Energy savings. Getting the biggest bang for your buck!
So what can you do to save energy costs that is quick and easy and has the fastest payback?
- Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent (CFLs) models. They're inexpensive and last up to 10 times as long.
- Install programmable thermostats, which automatically adjust room temperature settings. These are inexpensive and can save you approximately $100 in heating and cooling costs every year.
- Wrapping your water heater with insulation blankets will make a difference, especially for electric heaters that are located in unheated areas of your house.
- If you're appliance shopping, look for the government's Energy Star rated appliances. They often cost less than $100 more than comparable models and that difference could be paid off in three or four years.
Do-It-Yourself Energy Audits
Using tools on the Internet, you can determine ways in which you can conserve energy. At www.energystar.gov, use the Home Improvement section to get recommendations for your home. For a more detailed audit, go to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories' Home Energy Saver.
- Whole-house fans can be installed in the attic or ceiling to pull fresh air through the house, usually at night when it's cooler. Although a whole-house fan does not eliminate the need for air conditioning, it can minimize air conditioning use.
- The location of an air conditioner has a lot to do with how efficient it will be. If you have a choice, locate your unit on the north, east or the best-shaded side of your home. If the unit is exposed to direct sunlight, it has to work much harder and use more energy to cool your home. Keep shrubbery away from the air conditioner since it blocks vents and reduces the unit's ability to exhaust air.
- If you have ceiling fans, run the fans and the air conditioner at the same time, but set the air conditioner a few degrees higher, to 80 or 81 degrees. With a breeze from the fans, you should feel as cool as you would at 78 degrees with no fans.
- Make sure your air conditioner is the proper size for the area you are cooling. The wrong size air conditioner will use more electricity and increase your energy bills. A unit that is too large for a given area will cool the area too quickly, causing the air conditioner to frequently turn itself on and off. If a unit shuts off quickly, chances are it hasn't been running long enough to reduce the room's humidity and you'll be uncomfortable. If your air conditioner is too small, it will run constantly on hot days without ever getting good results.
- On very hot days, you can save energy by closing the fresh air intake on your room air conditioning unit. Cooling fresh, warm outside air requires more electricity than re-cooling the air that is already circulating in your home.
- Depending on the size of your home, you can save 3% on your cooling costs for every degree you raise your thermostat in the summer. Raising the thermostat from 73 to 78 degrees can mean savings of up to 15% in cooling costs.
- Don't choose a lower air conditioning temperature when you first turn it on. It won't cool faster, whenever it's running it's cooling as fast as it can. Set low, it cools longer, not faster.
- Change the air conditioner's air filter monthly during heavy use. When it's clogged, airflow is restricted, cooling costs rise, and your system may eventually suffer a compressor failure.
- Use a dehumidifier in the warm, humid months to remove moisture from the air. A dehumidifier works best when air can circulate freely through it. Place it away from walls and bulky furniture.
- Use light colors when painting house and trim.
- Plant shade trees. Outside shade can reduce air conditioning costs 30%.
- On hot summer days, the temperature in your attic can reach 150 degrees. Improving the ventilation in your attic will lower the temperature of the entire house and make your air conditioner's job a lot easier. Installing an attic fan that is controlled by a thermostat to exhaust the hot air can greatly improve the comfort of your home.
- Weather stripping and caulking all cracks and crevices will stop cold drafts from leaking into your house.
- Attach door bottoms to the bottom of the door to fill in the gaps between the door and the threshold. This will help the warm air from escaping in the winter months and cooler air from escaping in the summer months.
- Lighting accounts for about 15% of a home's electric use. Replace incandescent light bulbs in high use areas with compact fluorescent ones. They use up to 2/3 less energy and last up to 10 times longer. Every CFL can prevent more than 450 lbs of emissions from a power plant over its lifetime.
- Make a habit of turning off lights as you leave a room, especially in summer. Lights add a lot of heat to the room. 99% of a light's energy use is converted to heat with 1% to light. Use only as much light as you need.
- Keeping lights and fixtures clean can improve efficiency as much as 20%.
- Take advantage of reflected light by placing portable fixtures near light colored walls or other surfaces.
- Purchasing white or light lamp shades provide better reflection for maximum light.
- Consider using task lighting (lighting directed at a specific area) instead of overhead or general lighting, which may light unused areas of the room. By limiting lighting only to areas where it is needed, savings in the cost of bulbs and energy can be made.
- Purchase the correct size water heater. Consider the hot water needs of your family. If your water heater is too large, you will waste energy; if it is too small, you will likely run out of hot water.
- Set water thermostat to 120 degrees. You can measure this by placing a thermometer in the flow of hot water at your kitchen or bathroom sink.
- Refrigerators are big energy users. If your refrigerator door does not shut tightly, check the door seal to see if it needs to be cleaned or replaced. A door leak allows cool air to escape, forcing your refrigerator to use more energy to keep food cold.
- Check temperature settings for the most efficient appliance operation. Refrigerator temperature should be 36-38 degrees and freezer temperature should be 0-5 degrees.
- Arrange items in your refrigerator for quick removal and return. Your refrigerator cools the food but heats the kitchen. The longer the door is open, the longer the refrigerator compressor runs, heating the kitchen and raising your cooling costs.
- Locate freezers away from heat sources.
- Eighty percent of the energy used in an automatic dishwasher goes toward heating water. Significant savings take place by running the dishwasher only when it is full. Running a half-filled dishwasher twice uses two times more energy as running a full load once.
- Be sure to load the dishes in their proper locations. Scrape dirty dishes with cold rather than hot water.
- Flip the switch to air dry on your dishwasher or open the door after the washing cycle is complete and save 50% of the energy used to run the dishwasher.
- When cooking on an electric range, use pots and pans that are properly sized to "fit" the burners. Using a small pan on a large burner wastes energy and can be a safety hazard. Always cook with lids on your pans, as this keeps the heat inside and speeds up cooking time.
- No Peeking! Peeking in the oven can drop the temperature as much as 75 degrees F.
- A microwave oven is an energy efficient alternative to a conventional oven. It cooks food more quickly and uses 70-80% less electricity than a conventional oven.
- Use a toaster oven, electric skillet, popcorn popper or slow cooker for specialized jobs, rather than the electric range top, since these small appliances use less energy.
- Use cold water when operating your food/waste disposal. Cold water saves energy and solidifies grease so that it will move through the drainpipes easier.
- If you have three dishes to be cooked in the oven at slightly different temperatures (325, 350 and 375, for example), pick the average temperature (350 in this example) to cook all three dishes at the same time.
- Try to avoid peeking at the food you are baking in the oven. Each time you open the door, the oven temperature is lowered 25 degrees.
- Ninety percent of the energy your washer uses goes toward heating water. You can save energy dollars by using hot water only for heavily soiled laundry. Most laundry can be washed in warm water and lightly soiled loads can be washed in cold water. You can also save by using cold water rinses for each load, because the temperature of the water used during the rinse cycle will not make your clothes any cleaner.
- Doing full loads of laundry in the washer saves both energy and water. Sort and organize your laundry so that you will be doing full loads. Be careful not to overload the washer. Your clothes may not get fully clean and may need to be washed again.
- In your dryer, don't over dry clothes. Besides using more energy than is needed, over drying is hard on fabrics.
- Clean the dryer's lint filter after each use. That allows the air to circulate efficiently. The harder it is for air to circulate past your clothes, the longer the dryer must run.
- If remodeling, locate the clothes dryer in an uncooled utility room, basement or garage. In a 1,500 square foot house with eight-foot ceilings, a 200-cubic-feet-per-minute dryer located in an air-conditioned utility room and vented to the outdoors can empty a house load of air every 60 minutes of operation. In summer, that's a lot of expensively cooled house air being heated by the dryer and blown out. Also, consider hanging clothes outside to dry.
- If the doors to the closet that houses your hot water heater have louvers or grills, do not cover or set anything in front of them.
- Wrapping a fiberglass blanket around your electric water heater and securing it with duct tape, or installing a ready-made insulation kit can save up to 10% on water heating costs. Most new water heaters are already insulated, so this tip is most effective for electric water heaters that are more than five years old. Also, insulate hot water pipes to reduce heat loss as the hot water is flowing to your faucets.