Tips for Residents

Start Saving with Simple Steps

It’s easy to reduce your energy use and save money, starting with no-cost and low-cost changes. Getting started is as simple as adopting a few new habits and making time for quick and easy projects around the house. Then move on to bigger changes that give you deeper, long-lasting savings. Involve your family and together you’ll be making smart energy choices that improve your home and contribute to a clean energy future.

Lighting

  • Turn off lights when you leave a room or when they're not needed.
  • Use a timer to turn house lights off and on automatically.
  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with ENERGY STAR® qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). CFLs last longer and use as little as one-quarter of the energy of regular light bulbs.
  • Put lamps in the corners of rooms so that light reflects off two walls. Use light colors on walls, ceilings and floors to reflect more light.
  • Use task lighting over desks, tables and workbenches rather than lighting the whole area.
  • Take advantage of natural light whenever possible. Keep windows clean and unobstructed.
  • Select low wattage, ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs for general lighting. If you do use incandescent lighting, avoid “long life” bulbs, which are the least efficient of all incandescent bulbs. Use one higher wattage bulb instead of several lower wattage bulbs. However, do not exceed the manufacturer’s recommended wattage for a fixture.
  • Clean bulbs and fixtures regularly for brighter illumination.
  • When turning off dimmer switches, make sure the fixture is switched off. In certain instances, the light can appear to be off, but it is still consuming electricity.
  • Some compact fluorescent bulbs can be used with dimmer switches. Check the package to make sure they can be used with dimmers. Where possible, consider using dimmable compact fluorescent bulbs.
  • Use compact fluorescent bulbs in outdoor fixtures. Many bulbs will produce light down to an outdoor temperature of 0ºF. Check to see if they are compatible with sensor controls or timers.
  • For holiday lighting, consider using Light Emitting Diode (LED) solutions. Not only will LED lights reduce electric use by more than 90 percent, they can last up to 50,000 hours.
  • Install dimmers and motion sensors where possible. Dimmer switches can increase bulb life up to 20 times longer if dimmed to half the brightness. Motion sensors give you light when you need it.
  • Daylight sensors detect the presence of sunlight, turning off lighting when outdoor light is present. These sensors are primarily used for exterior lighting or for interior spaces that have abundant natural light. They help ensure that exterior lighting is not accidentally left on during the day when lighting is not needed. Daylight sensors should be located in non-shaded areas and placed facing south.
  • Timers turn lighting on and off according to a preset time schedule. Timers are primarily used for exterior lighting, turning lights on at night then off in the morning. They also can be used for security lighting to turn interior lights on and off when you're on vacation. This is more energy efficient than leaving lights on continuously while you're gone.
  • Dimmers allow you to adjust the amount of light your lighting fixtures put out. Dimmers not only save energy but allow you to change lighting levels and adjust a room's ambiance. Not all light fixtures are compatible with dimmer switches, so check before you purchase.

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Appliances

  • If you’re thinking about buying a new appliance, consider the full cost of ownership over the life of the appliance.
  • When buying an appliance, check estimated annual costs. You can find an estimate of the annual energy cost on the yellow Energy Guide label on the appliance. The label will also show you how this appliance rates in terms of energy use compared to similar models.
  • Look for ENERGY STAR on appliance labels. Consider choosing an ENERGY STAR-labeled appliance. The ENERGY STAR rating means an appliance meets strict energy-efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. Remember to purchase the right size appliance for your needs. Buying something bigger and more powerful than you need means you may end up paying for unneeded energy.

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Appliances - Washer & Dryer

  • If you need to replace your washer, choose an ENERGY STAR model with front-load or horizontal axis features. They use less electricity and water than other models.  There is a ENERGY STAR model of this type for every household budget.
  • Wash clothes in cold or warm water rather than hot, and rinse in cold water. The temperature of the rinse water has no effect on cleaning.
  • Always fill the washer and dryer to capacity whenever possible. If you must wash smaller loads of laundry, use the proper water level for each individual load.
  • Follow detergent instructions carefully.   Overusing actually reduces effective washing action and may require more energy in the form of extra rinse cycles.
  • Fold your laundry immediately after drying to reduce the need to iron.
  • Dry your clothes on an outside line whenever possible.
  • Dry all your lightweight clothes together to shorten your drying cycle.
  • Dry two or more loads in a row to take advantage of the heat from your dryer.
  • Keep the outside vent of your clothes dryer clean. A clogged vent lengthens the drying time and increases the amount of energy used.
  • Clean your dryer filter and exhaust vent regularly. When they become clogged with lint, your dryer works harder and uses more energy. Cleaning these will also help to prevent dryer fires.

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Appliances - Dishwasher

  • If you are buying a dishwasher, look for ENERGY STAR qualified models with features like air power drying and overnight drying settings.
  • Scrape dishes instead of rinsing them in hot water before loading. If you choose to rinse your dishes, use cold water.
  • Be sure that the dishwasher is full, but not overloaded. Use the shortest wash cycle that will clean your dishes properly and be sure to use the right amount of detergent.
  • Keep your dishwasher drains and filters clean.
  • Turn off the drying cycle on your dishwasher, open the door and let the dishware and silverware air dry.
  • Fill the sink and use a stopper, or fill a large pot rather than wash or rinse dishes under running hot water.
  • Use cold water instead of hot water when running your garbage disposal. With hot water, fats can melt and clog the drainpipe when they cool.

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Appliances - Oven & Range

  • Don’t line oven racks with foil. It blocks heat flow and makes the oven work harder to cook food.
  • If you cook on an electric range top, bring foods to boil on high; then turn to a low setting to continue cooking.
  • Put a lid on a pot to boil water. The water boils faster and you'll use less energy.
  • Pre-heat the oven only when necessary.
  • Bake more than one item at a time so you can use one and freeze the other.
  • Expand your family’s menus to include stews and other single-dish meals that can be prepared in a slow cooker. These meals require far less energy than those calling for the use of the oven plus two or three surface units.
  • When baking, limit the number of times you open the oven door.
  • Don’t use your oven to heat the kitchen.  It not only wastes energy, it's dangerous.
  • When cooking vegetables, a small amount of water in a covered pan is more effective than a large amount.
  • If you have an electric oven that’s a self-cleaning oven, use this feature after baking or broiling to utilize the existing heat in the oven, rather than cleaning it from a cold start.
  • Allow frozen meats to thaw completely before cooking. A frozen roast placed directly into the oven without thawing will require one-third more cooking time.
  • Use flat-bottomed cookware that fits on the appropriate stove burner.
  • Invest in a pressure cooker. It cuts cooking time and energy use by a third.
  • Heat water in a tea kettle instead of an open pan.

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Appliances - Small

  • Look for the ENERGY STAR label when shopping for a variety of electronics and appliances, such as dehumidifiers, ceiling fans, compact fluorescent lamps, DVD player/recorder, cordless phones, or home stereo system equipment.
  • The average home uses 24 electronic products, accounting for up to 15 percent of household electricity use. Turn off these products when they’re not in use. Or, use a power strip as a central “turn off” point when you are finish using equipment.  This will help eliminate the standby power consumption used by many electronics even when they are turned off.
  • Don’t leave your electric coffee pot on “simmer” to keep coffee warm for an extended period of time.
  • To cook small amounts of food, use an electric frying pan or toaster oven – even better – use a microwave. They’re faster than using an oven and use less energy.
  • Since an iron heats faster than it cools, iron fabrics that require lower temperatures first; then work up to fabrics that require a hotter setting.
  • When buying small appliances, read labels carefully to compare energy use information and operating costs of similar models.
  • Keep kitchen appliances in good working order so they last longer, work more efficiently and use less energy.
  • Buy electric power tools with the lowest horsepower or amps adequate for the work you want to do.
  • Keep electrical tools in top operating condition. Lubricate them properly and clean them after use. Keep cutting edges sharp on bits or saws, so they operate more quickly and therefore use less power
  • If you own a waterbed, make the bed up everyday to keep it covered and reduce heating costs. By purchasing an insulated mattress pad, you can eliminate the need for a heater.

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Appliances - Refrigerator & Freezer

  • When purchasing a new refrigerator, choose an ENERGY STAR qualified model.
  • Avoid locating your refrigerator in direct sunlight or near equipment that generates heat, such as a range or dishwasher.
  • Leave several inches of space behind and on the sides of your refrigerator so air can circulate around the unit.
  • Every three months, clean the condenser coils located underneath or in the back of your refrigerator or freezer.
  • Be sure your refrigerator stands level so the door seals evenly and tightly.
  • Check the door gaskets for air leaks by shutting a piece of paper in the door. If you can slide the paper out without resistance, your refrigerator may be leaking cold air.
  • Let hot foods cool before placing them in the refrigerator. Cooked meats, however, should be refrigerated immediately.
  • Liquids should be covered. Moisture is drawn from uncovered liquids, forcing your refrigerator’s “no-frost” unit to work harder.
  • If your refrigerator has steel racks, don’t cover them with paper or foil. Doing so will reduce the flow of cold air.
  • Don’t overload your refrigerator. Cool air should be allowed to circulate around each container.
  • Don’t over-cool your refrigerator. The recommended temperature is 38° F to 40° F. Keep your refrigerator just low enough to chill milk. For the freezer section, 5° F is recommended, low enough to keep ice cream hard. (You may need to adjust the setting during the summer months.) Use a thermometer to check settings.
  • Try to cut down on the number of times you open the refrigerator door. Plan ahead and take out everything you'll need at one time.
  • If you’re going away for a long period, use up perishable foods, turn your refrigerator off and leave the door open.
  • Consider removing your second refrigerator or freezer. If you must use a second refrigerator for part of the year, unplug it for the rest of the year and leave the door open.
  • Replace of any refrigerator or freezer in your home that’s more than ten (10) years old and you may save as much as $100 annually in energy costs, when you replace it with an ENERGY STAR qualified model.
  • Remove frost when it is 1/4 inch thick. Heavy frost buildup decreases efficiency and uses more electricity to maintain the same temperature.
  • Consider high-efficiency appliances. Leading refrigerator models use 7% to 13% less energy. High-efficiency dishwashers use 25% less energy than conventional models, and high efficiency clothes dryers can save up to 30% in energy use over standard models.
  • Check door seals on the refrigerator. A broken seal is the same as leaving the door open. Replace the seal if it is torn or partially missing. To test it, close the door on a single sheet of paper and try to pull it out. If it slides out easily, it needs to be replaced to prevent cold air from leaking out, or consider buying a new unit.

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Hot Water

  • Save water costs by turning off the tap when you shave, wash or brush your teeth.
  • Many hot water heaters are factory-set for 140° F. That’s a lot higher than you need. Reset it to 120° F.
  • If you have an off-peak electric hot water heater, set your bottom thermostat at 135° F and the top thermostat at 125° F for maximum efficiency.
  • If you are buying a new electric hot water heater, make sure to buy the highest efficiency energy rating available.
  • When installing a new hot water heater, locate it in a warm place rather than an unheated garage or basement, if possible.
  • Wrap your hot water heater with an insulation blanket, if allowed by manufacturer’s recommendation.
  • Turn off your electric water heater when you leave home for extended periods, such as vacations.
  • Take showers instead of baths. A three minute shower uses about half the water of a bath.
  • In the summertime, take warm or even cold showers whenever possible.
  • Turn off the hot water tap each time you rinse dishes, or better yet - scrape, don’t rinse. Letting the tap run wastes up to 30 gallons per meal.
  • Replace washers on faucets that drip. A leaky faucet can waste 2,500 gallons of hot water per year.
  • Insulate at least ten feet of hot and cold water pipes attached to your hot water heater.
  • Install water-saving low-flow shower heads and sink aerators.
  • It is important to keep your hot water system properly maintained. Once or twice a year, drain a bucket of water out of the bottom of the heater tank because it is sometimes full of sediment. The sediment insulates the water in the tank from the heating element, which wastes energy.
  • Repair leaky faucets promptly. A steady drip of hot water can waste many gallons of water per month, plus the energy needed to heat the water.
  • Set your water heater at 120 degrees. Overheating your water beyond 120 degrees can be wasteful and unsafe. By lowering your water temperature to 120 degrees or less, you can save up to $25 annually if you use an electric water heater or $18 annually if you use a gas water heater.

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Heating & Cooling

  • Install wall outlet and switch plate gaskets on exterior walls to cut down on the flow of cold air.
  • Check for drafts around windows and doors. Caulk and weather-strip wherever necessary.
  • If possible, install storm windows. If not, tightly tape heavy duty clear plastic sheets to the inside of the window frames to reduce drafts.
  • The most important step toward home energy conservation is the installation of thermal insulation. Check current insulation levels, and properly insulate a new or existing home according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s specifications for your geographic area. Be sure to insulate ceilings, walls, and floors over unfinished crawl spaces.
  • Double-paned windows cut heat transfer by 40 to 50 percent. In extremely cold regions, triple glazing should be considered.
  • Single-paned windows should have storm windows. Wood or metal frame storm windows provide a second layer of glass and a barrier of still air that reduces heat transfer.
  • Install storm doors at all entrances of the house. Storm doors help save energy by reducing the amount of air infiltration that occurs when the primary door is opened and also reduces the amount of heat transfer through the primary door when it is closed.
  • Weather-strip and caulk around all entrance doors and windows to limit air leaks that could account for 15 to 30 percent of heating and cooling energy needs.
  • Keep your heating equipment well tuned with periodic maintenance by a service professional. If you do buy a new heating unit, select the most energy-efficient system within your budget. The initial cost may be high, but in the long run, your operating costs will be lower.
  • Dust or vacuum radiator surfaces and vents frequently to cut down on heat loss. If they need painting, use a flat paint which radiates heat better than glossy paint.
  • During the hot summer months, close insulated drapes or shades to help keep out unwanted heat.
  • Keep the overhead garage doors of attached garages closed to keep cold winds from getting through the connecting door between the house and garage.
  • Fireplaces should have tightly fitting dampers that can be closed when not in use. A chimney can draw out as much as 25 percent of the heated/cooled air in your house if the damper is left open.
  • In the heating season, water vapors from bathing and cooking are beneficial because they help humidify the home. Dry air takes longer to heat. So use kitchen and bath exhaust fans sparingly in the winter to keep as much heat as possible inside your house.
  • Set the thermostat as low as comfort permits. For instance, each degree above 68º F can add 3 percent to the amount of energy needed for heating. If using a heat pump, make sure that the thermostat is designed to operate the heat pump efficiently when raising the temperature after it has been lowered. Use your judgment. Babies and the elderly may need higher room temperatures.
  • Close heating vents and radiator valves in unused areas. Make sure that drapes and furniture do not block registers for supply or return air.
  • Seek an HVAC professional to determine the right size cooling equipment needed. Oversized units should be avoided – not only because they draw more energy than is necessary, but also because they cannot dehumidify properly.
  • Direct sunlight on a window air-conditioning unit increases its workload. When a choice is possible, locate units on the north or the shady side of the house.
  • Open windows during the moderate weather of spring and fall to admit outside air for cooling instead of operating air-conditioning.
  • In the cooling season, run kitchen and bath exhaust fans only long enough to rid the house of unwanted water vapor and odors.
  • On sunny winter days, open your insulated drapes or shades to get the full benefit of sun shining through the windows.
  • During the winter months, close your curtains or drapes at night to cut down on heat loss.
  • Keep doors and windows closed as much as possible. This includes closet doors and rooms not in use.
  • Install awnings over exterior windows exposed to direct sunlight.
  • Install clock thermostats to automatically control heating and cooling when you are home and away
  • If you’re purchasing a new room air conditioner, buy an ENERGY STAR qualified model with a high energy efficiency rating (EER). The higher the rating, the more efficient the unit and the less costly it is to operate.
  • It’s a waste of money and energy to run your room air conditioner all day long just to cool an empty house. Instead, install an appliance timer that will activate the unit five minutes before you arrive.
  • Replace any room air conditioner that is more than ten years old and you’ll save when you replace it with an ENERGY STAR qualified model.
  • Clean or replace furnace filters often.
  • Have your furnace burner checked and cleaned annually.
  • Exhaust fans vented to the outside in the kitchen and bathrooms help remove excess humidity and keep rooms comfortable.
  • Installing a thermostatically controlled attic exhaust fan can lower inside temperatures in the summertime by as much as 50 percent.
  • Use ceiling or portable fans in place of room air conditioners whenever possible.
  • If you use an electric furnace to heat your home, consider replacing it with a high efficiency ductless heat pump system, which can cut electricity use for heating by as much as 30 percent.
  • If you have a simple open masonry fireplace, replace your fire screen with glass doors and a convective grate to reduce the loss of warm air.
  • Use passive solar heating on sunny days. Open drapes on south-facing windows when it is sunny. At night, close drapes to retain heat. Close drapes to provide insulation where windows receive no direct sunlight. Up to 15 percent of your heat can escape through unprotected windows.
  • Use ceiling fans to cool your house. The most efficient ceiling fans cost as little as 30 cents a month if used eight hours a day. A window air conditioner can cost 50 times as much as a fan. Ceiling fans will keep the air moving and allow you to keep the thermostat setting higher because moving air feels cooler.
  • Plant trees for shade. Deciduous trees—those that produce leaves in the spring and then lose them in the fall—shade your house from the sun during warmer days and let the sun warm your house on cooler days. Shading your home could save up to 8% on cooling costs.
  • Provide shading for your air conditioning condenser. Your central air conditioner’s condenser works more efficiently in a cooler environment. Provide shade around your air conditioner to reduce your cooling costs by nearly 3 percent.
  • Open windows on cool nights. On cool spring days and nights, turn off your air conditioner and open your windows. Don’t open windows when the outside temperature is warmer than the inside of your house.
  • Perform regular maintenance tune-ups on heating and cooling equipment. Regularly clean condenser coils, change belts and filters and fix duct leaks. Also check for proper economizer operation and adequate refrigerant levels. Maintenance activities can save up to 30 percent of fan and up to 10 percent of space conditioning energy use.
  • A programmable thermostat can optimize HVAC operation "24/7" based on your needs. For example, instead of heating or cooling all night, so you can enter a comfortable building in the morning, this "smart thermostat" can turn on the HVAC one hour before you arrive, based on your daily/hourly needs. The cost of the thermostat can be $25 to $150, and it could cut your HVAC costs up to 30%. Add a locking cover to prevent tampering with thermostat settings.
  • Install a high efficiency packaged heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. These can use up to 40 percent less energy than systems that just meet minimum standards. Specify ENERGY STAR qualified high-efficiency air conditioning equipment when your system needs to be replaced, and save 25% to 35% on your investment annually.
  • Seek a professional on air sealing before you insulate. Before you insulate, you should make sure your home is properly air sealed. Although it is possible to seal a house too tightly, it is unlikely to happen in older homes because they generally leak more than newer homes. However, a certain amount of fresh air is needed for good indoor air quality and there are specifications that set the minimum amount of fresh air needed for a house.

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Electronics

  • If you are not using a device, unplug it.
  • Unplug any battery chargers or power adapters when not in use (like your cell phone charger).
  • You can combine a power strip with a plug-in appliance timer that you can program to automatically turn off all power to the strip.
  • Consider buying electronics with the ENERGY STAR label. A wide range of ENERGY STAR electronics is available in your favorite brands. In fact, two-thirds of the 20 top-selling TVs have the ENERGY STAR label. Electronic equipment that has earned the ENERGY STAR label will also help save energy when off.
  • Look for chargers with the ENERGY STAR label. ENERGY STAR chargers consume 35 percent less energy than conventional models and are often smaller and lighter, making them more convenient for traveling.

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Electronics - Computer

  • Configure your computer to go into low-power (or “sleep”) mode when not in use. The shorter the idle time you set before the computer goes into low-power mode, the more energy you’ll save.
  • Energy-efficient computers now come equipped with power management capabilities. This function allows your computer to go into low-power mode once the system has been idle for a certain amount of time. ENERGY STAR-labeled computers with power management capabilities use 70 percent less electricity than those without enabled power management features.
  • Turn off your computer when you’re not using it for extended periods of time. While leaving your computer on and configuring it to going into power saving mode does save energy, turning your machine off will give you even greater savings. Also, leaving your computer on around the clock sucks in excessive dust and could make your machine more susceptible to power surges.
  • Use a power strip to turn off your computer. If your computer is plugged into a wall outlet, it continues to consume energy even after being turned off. Use a power strip with an on/off feature to break the electrical connection after you’ve turned off your computer.

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Electronics - Games

  • Don’t leave computer games running when you’re not playing them. Many games, even when paused, will not allow your computer to go into “sleep mode.”

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Electronics - Monitors

  • Do not use screen savers. Screen savers do not save energy and often do not let your computer and monitor go into the energy-saving “sleep” mode.
  • Turn your monitor off when not in use. Many believe that turning a monitor on and off significantly shortens the life of the device, but this is simply not the case.

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