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Reducing energy use shrinks utility bills, impact on planet

By Robert Goetz | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | March 5, 2018

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-Randolph, Texas —

No matter the season – whether it’s summer, when temperatures in South Texas climb into triple-digit territory, or winter, when cold fronts sometimes bring deep freezes – consumers should strive to be as energy-conscious as possible.

There are a number of ways consumers can save on their energy bills and reduce their impact on the planet, said Benjamin Martinez, 502nd Civil Engineer Squadron mechanical engineer and Joint Base San Antonio utility manager.

“Some things to consider are inspecting or getting a consultation on your insulation; ensuring minimal leakage around doors, chimneys and window frames; investing in highly efficient air-conditioning units; and using ceiling fans to stimulate and improve air circulation,” he said.

 Insulation is an important consideration because it reduces the amount of heat transfer coming into the home, Martinez said.

“That translates to less heat we have to put out through the use of an AC system, which translates to less energy we use to run our AC systems,” he said. “The same applies for cold seasons. In cold seasons, the heat we generate as people naturally and electronically is retained within the home and reduces heat from escaping the home or enclosure.”

Energy-efficient windows serve the same purpose as insulation, Martinez said.

“Just like insulation, energy-efficient windows keep unwanted outside heat out and desired simulated comfortable temperatures in and sustainable,” he said. “The secret is to keep differential temperatures steady as long as possible.”

The seasons often dictate how people can save energy, Martinez said.

“In cooler weather, use air from the outside; in the cold seasons, open blinds to allow the sun’s rays to enter through windows,” he said. “When the weather is warmer, you can use window tint or reflector screens to reduce the amount of heat coming into your home.”

Properly adjusting thermostats is an important way to save money, Martinez said.

“A rule of thumb is to keep the temperature at comfortable levels because every degree has an energy and financial value connected to it,” he said. “According to the U.S. Department of Energy website, you can save about 5 to 15 percent per year on your heating bill by turning your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours. That’s a savings of as much as 1 percent for each degree if the setback period is eight hours long.”

Other energy-saving tips are turning off lights when not in use; changing to more efficient light bulbs; purchasing high-efficiency stoves, refrigerators, washers and dryers; investing in shade trees to block the sun; ensuring attics are insulated and venting properly; using natural light as much as possible; and unplugging standby technology when not in use, including TVs, computers, internet modems, chargers and other devices.

Martinez advocated the use of LED light bulbs because of their efficiency.

“All incandescent lights will soon disappear, so it is in everyone’s best interest to convert to LED,” he said. “Currently, the most efficient lights in stores are LEDs and compact fluorescent lamps, with LEDs winning in cost per bulb over time, lifespan, watts used, hours of use and cost of electricity used.”

Being energy-conscious and energy-efficient is not just about saving money, Martinez said.

“It’s more about the lives we affect in the present and in future generations to come,” he said. “Most of our energy created produces greenhouse gases. The more we can lean on alternative energy technology, the better this planet will be. I have no doubt our health would improve in many ways as well.”