Switch to CFLs: Save up to $35 a bulb
Replacing incandescent bulbs with
compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs)
is one of the quickest, easiest ways to
save money—and a place everyone can
start. CFLs use about 75 percent less
energy and last up to 10 times longer
than incandescent bulbs. This can save
you up to $35 in electric costs over the
lifetime of each bulb. Switching to
CFLs in the five most frequently used
fixtures in your house will save about
$60 per year, according to Energy Star.
Choose CFLs with the Energy Star
label to get the greatest savings. Energy
Star products have to meet energy-efficiency
guidelines set by the EPA
and the Department of Energy.
When you shop, keep in mind
that light fixtures with dimmers
require special CFLs; read
When your CFLs are finally
spent, recycle them (to find locations, check with your trash hauler or local government).
Install smarter switches: Save up to $100 a year
Motion sensors (occupancy sensors)
automatically turn lights on and off so
you only get (and pay for!) light when
you need it (Photo 1). Using motion sensors
can save you $100 per year. Some
motion sensors need to be manually
turned on but turn off automatically.
They’re great for bedrooms because
they won’t turn on when you move in
Some switches are installed in junction
boxes; others are wireless. You can
also buy light fixtures with built-in
motion sensors. You’ll need special
motion sensors for electronic ballasts
that control CFLs. Special-order them
at home centers or buy them on the internet.
Use timers to control bath fans so the
fan will run for a preset time to air out
the room and then automatically turn off (Photo 2). You can set the length
of time you want the fan to run. Be sure the timer
you buy is rated for motors, not just
lighting (check the label).
Buy Energy Star appliances: Save $35 to $600 a year
When you shop for appliances, look
for the Energy Star label. It means the
appliance meets certain energy-efficiency
guidelines. The average household
spends $2,000 each year on energy
bills. Energy Star says that appliances
bearing its label can cut those
bills by 30 percent, for an annual savings
of about $600. But you don’t have
to replace everything to see a savings.
Just replacing an eight-year-old refrigerator
with a new Energy Star model
can save $110 a year or more in electricity.
Not sure what to do with your old
appliance? Recycle it. Don’t salvage
and resell it—that only passes the electricity—hogging appliance along to
someone else. Check with your utility
company or local home center for programs for appliance pickup and recycling.
Service your air conditioner: Save up to $65 a year
Roughly half of an average home’s annual energy bill (gas
and electric), about $1,000, is spent on heating and cooling.
Air conditioners placed in direct sunlight use up to
10 percent more electricity. If yours sits in the sun, plant
tall shrubs or shade trees nearby—but don’t enclose the
unit or impede the airflow. Place window units on the
north side of the house or install an awning over them.
Keep your window or central air conditioner tuned up
so it runs at peak efficiency.
Every two or three years, call in a pro to check the
electrical parts and the refrigerant.
If your central air conditioner is more than 12 years old,
replacing it with an Energy Star model can cut your cooling
costs by 30 percent and save maintenance costs. The
payback for replacing a 12-year-old system is typically
about eight years. An air conditioner’s efficiency level is
measured by the seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER).
The higher the number, the more efficient the unit. A 13
or 14 SEER rating is considered high efficiency.
Kill energy vampires: Save up to $100 a year
Seventy-five percent of the electrical
use by home electronics occurs when
they’re turned off, according to the
Department of Energy. These “energy
vampires” suck electricity all day
long—costing you an extra $100 each
year. So if you’d like to keep that Ben
Franklin in your wallet, unplug your
electronics or plug them into a power
strip, then turn off the strip.
Don’t worry about losing the settings
on new computers and TVs. They have
a memory chip that resets everything
when you power back up. If you have an
old VCR or other devices that flash
when the power goes out, keep it
plugged in. Some power strips have a
few outlets that always have power even
when you flip off the switch. This type
of strip has a main outlet for the computer.
When you turn off the computer,
the strip also shuts down other devices,
such as your scanner, printer or modem.
Clean out the lint for dryer efficiency: Save up to $25 a year
A clogged lint screen or dryer duct drastically reduces the
efficiency of your dryer, whether it’s gas or electric. Clean
the lint screen after each load and clean the exhaust duct
once a year. The cleaner shown here has an auger
brush that attaches to a drill to clean out the ducts. It’s available
at home centers.
Electric dryers use about $85 of electricity annually. A
dirty lint screen can cause the dryer to use up to 30 percent
more electricity ($25 per year), according to the Consumer
Energy Center. Lint buildup is also a common cause of fires.
Dry loads of laundry back-to-back so the dryer doesn’t
cool down between loads (a warm dryer uses less energy).
And only run the dryer until the clothes are dry. Overdrying
damages your clothes and runs up your electric bill. If you’re
in the market for a new dryer and already have a gas line in the house, go with a gas dryer. A gas dryer is more efficient.
Change furnace filter: Save up to $60 a year
Keeping your furnace (gas or electric)
tuned up has two big benefits: It makes
the furnace run efficiently and it prolongs
the furnace’s life span. And you
can perform the annual tune-up yourself
in about three hours.
Change the filter every month of the
heating season (or year-round if the filter
is also used for A/C). Be sure you
insert the new one so it faces the right
way. The filter protects the blower and
its motor; a clogged filter makes the motor work harder and use more power.
Save on electric water heating: Save up to $25 a year
If you only use an electric water heater
at certain times of the day, you’re wasting
electricity keeping the water hot
24/7. To solve that problem, install an
electronic timer switch (Photo 1; sold at
home centers). Timers are available for
120- and 240-volt heaters. They can be
programmed for daily or weekly
schedules so you only heat the water
when you need it. A timer can save
you $25 per year.
To make your water heater even more
efficient, drain the tank and flush out
the sediment at the bottom (Photo 2). Otherwise, you
could be heating through inches of sediment
before heating the water.
If your electric water heater is warm
or hot to the touch, it’s losing heat.
Wrap it with an insulating blanket (sold
at home centers).
Get smart metering: Save up to $140 a year
Smart metering programs vary among
utility companies, but the basic idea is
the same: The utility installs a special
“smart” meter that tracks how much
electricity you’re using. The utility
uses that data to make sure its power
grid doesn’t get overloaded and cause
blackouts. If the grid nears capacity, the
utility can shut off major appliances in
homes for short periods of time (such
as 15 minutes per hour). Not all companies
offer smart metering, but some
do and many others are considering it.
What’s in it for you? Money! Some programs pay
for signing up. Others let you view
your home’s usage online in real time so you can better manage your electrical
consumption. Others let you choose
“real-time” or “time-of-use” pricing
that allows you to pay less for electricity
that’s used during off-peak hours
(for example, on weekdays from early
afternoon until 8 p.m.). These plans
reward you for using electricity when
it’s cheapest. Smart metering makes the
most sense if you’re away from home
all day—you won’t notice or care if
things get turned off (although it’s a
good idea for everyone else too!).
According to SRP, a power utility company,
the plans cut 7 percent off your
bill, which is $140 for the average
$2,000 yearly energy bill. Check with
your local company to find out what
smart metering programs are available
in your area.
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Run your refrigerator for less: Save up to $60 a year
Your refrigerator uses more electricity
than all your other kitchen appliances
combined. To keep its energy costs
down, clean the coils twice a year,
which improves efficiency by 30 to 50
Your fridge and freezer run more
efficiently when they’re full. Put water
containers in the fridge and ice bags in
your freezer to keep them filled. Keep
the refrigerator setting between 35 and
38 degrees and the freezer between 0
and 5 degrees F.
Refrigerator door seals wear out over
time. Test your seal by closing a dollar
bill in the door. If it pulls out easily,
replace the seal.
If your fridge was made before 2001,
it’s using at least 40 percent more electricity
than new Energy Star models. If
you’re replacing your fridge, buy an
Energy Star model and recycle your
old one. Don’t hook up the old
one in the basement or garage—an
inefficient refrigerator costs as much as
$280 a year in electricity. Any money you save buying food in bulk
and storing it in an inefficient second fridge is lost in electric costs.