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Keep Your Energy Bills Out of Hot Water
Look for the ENERGY STAR label.
Install aerating, low-flow faucets and shower heads.
Repair leaky faucets promptly; a leaky faucet wastes gallons of water in a short period of time.
Lower the thermostat on your water heater; water heaters sometimes come from the factory with high temperature settings, but a setting of 120F provides comfortable hot water for most uses.
Insulate your electric hot-water storage tank, but be careful not to cover the thermostat. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Insulate your natural gas or oil hot-water storage tank, but be careful not to cover the water heater’s top, bottom, thermostat, or burner compartment. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations; when in doubt, get professional help.
Insulate the first 6 feet of the hot and cold water pipes connected to the water heater.
If you are in the market for a new dishwasher or clothes washer, consider buying an efficient, water-saving ENERGY STAR model to reduce hot water use. See Appliances for more information.
Install heat traps on the hot and cold pipes at the water heater to prevent heat loss. Some new water heaters have built-in heat traps.
Drain a quart of water from your water tank every 3 months to remove sediment that impedes heat transfer and lowers the efficiency of your heater. The type of water tank you have determines the steps to take, so follow the manufacturer’s advice.
Although most water heaters last 10-15 years, it’s best to start shopping now for a new one if yours is more than 7 years old. Doing some research before your heater fails will enable you to select one that most appropriately meets your needs.
Buy a new energy-efficient water heater. While it may cost more initially than a standard water heater, the energy savings will continue during the lifetime of the appliance. Look for the ENERGY STAR and Energy Guide labels.
Look for the ENERGY STAR label on efficient water heaters in the following categories: high efficiency gas non-condensing, gas condensing, electric heat pump, gas tankless, and solar.
Consider installing a drain water waste heat recovery system. A recent DOE study showed energy savings of 25% to about 30% for water heating using such a system.
Consider natural gas on-demand or tankless water heaters. Researchers have found savings can be up to 30% compared with a standard natural gas storage tank water heater.
Heat pump water heaters can be very cost-effective in some areas.
If you heat water with electricity, have high electric rates, and have an unshaded, south-facing location (such as a roof) on your property, consider installing an ENERGY STAR qualified solar water heater. The solar units are environmentally friendly and can now be installed on your roof to blend with the architecture of your house.
More than 1.5 million homes and businesses in the United States have invested in solar water heating systems, and surveys indicate that more than 94% of these customers consider the systems a good investment. Solar water heating systems are also good for the environment. Solar water heaters avoid the greenhouse gas emissions associated with electricity production. During a 20-year period, one solar water heater can avoid more than 50 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. When shopping for a solar water heater, look for the ENERGY STAR label and for systems certified by the Solar Rating and Certification Corporation or the Florida Solar Energy Center.
Visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency Web site (http://www.dsireusa.org/) to see if you might qualify for tax credits or rebates for buying a solar water heater.
Windows can be one of your home’s most attractive features. Windows provide views, day lighting, ventilation, and solar heating in the winter. Unfortunately, they can also account for 10% to 25% of your heating bill. During the summer, your air conditioner must work harder to cool hot air from sunny windows. Install ENERGY STAR windows and use curtains and shade to give your air conditioner and energy bill a break. If you live in the Sun Belt, look into low-e windows, which can cut the cooling load by 10% to 15%.
If your home has single-pane windows, as many U.S. homes do, consider replacing them with new double-pane windows with high-performance glass (e.g., low-e or spectrally selective). In colder climates, select windows that are gas filled with low emissivity (low-e) coatings on the glass to reduce heat loss. In warmer climates, select windows with spectrally selective coatings to reduce heat gain. If you are building a new home, you can offset some of the cost of installing more efficient windows because they allow you to buy smaller, less expensive heating and cooling equipment.
If you decide not to replace your windows, the simpler, less costly measures listed here can improve their performance.
Cold-Climate Windows Keep Heat In
Double-pane windows with low-e coating on the glass reflect heat back into the room during the winter months.
You can use a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet on a frame or tape clear plastic film to the inside of your window frames during the cold winter months. Remember, the plastic must be sealed tightly to the frame to help reduce infiltration.
Install tight-fitting, insulating window shades on windows that feel drafty after weatherizing.
Close your curtains and shades at night; open them during the day.
Keep windows on the south side of your house clean to let in the winter sun.
Install exterior or interior storm windows; storm windows can reduce heat loss through the windows by 25% to 50%. Storm windows should have weather stripping at all movable joints; be made of strong, durable materials; and have interlocking or overlapping joints. Low-e storm windows save even more energy.
Repair and weatherize your current storm windows, if necessary.
Warm-Climate Windows Keep Heat Out
In the summertime, the sun shining through your windows heats up the room. Windows with low-e coatings on the glass reflect some of the sunlight, keeping your rooms cooler.
Install white window shades, drapes, or blinds to reflect heat away from the house.
Close curtains on south- and west-facing windows during the day.
Install awnings on south- and west-facing windows.
Apply sun-control or other reflective films on south-facing windows to reduce solar gain.
Installing, high-performance windows will improve your home’s energy performance. While it may take many years for new windows to pay off in energy savings, the benefits of added comfort and improved aesthetics and functionality may make the investment worth it to you. Many window technologies are available that are worth considering.
Efficient windows may have two or more panes of glass, warm-edge spacers between the window panes, improved framing materials, and low-e coating(s), which are microscopically thin coatings that help keep heat inside during the winter and outside during the summer.
Making improvements to your lighting is one of the fastest ways to cut your energy bills. An average household dedicates 11% of its energy budget to lighting. Using new lighting technologies can reduce lighting energy use in your home by 50% to 75%. Advances in lighting controls offer further energy savings by reducing the amount of time lights are on but not being used.
Use linear fluorescent tubes and energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) in fixtures throughout your home to provide high-quality and high-efficiency lighting. Fluorescent lamps are much more efficient than incandescent (standard) bulbs and last about 6 to 12 times longer.
Today’s CFLs offer brightness and color rendition that is comparable to incandescent bulbs. Although linear fluorescent and CFLs cost a bit more than incandescent bulbs initially, over their lifetime they are cheaper because of how little electricity they use. CFL lighting fixtures are now available that are compatible with dimmers and operate like incandescent fixtures.
Be sure to buy ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs.
They will save you about $30 or more in electricity costs over each bulb’s lifetime.
Producing about 75% less heat, they are safer to operate and can cut home cooling costs.
Visit www.energystar.gov to find the right light bulbs for your fixtures. They are available in sizes and shapes to fit in almost any fixture.
They provide the greatest savings in fixtures that are on for a long time each day. The best fixtures to use qualified CFLs in are usually found in your family and living rooms, kitchen, dining room, bedrooms, and outdoors.
Consider purchasing ENERGY STAR qualified fixtures. They are available in many styles including table, desk and floor lamps and hard-wired options for front porches, dining rooms, bathroom vanity fixtures, and more.
ENERGY STAR qualified fixtures distribute light more efficiently and evenly than standard fixtures and they deliver convenient features such as dimming on some indoor models.
Controls such as timers and photo cells save electricity by turning lights off when not in use. Dimmers save electricity when used to lower light levels. Be sure to select products that are compatible with CFL bulbs; not all products work with CFLs.
When remodeling, look for recessed down lights, or “cans”, that are rated for contact with insulation (IC rated).
Take advantage of daylight by using light-colored, loose-weave curtains on your windows to allow daylight to penetrate the room while preserving privacy. Also, decorate with lighter colors that reflect daylight.
If you have torchiere fixtures with halogen lamps, consider replacing them with compact fluorescent torchieres. Compact fluorescent torchieres use 60% to 80% less energy and do not get as hot as halogen torchieres.
Appliances account for about 17% of your household’s energy consumption, with refrigerators, clothes washers, and clothes dryers at the top of the consumption list. When you’re shopping for appliances, think of two price tags. The first one covers the purchase price-think of it as a down payment. The second price tag is the cost of operating the appliance during its lifetime. You’ll be paying on that second price tag every month with your utility bill for the next 10 to 20 years, depending on the appliance. Refrigerators last an average of 14 years; clothes washers about 11 years; dishwashers about 10 years; and room air conditioners last 9 years.
When you do shop for a new appliance, look for the ENERGY STAR label. ENERGY STAR products usually exceed minimum federal standards by a substantial amount. The appliance shopping guide lists some of the major appliances that carry the ENERGY STAR label and provides helpful information on what to look for when shopping for an appliance.
To help you figure out whether an appliance is energy efficient, the federal government requires most appliances to display the bright yellow and black Energy Guide label. Although these labels will not tell you which appliance is the most efficient, they will tell you the annual energy consumption and operating cost for each appliance so you can compare them yourself. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy provides information to consider when deciding on new appliances.
When you use electricity to cook a pot of rice for 1 hour, you use 1000 watt-hours of electricity! One thousand watt-hours equals 1 kilowatt-hour, or 1 kWh. Your utility bill usually shows what you are charged for the kilowatt-hours you use. The average residential rate is 9.4 cents per kWh. A typical U.S. household consumes about 11,000 kWh per year, costing an average of $1,034 annually.
How Much Electricity Do Appliances Use?
This chart shows how much energy a typical appliance uses per year and its corresponding cost based on national averages. For example, a refrigerator uses almost five times the electricity the average television uses. Visit www.energysavers.gov for instructions on calculating the electrical use of your appliances.
In the U.S., nearly 4.2 million people worked from home in 2000, up from 3.4 million in 1990. Working from home saves energy and time by cutting out the commute, but it may increase your home energy bills a lot unless you use energy-saving office equipment.
ENERGY STAR labeled office equipment is widely available: it provides users with dramatic savings, as much as 90% savings for some products. Overall, ENERGY STAR labeled office products use about half the electricity of standard equipment. Along with saving energy directly, this equipment can reduce air-conditioning loads, noise from fans and transformers, and electromagnetic field emissions from monitors.
Keep Your Home Office Efficient with ENERGY STAR Home offices are increasingly popular. Be sure to use ENERGY STAR office equipment to save electricity.
Shop for ENERGY STAR Products for Offices
Multifunction Devices (fax, scanner, copier)
Selecting energy-efficient office equipment personal computers (PCs), monitors, copiers, printers, and fax machines and turning off machines when they are not in use can result in enormous energy savings.
An ENERGY STAR labeled computer uses 70% less electricity than computers without this designation. If left inactive, ENERGY STAR labeled desktop computers enter a sleep mode and use 4 watts or less. Spending a large portion of time in low-power mode not only saves energy, but helps equipment run cooler and last longer.
To maximize savings with a laptop, put the AC adapter on a power strip that can be turned off (or will turn off automatically); the transformer in the AC adapter draws power continuously, even when the laptop is not plugged into the adapter.
Common misconceptions sometimes account for the failure to turn off equipment. Many people believe that equipment lasts longer if it is never turned off. This incorrect perception carries over from the days of older mainframe computers.
ENERGY STAR labeled computers and monitors save energy only when the power management features are activated, so make sure power management is activated on your computer.
There is a common misconception that screen savers reduce energy use by monitors; they do not. Automatic switching to sleep mode or manually turning monitors off is always the better energy-saving strategy.
Consider buying a laptop for your next computer upgrade; they use much less energy than desktop computers.
Shop for ENERGY STAR Home Electronics
VCRs and DVD Players
Combination Units (TV/VCR; TV/DVD) Home
Smart power strips help save wasted energy.
Look for energy-saving ENERGY STAR labeled home electronics.
Many appliances continue to draw a small amount of power when they are switched off. These “phantom” loads occur in most appliances that use electricity, such as VCRs, televisions, stereos, computers, and kitchen appliances. These phantom loads can be avoided by unplugging the appliance or using a power strip and using the switch on the power strip to cut all power to the appliance.
Unplug battery chargers when the batteries are fully charged or the chargers are not in use.
Studies have shown that using rechargeable batteries for products like cordless phones and PDAs is more cost effective than throwaway batteries. If you must use throwaways, check with your trash removal company about safe disposal options.
You have many options for using renewable energy at home from solar-powered outdoor lights to buying renewable energy from your utility to even producing solar electricity at home with photovoltaic (PV) cells.
A new home provides the best opportunity for designing and orienting the home to take advantage of the sun’s rays. A well-oriented home admits low-angle winter sun to reduce heating bills and rejects overhead summer sun to reduce cooling bills. See the Heating and Cooling section for more about using passive solar energy in your home.
Many U.S. consumers buy electricity made from renewable energy sources like the sun, wind, water, plants, and Earth’s internal heat. This power is sometimes called “green power.” Buying green power from the utility is one of the easiest ways to use renewable energy without having to invest in equipment or take on extra maintenance.
Another use of solar power is for heating water. Solar water heating is covered in the Water Heating section. If you have a swimming pool or hot tub, you can use solar power to cut pool heating costs. Most solar pool heating systems are cost competitive with conventional systems. And solar pool systems have very low operating costs. It’s actually the most cost-effective use of solar energy.
If you’ve made your home as energy efficient as possible, and you have very high electricity bills and a good solar resource, you might want to consider generating your own electricity using PV cells. New products are available that integrate PV cells with the roof, making them much less visible than older systems.
If the following conditions apply, you might want to do more research to see if investing in PV is right for you:
Your site has adequate solar resources.
A grid connection is not available in your area or can be made only through an expensive power line extension.
You are willing to pay more up front to reduce the environmental impact of your electricity use.
Your power provider will connect your system to the electricity grid and buy any excess power you produce.
Your state, city, or utility offers rebates, tax credits, or other incentives. Visit the DSIRE Web site to find out about financial incentives in your area.