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Should I let my freezer freeze?

Q: My brother just bought a freezer for his house and hes convinced that he should move the thing to the garage or porch every winter to save energy. You should know that when my brother says he will move it, that means we will move it. I told him Id help him haul it if you say its true about the energy savings. My fate, and my back, is in your hands. A: From a strictly thermodynamic point of view, your brother is right. The appliance will run for shorter times when the temperature of the air outside of the freezer is close to the desired temperature inside the freezer. However, from a mechanical standpoint, you may win this one. The mechanical parts of freezers are designed to work at room temperature. If you place a freezer in temperatures below about 45 degrees, the components may fail prematurely. So, its your brothers call: Does he feel its worth saving about $13 per year (around 100 kilowatts) if he may have to replace his freezer sooner? A good compromise, if feasible, may be for your brother to keep the freezer in the basement year-round. If the basement is colder than the kitchen but stays above 45 degrees, hell get the benefit of slightly lower electricity costs without creating as much risk for valuable components of his freezer or of your back. Q: I know that its a good idea to put an insulating jacket on a water heater, but exactly how much energy does this save? Ive got an electric water heater. A: Water heater insulating jackets - also known as blankets - are inexpensive and effective. Before you get a jacket, check your units instructions or contact your manufacturer to be sure that you wont void your warranty by insulating the heater. Your heaters instructions also will let you know if your tank comes with insulation. If your tank already is insulated to a value of R-16 or higher (typically, higher R-value tanks have foam rather than fiberglass insulation), youre all set. Also, consider the tanks location. If its in a closet, for example, the small space may be serving to keep the heat in. If you use a jacket on an uninsulated electric water heater, you could save about $25 per year in electricity costs. There are additional good ways to save on water heating costs, whether you have an electric or gas unit. Install low-flow shower heads, insulate the hot and cold pipes directly above the water heater (or all of them if the basement is cold) and - if you do a lot of laundry - consider an ENERGY STAR washing machine. For readers who have a gas water heater: Although it is possible to insulate gas water heaters, in most cases it is not recommended because so many portions of the exterior must be kept clear for your safety and for the proper functioning of the unit. Ask your gas utility or the person who services your tank whether its possible and worthwhile to insulate your gas water heater.

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