Top 10 No Cost and Low Cost Tips for Saving Energy and Money

Top 10 No Cost and Low Cost Tips for Saving Energy and Money
Home Energy Management Series
Top Ten Low Cost/No Cost Tips
for Saving Energy and Money
1. Control Your Thermostat. You can save on your heating and
cooling bill by keeping your thermostat at an energy efficient and comfortable
setting during the day and adjusting the temperature a few degrees at night and
when you are not home. During the colder months, try setting the thermostat at
68°F or less during the day and 60°F when you are away or sleeping. For cooling,
set your thermostat as high as comfortable in the summer while still maintaining
comfortable humidity levels. Because of the way heat pumps operate, it is best to
operate a heat pump unit at a constant moderate setting or use a programmable
thermostat specifically designed to work with heat pumps.
Remember, too, that a thermostat is not like a gas pedal on a car. Setting
the temperature significantly higher or lower in order to heat or cool faster does
not work. It will take the same amount of time to reach the temperature you want
if you set the thermostat at your goal temperature and wait for the unit to do its
work. Also, it’s likely that if you take the gas pedal approach you will forget that
you’ve made the dramatic adjustment and end up cooling or heating at a higher
or lower temperature than you truly want.
2. Lower Your Water Temperature. Most water heaters are set
at 140°F. This high setting is only needed if you have a dishwasher without a
booster heater. To save six to 10 percent on your water-heating costs, turn the
temperature down to 120°F (medium setting on a gas heater dial). Most electric
heaters have both an upper and a lower thermostat to adjust.
3. Insulate Your Water Heater. If your water heater is located in
an unheated location, such as a garage or attic, wrapping the tank in a blanket
of glass fiber insulation. This action can help reduce heat loss by as much as 25
to 45 percent, resulting in a cost savings of four to nine percent on your waterheating bill. Water heater insulation kits are available at your local hardware
store or through your utility company. Insulation wraps and blankets are most
appropriate for older water heaters and those located in unheated areas. Some
manufacturers do not recommend an insulation wrap for newer water heaters.
Safety Tip: When adding insulation to your water heater, be sure to follow the
installation directions. It is important not to block exhaust vents and air intakes
on gas models, and thermostat access panels on electric heaters with insulation.
If you have questions, concerns, or doubts about proper installation, contact a
plumber for assistance.
4. Replace Your Showerhead. A standard
showerhead uses up to eight gallons of hot water per
minute. Replacing your showerhead with a quality low-flow
showerhead will allow you to use only one to two gallons of
water per minute. Newer low-flow showerheads are able to
maintain water pressure, while using significantly less water.
Low-flow showerheads typically pay for themselves within a
year. With low-flow showerheads you can save twice—both
on your electric or gas bill and on your water use bill.
5. Wash Clothes in Cold Water. About 90
percent of the energy used by washing machines goes
toward water heating. Often, using hot water is unnecessary
except for special loads such as diapers or stained work
clothes. To save on energy costs, try washing in cold water,
using cold water detergents, and wash full loads whenever
possible. To save even more, on sunny days, use the
clothesline instead of the dryer to dry your laundry.
6. Seal Air Leaks. If you feel warm or cold drafts in
your home, particularly near wall outlets, windows, doors
and fireplaces, then consider air sealing. On windows, use
weatherstrip tape along the gap where the glass meets
the frame. To stop leakage under exterior doors, install an
inexpensive door sweep. If the door leaks around the entire
frame, install foam weatherstripping with adhesive backing
between the door and the frame.
Use caulk or foam to seal around door and window
frames and holes around water pipes and plumbing
fixtures. Use foam gaskets that fit behind the cover plates
to seal air leaks around light switches and electrical outlets.
Remember, every hole you seal means fewer drafts and a
more comfortable, energy efficient home.
If you rarely use your fireplace, make sure the damper
is closed and the opening is sealed. Another option is to
use a chimney balloon. These are inflatable balloon like
items that can be installed to help block air leakage in an
unused fireplace.
Safety Tip: Be sure to post a highly visible reminder to
remove the balloon and open the damper before building a fire.
7. Install Storm Windows. Once you have
sealed air leaks around your windows, you can double
the insulating value by installing storm windows. Adding
another layer of glass or plastic creates a dead air space,
and trapped air is an excellent insulator.
Plastic film window kits are the lowest-cost option
and can be easily installed on the inside of your existing
windows. If installing exterior mounted storm windows,
make certain that the weep hole that is left open so that any
moisture can escape.
8. Regularly Clean or Replace Your
Filter. All forced air furnaces and central air
conditioners have air filters that filter particulates such
as dust and dirt. Filters serve two purposes—to protect
the unit and to help with the air quality in the home. If not
periodically cleaned or replaced, dirty filters can greatly
affect the heating and cooling ability of your unit and waste
valuable energy. Some filters are disposable while others
can washed and reused. It’s important to know what kind of
filter you have and not reuse disposable filters. Check your
filters each month and clean or replace them as needed.
9. Monitor Your Refrigerator. Refrigerators
make up about three to five percent of your home’s
total energy use. To keep out warm room air, keep the
refrigerator door closed as much as possible. Make certain
that door gaskets have a tight fit. To test the fit, close a
dollar bill in the door and try to pull it out. If it falls out or can
be removed easily, you need to remove and replace the
gasket. To help with energy savings, regularly clean dust
out of the coils and defrost the freezer. Keep the refrigerator
at 32–40°F (below 41°F for food safety) and the freezer at
0°F. If you have more than one refrigerator or freezer and
one doesn’t get much use, unplug it and save.
10. Contact Your Utility Company. Your
utility company may have programs to help their customers
save money and energy including time of use rates and
load management credits. With time of use rates, you will
pay a higher price for the electricity you use during peak
hours. Peak hours are those times when electricity is in
high demand. If you can adjust your greatest electrical
use to non-peak hours, you will save money. Some
utility companies offer load management credits that
provide monetary credit on your electric bill. With load
management, the customer allows the utility company to
install a load management switch on their major electrical
appliances such as central air conditioning, electric
water heater or electric heat strips. On those days when
electrical power is in high demand, the utility turns off those
controlled appliances for a few minutes at various intervals
in order to reduce the demand on the electrical system.
Your utility may offer additional incentives to help
them control electrical loads and help you save money.
Investigate the rebates and incentives offered by your utility
company and figure out which are best for you.
Source: Adapted from Top Ten Tips, E3A: Energy Management for the Home,
Montana State University Extension, 2013
Additional source: U.S. Department of Energy (2013). Energy Incentive
Program, North Carolina.
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