There are plenty of ways to save energy that take very little effort and can really save you big. For example, if your energy bill is $100 a month—and you trim your consumption by 20% you can save up to $240 a year. Savings like that can really add up over time!
- When you're at home, keep thermostats set for energy economy
Just a few degrees of change in temperature levels can make a big difference in the amount of energy that is used. In the summer, set your thermostat between 76 and 78 degrees. In the winter, set it between 66 and 68 degrees. Make changes gradually so your body can easily adjust to the change in temperature. Of course, dress appropriately for the season and try using a fan during the summer. The key to comfort in hot weather is to keep the air moving.
When you go to sleep, set thermostats for low energy use
You may spend as much as one-third of your time asleep, so remember to set the air conditioning and heating controls for low energy use when you hit the pillow. During summer, set your thermostat between 78 and 80 degrees at night. In the winter, set it between 55 and 60. Use a fan in the bedroom in the summer and plenty of blankets in the winter. The key is keeping your body warm or cool without warming or cooling your whole bedroom.
When you go out, set your thermostats for low energy use
When nobody's home, adjust the thermostat accordingly. Contrary to popular belief, it does not use more energy to bring your home back to a desired temperature once it has cooled down or heated up.
In the summer, set your thermostat between five and ten degrees higher when you leave the house. In the winter, set it five to ten degrees lower.
If a room is not in use, don't heat or cool it more than necessary
If no one is in the room, and the heater or air conditioner is running, the only thing you're keeping comfortable is the furniture. Close the doors to rooms not in use and keep the windows closed and shades down. Nearly shutting the heating or cooling vents in these rooms can also help you save.
Adjust heating and cooling systems to work more efficiently
You can waste energy dollars by overworking your air conditioning or heating system. Here are some ways to make your systems work more efficiently. If you have a central air system:
- Check The Ducts
Make sure the duct system isn't leaking by checking the ducts that carry air to different areas of your home. Close any leaks at joints. Instead of using duct tape, which has a short life span when used on heating systems, research by Lawrence Berkeley Lab for the California Energy Commission recommends sealing ducts with mastics - gooey sealants that are painted on and allowed to harden. Metal ducts should be held together with sheet metal screws; flexible duct connections should be secured with metal or plastic bands.
Make sure the system is balanced. Balancing the system involves adjusting the volume control dampers (if your system has them) and adjusting the air supply registers in each room.
Try making adjustments so each area of your home gets just the right amount of cool or warm air it needs. The registers farthest away from the central heater/cooler unit should be wide open and those nearer to it should be partially closed. In each room, try to adjust the registers so the air is directed to the most often used part of the room. Use ceiling fans, if you have them, to help achieve an even temperature from floor to ceiling.
Although you can make adjustments yourself, the best way to properly balance an entire system is to call an expert who has special instruments and can make all the adjustment that may be needed.
Caution: Most of the air supply registers on air-conditioning and heating systems should remain at least partially open to avoid damage to your unit.
Clean Or Replace Filters; Clean The Coil
Heating or cooling unit filters may be blocked by dust and dirt screened out of the air, making the unit run longer and use more energy. Some filters can be washed; others need to be replaced every one to two months. On an outdoor heat pump or air conditioning unit, cleaning the coil is also important to ensure efficient operation.
Close Fresh Air Intakes If You Have An Air Conditioner
An air conditioner that is always drawing in and cooling fresh, warm outside air uses more electricity than one that merely re-cools the air already in your home. Especially in the hottest weather, try closing the fresh air intake at least part of the time and see if the air in your home remains fresh enough for your comfort.
Move any furniture, draperies, or other obstructions that may be blocking the flow of heated or cooled air from registers or from individual heating or air-conditioning units.
- Cool your home the natural way
In summer, the more cool air you let in the better—particularly at night. Experiment to see which windows and doors to open for the best airflow. During the day, keep the sun's heat out by adjusting shades, blinds, draperies and awnings.
Let hot air out through vents in your attic, or by opening the upper part of double hung slash windows and, in two-story homes, the upstairs windows.
Cut shrubs or tree foliage that interferes with cooling breezes through windows, but be careful not reduce any of the shade that they might offer.
Remember that electric fans can be a big help. An exhaust fan in a window can push out warm air and pull in cool air. Additionally, a window fan is more economical to run than an air conditioner.
Exhaust fans in the attic will push hot air out one end of the attic and pull cooler air in at the other end; a cooler attic benefits the living area right beneath it. A “whole-house” fan mounted in the attic is even better.
- Let the sun help heat your home in cold weather
Even in the coldest California winters, the sun shines brightly sooner or later. Let it in. Remember to pull up the shades or open the draperies or blinds on the sunny side of your house to let in those warm rays.
Trim or remove evergreens that may block the sun from coming in, but only if they aren't needed even more in summer for shade.
Finally, use sunny rooms more often. Find a sunny room and make yourself comfortable.
- “Button up” your home to retain cool or heated air
In summer, once your house is cool, keep it that way. Close blinds and draperies in the morning to retain the coolness, as well as insulate against the heat of a sunny day.
In winter, for extra insulation, close your curtains and draperies at night and on overcast days when no warm sunlight is shining in.
A NOTE ABOUT FIREPLACES: They're fun and romantic, but not particularly useful when it comes to generating heat for your home as most of it goes up the chimney. As the hot air rises, it acts like a vacuum chute, actually drawing warm air from the room and the rest of your house. Meanwhile, if you have leaks, cracks and gaps in your windows, doors, and walls, chilly outside air finds its way in.
Download our Fireplace Energy Saving Tips for more information on how to avoid heat loss and reduce your energy bill.
- Keep your body comfortably warm or cool
It's easier to keep your body at a comfortable temperature than it is your whole house. Dress for the weather. In summer, loose fitting clothes, open collars, and open-weave materials help. Choose natural fibers rather than synthetics.
Keep air moving, it will help evaporate perspiration from your skin. And, think about the purchase of a dehumidifier, as dry air is better able to accept the moisture that evaporates and cools your skin when you perspire.
In winter dress warm, avoid drafts, and keep the air moist. A humidifier can help. Keep the air in the 40% humidity range.
- Use less hot water in the bathroom, kitchen, and laundry
Take short showers instead of baths and you'll save money. A low-flow showerhead will save even more. Don't run the hot water tap unnecessarily while you wash or shave. And, if you use dishwashers at home, do larger loads. It takes just as much energy to wash a partial load in a dishwasher as it does a full load.
The same can be true for washing clothes. Try to wait for full loads and use cool water with the appropriate detergents to wash your clothes. Finally, try drying your clothes outside on nice days.
- Use your lights, TV, and other appliances more wisely
Turn off the lights and the TV when you're not in the room. It's just common sense, but it's commonly ignored. Download What’s the Most Efficient Way to Watch TV for more tips on how you can save money while enjoying your home entertainment system. Use the right appliance for the job. Use the range-top burner that is the right size for the pot, don't toast bread in a powerful oven broiler when you can use a toaster, and turn down the lights when you're watching TV.
A NOTE ABOUT YOUR REFRIGERATOR: An ice build-up will make a non-frost-free type refrigerator less efficient. Defrost such a refrigerator when necessary. Set temperatures at 38 degrees Fahrenheit to 40 degrees Fahrenheit for the fresh food compartment and 5 degrees Fahrenheit for the freezer compartment (since 32 degrees is the temperature at which water freezes, 5 degrees is plenty cold enough). If you have a separate freezer for long-term storage, however, it should be kept at zero degrees. Invest in a good thermometer to help find the right settings.
- Buy a better light bulb
Choose fluorescent or LED over incandescent every time. They might be more expensive when you purchase them, but they last 10 to 40 times longer and are much cheaper to operate. Make sure electric lighting is not brighter than necessary and don't use many smaller bulbs when fewer, larger bulbs would do. Look for energy-saving bulbs, and try to remember that “long life” bulbs are usually not energy savers and in fact may use more energy than ordinary bulbs.