If your latest winter utility bill sent your eyebrows shooting up to your hairline, know that there are ways to mitigate some of that energy use and save money every month. We consulted several energy experts, and they had some universal tips to share. Some you’ve heard – and maybe some are new to you. Most of these ideas won’t cost you anything, but will save you money.
- Weatherization is a cost-effective means to reduce energy use and increase the comfort of your home. Up to 20 percent savings can be achieved on heating bills by caulking around windows and weather-stripping around doors. The same type of savings can be achieved on heating bills by upgrading from 3 inches to 12 inches of insulation.
- Turn off lights and other appliances when not in use. Where it makes sense, turn off and unplug electronics that are not in use. Appliances and electronics make up about 20 percent of a typical household’s energy costs. This applies to computers, too. If it’s truly inconvenient to turn off your computer, at least turn off the screen.
- Lower thermostat settings at night and when your home is empty. This is especially important when you go on vacation. Install a programmable thermostat to automatically adjust your indoor temperature settings. Set your thermostat no higher than 68°F when at home and 60°F when away or sleeping.
- Make sure appliances and heating systems are properly maintained. Furnaces should be checked annually by a professional and filters should be changed every 30 days during winter months. Follow manufacturer’s directions for cleaning electronic filters.
- Open drapes on sunny days in winter, keep them closed in summer. Insulated drapes will help even more.
- Keep windows and exterior doors shut tight when they are supposed to be closed.
- Set your hot water heater temperature between 120 and 140 degrees.
- Keep refrigerator/freezer coils free from lint and dust build-up.
- Repair water leaks on faucets and toilets. One drip per minute can produce water wastage of up to 220 gallons of water per month.
- Use one large light bulb instead of several small ones in areas where bright light is needed. Using lighting controls, such as dimmers, can help reduce energy use.
- Replace your incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, which use 75 percent less energy and last about 10 times longer. A CFL used four hours every day will save you $7 per year compared to a standard incandescent bulb.
- Fill the clothes dryer before using it, but don’t overload it. Keep the lint screen in the clothes dryer clean.
- Use the range-top instead of the oven when you have a choice. Or invest in a toaster oven for small jobs, such as reheating a slice of pizza. The crock-pot also is a great energy-saving device.
- Insulate accessible heating ducts that run through unheated areas such as a garage.
- Check for open fireplace dampers to ensure cold air is being kept out of your home.
- Avoid using portable electric heaters as they can consume a large amount of electricity in a short period of time.
- Before purchasing home improvement equipment and appliances, review available rebates to see if your purchase qualifies.
- Many municipal utilities companies offer free or low-cost energy audits. If so, take advantage of that service.
For more energy-saving tips, check out these websites: Energy.gov, Home Energy Saver or the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. Or check with your local utility provider, which may have tips specific to your area. Also, EnergyStar.gov provides information about energy-saving appliances and lots of other good money-saving tips.
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