Top 10 home energy-saving tips
Sharon C. Laux, PhD
Housing & Environmental Design Specialist
Control your thermostat.
Save on your heating bill by keeping your thermostat at an energy-efficient and comfortable setting during the day and turning the heat down at night and when you’re not home. Try 68 degrees or less during the day and 60 degrees when you’re away or sleeping. You’ll save approximately 1 percent for every degree of setback. When you’re chilly, put on a sweater rather than turning up the heat.
Lower your water temperature.
Your hot water heater is probably hotter than necessary. Most heaters are set at 140 degrees. Turn the temperature down to 120 degrees (medium setting on a gas heater dial), and you’ll cut your water-heating costs by 6 percent to 10 percent. Most electric heaters have both an upper and lower thermostat to adjust. Be sure to first turn the electricity off at the circuit breaker.
Insulate your hot water heater.
Wrapping the tank in a blanket of fiberglass insulation will reduce heat loss by 25 percent to 45 percent. This means a savings of 4 percent to 9 percent on your water-heating bill. Water heater jacket kits are available for $10 to $25 at your local hardware store. Be sure to follow installation directions. It’s especially important not to block exhaust vents and air intakes on gas models or on thermo-star access panels on electric heaters with insulation. Insulation wraps and jackets are appropriate for older water heaters and those located in unheated areas. The manufacturer may not recommend an insulation wrap for newer water heaters.
Replace your showerhead.
A standard showerhead sprays up to 8 gallons per minute of hot, steaming water. Replacing it with a quality, low-flow showerhead allows you to use only 1 to 2 gallons of water. You’ll hardly notice a difference—except on your utility bill! Low-flow showerheads cost between $10 and $60 and pay for themselves in less than a year by reducing water consumption and energy used to heat the water.
Discover the cold-water wash.
Water heating accounts for 90 percent of energy used by washing machines. Washing in hot water costs 20 to 40 cents per load. That adds up, and it’s not necessary, except for special loads such as diapers or stained work clothes. Try washing in cold water using cold water detergents and full loads whenever possible.
Plug those leaks.
As the cold comes in, your heat—and money—fly away through such trouble spots as wall outlets, windows, doors and fireplaces. You can
stop this heat loss quickly and easily with low-cost materials. Check weather stripping on your windows and doors. Foam and vinyl weather-stripping wear out and need to be replaced periodically. Make sure the damper is closed in your fireplace to avoid heat loss through an open chimney.
Use caulk to seal along the basement sill plate and around door and window frames. Inexpensive foam gaskets that fit behind light switches and electrical outlet plates stop cold air blowing in through these holes in exterior walls. Remember every hole you plug means fewer drafts, a cozier home and lower fuel bills.
Regularly clean or replace your furnace filter.
All forced-air furnaces have filters that keep dust and dirt from blowing into your house. Dirty filters can greatly affect the heating ability of the furnace and waste valuable fuel. Some filters are disposable; some can be washed and reused. Replace your furnace filter each month you heat or cool your home.
Watch your refrigerator.
Refrigerators cost approximately $6 each month to operate and consume 6 percent of your home’s total energy use. To keep out warm room air, keep the door closed as much as possible. It also helps to regularly clean dust from the condensing coils and to minimize freezer frost build-up. Keep the refrigerator at 36-38 degrees F and the freezer at 0-5 degrees F.
Devise an Energy Action Plan!
The most important energy-saving step of all takes place inside your head. Once you make the decision to save energy, you’ll discover that reducing your home energy consumption is easy and the rewards great.
Adapted from “Top Ten Home Energy Saving Tips” from Montana State University Extension Service, http://www.weatherization.org/wxtop10tips.htm.