For every degree your thermostat is set above 68 degrees, you add approximately 3 percent to your heating costs. Reduce the setting of your thermostat at night by 5 degrees and it can save approximately 8 percent on your heating costs. Setting it back 10 degrees will save approximately 11 percent.
Some say that setting your thermostat back during the day doesn’t save money because your heating system has to work twice as hard when you get home to re-warm the home. That is false. In reality, depending on the efficiency of your home, you should be able to set your thermostat back several degrees for eight hours a day, which will reduce the number of times your heating system needs to cycle on during the day – and that saves significant energy. It’s true that turning up your thermostat when you come home will prompt your system to run for a longer period of time to get your home to its optimal temperature – but you’ll still have save more energy (and money) over the eight hours your system worked less intensely while you were gone.
Installing a programmable thermostat to automatically control your heating and cooling can save as much as 30 percent depending on the heating system and how well the house is insulated. In the winter, program the thermostat so that the house is cooler when no one is home during the day and when everyone is in bed at night. When the weather warms up, set the temperature higher during the day.
Test your home for air tightness. On a windy day, hold a lit incense stick next to your windows, doors, electrical boxes, plumbing fixtures, electrical outlets, ceiling fixtures, attic hatches and other locations where a possible air path to the outside exists. If the smoke stream travels horizontally, you have located an air leak that may need caulking, sealing or weather-stripping.
Heat only those rooms you use, and close doors to unused rooms. Zonal electrical heat allows room by room control, which can reduce heating costs up to 25 percent.
Keeping the filter on your furnace (gas or electric) clean makes the furnace run efficiently. Change the filter every month of the heating season (or year-round if the filter is also used for air-conditioning). The filter protects the blower and its motor. Clogged filters make the motor work harder and use more power.
Installing a water heater blanket around your tank can save up to $20 per year on water heating costs – or more if the tank is in an unheated area.
Some 75 percent of the electrical use by home electronics occurs when they’re turned off. These phantom loads or energy vampires such electricity all day costing consumers an extra $100 each year, according to the US Department of Energy. The solution? Unplug your electronics, or plug them into a power strip and then turn off the strip. New computers and televisions have memory chips that reset when powered back up. To avoid frustration, do keep old devices that flash when the power goes out plugged in.
Replace regular incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). They use only one-third of the energy needed by an incandescent, and last for five years. Swapping out the five most used bulbs in a house with CFLs could cut $60 worth of electricity every year.
LPEA’s Time-of-Use program offers members the option to pay lower rates when using electricity in off-peak hours. See if you can adjust your lifestyle to switch your heavy electrical usage to off-peak hours and save money.
Organize a central “charging station” or single multi-socket power strip with an on-off switch for all your phone, PDA battery rechargers, etc. When charging equipment, turn the power strip on. When not, switch the power strip off to avoid the phantom loads when rechargers are kept plugged into a wall socket.
Experts estimate that tiny leaks around doors and windows let as much heat escape from the house as an open window – so seal up those leaks and save money and energy. Because caulk often contains toxic substances that make it more durable or ward off mold, look for low-VOC caulk that lasts at least 10 years and cleans up easily with water or a mild solvent. The standard 100 percent silicone caulk found in local hardware stores is a good option and does meet some of the LEED green building requirements.
During the winter, heed how you’re using your ventilation fans. While it’s important to remove excess humidity from the bathrooms and kitchen, the fans also remove heated air. In fact, one can suck all of the heated air from a house in about an hour.
Landscaping is a natural and beautiful way to keep your home cool in summer and reduce your energy bills. In addition to adding aesthetic value and environmental quality to your home, a well-placed tree, shrub or vine can deliver effective shade, act as a windbreak and reduce your overall energy bills. Carefully positioned trees can save up to 25 percent of the energy a typical household uses for cooling. Studies conducted by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found summer daytime air temperatures to be 3 to 6 degrees cooler in tree-shaded neighborhoods than in treeless areas.
The best way to keep your air conditioner running at peak efficiency (not consuming excess energy just trying to work) is to spend a couple of hours each year on basic maintenance such as cleaning and straightening the fins, changing the filter and lubricating the motor.
Just as dieters gorge on low-calorie and low-fat cookies in the erroneous belief that the calories “don’t count,” some folks who purchase energy-efficient appliances, lighting or electronics may sabotage their efforts by using them more. Simple solution, don’t increase your usage.
With the turbulent economy, are you staying home more? Instead of being away at work a good portion of the day, some people are doing more telecommuting. Others are staying home rather than going out to eat. Being at home for more hours each day can increase your energy bills. Pay attention to your home energy consumption habits to reduce costs.
Keep your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is going. Keeping the damper open is like keeping a window wide open during the winter, allowing warm air to go right up the chimney. But dampers aren’t designed to be air tight – to prevent further heat loss, fill a trash bag with insulation and stuff it up the chimney to form a plug. Attach a note as a reminder to remove it before starting a fire.
In older homes, foam gaskets placed behind electrical outlet and switch plates can insulate against wire holes drilled to the basement or attic. One gasket doesn’t sound like it will do a lot of good, but install them through the whole house and it adds up.
In the attic and crawlspaces, check those duct connections, especially in older homes. A tremendous amount of energy leakage happens under the house. Metal tape and duct mastic are quick, inexpensive fixes to leaking connections.
Glue four layers or so of insulated sheeting board to attic access hatches. A gasket around the hatch will ensure it’s airtight. An uninsulated attic hatch acts like a chimney. Heated air travels right up to the attic.
Add weather stripping to all exterior doors. Weather stripping is available at any hardware store or home center and is an easy way to prevent air leaks.
Choose the right kind of exterior doors, including the garage door. Look for insulated fiberglass models. They look like wood, but they are five times more energy efficient than wood.
If you’ve installed heat tape along your roof’s edge to melt snow and ice, put the tape on a timer. Limiting use of, for example, 100-ft of heat tape to 10 hours per night would cost 62 cents per day, as opposed to approximately $1.49 a day if the tape was left on for 24 hours.
Windows provide light, ventilation and solar heating in the winter. Unfortunately, they also account for 10 to 25 percent of your heating bill. High performance Energy star-labeled windows can cut your heating and cooling costs by as much as 30 percent.
Inefficient windows can add 10-25 percent to heating bills and up to 75 percent to summer air conditioning bills. Different types of window coverings have different characteristics. For example, window draperies can reduce heat loss from a warm room up to 10 percent. Window coverings with a honeycomb or cellular construction can block up to 62 percent of the heat transfer through the window pane. Close the blinds at night, but open them during the day to let in the winter sun.