13 Easy Ways to Save Energy and Lower Your Utility Bill
Insulation, new energy efficient replacement windows, weather stripping and caulking, and new high efficiency heating equipment are among the most obvious and effective means of saving energy, improving comfort and lowering your utility bill.
In addition, there are hosts of other less obvious energy saving steps that you can take to combat soaring utility bills and help save the earth. Space doesn’t permit us to list all of the measures, but what follows will give you a great head start.
- Wrap water heater with an insulating blanket: Most new water heaters have sufficient insulation built into the walls to minimize heat loss. However, older water heaters lose a significant amount of energy in the form of heat escaping through the walls of the tank. If your tank is warm to the touch, then you would benefit by having the tank wrapped with an insulation blanket. There are a couple of cautions that you should keep in mind as regards to installing an insulation blanket. Never cover the pressure and temperature relief valve — or associated piping – with insulation. And the warranty for certain water heater models can become void if the unit is wrapped with insulation. It is best to first check the owner’s manual, look for a warning label on the tank or contact the manufacturer.
- Install low-flow showerheads: Energy efficient showerheads have been required in new and remodeled homes since 1994. A good quality low-flow showerhead will save a substantial amount of water and the energy used to heat it without sacrificing the feel of traditional shower. Low-flow showerheads are a must for any home with one or more teenagers who invariably like to take long, hot showers.
- Take shorter showers: While installing a low-flow showerhead can be a big energy saver and take a bite out of your utility bill, you can kick your savings up a notch by taking shorter showers. Although this might be a tough sell to the teens, they might be willing to see things your way if you remind them that the alternative could be a “Navy” shower — rinse down, soap up, and shower off.
- Maintain your water heater regularly: Regularly scheduled maintenance to your water heater will not only save energy, it will also extend its useful life. Perhaps the best thing that you can do for your water heater is to flush sediment (which collects at the base of the tank) at least once annually. Sediment is your tank’s biggest enemy. It serves as a breeding ground for odor-causing bacteria; it prevents gas burners from doing an efficient job; and it hastens tank deterioration. Refer to the owner’s manual, check with the manufacturer or contact a service professional for information on how to safely flush your water heater.
- Insulate hot water pipes: If the water pipes that supply hot water throughout your home are hot to the touch, then heat is being lost. Insulating hot water pipes will reduce heat loss AND your utility bill. Plus you won’t have to wait quite as long for hot water to arrive at the tap. That means less wasted water and added savings on your water and sewer bills!
- Wash full loads of dishes when possible and air dry dishes: Unless you have a modern dishwasher that will allow “compartmentalized cleaning” using a special cycle, your automatic dishwasher consumes the same amount of energy regardless of how many dishes are being washed. Therefore, running full loads reduces energy consumption by reducing the total number of loads washed. Save energy by turning off the drying heater and letting your dishes air dry. It will take longer, but the dishes will dry just as well.
- Dry full loads of clothes when possible: When we were kids our mom did most of the cloths drying by hanging them on lines in our backyard. Clotheslines aren’t nearly as popular considering today’s busy households, but you can still save drying full loads. Keeping your dryer’s lint filter and exhaust duct clean will also pay energy saving dividends.
- Turn off your computers overnight: Most people don’t realize how much energy computers use when left on all the time. Computers and monitors qualify for an ENERGY STAR rating if they can enter a low energy “sleep” mode when not in use. If your computer has this feature make sure that it is enabled. Screen savers, while effective in preserving the monitor, actually don’t save energy. The best way to preserve the monitor and save energy is to turn it off.
- Turn lights off when not using them: Replacing incandescent light bulbs with energy saving compact fluorescent bulbs can save big bucks on your utility bill, but they’re no substitute for turning lights off when you don’t need them. Motion sensors, timers and dimmers will also help manage lighting-related energy costs.
- Lower the thermostat setting and install a programmable thermostat: Lowering your thermostat a few degrees can have a significant effect on energy costs since heating accounts for a chuck of the average utility bill. Installing a programmable thermostat makes thermostat management simple and convenient. If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, install one. If you do, set it and forget it!
- Avoid heating unoccupied areas: Closing heat registers in rooms that are rarely used can reduce energy use. Keep in mind that closing more than one heat register can restrict air flow and damage your furnace. When in doubt, check with a professional heating contractor. Consider installing a “zoned” heating system that will heat only the space that you occupy.
- Seal leaks and insulate your air ducts: As heating systems age, leaks can develop in the ducts. Many duct systems are leaky even when newly installed. Inspect ductwork for loose joints and/or peeling duct tape. Silicone caulk or mastic are more durable alternatives to duct tape. Most homes contain large portions of duct work that are hard to access. If such is the case in your home, consider hiring a heating pro that can do the job for you.
- Maintain your refrigerator regularly: Not only will proper maintenance save energy, it will also extend the useful life of your refrigerator. Brush and vacuum the coils of your refrigerator at least twice a year. In addition, check the door gaskets by placing the end of a dollar bill against the door seal and then closing the door. If you can easily pull the dollar bill out, then the seal needs to be replaced. You can get a replacement seal from most appliance parts and supplies stores. Caution: Before doing either of these task, unplug your refrigerator first to avoid electric shock and possible damage to the refrigerator.
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