Heating and Cooling
- Set thermostats at 65 to 70° during the winter and at 58° when away from home. Keep the thermostat higher if an infant, ill, or elderly person lives in your home.
- Install programmable thermostats to turn down temperature automatically.
- Have your heating and cooling systems inspected annually by a professional. Inefficient heating and cooling systems can increase fuel consumption.
- Hire a qualified specialist to inspect your chimney, flues and vents to ensure they are clear and working properly.
- Check for and eliminate leaks in duct work. Leaks can usually be repaired easily and inexpensively with duct tape available at most hardware stores.
- Insulate ducts and pipes that run through unheated areas.
- Replace or clean furnace and air conditioner filters when they get dirty or once every month.
- Warm air rises, so use registers to direct warm air flow across the floor.
- Consider using window fans.
- If you buy an air conditioner, check energy efficiency ratios (EER) of models on the market. The higher the EER rating, the more efficient the unit and the less it costs to run.
- Be sure your outside air conditioning condenser is shaded from the sun. If it’s not installed in a shady area, create shade with a tree or fence. Avoid using bushes that may block the flow of air around the cooling unit.
By combining proper equipment maintenance and upgrades with appropriate insulation, air sealing, and thermostat settings, you can cut your energy use for heating and cooling, and reduce environmental emissions, from 20% to 50%
- Set your thermostat at 65° during the day to reduce your heating use by as much as 15%.
- Lower your thermostat at night either manually or automatically with a setback thermostat.
- Weather-strip windows near your thermostat and keep them tightly closed. A cold draft across the thermostat will turn your heating system on unnecessarily.
- Keep heating supply and return registers and radiators clean and unobstructed by furniture and draperies.
- Close all heat registers in unused rooms. (CAUTION: To protect pipes in these rooms, make sure the temperature stays above freezing.)
- Close the fireplace damper when not in use.
- To keep air from leaking under a door, roll up a small rug and place it across the bottom of the doorway.
- Open draperies on south-facing windows during the day to let in free heat from the sun and close them at night or on cloudy days to keep the heat in.
- Set your air conditioning thermostat at 78° or higher during the cooling season. Each degree above 75° saves you 3% of the energy used to cool your home.
- When using air conditioning, only cool the rooms you need. Close doors to other rooms.
- Turn your air conditioner off when you leave home.
- Help keep your home and yourself cool by using natural ventilation and wearing light clothing.
- Close your draperies and shades on hot, sunny days to reduce solar heat build-up.
- Close windows and doors during the hottest parts of the day.
- Turn off unused lights, stereos, televisions, computers, etc.
- During the day, use as few lights as necessary. Let daylight do the work.
- Keep light bulbs and shades dust-free. Dust absorbs light.
- Paint walls and ceilings light colors which reflect rather than absorb light, reducing the need for extra lighting.
- Use three-way bulbs where possible and choose the wattage or amount of light for your needs.
- Use a concentrated light for tasks like reading, sewing or cooking.
- Consider replacing incandescent bulbs with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) or compact fluorescent lights (CFLs).
- Use LEDs or CFLs rather than incandescent fixtures and bulbs where possible. CFLs and LEDs are three to four times more energy efficient.
- With incandescent lighting, use one high-wattage bulb rather than several low-wattage bulbs. Replace on-off switches with solid-state dimmer switches to better control lighting and efficiency.
Kitchen, Bath and Laundry
- Locate your refrigerator in a cool spot with good air circulation and away from heat sources like direct sunlight, your kitchen range and heat vents.
- Open and close the refrigerator door quickly and infrequently.
- Carefully select a refrigerator/freezer with energy-saving features. Units with the ENERGY STAR® label are among the most efficient. Be aware that manual-defrost freezers use up to 30% less energy than units that defrost automatically.
- If you have a manual-defrost freezer, be sure to defrost regularly. You should not allow a build-up of more than 1/4" of ice. Check your owner’s manual for specific instructions.
- Avoid putting hot foods in the refrigerator.
- Clean your refrigerator’s condenser coils regularly.
- Use your refrigerator optimally. A full but not tightly-packed refrigerator is most efficient.
- Inspect the seals on your refrigerator, freezer and oven doors to ensure that they fit tightly. Simply place a lighted flashlight inside the appliance. If you see light around the gasket after the door is closed, replace the gasket.
- When cooking small meals, use only small electric appliances.
- When necessary, pre-heat your oven for no more than 10 minutes.
- Carefully plan your use of the oven. When possible, avoid using range burners that are less efficient than a closed oven. A complete meal can be cooked in the oven as economically as one food item.
- Resist peeking into the oven. Every time you open the door, you lose heat.
- Check all range burners. If the flame on your natural gas stove burns with a yellow rather than a clear blue flame, improper combustion is occurring. Something may be clogging the burner outlets or burner air inlets. Turn off the natural gas, remove the burner and clean these areas with a wire pipe cleaner and vacuum cleaner. If this doesn’t improve the color of the flame, call a service person.
- Use flat-bottomed pans with covers and match the size of the pots and pans to the size of your burners. Also, minimize the amount of water in pans and use the lowest heat setting needed.
Other Kitchen Appliances
- Use the dishwasher only when full. In addition, let clean dishes air dry.
- Install a flow restrictor in the kitchen sink faucet to reduce the use of hot water.
- Use cold water rather than hot when operating your food disposer.
- Take showers rather than baths. A typical shower requires only half as much hot water as an average bath.
- Use your bath and kitchen exhaust fans sparingly. In just one hour they can remove a houseful of warmed or cooled air.
- Repair all leaky faucets. One drop per second can waste as much as 10 gallons of water in a week. If the water is hot, you lose not only the water but also the energy used to heat the water.
- Install water flow restrictors on your shower heads and faucets to reduce your water use.
- Wash clothes in hot water only when necessary. Always use cold water for rinsing.
- Operate washers and dryers with full loads to make best use of warm water or warm air. See the manufacturer’s literature to determine the maximum load.
- Clean the lint screen on your dryer after each use to keep it running efficiently. Also check the dryer exhaust periodically to be sure it is not blocked.
- Don’t overdry clothes in the dryer.
- Hang your laundry outdoors to dry. The fewer times you use your clothes dryer, the less energy you’ll use.
- Turn your iron off a few minutes before you’re finished ironing. Residual heat will finish the job.
In most households, the refrigerator is the single biggest energy consuming kitchen appliance. Replacing a refrigerator bought in 1990 with a new ENERGY STAR® qualified model would save enough energy to light the average household for nearly four months.
- Periodically remove sediment that builds up in the bottom of your water heater. Draining water until it appears clear removes sediment and improves your water heater’s efficiency. (Follow manufacturer’s instructions.)
- Set the temperature on low (120°) and use warm instead of hot water for washing clothes and dishes. However, a temperature lower than 120° may result in increased detergent use. (Note: Dishwashers without booster heaters may require a water temperature of 140°. (Check manufacturer’s instructions.)
- Insulate your electric water heater. If it feels warm to the touch, you may not have enough insulation. You can wrap the sides with an insulation blanket to reduce heat loss. This insulation could reduce energy use by 5% to 8%.
- Ensure maximum efficiency of your oil-fired water heater. Have a qualified service person inspect the flame, damper, and stack temperature.
- If you’ll be away from home for a period of time, turn off your water heater. For an electric water heater, turn off the circuit breaker or remove the fuse. If you have a natural gas water heater, turn the setting to “pilot.”
There are four ways to cut your water heating bills: use less hot water, turn down the thermostat on your water heater, insulate your water heater, or buy a new, more efficient water heater.
- Small cracks cause big heat losses. Caulk around the frames of all your windows and exterior doors.
- Replace or repair dried and cracked window putty. Also replace, patch or tape cracked or broken panes of glass to reduce air leakage and drafts.
- If you have single-pane windows, install storm windows on every window in your home and storm doors on all exterior doors.
- Locate your trees, shrubs and fences to provide maximum shade, wind and sun protection. Trained nursery personnel can help you design a landscape plan with energy efficiency in mind.
In houses with forced-air heating and cooling systems, ducts are used to distribute conditioned air throughout the house. In a typical house, however, about 20 percent of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks and poorly sealed connections. The result is higher utility bills.
The Attic and Basement
- Insulate your attic. Homes heated by natural gas and oil should have at least six inches (R-19) and for homes heated by electricity, you should have at least 12 inches (R-36).
- Insulate and weatherstrip your attic door.
- Install a vapor barrier in your attic to reduce the flow of moisture from inside your home through the insulation. This reduces condensation that can lower insulation efficiency. When installing vapor barriers, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Vent your attic appropriately. When adding insulation, you may have to add ventilation as well. As a general rule, you need one square foot of free ventilating area for each 150 square feet of attic floor area. Keep attic vents clear of debris such as insulation, tree limbs, bird nests, etc.
- Caulk or seal all cracks in masonry walls.
- Insulate basement walls, especially those portions above the ground, and the rim joist where the basement ceiling joists meet the foundation wall.
- Insulate between floor joists over unheated areas.
- Insulate crawl spaces under heated areas.
- In your workshop, use hand tools whenever possible. Maintain power tools in top operating condition.
One of the most cost-effective ways to make your home more comfortable year-round is to add insulation to your attic.