Save electricity, save $$, at home and work Published Oct. 16, 2008 By Marcy Whitfield 81st Civil Engineer Squadron KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, MISS. -- Electricity is a constant in our lives. It works silently and dependably, and most people take for granted that it will always be there. It literally flows into all facets of our life. From the stoplights that keep us safe, to the computers we use at work -- even the microwave we use to prepare food. It's everywhere and we rely on it every day. Many of us don't even think about how much energy we use until we get a reality check in the form of a bill. But being aware of both the electricity we use and the electricity being generated around us is important because it affects us all. How does it affect me? Electricity costs and demand are rising and the United States alone will need 40 percent more electricity in 20 years to power homes and businesses, according to the Energy Information Agency. Consumers keep buying more goods that require electricity. Scientists are scrambling to find newer, more efficient, more earth-friendly ways to generate power to meet these needs. Renewable energy -- energy generated from natural resources such as wind and sunlight -- is more than a catch phrase now; it's a reality for more and more federal installations. Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., is now the site for North America's largest solar photovoltaic power plant and generates 25 percent of its own electricity. Dyess AFB, Texas, became the largest retail wind power purchaser in the United States when it converted entirely to wind energy. Bases across the Air Force are looking for ways to be environmental stewards while saving money when powering their facilities. As Keesler's resource efficiency manager, an integral part of my job is both to find ways to save energy on base and to educate the base on how to save energy. One thing that gets people very excited is that saving energy also saves you money, and that can be very helpful with the current state of the economy. I've only been at Keesler a short time, but I already see many opportunities to improve our energy efficiency. At your home, there are plenty of opportunities for change, too. Just like I'll take a holistic approach to improving Keesler's energy efficiency, I encourage you to take a good look at your entire house from the foundation to the roof to find ways to improve your energy savings. There are even do-it-yourself energy audit tools online that walk you through the steps. I've used http://hes.lbl.gov to do an energy audit of my home and cut my energy bill by as much as $100 a month. Here are just five tips to cut your electricity usage each month: Add a clean, dry towel in with a load of wet clothes in the dryer. This cuts 15-20 minutes of dry time. Be sure to clean the lint filter after every load to improve air circulation. Many appliances continue to draw power when they're switched off. In the average home, 75 percent of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off. This can be avoided by unplugging the appliance or using a power strip switch to cut all power to the appliance. Switch to energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs. Not only do CFLs use 65-75 percent less energy than a standard incandescent bulb, but they also last 10 times longer. Set your thermostat comfortably low in the winter and comfortably high in the summer. Install a programmable thermostat that's compatible with your heating and cooling system. Take into account that evenings are cooler and may not need as much cooling in the summer. Consider buying products that have the Energy Star rating. Windows, computers, refrigerators, roofing and lighting are just a few of the items in the Energy Star lineup. J ust a few changes can make a difference in the amount of electricity you use and the charge on your electrical bill at the end of the month. And it can make a difference to the environment now and in the future. Making a concerted effort to save energy is a win-win situation. If you'd like to learn about even more ways to save energy and money at your home, stop by our energy awareness booth, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 22 at the Pecan Food Court.