warm home

Q: Winter is right around the corner. Do you have any suggestions to help me with my heating bills?

A: First, let's look at what actually drives your heating costs— outdoor temperatures; how efficient your home is; and how efficient your HVAC system is.

Obviously, the most unpredictable factor is the weather. Colder temperatures are going to make your HVAC system run more often. Unfortunately, we can't control Mother Nature, so we have to address your house and its HVAC system.

Current building code requires an attic insulation of R38 and wall insulation of R13. Think of insulation as the blanket that covers your home. Adding extra insulation to your attic is pretty common, and you can do the job yourself in most instances.

Changing the level of insulation in your walls is not an easy project and should be left to a professional contractor. If your home has a crawlspace, don't forget the floors. Building code requires floors to be insulated to R19; you can also insulate the walls of the crawlspace.

Along with insulation, you'll want to be sure to seal all the holes through the walls, floors, ceilings, etc. This is important because most insulating products are insulators, not sealers. If cold air is getting into the home, the insulation cannot work as designed. Use caulk or low expansion foam to seal any openings you may have.

Finally, make sure your HVAC system is working in proper order. Hiring a qualified contractor for a tune up is probably best for this project since heat pumps and gas furnaces have a lot of moving parts.

Once your system has been given a clean bill of health, be sure to change the filters on a regular basis. Forced air systems need good, clean air to operate at their designed efficiency.

We recommend setting the thermostat as low as possible, where you're still comfortable (68 or 69 degrees is a good starting point). It doesn't cost anything to put on a sweater...

A final note: if you heat with gas, be sure to have a carbon monoxide detector on each floor of the home. Safety always comes first!

Have a question for our Energy Expert? Send it to info@owenelectric.com.

Q: It's been really hot the last few days. How much insulation should I have in my attic?

A: Today, Kentucky residential building code requires an R38 in the attic, but ENERGY STAR standards for Kentucky actually recommend R38-60. Although this is a wide gap, I think the important number here is a minimum of R38.

Remember, attic insulation is like a coat for your house— the heavier the coat, the better at keeping you warm or cool. How do you get to an R38 or higher? It depends on the type of insulation you are using.

Fiberglass, cellulose, rockwool or spray foam all have differing R values per inch. I always recommend you read the manufacturer's data sheet to help calculate total R value. I also suggest you need to think about two other important factors in your attic.

One is ventilation; you really need a way to get the hot air out of your attic. Kentucky building code requires one square foot of ventilation for every 150 square feet of roof decking. A good roofing contractor can easily access your roof and provide ideas on how to reach minimum ventilation requirements.

Second, I would suggest that you make sure all the holes in the top plate or ceiling are sealed well. Any wiring or plumbing chases that go from conditioned space to your attic should be caulked or foamed. And don't forget the attic access! This area should be air sealed and insulated as well.

If you are an Owen Electric member and your primary source of heating is electric, we offer rebates for any added attic insulation or whole house air sealing. Go to https://www.owenelectric.com/button or call (800) 372-7612, option 4, for details. You may also want to check energystar.gov to see if you qualify for any energy tax credits or rebates from the Inflation Reduction Act passed earlier this year.

Have a question for our Energy Expert? Send it to info@owenelectric.com.

air conditioning

Q: With the spring temperatures on the rise, what do I need to get ready for summer?

A: As you said, spring is definitely here, and summer is just around the corner! And with the season, temperatures are beginning to rise. Now is the time to get your air conditioner serviced and ready for those 80+ degree days. As we know, up to 40 percent of air conditioning units have an improper refrigerant charge, so that will probably be the first thing your HVAC contractor checks and verifies. 

But, we also need to be sure the outdoor unit is free of debris and has plenty of free space around the unit for air flow. Also, make sure to check the amp load of the compressor; the design load is found on the data plate on the unit. This will help ensure the unit is not using more energy than expected. 

As always, be sure to change the inside filter every 30-45 days, as good, clean air makes for a happier unit. 

Regarding the thermostat, we recommend setting it at 78 degrees, knowing that for every one degree change, we add or save approximately 3 percent on the electricity bill. If the home sits unoccupied for the majority of the day, use your programmable thermostat to raise the temperature while you're away, then reset approximately 30-45 minutes before you get home.

Finally, remember that your air conditioning unit is also helping dehumidify your home, so a minimum 15 minute run time is essential for this process. If you are "short cycling," be sure to make your HVAC professional aware so they can check for remedies. I am a firm believer that the humidity is as bad as the higher temperatures in Kentucky.

Question for our expert? Send it to info@owenelectric.com.


Q: I am considering making some energy efficiency upgrades to my home. Are there incentives out there to help with the cost?

A: Making energy efficiency improvements to your home are a really good way to save energy, money, and improve comfort while lowering your carbon footprint.

First, talk to Owen Electric, and schedule a free energy audit of your home. As an energy advisor, I'm also able to discuss the rebates that are available to you through our co-op. If you head over to the website at https://www.owenelectric.com/energy-efficiency-info-programs-rebates, you will find a listing of all available rebates to Owen Electric members. There's everything from added attic insulation, air sealing, duct sealing, and new home construction. You can also request an energy audit from this link.

Also, in 2022, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Within this bill are monies available for residential energy efficiency projects in the form of tax credits and rebates. These cover a wide variety of improvement possibilities including windows, HVAC systems, cool roofs, appliances and more. Research the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act for more specific details on the implementation time frame- be sure to keep receipts if you're doing work in the first quarter of 2023.

One last note- Rebates from Owen Electric and those from the federal government are totally separate. The co-op will provide rebates while most of the IRA monies are tax credits.

Question for our Energy Expert? Send it to info@owenelectric.com.

ductless mini split

Q: I converted my garage to a bonus room and am wanting to add some heat for the winter. Which should I use- electric baseboard heaters or space heaters?

A: First, let's understand that both of these systems are electric resistance heating sources. Basically, a coil or wire gets hot and either radiates heat or a fan blows over the coil, pushing heat into the room.

When calculating costs, the typical electric baseboard heater uses .25 kW of electric per foot. So, a 6-foot baseboard heater uses 1.5 kW, or 1,500 watts. The typical electrical space heater also uses 1.5 kW or 1,500 watts, so the cost to operate is about the same. Also note that 1 kW produces 3.412 BTU, so both of these units will also produce the same amount of heat- 1.5 x 3.412 = approximately 5100 BTU.

Another consideration is space and use. Typically, you would mount the baseboard heater to the wall, which takes 6 feet and about 3 inches of floor space, next to the wall. Plus, you'll need electric service to the unit. Of course, the space heater is mobile and could also be used in different areas. Your baseboard heater would have a thermostat that could either be on the unit or mounted to the wall just like your standard HVAC thermostat. Higher-end space heaters will have the thermostat built in, while some simply offer low/medium/high settings.

One thing to remember about both of these units- they only heat. There is no air conditioning with either, and I would suspect that you will be using your new space during the summer as well.

Considering all of this, my conclusion is if you really want to use this space all year, long term, with the most comfort, the ductless mini split heat pump is the way to go. It will provide excellent heating and cooling, quiet operation, can be mounted through the wall, and comes in multiple styles.

Question for our Energy Expert? Send it to info@owenelectric.com.


Q: I'm considering wrapping my air ducts in my basement and maybe my entire furnace as well. Is wrapping a good idea? My system is 13 years old.

A: I think the most important thing to do is actually seal the ductwork, and then consider insulating it. We recommend using foil tape and mastic to seal all the joints, boots, and finally, where the duct actually comes through the floor- the metal flashing at the register.

I always say that wherever metal meets metal needs to be sealed. You can get the foil tape and mastic at your local hardware store. The mastic can be applied via paint brush, or you can apply it by hand- just be sure to have on some good rubber gloves.

After you've sealed the joints, then you can consider adding insulation to the ducts that are in unconditioned areas, such as an attic or crawlspace. If your basement is unconditioned or you are having condensation issues, like water droplets on the ductwork, then insulating the ductwork is very helpful.

DO NOT insulate any part of the furnace. This is a safety issue and should not be done.

Question for our Energy Expert? Send it to info@owenelectric.com...

summer efficiency

Q: What are some things I can do to help stay cool without breaking the bank?

A: Summer is here, and along with it will be the 80+ degree weather. Turning on the A/C is the first thing we think about, but here are a few ideas that may help keep your electricity bill in check.

First, we recommend setting your thermostat to 78 degrees. For every single degree you raise the thermostat setting, you can save up to 3 percent on your A/C bill!

Second, close the curtains or window shades to negate direct solar heat gain.

Next, use ceiling fans or floor fans to move some air. Moving that 78 degree air across your skin will help keep you cool, and these fans are cheaper to operate than your A/C unit. Note: Only use fans in occupied rooms; if you can't feel the breeze, you're wasting money.

Also keep in mind that cooking indoors adds heat to the house; move outside and enjoy the grill, if possible.

And don't forget to change the filter on your HVAC system- it needs good, clean air to operate at the highest efficiency. As an Owen Electric member, you can get discounted filters with free shipping at http://www.filterchange.com/

Have a question for our Energy Expert? Send it to info@owenelectric.com...

Programmable Thermostat

Q: When I want to save electricity and money, is it better to turn my system completely off until I need it, or to set it lower and keep it at a constant temperature?

A: When it comes to thermostat control, a lot of your decision has to do with what type of heating source you have- but I never recommend that you turn a system completely off during heating or cooling season.

Air is pretty easy to heat, but if you drop the temperature too far in your home during the winter, then all the surrounding furnishings will lose their collective heat (remember- hot goes to cold, always). some of the furnishings in your home are not good conductors of heat, so if they get cold, they will attract a lot of heat, taking heat from the air.

If you heat with gas- natural gas, propane or fuel oil- you definitely want to lower the thermostat when the house is unoccupied. I would recommend at least a five degree drop. Studies show this is a very good way to save energy in your home and a simple programmable thermostat is all you need to accomplish these savings.

If your heating source is an electric heat pump, you may have to alter your thinking a bit. Remember, with this system, you have two heating sources- the heat pump and the auxiliary heat. The basic heat pump and thermostat will automatically turn on the auxiliary heat if you raise the thermostat setting three degrees or more at any given time. When this happens, you will turn on anywhere between 7,500 and 12,000 watts of energy, thus negating the savings you were looking for.

To lower the temperature with this system, you will either need to bring the temperature back up in two degree increments or have a thermostat that can lock out the auxiliary heat on the initial heating run. I suggest having a discussion with your HVAC contractor to gauge the compatibility of your system and thermostat for this scenario. Smart or learning thermostats, especially those with wi-fi controls, are a much better option here.

Have you got a programmable thermostat? Learn how you can receive incentives from our SimpleSaver program here.

Got a question for our Energy Expert? Send it to info@owenelectric.com.

Q: My home needs a new HVAC system this spring. Where do I even begin to determine what the best unit is? What information should I have before I contact a vendor/installer?

A: There are a few questions to ask yourself on this subject:

-What type of system do I want? All electric, hybrid or all gas?

-What size system do I need?

-What efficiency rating do I want to install?

-What condition is my ductwork in?

All of these are important, and all need to be answered for you to be comfortable and efficient. A good HVAC contractor should be able to provide different scenarios to all of the above.

Whether you have natural gas at your location may help decide on the type of heating system you install. A load calculation will determine the correct size of your system. Your budget may also determine the efficiency of the system and any corrections to the ductwork.

Also, keep in mind that Owen Electric members have free access to me- your energy advisor, who can help with some of this information.

For more information, take a look at our pamphlet at https://www.owenelectric.com/replacing-your-hvac

Have a question for our Energy Expert? Send it to info@owenelectric.com.

Farm Question

Q: I am trying to keep the drinking water from freezing for my animals in the barn. What will a heater for their water cost me to operate?

A: That’s a great question for this time of year. For a small water trough, the heater can pull as little as 400 watts. For the average unit, the load is 1500 watts! And if you want to get a heated bucket, they can pull as much as 4000 watts. The important thing to remember is that you want to be sure to get a unit that has a built-in thermostat. This way, the unit will only turn on when the water temperature gets below 32 degrees. For example, a 1500 watt heater that runs 24/7 will add up to $105 per month to your electric bill.

While we are in the barn, let’s talk about the engine block heater for your tractor or your diesel truck. These units pull on average 1000 watts (or 1 kWh per hour). This could add 24 kWhs per day to your bill (think $2.40 per day). I think the best option is to buy a simple $5 timer, and set the unit to come on a couple of hours before you need the tractor or truck.

Have a question for our Energy Expert? Send it to info@owenelectric.com.

Q: Can you give me the scoop on space heaters?

A: It's getting cold outside! And when the chill is in the air, we often need a little extra warmth throughout the house, which usually comes in the form of a small package we call a space heater.

Space heaters are very common all over the United States, but do we really understand them? First, it is what it says it is- a space heater- meaning it is designed to heat a small space, not the whole house.

Second, most space heaters use 1500 watts of energy to produce their heat (some units can set back to 900 or 1200 watts). This is important because all 1500 watt space heaters produce the same amount of heating BTUs. Whether the unit costs $30 or $250, 1500 watts cannot magically be turned into different BTUs.

Terms like 'radiant heat,' 'oil-filled heat,' 'infrared heat,' or 'Amish-made' are marketing terms only. they all use the same energy and provide the same amount of heating. And the usage on these heaters can add significantly to your electric bill- as much as $100 per month!

As an energy guy, my advice is to be mindful of your usage of space heaters.

If you are purchasing a space heater, it helps to understand the difference in models. There are basically two types of space heaters- infrared and oil-filled/radiant. Typically, infrared heaters get warm quicker and are better for focused heating. Oil-filled or radiant heaters take a longer time to produce heat, but may be better for larger, open rooms.

In either case, I recommend you get a unit that has a thermostat installed so you can control the temperature. I also recommend setting your home thermostats a few degrees lower, otherwise, you may be paying twice to heat your home.

Finally, if there is an issue of leaving the space heater on when the room is vacant, I suggest putting the unit on a timer for safety, or better yet- turning it off.

Have a question for our Energy Expert? Send it to info@owenelectric.com.

Winter High Bills

Q: Why does my bill go up when temperatures drop? I keep my thermostat set the same...

A: We get that question often. During extreme weather, your system works harder to heat your home. As temperatures drop, this makes your heating equipment run at maximum capacity- which means it's using more electricity. Therefore, in just a few days, extreme temperature can cause your bill to spike.

The same is true for when it's hot, and you're trying to cool your home. Another way to think of it? The greater the difference between the temperature outside and the temperature your thermostat is set at, the harder your heating and cooling system is working (and thus, the more electricity it is using to do so).

For more tips on how you can minimize the effect the cold snap has on your comfort- and bill- go to www.owenelectric.com, and select the Save Energy, Save Money tab.

Have a question for our Energy Expert? Send it to info@owenelectric.com.

Q: If I get solar panels on my house, I can have power during outages, right?

A: The short answer is 'maybe.' By current electrical code, all renewable energy sources that are grid-tied-- tie back to Owen Electric's system through the meter-- must disconnect and shut down when a power outage occurs. This is a safety practice that ensures a system cannot backfeed to our lines and cause harm to our line workers or equipment. This means you would NOT have power at your house during an outage.

Of course, there is an exception to this rule, and that would be if you have a battery pack backup system in place or a whole house standby generator. In either of these instances, your solar panels would still be shut down, but your house would be running off your battery backup or your generator. In this case, you would have power during an outage for as long as your battery lasts or for as long as your generator had fuel.

Once power was restored, your system would automatically switch back to Owen Electric for your energy needs.

Question for our Energy Expert? Send it to info@owenelectric.com.


Q: My neighbor and I have similarly-sized houses, but his energy bill is way lower than mine. What's the difference, and why can't I compare the two?

A: Houses may be the same size (square footage), but no two families live the same way! How many people live in your home? How many refrigerators or freezers do you have? How many loads of laundry do you wash per week? How many showers are taken? What do you keep the thermostat set at?

As you can see, there are lots of differences in how we live, which means there can be a lot of differences in our electric bills. As a member-owned cooperative, we are interested in how YOU live in your home, as well as how we can help you save on your energy costs and make your home more comfortable.

For more information, call (800) 372-7612, option 4, or log on to www.owenelectric.com and select the 'Save Energy, Save Money' tab.

Question for our Energy Expert? Send it to info@owenelectric.com.

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Q: Why should I call Owen Electric before shopping for solar panels for my home?

A: Solar panels are a long-term investment- a 25-30 year investment. As a member-owned, not-for-profit utility, Owen Electric is here to serve you, our member. We are simply a free resource for information, and since we have had our own solar panels for several years, we have a really good idea of how they work in our neighborhood.

Also, unfortunately, all solar companies do not fully understand the net metering tariff in Kentucky (rules everyone must follow). We can help explain the ins and outs of how the tariff works. 

The best place to start is our website, www.owenelectric.com, and click on 'Member Central' tab, then click the 'Solar 101' link. For more technical information, click 'Net Metering.' Here, you can find our net metering application and a copy of the tariff.

Finally, if you're interested in renewable energy but don't have thousands of dollars to invest, take a look at our Cooperative Solar program. For as little as $460, you can have easy, affordable renewable energy.

Have a question for our Energy Expert? Send it to info@owenelectric.com.


Q: What can I do in and around my attic to make my home more comfortable?

A: Your attic acts like a blanket over your home, so we want to be sure our "blanket" is warm and air sealed.

Today's building code calls for a minimum of R38 insulation in your attic. ENERGY STAR for our region suggests an R46. Maintaining either of these will help to ensure the heated or cooled air in your home stays in your home.

Also remember to air seal the top plate of your home (the ceiling). As we know, insulation is only part of the process. Finding and sealing all the holes that pernitrate the drywall is the second part of staying comfortable and efficient.

Finally, don't forget about ventilation- this will help remove heated air and moisture from the attic space. Building code calls for 1 ft. sq. of attic ventilation for every 300 ft. sq. of roof deck. You can achieve this through natural ventilation (soffit, eave and ridge vents) or through mechanical ventilation (vent fans).

If you are using mechanical ventilation, be sure to seal the top plate, as this may put negative pressure on the house and pull heated/cooled air through the attic.

Have a question for our Energy Expert? Send it to info@owenelectric.com.


Q: I live in a manufactured home- what are some energy efficiency improvements I can make?

A: Manufactured homes, like stick-built homes, have energy codes that must be met during the building process. These codes are based on the area in which the unit was built, not necessarily where it will sit.

Since these homes are built in a factory, then moved to their location, they can present a few challenges along the way.

The biggest issue we see with manufactured housing is that many come with an inefficient electric furnace as the heating source. We always recommend this to be upgraded to a heat pump system, saving the member up to 40 percent on their heating costs.

The next big issue we see is the ductwork. This is a common factor in stick-built homes as well. We suggest using mastic and UL-rated tapes to seal all ductwork. We really want to move air into the home, not the crawlspace, attic or any other unconditioned space.

Air sealing is also important- caulk or foam any penetration that goes through the floor, ceiling or walls (think plumbing, pipes and electrical wiring).

The other important seal is the marriage plate for a doublewide home. You may have to remove the trim board, but this area runs the entire length of the home, so it has the potential to be a large area of heat loss.

Finally, be sure the bottom board, or the underbelly, is in good repair. This will help protect the ductwork and flooring of the home.

Have a question for our Energy Expert? Send it to info@owenelectric.com.

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Q: What is ENERGY STAR, and is it really worth paying more for an ENERGY STAR-rated appliance?

A: ENERGY STAR is a governmental rating that sets strict energy efficiency and environmental standards. For example, ENERGY STAR-certified homes use up to 30 percent less energy than a standard "code" built home.

ENERGY STAR appliances are up to 15 percent more efficient than standard models, and rated lighting provides you with up to 65 percent savings!

All of this adds up to year after year of savings for you, the co-op member. And since you are saving on energy, you are also helping the environment.

While ENERGY STAR appliances do cost a few more dollars up front, they will save money over the lifetime of the product. Also, most rated appliances come with more features, making them more use friendly.

Have a question for our Energy Expert? Send it to info@owenelectric.com.

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Q: Are heat pumps a good investment? And how does this compare to geothermal? How do I determine what to invest in?

A: Absolutely! When you compare a heat pump's efficiency (approximately 150-400%) to an electric furnace (100%) or a gas furnace (95-96%), it is easy to see they are good investments.

The big question is which heat pump is right for your needs. There are basically three types of heat pumps-

Geothermal is a ground source heat pump and is the most efficient way to heat and cool your home. These systems operate at approximately 400% efficiency.

Mini split heat pumps come as ductless or ducted models. These ductless models are a tad more efficient because there are no ducts, so there is no duct loss.

The more common air source split systems are what we see in most homes today. These units range in efficiencies anywhere from 150-200%.

As with any heating or cooling system, sizing is extremely important, so be sure to have your contractor perform a load calculation to get the right amount of BTUs needed.

Have a question for our Energy Expert? Send it to info@owenelectric.com.

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Q: I've heard of a blower door test- what is it, and how will it help me save money on my energy bill?

A: A blower door test is one ay to help determine how efficient your home is. The blower door is a fan that depressurizes the house, thus allowing a technician to measure the amount of air leakage within it.

At times, the blower door is used in conjunction with an infrared camera to get a better visual of the air leakage. With the blower door test, we can find the exact amount of air leakage within the house AND pinpoint the big holes. This shows the homeowner where to start sealing the house- think windows, doors, sill plates, plumbing penetrations, etc.

For years, all states had code requirements for insulation levels, but only within the last few years have there been code requirements for air infiltration. We know that both insulation and air infiltration go hand in hand when making your home more efficient, more comfortable and healthier.

Have a question for our Energy Expert? Send it to info@owenelectric.com.

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Q: If I'm planning to build, is there any reason to call Owen Electric before I start moving dirt?

A: Absolutely. When building a new home today, we need to think about the entire life of the home- approximately 50 years! And, we need to think about the comfort and operating costs of that home.

With Owen Electric's Touchstone Energy Home program, we incorporate guidelines that will save the homeowner up to 30 percent in utility costs compared to standard building codes.

We also take into consideration comfort and moisture issues, and can help with renewable energy sources if the member is interested.

Added insulation, air sealing, high efficiency HVAC equipment, and ENERGY STAR appliances are just a few of the items we discuss. And the best part? We offer a cash rebate when these incentives are met.

Find out more about the Touchstone Energy Home program and other rebates at https://www.owenelectric.com/efficiency-rebate-programs

Have a question for our Energy Expert? Send it to info@owenelectric.com.

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Q: What are the benefits of having a home energy audit performed? Are the suggested improvements going to be expensive?

A: There are many benefits of having a home energy audit. The first reason is peace of mind. Just how efficient and healthy is your home? Without testing and building science knowledge (how your house works as a system), you are really just guessing.

If you have any comfort issues (a hot or cold room), a home energy audit may provide details that are not seen with an untrained eye.

And what we think about most- money. What are you spending on heating and cooling costs? Is your HVAC system running at its designed load? What is the daily cost of living in your home? an energy audit can help answer all of these questions for you.

As for improvement costs, there are a lot of variables involved. But an energy audit usually can give you an idea of these costs and may be able to guide you to funding opportunities, such as rebates, tax incentives, qualifying programs, etc.

Ready to schedule your FREE home energy audit? Call us at (800) 372-7612, option 4, or go to https://www.owenelectric.com/request-home-energy-audit to request your appointment.

Have a question for our Energy Expert? Send it our way at info@owenelectric.com.

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Q: How can I be as efficient as possible with a window air conditioner? How do I know what size to get?

A: As with all home appliances, ENERGY STAR is the way to go. When an appliance has an ENERGY STAR rating, it is 30 percent more efficient than the standard model. Over the life of the appliance, this can add up to substantial savings in energy costs.

When looking at window a/c unit options, you have multiple things to consider- size; noise level; energy savings options (sleep mode); ease of use (remote control); and fan only option, to name a few.

When it comes to sizing, most units are between 5,000 BTU and 14,000BTU. These will efficiently cool rooms between 150 and 700 square feet. These measurements can be found on the box or by an easy internet search.

As with most appliances, the more bells and whistles (ease of use items listed above), the more expensive it will be to purchase.

Another option to consider is the portable room air conditioner. There are multiple similarities with the window units, but installation is usually easier, and you can move the unit from room to room. The one negative aspect may be the floor space it takes up.

Have a question for our Energy Expert? Send it our way at info@owenelectric.com!

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Q: How do I know when I need to replace the windows in my house, and what do I look for when I start shopping?

A: There are multiple reasons that you replace the windows in your home- aesthetics, sound proofing, and energy efficiency. If you're looking at aesthetics, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and there are multiple designs to fit the most finicky buyer! Along with looking more modern, you should be able to recoup approximately 35-40 percent of the cost in resale value.

Sound proofing may be one of the most underrated advantages of newer windows. You'll be amazed at how well newer windows lower outside noise due to more efficient framing and more panes of glass.

Now, for those looking at energy efficiency... Today's energy code requires windows to be double pane, low E coated, with a U value of .35 or less (U value for windows is the equivalent of R value for insulation). The lower the U value, the more efficient the window.

I always suggest getting multiple bids when replacing windows, and I also strongly recommend that you consider weatherizing your current double pane windows. A tube of caulk goes a long way in keeping the drafts out of the house. Remember, air doesn't go through the glass- only the four corners where the window sits in the wall framing and along the rails where the window slides up and down.

Have a question for our Energy Expert? Send it our way: info@owenelectric.com.

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Q: I'm looking to rent a home or apartment in a complex; what questions should I ask the landlord or manager to make sure I don't end up with high electric bills? Also, is there anything I can do to make a rented space more efficient, since I can't make any real physical upgrades or long-term investments?

A: When renting an apartment, I think you need to look at the things you can control verses the things you can't control. First, let's talk about those things you can't control- the physical structure and appliances. Knowing this, it may be a good idea to ask how old the apartment units are. Or have they been updated in recent years? The newer the unit, the newer the building codes, which should lead to more efficient insulation, windows, HVAC equipment, appliances, etc. Newly remodeled units could also provide these energy-saving features.

Now for the things you can control; first, start at the thermostat. We recommend a setting of 68 degrees for winter and 75 degrees for summer cooling. The HVAC fan should be left on 'auto.' Depending on the type of heating, for every one degree you lower the thermostat in winter, you can save up to 3 percent on our heating bill! Next, think about lighting. With LED bulbs so inexpensive, it makes sense to replace all lighting with LED units. Also, don't forget about phantom load. You know, all those cable boxes, gaming devices, laptops, phone chargers, etc. They all add up! The easy way to check this? Walk through your place at night- all those red and green lights are costing you money!

Question for our expert? Send it our way: info@owenelectric.com.

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Q: I just received my stimulus check of $1,400 and would like to use it to make some energy efficiency improvements around my home. What can I do to get the most bang for my buck?

A: Spring is a time for home improvements and safety-- let's start with safety. If your current smoke/carbon monoxide detector is more than 10 years old, it's time for a replacement. The cost is approximately $100 for a new combination model; just be sure you have at least one on each floor of your home.

Next, let's look at the insulation in your attic. Current Kentucky building code calls for an R38, while ENERGY STAR recommends an R46. If you are on the low side of these, you can add an R19 for about $600 (blown fiberglass, 1500 square foot attic). Don't forget to check with Owen Electric to see if you qualify for the Button-Up program.

While we are insulating the home, how about doing a little air sealing around doors, windows, electrical wiring holes, water lines, etc. Basically anywhere there is a hole, you want to seal it. An entire case of caulk will cost around $50.

As the weather gets warmer, it's time to ensure your A/C system is correctly charged, cleaned and running at maximum efficiency. A system check will cost approximately $100.

Finally, since we know that domestic water heating is the second largest use of energy in the home, spend $5-$10 and insulate the hot water line.

With all this done, you still have a few dollars left to enjoy your favorite summer activity!

Question for our expert? Send it our way: info@owenelectric.com.

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Q: I need to replace my water heater- what should I look for when I go shopping? Are tankless water heaters a good option?

A: Domestic water heating is the second highest use of energy in your home, behind space heating and cooling. With this in mind, it is important to look for a higher energy factor (EF) when choosing your standard tanked water heater.

Most tanked water heater models today are in the .94-.96 range. These come in 50-55 gallon models with a 6-12 year warranty. If possible, you will want to place your tanked water heater inside a conditioned space; this will improve efficiency and longevity.

While tanked water heaters are still the norm in today's housing market, tankless water heaters are growing in popularity. If you are interested in a tankless model, I would suggest going with a gas-fired unit- these will produce a higher gallons per minute (GPM) flow than an electric model.

Keep in mind there may be more maintenance issues with a tankless model, as it is essentially a furnace that runs water through it. As for cost savings, the tankless model will save you approximately $2 per month in "standby loss," or the amount of energy it takes to keep the water hot inside the tanked unit.

You may want to consider the total cost of installation as well- purchase cost; electrical upgrades to your home; maintenance costs; and upgrades to your cooperative's electrical system (transformer, conductor, etc.) before you purchase a tankless water heater.

Question for our expert? Send it our way: info@owenelectric.com.

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Q: How often should I change my HVAC filter, and does it really make that big of a difference?

A: Forced air heating and cooling systems need adequate return air to work as designed and to offer the highest energy efficiency. How often you change the filter really depends on the filter you're using. Fiberglass models allow more air to pass through- along with contaminates- thus needing to be changed LESS often. Pleated filters catch more contaminates, but also suppress the amount of air flow, and thus need to be changed MORE often.

When looking at HVAC filters, the higher the MERV rating, the smaller particles it will filter. Things to consider would be:

-Are there pets in the home?

-Does anyone smoke?

-Does anyone have allergies?

-How airtight is the home?

-Is the ductwork in a conditioned or unconditioned space?

Obviously a lot of things to consider! Most manufacturers recommend changing the filter every 30 days, with the exception of high-end HEPA filters, but that is talking 30 days of RUN time. In late March, April, early May, late September, early October, your system doesn't run as much. During these times, if you're changing your filter every 60 days, you will be fine.

Check out filters here, http://www.filterchange.com/, and get free shipping and returns as a co-op member!

Question for our expert? Send it our way: info@owenelectric.com.