Spring’s renewal traditionally means cleaning time, too: sweeping out the winter dirt from the garage, washing the windows, scrubbing the floors. While you’re spiffing up the house, don’t neglect your appliances.
Dust the refrigerator. Refrigerators exchange heat through a system of coils. A buildup of dust and pet hair will make the unit run longer to have the same cooling effect and use more electricity. Every two-three months, vacuum the coils on the back and underneath to increase efficiency. Once the coils are clean, push the fridge back toward the wall, but don’t let it touch. Air needs to circulate around those coils.
Dust the lamps. A buildup of dust on lightbulbs and lamp shades can reduce the amount of light given off, maybe causing you to turn on more lights. Keeping them dust-free will let lights shine as intended.
Clean the oven. Cleaning the oven can actually save energy. An oven that is darkened from heavy use can absorb more heat and ultimately reduce its efficiency.
Tackle the stove’s exhaust hood. A year’s worth of home cooking — especially after the holidays, when your house was full of company — can leave grime and grease buildup on the hood. That buildup, which also includes food particles and dust, can catch on fire. Remove the hood and clean the filter and all surfaces.
Change your filters. The air filter on your furnace/heat pump should be checked monthly for signs of dirt and changed every 3-6 months, depending on dirt accumulation. Buildup obstructs air flow and makes your HVAC system less efficient.
Clean your dryer. Lint buildup can prevent your clothes dryer from running efficiently. To clean the vent, first unplug the dryer. Then, remove the tubing from the back and vacuum in and around it. If you are able to remove the front panel of your dryer, vacuum inside it as well.
If you don’t have access to the dryer vent tubing from the dryer to the outside vent because it’s in a wall or ceiling; cannot dismantle, clean and reassemble the sections yourself; or just don’t want the hassle of doing it yourself; hire a professional maintenance technician to clean your dryer vent annually. You may want to have this done more or less frequently depending on how much laundry you do. A vent closing up with lint will cause the dryer to leave clothes damp or make it run longer. Too much buildup of lint can pose a fire hazard.
Clean your ceiling fans. It’s easy to overlook dirt and dust that you can’t see. Drag a small ladder into the house so you can climb high enough to wipe down the tops of the blade. If your fan has a built-in light, remove the decorative cover and rinse out the dust and dead bugs. Let it dry completely before replacing it.
Clean baseboard heaters. They’re a catch-all for dust, pet hair and whatever falls off of a nightstand or end table that’s pushed against the wall. If they get dirty enough, they can prevent the heat from operating efficiently and an even leave black stains on the nearby walls. To clean them, shut the power off to the heater, remove the cover, lift out debris (and retrieve any lost items you find in there), and vacuum inside with a soft brush attachment.
Audit your home. With warmer temperatures coming, now is the time to consider taking your energy savings to the next level. Most electric cooperatives have energy advisors who will come to your home and conduct a thorough inspection to identify both large and small things you can do to improve its energy efficiency. Give your co-op a call.