Personal Habits Can Help Conserve Energy

We think the habits of individuals can make a difference in conserving our resources, and Earth Day is a good time to test your energy savvy.

Did you know, for example, that if we all checked our tire pressure once a month and drove with properly inflated tires, we would save the amount of oil spilled in Prince William Sound in less than three days?

Take the following quiz. If you're surprised by some of the answers, set a goal of changing some of those energy-guzzling habits.

True or False?

1. Your refrigerator is the third largest user of energy in your home.

2. Using compact fluorescent lights gives you the same light output for one-fourth the energy consumed by incandescent bulbs, and last 10 times longer.

3. Many acceptable hydroelectric dam sites are available in the Northwest to supply our electric energy needs.

4. Changing furnace filters on forced-air heating systems can substantially improve performance.

5. Home insulation should be purchased by inches of thickness.

6. Setting thermostats lower when you go to bed at night in the winter does not save energy. It causes as much fuel to be used restoring heat in the morning as was saved during the night.

7. A leaky hot-water faucet that fills an ordinary cup in 10 minutes wastes more than 3,000 gallons of hot water a year.

8. Increasing the average occupancy of automobiles during rush hour from one to two persons would save 40 million gallons of gasoline a day.

9. Frost-free refrigerators use less energy than manually defrosted types.

10. Many paper products are made from recycled content - note paper, toilet paper, paper towels, office paper, greeting cards, and more.


1. True. Space heating and water heating are the first and second largest energy users. Remember to check the temperature inside your refrigerator with a household thermometer. The refrigerator section should be between 35 and 38 degrees and the freezer compartment between 0 and 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. True. Compact fluorescents are more efficient and last much longer than incandescent lights. Just 4 to 8 inches long, they are composed of one or two folded tubes, have excellent color, and offer a new lighting option in the home. Ask your local hardware store if they carry them.

3. False. Many potential sites remain, but few are environmentally or economically acceptable. Acceptable sites are not expected to add significant power generation. However, rising energy costs may make it economically feasible to add small generators at existing low head dam sites.

4. True. Dirty filters impede hot air flow from the furnace and reduce its efficiency. For gas and oil furnaces, change the air filter at least twice a year. Electric furnace filters should be changed monthly during the heating season. For heat pumps, check the filters monthly and change if necessary.

5. False. Insulation should always be purchased by R value. The R stands for the resistance of a material to heat flow and is more accurate than inches as a way of designating performance. The higher the R value, the better the material resists heat flow.

6. False. Studies indicate a potential 13 percent reduction in heating bills with a 10 degree setback in the Seattle area. Consider installing an automatic setback system.

7. True. One of the best ways to save water is to fix leaks.

8. True. Since 1970, the number of vehicles on the road and total miles traveled in Washington have increased nearly three times faster than population growth.

9. False. A 12-foot frost-free refrigerator uses about 1,200 kilowatt hours annually compared with 725 kwh for the same size manual defrost model. Defrost a manual model when more than one-fourth inch of ice accumulates. Otherwise, energy savings will be reduced.

10. True. The best products to buy are those made with "post-consumer" waste. "Post-consumer" content is paper that has been used, recycled and remanufactured. For instance, the paper you recycle from home into your curbside bin goes into the post-consumer process. Recycled paper that has no post consumer waste content (called preconsumer) is usually made with paper trimmings from the mill or with over-issue items.

For a directory of more than 85 free energy conservation publications, write: Energy Extension Service, 914 E. Jefferson, No. 300, Seattle, WA 98122. Enclose a legal size, self-addressed stamped envelope, marked "pubs."

Home Clinic answers questions about home maintenance, repair and energy conservation. It is prepared by the Energy Extension Service, a division of the Washington State Energy Office. It appears Sundays in the Home/Real Estate section of The Times.