The average family spends $1,900 a year on energy bills, nearly half of which goes to heating and cooling. With a few steps like seasonal maintenance of energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment, consumers can save on their energy bills and help reduce the risks of global warming and other environmental issues. Follow these easy, energy saving tips and you can cut your energy bills by 10 to 50 percent.
Your individual savings will depend on how energy-efficient your home is now, the type of home you have and the area of the country where you live.
Use Air Conditioning and Fans Wisely
- Open windows and use portable or ceiling fans instead of operating your air conditioner.
- Use a fan with your window air conditioner to spread the cool air through your home.
- Use a programmable thermostat with your air conditioner to adjust the setting warmer at night or when no one is home.
- Don't place lamps or TVs near your air conditioning thermostat. The heat from these appliances will cause the air conditioner to run longer.
- Look for sustainable products with the ENERGY STAR® label. If your air conditioner is old, the new energy efficient models can save you up to 50 percent on your cooling bills.
- Consider installing a whole house fan or evaporative cooler if appropriate for your climate
Low Cost Tips to Save Energy
- Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents.
- Air dry dishes instead of using your dishwasher's drying cycle.
- Use a microwave oven instead of a conventional electric range or oven.
- Turn off your computer and monitor when not in use.
- Plug home electronics, such as TVs and VCRs, into power strips and turn power strips off when equipment is not in use.
- Lower the thermostat on your hot water heater. 115 degrees is comfortable for most uses.
- Take showers instead of baths to reduce hot water use.
- Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes.
- Use cold water to wash your clothes.
Landscape for Energy Efficiency
- Plant trees or shrubs to shade air conditioning units, but do not block the airflow. A unit operating in the shade uses less electricity.
- Grown on trellises, vines such as ivy or grapevines can shade windows or the whole side of a house.
- For outdoor sustainability, avoid landscaping with a lot of unshaded rock, cement or asphalt on the south or west sides - it increases the temperature around the house and radiates heat to the house after the sun has set.
- Trees whose leaves fall off in the winter, planted on the south and west sides, will keep your house cool in the summer and let the sun warm your home in the winter.
- Just three trees properly placed around a house can save between $100 and $250 annually in cooling and heating costs. Daytime air temperatures can be 3 to 6 degrees cooler in tree-shaded neighborhoods.
Flower and Vegetable Gardens
- Mulch flower and vegetable beds with compost or grass clippings to conserve water and control weeds.
- Use fabric row covers to keep pests off sensitive vegetables.
- Identify bugs before you spray, squash or stomp - they may be "good bugs" that eat pests.
Tree and Shrub Beds
- Mulch shrub and tree beds with shredded wood, leaves or bark once a year to conserve water, reduce weeds and feed the soil.
- Mow regularly and leave the clippings on the lawn.
- Keep mower blades sharp to reduce lawn damage and brown tips.
- Consider saving water by letting some lawn areas - ones that don't get heavy traffic - go brown and dormant until fall.
- Water in the early morning to reduce evaporation.
- Water lawns one inch per week, if no rain, or let go brown and dormant, but water enough to moisten root zone once a month.
- Start and recheck watering systems, and adjust for weather. And don't water when it rains.
- Add yard debris to compost pile, and water the pile to keep it moist. Place the pile in shade or cover it to hold moisture.
Shade Your Windows
- Sunny windows can make your air conditioner work two to three times harder.
- Install white window shades, drapes or blinds to reflect heat away from the house.
- Close curtains on south- and west-facing windows during the day.
- Install awnings on south-facing windows. Because of the angle of the sun, trees, a trellis or a fence will best shade west-facing windows.
- Apply sun-control or other reflective films on south-facing windows.
- If you want to replace your windows, consider the new double-pane windows with spectrally selective coatings.
- When buying windows or appliances, look for the Energy Star® label.
- Find and seal air leaks that cause drafts and make your cooling system work overtime. Sealing and insulating your home can prevent the loss of cooled air and help save up to 10 percent on your energy bills each year.
- Caulking and weather-stripping will keep cool air in during the summer.
- Add insulation around air conditioning ducts when they are located in un-air conditioned spaces such as attics, crawl spaces and garages.
- If you see holes or separated joints in your ducts, hire a professional to repair them.
- Check to see that your fireplace damper is tightly closed.
- Invest in insulation. Visit the DOE Zip-Code Insulation Program for R-values specific to your home:
- Schedule annual, pre-season maintenance checkups with a licensed contractor to ensure that your cooling system is operating efficiently and safely. Be sure to clean or change your system's air filter regularly - generally once a month.
The booklet Energy Savers - Tips on Saving Energy & Money at Home is available in English and Spanish, with a wealth of energy- and dollar-saving information for the home.
For more information, please visit www.epa.gov and www.energy.gov.