Americans invest over 75 percent of their utility dollars on heating, cooling, lighting, cooking and running other appliances in their homes. In fact, heating the shower water for a family of four can cost as much as $33 a month.
With energy costs on the rise, becoming more energy efficient can mean money in your pockets. By incorporating a few simple changes, a typical household can reduce its energy and water usage and save up to 20 percent on their natural gas, electric and water bills a year.
A do-it-yourself room-by-room energy audit can help you identify the best and most economical ways to reduce your energy bills. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recommends the following steps to help you get started:
Step 1 – Identify places in your home where you lose the most energy. Do you have enough insulation in your exterior or basement walls? Are there holes and cracks in or around walls, ceilings, windows and electrical outlets. Do the appliances operate properly? Are there ways you can use daylight to reduce the time the lights are on in your home?
Step 2 - Develop an energy plan for making purchases and improvements to your home. List priorities based on where you are losing the most energy, your budget and the amount of time you have to spend on maintenance and repairs.
Step 3 – Based on your priorities, begin making changes around your house. For a more extensive home energy audit, seek the advice of a professional to analyze your home and make recommendations for energy improvements.
For more information about home energy audits, contact the DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Clearinghouse toll free at 1-800-DOE-3732 (1-800-363-3732) or www.eere.energy.gov.
In winter, keep draperies and shades on south-facing windows, which receive the most sunlight, open during the day to allow the sunlight to enter your home and closed at night to reduce the chill.
Minimize the use of your fireplace. Warm air escapes through the chimney. Make sure the fireplace damper is closed unless a fire is burning. If you never use your fireplace, plug and seal the chimney flue.
Use kitchen ventilation fans wisely. In just one hour, these fans can pull out a house full of warm air.
When baking, keep preheating time to a minimum. Use the smallest pan possible so that less energy is used to heat it. Limit the number of times you open the oven door since you lose heat with each opening.
Scrape, don’t rinse, large food pieces and bones from dishes. Soaking and pre-washing are generally only recommended in cases of burned-on or dried-on food.
Cover pots and pans with lids to retain heat and reduce cooking time.
Keep your refrigerator or freezer away from direct sunlight or warm air (range, dishwasher, heating ducts, etc.) so that the appliance doesn't have to use more energy to remain cold.
Unblock all heating registers, air supplies and return vents.
Plug all holes in walls including light switches, electrical outlets and windows to keep air from leaking out or in.
Keep heated waterbeds covered when not in use.
If a window air conditioner is used, turn it off or reduce the settings when leaving the room.
Clean registers, baseboard heaters and radiators.
Install low-flow showerheads in your shower and repair leaky faucets. Heating water is the second largest energy user in the home.
Leave the bathroom door open after a shower to let the warm steamy air circulate through the house.
Avoid using the commode as a trash can. Each flush uses six gallons of water.
Don’t let water run while shaving or washing your face. Brush your teeth first while waiting for water to get hot, then wash or shave after filling the basin.
Use bathroom ventilation fans sparingly. These fans temporarily can help take out the humidity during and after a bath or shower. Overuse of the fans can pull heated or cooled air out of a home and wastes electricity.
Only run the washing machine using full loads of laundry to maximize the use of electricity or natural gas.
Wash as many loads as possible using cold or warm water, instead of hot water.
Monitor the dryer and use built-in timers or moisture sensors to ensure that the machine is stopped as soon as the clothes are dry.
If replacing a washing machine, consider front-loading models because they use less energy and water. These models also take more moisture out of the clothes, which will decrease the drying time.
Do not overfill the dryer since the machine requires that warm air circulates around the clothes to efficiently dry the load.
Clean the dryer’s filter after each load.
Add insulation to your attic and ducts. A professional should do major insulation projects.
Have a professional tune up and inspect your furnace once a year. Always keep the area around the furnace clean.
Follow the instructions from the furnace manufacturer for cleaning or changing the filter on a regular basis. Some filters should be changed monthly to ensure that air is flowing efficiently.
Set the temperature of the hot water tank between 115 and 120 degrees. Higher temperatures cause more heat to be lost from the tank.
Wrap electric hot water heaters with an insulation blanket.
Save as much as 10 percent a year on heating and cooling bills by setting the thermostat as low as you are comfortable with in winter and as high as you are comfortable with in the summer.
Add humidity to your home by keeping houseplants. Humid air feels warmer and is helpful in reducing winter colds and dry skin.
Apply specially designed window film to south facing windows to reduce the heat coming from the sun.
In the winter, consumers with older windows can purchase kits that create temporary storm windows.
Keep all south-facing window glass clean to maximize the amount of sunlight that shines through the windows.
Use fluorescent bulbs to light your rooms. They last up to 10 times longer than regular bulbs and use 25 to 75 percent less energy.
Always turn off the lights when you are not using them, or consider installing timers or occupancy sensors to reduce the amount of time your lights are on.
Use light colors on walls, ceiling and floors to reduce the amount of light you need.
Keep bulbs free of dirt and dust, as dust absorbs light and reduces efficiency.
Repair leaky faucets. If you fix hot water leaks, you save both on water and heating costs.
Monitor the charging of cell phones and digital camera batteries to ensure that their AC adaptors are only plugged in when they are recharging.
Save money with a programmable thermostat that allows you to preset a heating and cooling schedule and better manage the temperature. Programmable thermostats store four or more settings per day and will adjust the temperature automatically based on a schedule of when the home will be empty or everyone will be asleep. For customers with heat pumps, be sure to use an appropriate programmable thermostat.
Be aware of products that may be using electricity when in standby mode. Standby mode occurs when some products are not in use but are still plugged into an electrical outlet while the power is recharging a battery or waiting to be turned on by remote control.
Shut down a computer instead of only logging off. Turn off the monitor instead of letting it sit in sleep mode.
If a power strip is used, switching it off may be a convenient way to save electricity coming from multiple appliances. Be sure to first properly shut down any computer plugged into the strip.
When replacing appliances, be sure to look for the Energy Star logo to help determine which units meet or exceed efficiency standards. For major users of energy such as furnaces, air conditioners and washers, look at the efficiency information to determine whether the benefits outweigh the potentially higher initial cost of an Energy Star product. Visit www.energystar.gov for more information.
For fact sheets on how to manage your energy bills through water conservation, energy choice programs and budget billing, contact the OCC toll free at 1-877-742-5622 or visit www.occ.ohio.gov.
For more information on ways to save energy, contact the Ohio Development Services Agency's Advanced Energy and Efficiency Program at or http://development.ohio.gov/bs/bs_renewenergy.htm .
Energy saving tips and information provided in this booklet were researched through the DOE, National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association, the Department of Environmental Protection, www.waterinfo.org and other resources.
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