AREA -- The first day of winter is not until Dec. 21 but temperatures in the Ozarks have already reached the freezing mark.
John Thomason with Howell-Oregon Electric Cooperative said with cooler temperatures comes the issue of energy conservation.
"Energy conservation has become one of the most talked about issues in America, and for a good reason," he said.
Currently the demand for energy is exceeding supply. "The evidence is obvious in the soaring price of gasoline, natural gas and propane. Demand for electricity has increased as well. At Howell-Oregon the average residential use of electricity increased 26.6 percent from 1990 to 2007," he said.
Thomason said there are many reasons and some are not obvious, why the demand for electricity has increased. "Ten years ago, the average consumer did not have a computer or cell phone. They are not the devices causing this surge of electrical use, they are just two examples of more electrical devices being used today," he said.
In addition to computers and cell phones, are things known as phantom loads. "A phantom load of power is a term used to describe a devise that is always on. A few examples are televisions and satellite receivers. Yes, a television is always using some power because the electronic eye is always looking for a signal from the remote control," he said. Before remote control television sets that was not the case.
A satellite or cable receiver runs all the time. "That is why you can set a program to record when you are away. There are many examples of why the use of electricity has increased, but the fact of the matter is, demand cannot exceed supply, because electricity cannot be stored for use at a later date," he said.
As Associated Electrical Cooperative continues to seek more options for generating power as the demand increases, Thomason said electrical cooperative members can also do their part by conservation.
"There is strength in numbers. If a large number of members work to use electricity more wisely it is possible to prolong the need to build more power plants which are very expensive. There are many things homeowners can do around the house that are not very costly in order to conserve energy. Simply changing from incandescent light bulbs to compact florescent bulbs can save 65 percent on your cost to light your home. Another low cost measure is making an effort to seal leaks around windows and doors with caulk or weather stripping since heating and air conditioning is the largest consumer of power in a home," Thomason said.
"There is no better time than now to start to save electricity. Since coal and natural gas is needed to generate power at the power plants, conservation is a winning situation for coop members. If each one of us does something small to help the cause to conserve, big things can happen when efforts are combined," he said.
Thomason gave some tips on turning energy guzzling attics into the most energy efficient place in a home. He said start by looking for these tell-tale clues that signal energy leaks:
* Look for water stains on or beneath the roof, then fix the leaks.
* Check under existing insulation for cavities, holes and gaps to fill with loose cellulose or expanding foam.
* Check attic temperatures. In winter, if the attic feels warmer than the outside air, heated air from below is escaping into the attic.
* If you can see the tops of ceiling joists, your existing insulation has settled and needs an upgrade. In Missouri, you need 12-to-15 inches of insulation.
* Inspect for adequate ventilation in soffits, rafters and ridges.
* Look for air leaks around the furnace opening, where inner and outer walls meet the attic floor, around dropped ceiling spaces, over kitchen or bathroom cabinets and around the attic access door.
* Cover open chases or holes in the attic to prevent insulation from falling through.
* Mark off unconditioned areas below, such as a porch or patio, so you don't waste time and money sealing them off.
* In winter, residents will know if their attic is too warm if snow unexpectedly melts on the roof. This can cause ice damming which can damage a roof.
Thomason said another energy saving tip around the house is the clothes dryer.
"Keeping your clothes dryer vent clean of lint is one of the most important habits you can have to save energy when drying clothes, as the clothes dryer vent allows the working part of your dryer to stay cool to prevent failure," he said.
Dryer sheets will cause a film to form over your dryer vent, causing the screen to appear clean when it may still be clogged. "If a person uses dryer sheets, they need to occasionally wash their vent screen with soap and water and a wire brush. This will prevent your dryer vent screen from becoming clogged," Thomason said.