will yield even bigger savings.

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