As the days get shorter and summer slips into autumn, it’s a great time to revisit home weatherization and energy conservation for the dark and cold days ahead.

Conservation and efficiency are an important part of reducing the carbon emissions and pollution from power plants. Reducing demand also helps with the implementation of renewable energy resources. Through reduced demand, power plants can serve more customers without the need for added infrastructure.

Efficiency and conservation also serve to reduce home energy costs and as an added bonus, can make our homes more comfortable. The following paragraphs will outline some strategies and resources for you to take on energy saving measures that will help the environment, your comfort and your wallet.

First, let’s quickly explore the meanings of efficiency and conservation. Simply stated, conservation is changing behaviors or using automation, such as timers and sensors, to reduce the use of energy. Efficiency is utilizing new technologies, such as LED light bulbs, to do the same work with less energy.

At home, the least expensive way to conserve energy is by making behavioral changes. In most US homes, the top three combined uses of energy — usually electricity and natural gas — are space heating, space cooling and water heating.

Targeting behaviors that result in reducing these needs, will create the best return on effort. Some simple examples are closing blinds to block summer sun, putting on an extra layer when it’s cold outside, air drying dishes and taking shorter showers.

For the average US home, a single degree change of thermostat temperature setting results in a 3% reduction in energy use. Replacing furnace filters at recommended intervals, cleaning refrigerator door seals and coils and cleaning dryer lint traps after every use are additional examples of energy saving actions everyone can easily do.

The US Department of Energy offers a great comprehensive resource including an Energy Saving guide in English and Spanish. Find it at energy.gov/energysaver.

Low to moderate investments in energy saving measures are a natural next step to reducing home energy use.

Programmable thermostats allow for precise control of temperatures to ensure that home temperatures are optimal based on occupancy and use. More expensive, smart thermostats ‘learn’ patterns of use in the home and eliminate the need for programming. Some smart thermostats also have occupancy sensors and adjust temperatures based on an ‘away’ mode. Most Smart thermostats rely on Wi-Fi connectivity and are remotely accessible via an app or as part of a smart home setup.

Ensuring doors and windows are properly sealed helps keep conditioned air from escaping through small cracks and is a cost-effective solution to uncomfortable drafts too. Penetrations through wall, ceiling or floor, such as for lighting, venting, floor registers and water pipes should also be sealed to keep hot or cold air from escaping outdoors or into unconditioned spaces such as crawl space or attic.

Other common low-cost measures include installing LED bulbs (once incandescent or compact fluorescent bulbs burn out) or fixtures, installing high-efficiency shower heads, power strips and installing motion sensors. To help customers conserve energy, our electric and gas utilities have rebates and incentives that will help you get started.

From free energy saving kits to rebates on bulbs, power strips, appliances and more, look to your utility rebate offerings for great energy saving options.

Depending on your home’s age and condition, you may wish to consider more comprehensive measures, such as insulation, air sealing, duct sealing and insulation, windows and high efficiency heating equipment upgrades.

For most homeowners with questions about their homes’ efficiency, a home energy audit can reveal opportunities and provide a road map for energy savings. These measures may also qualify for utility rebates.

Other, local, resources include Blue Mountain Action Council’s Weatherization Program for low-income homeowners in Walla Walla, Columbia and Garfield counties; Sustainable Living Center’s free Home Energy Quick Check for Veterans and Seniors in Walla Walla and College Place; and Sustainable Living Center’s Community Energy Efficiency Program for homeowners and renters in Walla Walla, Columbia and Franklin counties.

These programs offer advice, resources and financial assistance to bring conservation and efficiency measures within reach.

To learn more, contact BMAC’s Weatherization program at (509) 529-4980 or bmacww.org or the Sustainable Living Center at (509) 524-5218 or slcww.org.

Finally, once you’ve exhausted your efficiency and conservation opportunities, you may be ready to think about solar options! Through the generosity of a private donor, Sustainable Living Center is able to offer a $3,000 rebate for solar installations in the Walla Walla Valley! Contact us to learn more.

To learn more about these various programs in person, consider attending Sustainable Living Center’s upcoming workshop “Home Energy Saving Strategies” on October 8th at the WWCC Water & Environmental Center from 6:30 — 8P. Part of the annual Public Workshop Series, this offering is open to the public and there is no charge to attend.

Visit the SLC website or phone us for additional information.

Erendira Cruz is the executive director of the Sustainable Living Center. She has a bachelor’s degree in business management from Montana State University.