Energy efficient improvements can yield long-term cost savings and increase the value of your home. In this four-part series, we’ll explore ways to save on heating and cooling, appliances, insulation and weatherization, and lighting. You’ll be surprised how simple it is to reduce your home's energy use by making small changes to your daily routines. Let’s start with heating and cooling.
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that heating and cooling accounts for 56 percent of residential energy usage. It stands to reason, then, that regulating the thermostats in your home can have a major impact on your monthly energy bill. Three to five percent more energy is used for each degree your furnace thermostat is set above 68 degrees, and the same applies to each degree the air conditioner is set below 78 degrees. Read on for more ways to save.
- Programmable thermostats will help you control your heating and air-conditioning more effectively. These units, available in hardware stores, are easy to install and will automatically adjust the temperature according to the schedule you program. Set your thermostats as high (or low, depending on the season) as you can to reduce your energy consumption without sacrificing comfort.
- Clean or replace furnace and air conditioner filters regularly, following the manufacturer's instructions. This will not only improve the efficiency of the unit, but will also prolong its lifespan.
- If your old air conditioner is in need of replacement, look for an Energy Star®-rated model. Learn more about how to properly size a room air conditioner.
- Close and lock windows when heating or cooling your home. Install shades, awnings or sun screens on windows facing south and/or west to block summer light. In winter, open shades on sunny days to help warm rooms.
- Ceiling or portable fans and open windows can cool down your home for less than a traditional air conditioner.
- If you have a fireplace, close the damper when it’s not in use. Try not to use the fireplace and central heating system at the same time. Glass fireplace doors can help as well.
- Kitchen hood fans and bathroom exhaust fans should be used when cooking or showering; they help remove excess moisture from your home.
- Put an insulating blanket around your water heater. Some newer models should not be wrapped, so be sure to check your owner’s manual first.
- If you don’t have a dishwasher, set your water heater thermostat to 120 degrees or "low."
- Install energy-saver showerheads. These showerheads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more, and you’ll save on the energy required to heat the water.
- If you have a dishwasher, set your water thermostat to 140 degrees or “normal.” Some units can use 120-degree water – check your user manual.
- Repair plumbing leaks promptly. A single dripping faucet can waste 212 gallons of water a month, and also increases the gas or electric bill for heating the water.
A single dripping faucet can waste 212 gallons of water per month.
- A smart thermostat can save up to 12 percent on your energy bill, and Wi-Fi enabled models tied into your wireless network can be adjusted on the fly.
- Consider upgrading your window air-conditioning unit to a high-efficiency ductless mini split.
- Run ceiling fans in reverse (clockwise) to bring warm air down from the ceiling in the winter.