The Wire

Energy news from Omaha Public Power District

The Wire

Energy news from Omaha Public Power District


Resolve to be more energy efficient: June tips

May 31, 2021 | Laura King-Homan | energy efficiency, energy savings, tips
Woman adjusting a smart thermostat on white wall, closeup.

New Year’s diet resolutions, exercise resolutions, we’ve heard them all. But what about New Year’s energy efficiency resolutions?

For each month of 2021, OPPD Energy Advisor Eric BenSalah will offer a brief set of tips and video to help you get on track with your energy efficiency, and save you money.


Resolution: Consider smart, or automated, technology for your home. There are a variety of smart devices that can help with energy efficiency, conservation and comfort, such as smart plugs, smart light bulbs, smart thermostats and smart power strips.

Smart technology is also a great way to add comfort to your home. Check out the current products that can help.

  • Hubs like Google Home (or Mini) and Amazon’s Alexa help centralize the control of all your smart devices by voice command, cell phone (via the app), or through customizable programming.
  • Don’t like coming home to a dark house? You can program your lights to turn on shortly before you get home. You can also program them to turn off when you leave, saving you the trip around the house to turn them off manually.
  • Want to turn off certain appliances that aren’t in use (phantom load)? You can plug those appliances into a smart plug and control them from your phone or hub.
  • Through smart-home routines or programming, lights or devices can even turn on or off automatically based on a schedule, sunrise or sunset, weather conditions and more.

Speaking of phantom load, do smart plugs and lights draw power? It’s a bit complicated. While the short answer is yes, the more detailed answer is that it draws next to nothing in usage. Generally speaking, a smart plug or light, when not in use, will use about one watt of power when in stand-by mode, or not turned on. That amounts to roughly nine kilowatt-hours per year.

Smart thermostats

These are a fantastic way to get comfortable in your home in a convenient way – and save a little energy along the way.

  • Smart thermostats allow your system to learn what is best for your comfort. They are fully programmable thermostats that can also be access, adjusted and customized through an app on your phone.
  • Not all homes are capable ot having their regular thermostat swapped for a smart one. To check for compatibility: whether the central air/heating system and a “C-wire” provide continuous power to the thermostat. Most HVAC contractors can assess your situation to determine if it is compatible.
  • If you’re interested in adding a smart thermostat, OPPD offers a program for a variety of thermostat types that includes a bill credit.


Resolution: Preparing your home for summer

Before the temperatures rise, ensure your home’s air-conditioning system, including ductwork and airflow, are in tip-top shape so they run efficiently. Following these steps can help you prepare your home for the heat of the summer by being energy-efficient and saving on your utility bill.

  • If possible, have your air-conditioning system checked by a licensed heating and cooling contractor. These multi-point inspections will look at all components of your air-conditioning system and ensure everything is in good working order. If caught early, these inspections can help prevent any potentially small issue from becoming a major one.
  • Depending on the layout of your home, it may be a good idea to readjust the airflow. You can do this by using dampers installed in the ductwork of your home. If you do not have dampers, you can open and close registers to help move air more to one room than another. Check out our video on airflow for more information.
  • Speaking of ductwork, it is also a good idea to seal any of the ductwork you can reach or see in the basement. This helps reduce any air leakage into the basement or unconditioned spaces, reducing the efficiency of your system. Watch our video on sealing ductwork.


Resolution: Spring cleaning – clean out your home’s air return registers. These registers, usually those without an open/close lever without air moving through them, often collect dust, pet hair and other things in the air of a home.

There are a few ways to clean them:

  • Use the brush attachment of your vacuum and move it against the grate of the register to remove any lingering dust on the surface or just inside the register.
  • Remove the register from the wall (it is usually attached by two screws) and clean it, again, using the brush attachment of your vacuum. Even give the area around the opening a good cleaning, too.

Other tips to reduce buildup:

  • If you have pets, it is recommended that you clean out the registers every two months, otherwise a few times a year can also do the trick.
  • Keeping the return registers clean helps maintain good air flow within your home and helps prolong the life of your furnace filter.

For more idead on how to prepare your home for spring, check out or video.


Resolution: Choose the best furnace filter for your home. Not all furnaces are created equally. The primary job of a furnace filter is to protect the internal components of your HVAC system. But its ability to help clean the air in your home can become just as important to your health and safety.

Here are some facts about furnace filters:

  • Furnace filters, like many other things, have ratings that tell you a filter’s ability to capture and hold particles and pollutants. Most furnace filters have a MERV rating (3M has MPR and The Home Depot has FPR, but have equivalents to the MERV rating).
  • The higher the MERV Rating, the smaller the particles that can be trapped when the system is running.
  • The ratings you will see:
    • MERV 6, 8, 11 and 13
    • MPR 300, 600, 1000-12000, 1500-1900
    • FPR N/A (to MERV 6), 5, 7, 10 respectively
  • The recommended MERV rating for most homes is between 8 and 11. In some cases, a high MERV Rating can affect your HVAC system’s ability to move air throughout the home making it work harder than necessary, costing you extra money and wear on your system.


Resolution: Use LED lightbulbs as much as possible. It’s an up-front investment with long-term savings. We have all heard “replace your lights with LED”, but how much can you save by switching? Below, we compare LEDs with CFLs and incandescent bulbs.

  • Light on for 10 hours per day (cost is per bulb)
    • 60w Incandescent: $1.72/month
    • 15w CFL equivalent: 0.43¢/month
    • 6w LED equivalent: 0.17¢/month
  • Cost per bulb – Life
    • Incandescent: $1.00 – 12-18 months
    • CFL: $2-3.00/bulb – 4-7 years
    • LED: $4-6/bulb – 10-15 years

The payback period for an LED is about 3 months. Meaning, you will pay off the cost of the LED from the savings (vs. an incandescent bulb) in 3 months. In turn, it could cost you more than 10 incandescent bulbs during the life of one LED light, on average, not including the increased cost of an incandescent bulb.


Resolution: Use your thermostat to your advantage

  • Working from home? Turn the thermostat down and use a space heater to supplement heating, if needed. Adding an extra layer of clothing always helps, too!
  • When leaving your home in winter, consider lowering your thermostat by four to five degrees to reduce your energy costs while you’re away. In summer, raising your thermostat by four to five degrees can have the same effect.
  • If you have a programmable thermostat, it can do the work for you. Programming the thermostat to automatically run or stop when you wake up, sleep, leave the house can help you save on energy costs.

Learn more: Watch this video with Eric that details tips for space heaters.

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About Laura King-Homan

Laura King-Homan is the managing editor of The Wire and a brand journalism strategist at Omaha Public Power District. She has nearly 20 years of print journalism and design experience, including the Omaha World-Herald.

View all posts by Laura King-Homan >

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