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Reducing Home Energy Costs

Heating // Using Water // Lighting // Cooling // Cooking
Refrigerators & Freezers // Doing Laundry // General

Find out how to perform your own Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Audit


  • Insulate attics and walls.
  • Seal around areas where heat can escape such as windows, doors, bathroom vents, and chimneys.
  • Check the manufacturer's label before insulating your water heater; set the temperature to about 120 .
  • Properly maintain your heating system – have it inspected and cleaned annually; replace furnace filters once a month during the heating season, or as needed.
  • Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters, and radiators as needed; make sure furniture, carpeting and drapes do not block them.
  • Reduce the thermostat setting when everyone is asleep or away from the home. Consider installing a programmable thermostat.
  • Install storm windows and lock your windows to create a tighter seal; use drapes and shades at night to conserve heat.
  • Close the damper on your woodstove and/or fireplace when not in use.
  • Compact fluorescent lights use 75% less electricity than regular bulbs. Consider using compact fluorescents for most commonly used lighting.
  • Invest in energy efficient appliances. Look for appliances with the EnergyStar label.

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  • Use less water and you'll save energy because electricity is used to pump water from wells and in municipal systems.
  • Take showers instead of baths.
  • Use low-flow showerheads and faucet control devices.
  • Insulate older water heater units and set the temperature at 120 degrees.
  • Once or twice a year, drain a bucket of water from the water heater to remove sediment that can reduce the efficiency of the unit.
  • Fix all water leaks and dripping faucets.
  • When shaving or washing, fill the sink halfway instead of running the water.
  • Don't run the water when brushing your teeth.
  • During power shortages, limit washing cars and watering lawns.

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  • Turn off lights when you leave a room or when they aren't needed.
  • Keep bulbs and lighting fixtures clean for maximum lighting.
  • Install energy-efficient compact fluorescent lights. They give off less heat and use as much as 75 percent less energy than regular bulbs.
  • Pull the plug on instant-on appliances (such as televisions) when you don't plan to use them for a few days or more. They draw current even when they're switched off.
  • Use task lighting directed at a specific area instead of overhead lighting or general lighting.
  • Turn off unnecessary lights since much of the energy used is given off as heat.
  • Keep windows clean so daylight can come through better.

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  • Consider window fans, ceiling fans, or whole-house fans, which use much less power, as an alternative to air conditioners.
  • Set air conditioners to the highest comfortable setting during the day; 78 degrees works for most people.
  • Shut your air conditioner off when you're not going to be home for an extended period.
  • Air conditioners work to remove humidity so save moisture-making jobs like dishwashing, laundry, and bathing for early mornings or nighttime when it's cooler.
  • If you're buying a new air-conditioning system, make sure it's efficient. Central systems are graded by Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ration (SEER) and window units by Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER). The higher the number, the better. Look for 11.0 or higher.
  • Make sure your air conditioner is sized properly. An oversized unit will not dehumidify properly and will use more energy than necessary. A rule of thumb is about 20 BTUs for each square foot of room.
  • Window air conditioners are designed to cool one room only. Use the right sized unit.
  • For every two degrees you raise your central air conditioner setting, you'll reduce your cooling costs about 5 percent.
  • The outdoor unit of an air conditioner should be kept free from plants, dirt, or grass clippings that will interfere with air circulation. Wash the coil periodically with a garden hose.
  • Shade the outdoor air conditioning unit if possible. A unit in the sun will use up to 5 percent more energy than one in the shade.
  • In homes with central air conditioning, furniture or drapes should not block air registers.
  • Keep heat-producing appliances such as lamps and televisions away from the thermostat.
  • Clean or replace the central air conditioning filter monthly. Clean the filter in window units as well. It's behind the front panel.
  • Close your blinds, shades, or draperies during the hottest part of the day.

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  • Use pots and pans with flat bottoms the same size as the burners. This prevents heat from escaping.
  • Make sure reflector pans beneath the stove's heating elements are bright and clean. The reflect heat onto the bottom of the cookware.
  • Covered pots or pans will boil or steam faster, allowing lower temperature settings.
  • Cook outdoors, use a microwave oven, or prepare cold meals to avoid heating up the kitchen and adding moisture to the air. Microwaves use less than half the power of a conventional oven and cook food in about one-fourth the time.
  • Use small appliances like a toaster oven or electric skillet. On average, they use half the energy of a full-size oven.
  • Turn off the surface element or oven a few minutes before cooking time is up. Electric stoves stay hot for a few minutes after they're turned off.
  • On a surface unit, start with high heat and lower the setting when the food starts to bubble or boil.
  • Don't line oven racks with foil. It blocks the heat flow and makes the oven work harder to cook food.
  • Do your heavy summer cooking in the cooler early morning or evening hours. Try to use the range top more, the oven less.
  • It takes energy to heat water so use as little as possible. Most frozen or fresh vegetables can be cooked in a quarter cup of water. Even eggs will cook in this reduced amount if the pan has a tight-fitting lid.
  • In the oven, cook as many dishes as possible at one time. Foods with cooking temperatures within 25 degrees can be cooked simultaneously at the same temperature.
  • Preheat the oven only when necessary. Many foods don't require it.
  • Don't peek into the oven. Each time the door is opened, the temperature drops 25 to 50 degrees.
  • With stews, soups, and other foods that need long cooking times, cook in large quantities and freeze in meal-sized portions.
  • Use a pressure cooker. It cuts cooking time to one-third that of conventional methods.

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  • Refrigerators and freezers operate most efficiently when full but not overcrowded.
  • Arrange contents in a way that allows air to circulate.
  • Keep the freezer full by filling plastic milk bottles with water.
  • Make sure refrigerator and freezer doors fit tightly. If they don't, adjust or replace gaskets.
  • Don't open the doors unnecessarily.
  • If you're going away, remove perishable food from the refrigerator and turn the thermostat up a few degrees.
  • Don't put uncovered liquids in the refrigerator. They force the unit to work harder to remove the moisture.
  • Let cooked food cool to room temperature before putting it in the refrigerator.
  • Don't put foil on the refrigerator shelves. It blocks cold airflow and makes the unit work harder to cool food.
  • Don't locate the refrigerator or freezer near the stove, dishwasher or other heat-producing appliances.
  • Don't locate refrigerator in direct sunlight.
  • Set your refrigerator thermostat at 40 degrees and your freezer at 0 degrees.
  • If your refrigerator has an "efficiency" setting, make sure it is on. This will reduce the number of hours the unit needs to run.
  • Defrost frozen foods in the refrigerator.
  • Clean dust from refrigerator coils.
  • Don't store paper bags or anything else behind the refrigerator. They can cut airflow, making the refrigerator work harder.
  • Don't try to cool the house with the refrigerator.

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  • Most of the energy in a washing machine is used to heat the water. Use warm or cold water when possible, and always rinse with cold water.
  • Don't use more detergent than you need. Too many suds may require extra rinsing.
  • Don't overwash. A 10-minute cycle is usually enough for even very soiled clothes.
  • Set the washing machine water level for the size of the load. If the machine doesn't have variable levels, wait until you have a full load.
  • Use the soak cycle. It can save energy and money.
  • Put full loads in the dryer, but don't overload. Overloading makes the machine less efficient and more costly to operate.
  • Use warm or cold settings to dry, especially for permanent press clothes.
  • Always keep the lint filter clean.
  • Don't overdry clothes.
  • The dryer will run most efficiently when drying clothes of the same thickness.
  • Do two or more loads in a row.
  • When possible, use an outdoor clothesline rather than a dryer.

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  • Use the thermostat on your dehumidifier so it will cycle on and off only as needed.
  • Attics should be properly vented to reduce heat build-up from the sun.
  • Dress for the weather, indoors and out. Wearing lightweight, natural-fiber clothing doesn't cost extra; extra air conditioning does.
  • Make conservation a "family affair" by getting everyone involved in energy-saving activities.

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