With the price of gas creeping closer and closer to $4 per gallon, it’s definitely a time to start thinking more about how to cut costs. Luckily, it’s getting easier to find ways to save money – and to fight global warming at the same time.

The final days of the Legislature last week were filled with a lot of down time, waiting for amendments to be drafted and for the Senate to send bills back to my colleagues and me in the House. I used the time to catch up on e-mails and return messages, but I also spent a few minutes on Efficiency Maine’s new Web site about reducing the carbon footprint of your home.

The site, www.carbonfreehomes.org, has an interactive calculator to help you determine how the energy usage in your home compares with the state average, as well as find ways you can save money by using less energy.

It was a really simple process, and very interesting. You begin by inputting the number of people in your household, the amount of your electric bill, the gallons of home heating fuel you’re using, and the method you use to heat your water. I found that our home was slightly below the Maine average for energy use, but I quickly learned why, as I went through some of the suggestions offered in the energy reduction pledge section that followed.

Last year, we changed out many of our light bulbs in the house to compact fluorescent light bulbs, and found we started saving about $15-20 a month on our electric bill. As our major appliances have needed to be replaced, we’ve been switching over to ones with Energy Star ratings. For many years, we’ve known that washing our clothes in cold water, also saves energy and money.

One of the suggestions we hadn’t known about was unplugging electronics and appliances when they’re not in use. Sure, I’d heard it used less energy, but according to the Web site, these items use more than 80 percent of their energy when they’re being used. From the perspective of my pocketbook, it pays to keep things unplugged. Why should I pay for appliances or electronics that I’m not actively using all the time?

With summer coming along soon, another recommendation is to turn the air conditioner to 78 degrees, and try to use more fans when it’s not too hot. Fans use far less energy.

From there, the site actually calculates for you how money you can save on your energy bill by taking some of these steps. But perhaps the most interesting part of this whole exercise was the link to available energy alternatives. You can still pay your bill to companies like Central Maine Power for the delivery of energy, but you can choose to buy your power from one of the new wind farms starting up in Maine, or use a combination of hydropower and wind power.

These alternatives are better for the planet, but they’re still not quite as inexpensive as what most people pay per kilowatt-hour right now. For me, it’s about 4 cents more expensive per kilowatt hour to use hydro and wind power. Those pennies can add up. Still, I feel like I need to do my part, so my wife and I have decided to follow more of the recommendations to reduce our energy usage, so that we can eventually make the switch to clean energy, and not pay too much more than we are now.

If you’re interested in learning more about cutting energy costs, I highly recommend checking out the Web site. And, if you choose to switch over to compact fluorescent light bulbs, there’s an additional rebate available throughout April at retailers throughout Maine. Buy one pack of compact fluorescent light bulbs, and get a second one for just a penny.

As always, please let me know if I can provide any information on state matters, and feel free to call me at home at 892-6591, or e-mail me at [email protected]

Rep. Mark Bryant

House District 110

Parts of Windham and Gray

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