Energy Conservation... In Your Home
The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) can help homeowners save money and energy right now. By taking energy-saving measures, you will save energy and money. Some measures are simple and inexpensive. Others will take some investment. Money spent today to improve a home’s energy efficiency will reduce energy bills into the future.
When looking at any specific energy-saving ideas, it’s helpful to know how your home uses energy. The reason is that energy equals dollars. We pay a certain amount of money for every unit of energy used.
How We Use Energy in Our Homes
Energy use is divided into two areas; base load and heating. Heating is the biggest utility expense for most Montana families. Baseload consumption is year-round energy uses like water heating, refrigeration and lighting. Small changes in baseload consumption add up over the entire year.
Heating your home uses more energy and drains more energy dollars than any other system in your home. Typically, 49 percent of your utility bill goes for heating. No matter what kind of heating system you have in your house, you can save money and increase your comfort by properly maintaining and upgrading your equipment.
- Your heating system, like your car, needs regular maintenance to run at peak efficiency. That means scheduling a yearly maintenance visit with a heating contractor to tune-up the system. A licensed contractor will make sure your heating system is operating efficiently and safely. A regular maintenance schedule can also help in identifying problems early.
- Select energy-efficient products when you buy new heating equipment. Your contractor should be able to give you energy fact sheets for different types, models, and designs to help you compare energy usage. For furnaces, look for high Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) ratings. The national minimum is 78 percent AFUE, but certain ENERGY STAR models on the market exceed 90 percent AFUE. ENERGY STAR-qualified models also are eligible for the $500 Montana energy conservation credit.
- Install an ENERGY STAR programmable thermostat. Inexpensive and easy to install, programmable thermostats automatically turn down the heat during the weekdays and at night so you do not pay to heat your home when no one is around to appreciate the comfort. Programmable thermostats are easy to operate and allow for your different workday and weekend schedules. These thermostats also qualify for the 25 percent Montana energy conservation tax credit.
Many older homes have room temperature thermostats that contain mercury. To identify, remove the front plate and look for one or more small glass bulbs, known as tilt switches. These contain mercury. Each tilt switch contains roughly three grams of mercury, though there may be as much as six grams. Never dispose of this type of thermostat in the trash or local landfill, because mercury is toxic and can leak out to contaminate our air, water and soil. To assist home-owners with proper disposal of mercury-containing thermostats, a no-cost collection/recycling program is available to all Montana residents. To determine a drop off location in your area, contact your local county sanitarian. Visit the Mercury-Containing Thermostat Disposal web page.