Most families could trim their energy bills significantly without sacrificing any quality of life. Using the following easy energy savers could cut as much as 40% from home-energyexpenses.
Use an electric space heater when everyone in the home is gathered in one room. Turn the home’s thermostat down to 55°F or 60°F so that the vacant sections of the house are not heated unnecessarily.
Savings: This could trim your heating bills by 10% to 30% if done regularly. Some families in cold climates, who pay as much as $5,000 per year for heating, could save $500 to $1,500.
Unblock heating registers. Move furniture, rugs and drapes clear of your system’s vents. Impeded airflow can undermine a system’s efficiency.
Savings: Depends on your overall system and how badly airflow was blocked. You might save very little, or you might save hundreds of dollars a year.
Set your water heater to 120°F. Most household water heaters are set between 130°F and 145°F, but 120°F is hot enough for washing dishes and showering.
Savings: It’s been estimated that every 10 degrees of temperature reduction can reduce water-heating costs by 5%, so lowering the water heater temperature by 20 degrees could save the typical family $30 to $50 per year.
Install a modern low-flow showerhead. Most showerheads use about three gallons of hot water per minute. The best low-flow showerheads offer equally enjoyable showers using just 1.5 to two gallons per minute. Quality varies, so read product reviews on shopping Web sites such as Amazon.com. Helpful: A low-flow shower may initially feel less satisfying than a three-gallon-per-minute shower, but give it a week or two. After an initial adjustment period, most people agree that it’s fine.
Savings: Varies greatly, depending on how much time your family spends in the shower — but it has been estimated at as much as $150 a year.
Wrap your water heater in an insulated blanket. Do-it-yourself wrap kits are available at hardware stores for less than $25. The blanket pays for itself in less than a year and offers savings after that. It is worth wrapping any water heater that does not carry a label specifically warning against this.
Savings: Usually around 4% to 9% of total water-heating costs, according to the US Department of Energy. That translates into an annual savings of $12 to $45 for most households.
Replace your refrigerator if it is more than 15 years old. Avoid models with through-the-door ice and water dispensers. They detract from energy efficiency.
Savings: A new refrigerator could save you about $80 per year in electricity costs compared to a similarly-sized refrigerator made in the early 1990s or earlier.
Clean your refrigerator’s coils at least once a year — every six months if there’s a dog or cat that sheds heavily in the house. Dirt, dust and pet hair on refrigerator coils can impede airflow and make heat transfer less efficient, forcing the appliance to work harder. Refrigerator coil brushes are available at home centers and hardware stores.
Savings: The Sacramento Municipal Utility District estimates that coil cleaning can cut a refrigerator’s energy use by 6% — a yearly saving of about $15 on an old fridge and $5 on a modern one.
Set your refrigerator’s temperature to between 30°F and 40°F. Set your freezer temperature to between 0°F and 10°F. Colder temperatures increase your electricity bills without significantly improving food freshness.
Savings: Setting your refrigerator 10 degrees higher and freezer five degrees higher has been estimated to cut the appliance’s electricity consumption by at least 20%. This could save you $50 a year with an old fridge and about $10 with modern one. If you don’t have a temperature dial in your refrigerator, place an ordinary household thermometer inside for 10 to 15 minutes. Read it the moment you open the door.
Replace your dryer’s flexible plastic-vent ducting material with a four-inch rigid (not corrugated) metal duct. This creates less airflow resistance, allowing your dryer to dry more efficiently.
Helpful: It might be necessary to use a small section of flexible ducting material to connect the back of your dryer to this smooth metal duct so that you can move the dryer away from the wall for cleaning or service.
Savings: As much as 20% of drying costs, or $10 to $40 per year for the average household.
Clean lint from your dryer vent at least once a year by disconnecting the vent from the dryer and the wall and reaching in as far as you can to pull out lint. Clean lint from the dryer’s lint trap before every load of laundry. Lint buildup can increase drying time and energy consumption by more than 50%.
Even better: Hang clothes from a clothesline outside, weather permitting.
Savings: Serious lint congestion could cost you more than $50 per year if you do a lot of laundry. Hanging laundry from a line could save you as much as $200 per year.
Use name-brand compact fluorescent bulbs. Compact fluorescents consume one-quarter to one-third as much electricity as incandescents. Stick with brand-name bulbs — store-brand or no-name-brand bulbs might be cheaper but are likely to burn out sooner.
Savings: Your annual savings might be less than $20 if you typically have just one or two bulbs burning — but more than $150 if your house tends to be lit up like a jack-o’-lantern.