Save Money: Energy

Electric plugPart of the save money series. The long list of ways to save money on energy around the house.

Home Energy Savings

Cooling

Change or clean your furnace filter once a month. Dirty filters cause the furnace to work harder than it needs to. Buy a lifetime furnace filter and save even more money. Also, you do not have to throw out old filters and they filter up to 94% of the airborne pollutants. The cheap filters only trap about 10% of pollutants.

When away on vacation set the air conditioner on 80 degrees or the furnace on 55 degrees. Turn down the hot water heater to as low as it goes.

Kitchen

The refrigerator should be 38 degrees and the freezer at 0 degrees. Don't guess - use a thermometer.

Use a thermos instead of keeping the coffeemaker on. An average coffeemaker is 1000 watts and is on 2 hours after the coffee is made.

Laundry

Wash a full load of clothes.

Clean the dryer's lint filter after each use.

Dry clothes outdoors. When weather permits, dry clothes outdoors. In inclement weather, dry clothes on a hanger hung around the house.

Wash your clothes in cold water.

Drain your  hot water heater. Every year drain a few gallons from your hot water heater, especially if you do not use a water softener. Scale and impurities collect at the bottom of the water heater making it less efficient. If you have been on vacation, drain a few gallons. You'll be surprised at how much gunk will come out.

Heating

If you have a pier and beam crawlspace, block the vents during the winter. This prevents cold air from blowing under the house.

Wear a hat around the house in the winter. A large amount of body heat is lost through the head so wearing a hat makes sense, even indoors.

New windows for an old house. Replace old windows with low-E windows. Many older houses still have single pane windows. Replacing them with double or triple pane, low-E windows could save a significant amount.

Insulate your attic. Adequate attic ceiling insulation is the mainstay of a cheap-to-heat house. Most homes built prior to 1990 have inadequate attic ceiling insulation. Take a ruler up to your attic, and if the insulation measures 6 inches thick or less, you are under-insulated. Insulating to at least 12 inches thick could lower your heating and cooling costs a whopping 25% in a single year. It might be a bit costly but can be offset as of 2006 by the new federal tax credit of up to $500 for making your home more energy efficient. Find out more at energy.gov.

Close the fireplace damper when you are  not using it. Make sure the fire is out before shutting it.

Open curtains, shut curtains. Open curtains to let in sun during the day and shut them at night to trap in heat during the night.

Unblock registers. Make sure registers, radiators, air returns, and heated baseboards are clear from clutter and curtains hanging on them. Vacuum radiators and baseboards often.

Put on a sweater. For every one degree you lower the temperature, you'll cut about 1% off your heating bill.

General

Dust off light bulbs so the provide better light.

Check ductwork for leaks. Seal as needed.

Do a home energy audit. Get a free check of your home for energy leaks if your utility company offers one or do it yourself using the guide at energystar.gov.

Lower the temperature on your hot water heater. Lowering the temperature to 120 degrees will not affect anything but the dishwasher. If you have a dishwasher, wash at hi-temp setting - the dishwasher heats up the water instead of the water heater. 105 degrees is very hot on your skin.

Insulate the hot water pipes in your house. The water from your hot water heater can drop 5 degrees or more by the time it gets to the faucet.

Weatherstrip your doors. To stay toasty this winter, stop the leaks that let warm air out and cold air in. A handyman will charge $70/hour to install the weather stripping and door sweep needed to help seal a door against the elements. But you can buy the supplies for $15 at your local hardware store and attach them yourself.

Automate heating and cooling. Set a programmable thermostat ($50) to automatically lower the heat after bedtime and warm up the house before the alarm clock rings.

Switch to fluorescent. A compact fluorescent bulb uses 75% less energy and lasts 10 times as long as an incandescent one. You'll make back its higher cost ($3.50 vs. 50ยข) in six months. It also does not heat up the surrounding area. Some stores offer energy savings bulbs in bulk which lower the cost more. Note they take a minute or two to reach full brightness.

Switch to LED lighting. Saves even more money than fluorescent. LED lighting is best used for decorative lighting and not reading. An LED light can last up to 50 times longer than an incandescent one. Currently (2010), LED lights are pretty expensive but getting cheaper. Typical LED light lasts 12,000 hours of use.

Buy energy efficient appliances. Note there may be incentives such as rebates from your utility company, Federal government, or state government to do so.

Most states have financial incentives for energy-saving projects in your house.  Check the database for state incentives for renewable energy.

Turn off off electronic equipment. Turning off most electronic equipment, such as TVs, faxes, computers, and printers only turns off the item partly. They stay in idle or recharge state. To truly turn them off you must shut off the power to them using a power strip or by unplugging. TVs are notorious for consuming standby energy so the picture comes instantly on.

Replace your hot water heater with a tankless one. Hot water is heated only when dispensed. A tankless hot water heater is about the size of a suitcase.

Use fans. In the summer, have ceiling fans blow down. In the winter, reverse them (most have a switch to do this) to blow up toward the ceiling. This spreads the accumulated warm air around since warm air rises and hugs the ceiling. And you can lower your thermostat a degree or two. A tip given to me by a furnace repairman: on hot days, put the furnace fan on continuous. This dispenses the air better.

See if electricity is cheaper off-hours. Many utility companies charge less for electricity in the off-peak hours.

Check for alternate energy suppliers. Residents in states where energy has been deregulated can often find alternate sources of energy resulting in savings up to 15%.

Use a humidifier in the winter. It will make the room feel warmer and help eliminate static electricity.

Use an electric blanket at night during the winter. You can turn down the thermostat several degrees at night and still keep warm and cozy.

Pellet stoves may be cheaper than oil or gas heating.

Check into insulated siding. Many houses use vinyl siding on them. Consider replacing it with an insulated version. Conventional vinyl siding has an R value (insulation value) of about 0.6 whereas insulated siding has R values up to 5.

Use an insulated cover on heated swimming pool and hot tub at night.

Install insulated shutters and shades on inside or outside of existing windows to reduce loss or gain of heat.

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