There are a lot of simple and inexpensive things you can do.
1. Check it out! In many areas, cable, satellite and utility companies compete for customers so you can save on some utilities by shopping around for the best rates and plans. (Or at least switch to basic cable!)
2. Use energy efficient light bulbs. This is the big buzz right now. Simply replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. You can now buy round bulbs, not just the cork screw type, that may look better in some of your fixtures. I’ve found them to be less expensive in multi-packs.
3. Check your heat and air vents. Check to see which of your vents are open. Some rooms stay warmer or cooler than others so adjust the vents to balance the temperature throughout your home. You may find the airflow is better upstairs when you close off some of the downstairs vents. Some rooms may need the vents only partially open. We used one end of our home very little so we closed most of the vents at that end allowing less energy to heat and cool the rooms we use the most.
4. Install aerator screens on your faucets. These little screens distribute water flow so you get more coverage with less water. They increase the pressure of the stream of water as it comes out of the faucet so you don’t need to turn the faucet up as high. Screens cut the water flow from 3 to 4 gallons per minute to as little as a half-gallon.
5. Use ceiling fans. Their rotating direction can be changed depending upon the season. In the summer, you want them to draw the heat up from the floor. In the winter, they should push the heat down from the ceiling.
6. Put a brick or a sealed jar inside your toilet tank. This displaces water in the tank so you use less. Careful not to displace too much water or it won’t flush properly. I filled a plastic water jug for mine.
7. Install low-flow shower heads. The ones we use in our home create a very strong pressured spray and this cheap fix can net significant water savings. Many people fear you give up water pressure but we didn’t find that to be the case. They’ll save 25%- 60% of the water you normally use to shower and 50% of the energy. Many power companies (including ours) give them away.
8. Leave the faucet off. When you are brushing your teeth or shaving. Only turn it on when needed.
9. Wash your clothes in cold water. This saves 50% of the energy you would use for hot water. Set your dryer on the moisture sensor if you have one, not the timer, and cut energy use by 15%.
10. Get a programmable thermostat. And use it! Especially if no one is home during the day so you can save energy when the house is empty. They’re not difficult to install. Some power companies offer a rebate for these thermostats which can cover their cost. Call to see if your power company participates. And, turn the heat down at night when you’re snuggled under the covers in bed.
11. Check your air filters. If your home is heated by forced air, check the filters. A clogged filter considerably decreases the efficiency of your heater. It works harder when it’s dirty and you pay for the extra effort it makes to move the air. Air filters are very inexpensive and many should be changed every month. Check yours!
12. Service your furnace. My HVAC guy says they should be serviced every 2 years for maximum performance.
13. Use thick curtains. Covering your windows with heavy curtains can make a huge difference in the warmth or coolness of the room. In the winter, open curtains wide to heat rooms; close curtains at night to keep warm air in. In the summer, get what cool air you can in the evening and early morning; close curtains to keep cool air inside.
14. Turn down the heat! Dress warmer at home during the winter and as lightly as possible in the summer. For every degree you lower your home’s temperature during the heating season, you subtract 5% from your bill.
15. Stop leaks. A leaky faucet wastes up to 2,700 gallons per year. Test the toilet for leaks, too. Put a drop of food coloring in the toilet tank. If the color shows up in the bowl, your tank is leaking and you’re wasting up to 200 gallons of water a day.
16. Use less hot water. You don’t always need hot water to get yourself or your clothes clean. When showering, use warm rather than scalding water.
17. Weatherstrip doors and windows. Stop the airflow! This process is easy, inexpensive and can make a huge difference. In my son’s dorm room, we weatherstripped around his hall door and were amazed (and thrilled) by how it blocked the outside noise!
18. Insulate your attic access. Many attic doors or staircases have no insulation on their backside. Yours may also need weatherstripping around the sides to block airflow going into and out of the attic.
19. Insulate your garage. Especially any walls that are shared with a room in the house. Don’t forget to insulate the garage ceiling if you have a room above the garage.
20. Insulate your hot water heater. If your model is pre-2004, buy a wrap for it at a home improvement store. Know how the sides of your coffee mug leaks heat? You get the idea.
21. Lower the temperature setting on your hot water heater. Set the temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. If your heater does not have a temperature gauge, dial down until the water feels hot, not scalding.
22. Fill up the dishwasher. Most of the energy used by dishwashers is to heat a set amount of water so you’re using the same energy for a small load as for a full load. If you really want to be economical, let the dishes air dry.
23. Use Switch and Outlet Energy Seals to stop drafts from coming in through plug outlets. Put your hand by your outlets, especially on exterior walls, to see if you feel cold air coming in. I bought a bag of outlet plug covers at the Dollar Store and put them in all of our outlets that don’t have cords in them. You know the kind I mean? The ones you put in when baby proofing your home so children don’t stick their fingers in the plug openings? My kids are grown but I use the covers now to stop any air flow.
24. Cover fireplace openings. If not in use, make sure that big hole is covered! Decorative glass doors are easy to find. Our fireplace openings are 4′ x 5′ and when they’re open in the winter, my heat goes right up the chimney!
25. Check floor heating and air vents. My inspector pulled ours up to show me the opening left between the floor and the smaller duct work. I could feel air coming up from under the house so he suggested I use weather stripping or tape to block that air flow before putting the vents back on.
26. Get a separate water meter for your exterior hose bibbs and/or irrigation system. In most areas, your sewer bill is tied to your water usage. Why pay more for sewer service in the summer when much of the water isn’t going down the drain? Many water utilities allow you to have dual meters, only one of which gets billed for sewer service (the one that feeds your house).
27. Plant trees. Not ones that stay small but real trees like Maples and Oaks. We live in a neighborhood that was established in the 1920’s and it’s almost like living in a forest. The temperature drop from surrounding areas in the summer is about 6 degrees! Shading your house from direct summer sun will cut way down on your air conditioning bills.
28. Pull the plug! This is one of my favorites. Did you know that, of the total energy used to run home electronics, 40% is consumed when the appliances are turned off?? When you’ve turned them off, PULL THE PLUG! Or, you can buy a device to do it for you. Some power strips will stop drawing energy automatically when your electronics are turned off. They pay for themselves in a few months!
29. Contact your utility company. Find out if your utility company offers free energy audits by inspecting your home for energy effectiveness and recommending inexpensive ways to cut energy costs. Ours does. I had to wait several months because they stay so backed up, but Duke Energy gave me a free energy audit and gifts!
30. What can you add? I’ve given you my list. What are you doing (or should you be doing) to save energy?