It’s simple: when you use less energy, you save money. You also help reduce pollution and conserve our natural resources. To help you, we’ve collected some of the best advice from ENERGY STAR® and the U.S. Department of Energy. Our monthly customer e-newsletter, EnergySense, also includes practical tips on how to save energy as well as news about promotions and special offers.
So where do you want to find savings?
Heating – Control your home’s biggest user of energy
Cooling – Stay cool for less
Lighting – Bright ideas to save
Home electronics – Eliminate “phantom loads”
Appliances – Cut the cost of these big energy draws
Kitchen – Use ovens, refrigerators and freezers more efficiently
Laundry – Wash. Dry. Save.
Water heating – The second biggest use in many homes
According to energystar.gov, heating your home accounts for about 30% of an average energy bill – the single biggest energy expense in your home. Here are a few things you can do to help keep costs down.
- Turn down your thermostat. Turning your thermostat down only one degree saves about 2% on your heating bill. Turning it down five degrees saves about 10%. A programmable thermostat lets you easily lower the temperature when no one is home and overnight. You could save as much as 20% on your heating costs.
- Seal doors and windows. Sealing doors and windows and replacing cracking caulk can reduce heating costs by up to 20%. A tightly sealed home keeps the air you heat or cool inside. Don’t forget that electric outlets can also let cold air into the house. Remove the outlet covers and insert special insulation underneath. Use special insulating plugs in outlets that are not being used.
- Check on your heater and A/C. Regular maintenance of your heating and cooling system will improve its efficiency and extend its life. Get your system inspected and serviced each spring or early summer by a professional technician. The longer you put off service, the less efficient your system becomes and the more money you will spend running it.
- Properly insulate your walls and attic. Adding fiberglass insulation is one of the best savings measures you can do yourself.
Nearly 5% of all electricity produced in the United States is used to air condition homes. You can lower your consumption with these tips.
- Raise your thermostat a bit. Each degree you raise the thermostat on your air conditioner saves 2% on your electric bill. Set your thermostat at 78°F or higher for maximum savings.
- Use fans and natural ventilation before you turn on air conditioners or central air and reduce your need for cooling.
- Clean your filters monthly; dirty or clogged filters block airflow and reduce efficiency.
- If you are thinking about a new air conditioner, look for ENERGY STAR® models. They are the most efficient on the market and will save energy.
- Do not add heat or humidity to your home, particularly during the hottest parts of the day. For example, turn on the dishwasher at night or right before you leave the house.
- Close drapes and shades on windows during the day to keep the sun’s heat out of your house. In the evening, open drapes and shades to let heat escape through the windows.
- Use a dehumidifier instead of turning on the air conditioner. You will be comfortable at much higher temperatures if you reduce the humidity in your house.
- Room air conditioners work best when they are not exposed to the sun. Install your air conditioner on the north side of the house or take advantage of shade from trees. Seal any gaps along the sides of your room air conditioners with foam insulation.
About 10% of your energy bill is spent lighting your home. Cut that expense with these energy-saving actions.
- Switch to compact fluorescent or LED bulbs. Start by deciding which lights you use most often – and change those first. Any light you use more than two hours per day is a good candidate for a CFL.
- When buying new lighting fixtures or bulbs, look for the ENERGY STAR® label. They are the most energy efficient on the market.
- Turn off the lights when you leave a room. This energy-saving measure has been around since Edison and it is as effective as ever. Also, you can keep lights off during the day. Use daylight whenever possible, rather than turning on overhead lighting.
- Have trouble remembering to turn the lights off? Occupancy sensors automatically switch them off once you leave a room.
- Operating outdoor lights all night adds up. Install motion sensors to turn on the lights only when needed.
- Timers that automatically turn lights on and off can reduce your energy use and improve safety by making a house seem occupied even when people are away.
- Dust your light bulbs to keep them clean. Dirt can absorb as much as 50% of the light.
About 75% of the power used by electronics is wasted energy called “phantom power.” Phantom power waste happens because most devices use electricity just by being plugged in – even though they’re not turned on or in use. Banish the “phantom” with these easy steps.
- Consider using Smart Strips with electronics such as your home entertainment center and computer. Smart Strips automatically power down electronics you’re not using, while continuing to provide power to those that need it.
- Make sure your computer’s “sleep” mode is enabled. The computer will switch automatically to a low-energy mode when you are away, cutting energy usage by more than half. Screensavers do not save energy.
- Unplug chargers and power adapters when not in use. When your cell phone, digital camera or laptop is finished charging, the charger still draws energy unless you unplug it.
Energy-efficient appliances and equipment can save money for years.
- Need a new refrigerator or washing machine? Check out the ENERGY STAR® models. They help you go green (and save green) by using less energy.
- The fridge and freezer account for almost 6% of the average home’s utility bill. Check refrigerator and freezer temperatures to make sure they are not wasting energy. Refrigerators should be 36°F to 38°F and freezers should be 0°F to 5°F.
- Keep refrigerators and freezers away from heat-producing appliances or direct sunlight so they will not have to work as hard to keep things cold.
- Oversized appliances waste energy. Choose an extra-large dishwasher or fridge only if you have a large family that needs it.
Cook up some savings with these handy tips.
- Preheating the oven is only necessary for baked goods that require a precise starting temperature. If you must preheat, keep in mind that most ovens preheat in 10 minutes or less.
- Glass or ceramic pans are more efficient for cooking than metal pans. You can save money by lowering the oven temperature by 25°F and still cook in the same amount of time.
- Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator instead of the oven. It takes longer, but you save energy. If you are really pressed for time, use the microwave for thawing.
- Each of your appliances has two price tags: the purchase price and the price you pay to run that appliance over its lifetime. Choose the most energy-efficient ENERGY STAR® appliances to reduce operating costs. For example, a new ENERGY STAR® refrigerator uses a third of the energy of older models. This could mean savings of over $150 per year.
- In the self-cleaning mode, your oven reaches temperatures of 850°F. You can save energy by starting the self-cleaning cycle after cooking while the oven is still warm.
- When cooking in the oven the temperature drops 25°F to 50°F each time you open the door. Also, turn off your oven a few minutes before the cooking time is up. It will retain enough heat to finish cooking your meal. And use the microwave for smaller quantities of food. Cooking a potato in an electric oven costs about 10 cents. In a microwave, it’s about 2 cents.
- Use an exhaust fan to pull hot air out of your kitchen while cooking. The savings in cooling costs far outweigh the cost of running the fan.
- Vacuum behind your refrigerator at least once a year to remove dirt and dust from the coils. Dust build-up not only increases energy use, but also may cause the unit to break down.
- A clean oven cooks more efficiently. Keep drip pans and oven surfaces bright and shining.
- Use your dishwasher. With average use, households can save 5,000 gallons of water each year and $40 in utility costs instead of hand-washing dishes.
Water heating accounts for the second-largest use of energy in most homes. Here’s how to keep it from soaking you.
- Set the water heater thermostat to 120°F. It is one of the easiest ways to save.
- Wrap your water heater with an insulating blanket. Place your hand on the tank. If it feels warm, a blanket could help. And insulate your hot water pipes with fiberglass or foam that can be found in all building supply stores.
- Minimize water use while brushing teeth, shaving and washing hands in the bathroom sink.
- Stop drips. A faucet that drips once per second can waste 400 gallons of water a year. If the drip is hot water, that will cost you about $8 if you have an electric water heater.
- Replacing older showerheads with low-flow units could save a family of four as much as 15,000 gallons of water per year, reducing water heating costs by over $150.
- If you are going on vacation, turn down the thermostat on your water heater. If there is no risk of freezing you can turn it off completely when you will be away for several days.
- Buy a water heater that fits your needs. If you buy one that is too big you will pay to heat up water you do not need.
Clean up with these helpful hints.
- Cold water can clean clothes just as effectively as hot water in most situations. Wash in cold water to save energy and money. 90% of the energy used by a washing machine is used to heat the water.
- It is more energy efficient to wash full loads. Two small loads of laundry use about twice the energy as one full load. By combining loads together you reduce your energy use.
- If you have to wash a partial load, be sure to match the load setting on your washing machine to the size of the load. The load setting determines how much water is used.
- If you are thinking about a new clothes washer, look for ENERGY STAR® models. These are the most energy-efficient models on the market and can cut utility bills by an average of $50 per year. They will use less than half the water and energy of standard washing machines.