Here are some effective ways to help conserve energy, trim costs and gain control over the energy usage in our homes
Cook with smaller appliances. Cook with your toaster oven, electric skillet and slow cooker for specialized jobs, rather than the range. Small appliances use less energy.
Clean or replace air filters. Replace filters on exhaust hoods, humidifiers, vacuums, etc. Clogged filters impair performance and cause the units to run longer.
Run cold water for disposal. Hot water requires energy to warm the water. Cold water saves energy and solidifies grease, moving it more easily through the garbage disposal and pipes.
Refrigerators and Freezers
Purchase an ENERGY STAR models. When buying a new refrigerator or freezer, look for the ENERGY STAR label. ENERGY STAR refrigerators and freezers can save you hundreds of dollars on your electric bill over the life of the appliance. Remember, older refrigerators and freezers use two to three times more electricity than ones that are 10 years old or less.
Clean the unit. Clean dust off the condenser coils, fins, evaporator pan and motor once or twice a year. A clean unit runs more efficiently. Unplug the unit and clean with a vacuum cleaner or long-handled brush.
Defrost a manual-defrost unit regularly. Frost makes your unit work harder and wastes energy. Don’t allow more than one-quarter inch of frost to build up.
Stay away from direct heat. Place the refrigerator or freezer away from direct sunlight and other heat sources such as ovens or ranges. Heat will cause the unit to use more energy to stay cold.
Check the seals. Refrigerator and freezer doors should seal tightly. Loose seals cause your unit to work harder and use more energy. If you can move a dollar bill through the closed door, the seal is not tight enough. Get the seals replaced or replace the unit if it is an older model.
Run full loads. Always wait until you have a full load before running your dishwasher. Full loads use the same amount of hot water and energy as smaller loads. You run fewer loads and save energy.
Use short cycles. Select the shortest cycle that properly cleans your dishes. Shorter cycles use less hot water and less energy.
Skip rinsing the dishes. Rinsing dishes before loading them into the dishwasher wastes water and energy. If you do rinse, use cold water.
Clean the filter. If your dishwasher has a filter screen, clean it regularly. A clean appliance runs more efficiently.
Ranges & Oven
Reduce the heat. Begin cooking on a higher heat setting until liquid begins to boil. Then, lower the temperature and simmer the food until fully cooked. A fast boil doesn’t cook faster than a slow boil, but it does use more energy.
Don’t peek in the oven. Resist the urge to open the oven door while baking. Every time you peek, the temperature drops 25° F and requires additional energy to bring the temperature back up.
Use retained heat. Turn off cook tops or ovens a few minutes before food has completed cooking. Retained heat finishes the job using less energy.
Consider a natural gas range or oven. Natural gas appliances cost less to operate than electric appliances and offer better temperature control.
Make sure the oven seals tightly. Make sure the seal on the oven door is tight. Even a small gap allows heat to escape and wastes energy. If you can move a dollar bill through the closed door, the seal is not tight enough and should be replaced.
Washers & Dryers
Adjust the water level. If you have a washer that allows you to control the load’s water level, adjust the level according to laundry load size. You can save energy by using less hot water for small loads.
Run full loads. Always run a full load in your washer or dryer. Running a partial load uses the same amount of energy as a full load – but you get less done. Running full loads allows you to run your washer or dryer less often.
Wash laundry in warm or cold water. Washing laundry with warm or cold water works your water heater less. Use hot water only when the greatest cleaning is needed.
Rinse in cold water. Rinse water temperature has no effect on cleaning. Rinsing with cold water saves money by heating less water.
Don’t dry clothes excessively. Drying laundry excessively uses more energy than is needed, and is hard on fabrics. If you purchase a dryer, get one with an electronic sensor that shuts off the dryer when clothes are dry.
Clean the lint filter. After each load, clean the filter to keep the dryer running efficiently. Also, periodically check the air vent and hose for clogging. Keeping the air vent and hose free of lint prevents a fire hazard.
Water Heaters and Water Usage
Purchase an energy-efficient model. The initial cost may be more but operating costs are less in the long run. Consider a tankless or instantaneous water heater, which uses energy only when hot water is needed, rather than maintaining 40 gallons or more of hot water all the time.
Purchase the correct size. Consider your family’s hot water needs. If your water heater is too large, it uses more energy than needed. If it is too small, you may run out of hot water.
Purchase a natural gas water heater. If you currently have an electric water heater, consider replacing it with a natural gas water heater. When it comes to heating water, natural gas is less expensive than electricity, and it heats more water faster during heavy use. Consider a sealed combustion or an on-demand water heater. Both types use less energy.
Install your water heater near the kitchen. The kitchen is where you use the hottest water. When the water heater is located near the kitchen, hot water doesn’t have to travel as far and less heat is lost.
Insulate water pipes. Use half-inch foam or pipe tape for insulation wherever pipes are exposed. On cold water pipes, insulate four to five feet nearest to the water heater. Pipe insulation can save you up to $25 annually.
Repair dripping faucets promptly. If the faucet leaks hot water, the energy used to heat it is costing you money. (One drop a second can waste up to 48 gallons a week!)
Install water saving devices. Use low-flow showerheads on all showers and faucet aerators on all faucets to reduce your hot water use.
Use ENERGY STAR compact fluorescent light bulbs. ENERGY STAR compact fluorescent light bulbs last longer and use up to 75 percent less energy than standard light bulbs. You can cut your electric bill by $60 per year if you replace the standard bulbs in your five most frequently used light fixtures. Properly dispose of compact fluorescent light bulbs at your local household hazardous waste collection site.
Use natural lighting. Open curtains and shades during the day instead of using lighting. Consider skylights and solar tubes during remodeling or new construction design. This allows the maximum use of natural daylight.
Plan your lighting. Not every room needs the same amount of general light. Plan within a room to provide general background lighting and supplementary task lighting. A good lighting plan can reduce lighting costs and still provide all the light you need.
Use a single, high-watt bulb. Using one high-watt bulb instead of several low-watt bulbs saves energy. Do not exceed the manufacturer’s recommended wattage for the fixture.
Control outdoor lighting. To assure only dusk-to-dawn operation of your outdoor lights, control your fixtures with a photocell or a timer.
Turn off lights. Turn off lights when not in use, even for short periods of time. Turning lights off and on uses less energy than if they are left on all the time.
Install a timer on indoor lights. Use timers to turn lights on and off to help regulate use.
Avoid long-life incandescent light bulbs. Long-life incandescent light bulbs are the least efficient of the incandescent bulbs.
Consider LED (Light Emitting Diode) lighting. LEDs are becoming more common for can, track, under-cabinet and holiday lighting. Initial cost is more, but the lights use 10 times less energy and last 50 times longer than incandescent lights. They use one-third the energy and last 5 times longer than compact fluorescent lights.
Central Air Conditioners
Purchase an energy-efficient model. Select an energy-efficient central air conditioner by looking at the SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) rating. The higher the rating, the more efficient the unit.
Choose the right size equipment. Oversized equipment costs more money. A qualified heating contractor can determine the size of the equipment needed for your home. The contractor uses the size and configuration of your home to determine proper size.
Replace coils. To maximize efficiency, change the indoor and outdoor compressor coils when replacing an older central air conditioner.
Keep the thermostat clear of heat. Don’t position heat-producing devices such as lamps and TVs close to your thermostat. Heat from these devices could cause the thermostat to read a temperature higher than the true room temperature. This may lead to excessive cooling and wasted energy.
Get your unit tuned up. Have your central air conditioner tuned up by a qualified heating contractor every other year. This can help the unit operate more efficiently and may prevent failures in the middle of peak cooling season.
Keep the condenser and filter clean. Keep leaves, grass and other debris away from the outside condenser. Also, clean the filter monthly and replace it as needed. (Your central AC uses the same filter as your furnace.) A clean condenser and filter help the unit run more efficiently.
Keep the sun out. Closing blinds, shades and drapes on the sunny side of your home during the day will help keep the house cooler, causing the air conditioner to use less energy in bringing the temperature to a comfortable level.
Cool only the rooms in use. Close unused rooms to keep cooled air in areas where it is most needed.
Keep vents clear. Keep furniture and drapes away from air vents. This allows the cool air to move out into the rooms and keeps your air conditioner from running more than necessary.
Ventilate your attic. Reduce heat build-up in your attic by installing proper ventilation. This helps keep your house cooler during the summer. A qualified heating contractor can help you do this.
Use ceiling fans for air circulation. In hot weather, set the ceiling fan direction to blow air down. The air moving across your skin creates a cooling effect, allowing you to raise the temperature on your thermostat and still feel cool. In cold weather, set the fan to blow toward the ceiling. This pushes warm air away from the ceiling and evenly distributes heat in the room.
Purchase an energy-efficient furnace. Select an energy-efficient furnace model by looking for an AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) rating of 90 percent or greater.
Maintain the furnace. Clean your furnace filters monthly or replace if necessary. A clean unit runs more efficiently.
Use natural gas for heating. Consider switching to a natural gas heating system. Natural gas is less expensive than other heating fuels.
Use insulation. Insulate your attic to an R-value of 38 for a gas-heated home and 50 for an electrically heated home; your walls to an R-value of 19; and your sill box (upper portion of your basement walls) to an R-value of 10. Proper insulation allows you to use less energy to keep your home warm.
Insulate around windows and doors. Weather-strip and/or caulk all areas of noticeable leaks around windows and doors. Removable caulking is a good option for windows that you open in summer but not in winter.
Let the sun in. The sun’s energy can have a noticeable effect on the temperature in your home, especially from windows facing south and west. Keep window shades and drapes open during winter months to let in the sun’s radiant heat.