Fast + Free Energy Efficiency Tips


Guide to Energy Efficient Living

Cutting your energy consumption is key, not only to saving money on your monthly power and electricty bill, but making the most of your solar and alternative energy power system.

For instance, unless you live in an amazingly temperate climate, the heating and air conditioning system in your home uses more energy and drains more energy dollars than any other system in your home. Typically, 44 percent of your utility bill goes for heating and cooling.

Like many other appliances, heating and air systems have improved in energy efficiency in the last decade. As a result, you can save money and increase your comfort by properly maintaining and upgrading your equipment.

The following is a quick and useful guide to simple, low-cost and even FREE things you can do around your home to save money. Try them out and you'll soon be on your way to energy efficient living.

Fast and Free Energy Efficiency Tips

Cutting back on unnecessary energy use is an easy way to keep your hard earned money in your pocket. Here are some suggestions you can do at home, at absolutely no cost to you.

  • Let the sunshine in. Open drapes and let the sun heat your home for free (get them closed again at sundown so they help insulate).
  • Rearrange your rooms. Move your furniture around so you are sitting near interior walls - exterior walls and older windows are likely to be drafty - don't sit in the draft.
  • Keep it shut. Traditional fireplaces are an energy loser - it's best not to use them because they pull heated air out of the house and up the chimney. When not in use, make absolutely sure the damper is closed. Before closing the damper, make sure that you don't have any smoldering embers. If you decide not to use a fireplace, then block off the chimney with a piece of rigid insulation from the hardware store that fits snugly into the space (dampers don't shut fully without some leaking).
  • Eliminate wasted energy. Turn off lights in unoccupied rooms. Unplug that spare refrigerator in the garage if you don't truly need it - this seemingly convenient way to keep extra drinks cold adds 10-25 percent to your electric bill. Turn off kitchen and bath-ventilating fans after they've done their job - these fans can blow out a house-full of heated air if inadvertently left on. Keep your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is burning to prevent up to 8 percent of your furnace-heated air from going up the chimney.
  • Shorten showers. Simply reducing that lingering time by a few minutes can save hundreds of gallons of hot water per month for a family of four. Showers account for 2/3 of your water heating costs. Cutting your showers in half will reduce your water heating costs by 33 percent.
  • Use appliances efficiently. Do only full loads when using your dishwasher and clothes washer. Use the cold water setting on your clothes washer when you can. Using cold water reduces your washer's energy use by 75 percent. Be sure to clean your clothes dryer's lint trap after each use. Use the moisture-sensing automatic drying setting on your dryer if you have one.
  • Put your computer and monitor to sleep. Most computers come with the power management features turned off. On computers using Windows, open your power management software and set it so your computer goes to sleep if you're away from your machine for 5 to 15 minutes. Those who use Macintosh computers look for the setting in your Control Panels called "Energy Saver" and set it accordingly. When you're done using your computer, turn it off (see next tip). Do not leave it in sleep mode overnight as it is still drawing a small amount of power.
  • Plug "leaking energy" in electronics. Many new TVs, VCRs, chargers, computer peripherals and other electronics use electricity even when they are switched "off." Although these "standby losses" are only a few watts each, they add up to over 50 watts in a typical home that is consumed all the time. If possible, unplug electronic devices and chargers that have a block-shaped transformer on the plug when they are not in use. For computer scanners, printers and other devices that are plugged into a power strip, simply switch off the power strip after shutting down your computer. The best way to minimize these losses of electricity is to purchase ENERGY STAR® products.

Inexpensive Energy Solutions

Every home is different. With a quick trip to your local hardware store, you have even more choices at hand.


  • Choose ENERGY STAR® Products. Replace incandescent light bulbs with ENERGY STAR® compact fluorescent light bulbs, especially in high use light fixtures. Compact fluorescent lights use 75 percent less energy than incandescent lights.
  • Plug your home's leaks. Install weather-stripping or caulk leaky doors and windows and install gaskets behind outlet covers. Savings up to 10 percent on energy costs.
  • Install low flow shower heads. If you do not already have them, low flow shower heads and faucets can drastically cut your hot water expenses. Savings of 10-16 percent of water heating costs.
  • Wrap the hot water tank with jacket insulation. This is especially valuable for older water heaters with little internal insulation. Be sure to leave the air intake vent uncovered when insulating a gas water heater. Savings up to 10 percent on water heating costs.

Heating Tips

A central Heating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system is the most quiet and convenient way to cool an entire home. But unless you live in an amazingly temperate climate, the HVAC system in your home uses more energy and drains more energy dollars than any other system in your home.

Typically, 44% of your utility bill goes for heating and cooling.

Here are some ways to help you save money on your winter heat bill.

  • Set your thermostat as low as you can and still remain comfortable - 68 degrees or below is recommended.
  • Set the temperature lower at night, while you're sleeping, and during the day if you're gone. Use a programmable thermostat to automatically lower and raise the temperature according to your settings.
  • Clean or replace filters on furnaces once a month.
  • Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters and radiators as needed; make sure they're not blocked by furniture, carpeting or drapes.
  • Use kitchen, bath and other ventilating fans wisely; in just one hour, these fans can pull out a houseful of warmed or cooled air. Turn fans off as soon as they have done the job.
  • Keep draperies and shades open on south-facing windows during the heating season to allow sunlight to enter your home; close them at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.
  • Close an unoccupied room that is unused and isolated from the rest of the house - such as in a corner - and turn down the thermostat or turn off the heating for that room or zone if possible. Do not, however, turn the heating off if it adversely affects the rest of your system.
  • Unless your heater has a pilotless ignition system, turn your furnace pilot light off during the non-heating system.


Heat Pump Tips

  • Do not set back the heat pump's thermostat manually if it causes the electric resistance heating to come on. This type of heating, which is often used as a backup to the heat pump, is more expensive.
  • Clean or change filters once a month or as needed and maintain the system according to manufacturer's instructions.

    Cooling Tips

    A central Heating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system is the most quiet and convenient way to cool an entire home. But unless you live in an amazingly temperate climate, the HVAC system in your home uses more energy and drains more energy dollars than any other system in your home.

    Typically, 44% of your utility bill goes for heating and cooling.

    Here are some ways to help you save money on your summer cooling bill.

    • Whole house fans help cool your home by pulling cool air through the house and exhausting warm air through the attic. They are effective when operated at night and when the outside air temperature is cooler than the inside. Much less expensive to run than air conditioning, they can quickly cool down your home and can be turned off.
    • Set your thermostat as high as comfortably possible in the summer. The less difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill will be. Setting your thermostat at 78 degrees or higher can save you between 10 percent and 20 percent on your cooling costs.
    • Set the temperature higher in the summer if you're gone from the house. - preferably, 85 degrees or higher. Use a programmable thermostat to automatically raise and lower the temperature according to your needs.
    • Don't set your thermostat at a colder temperature setting than normal when you turn on your air conditioner. It will not cool your home any faster and could result in excessive cooling and therefor unnecessary expense.
    • Set the fan speed on high except in very humid weather. When it's humid set the fan speed on low. You'll get better cooling.
    • Consider ceiling fans to spread the cooled air more effectively through your home without greatly increasing your power use.
    • Don't place lamps or TV sets near your air conditioning thermostat. The heat they give off will make the thermostat read incorrectly.
    • Plant trees or shrubs to shade air-conditioning units - but not to block the airflow. A unit operating in the shade uses as much as 10 percent less electricity than the same one operating in the sun.

    Good Energy-saving Investments

    Do you need new appliances, or are you planning to do some remodeling? Consider these energy efficiency suggestions before you purchase.


    • Choose ENERGY STAR® appliances and electronics. When buying new appliances, choose ENERGY STAR®-certified models. For example, a new ENERGY STAR®-refrigerator uses about 20 percent less energy than a standard new refrigerators, and 46 percent less than one made in 1980. A new Energy Star® clothes washer uses nearly 50 percent less energy than a standard washer.
    • Install a programmable thermostat. If you have a heat pump, select a model designed for heat pumps. Setback thermostats can save up to 15 percent on energy costs.
    • Increase ceiling insulation. If your ceiling is uninsulated or scantily insulated, consider increasing your insulation to up to R-38 to reduce heating costs by 5-25 percent.
    • Seal ducts. Leaking duct work accounts for more than 25 percent of heating costs in an average California home. Consider hiring a contractor to test the tightness of your ducts and repair leaks and restrictions in your duct.
    • High efficiency windows. If you are planning to replace your windows, choosing Energy Star® windows can reduce your heating and cooling costs by up to 15 percent.