Home energy tips
Explore ways to save money.
Wisely managing your home's energy use keeps your energy costs down while providing you and your family comfort through all seasons. TEP has plenty of ideas to help you save money on your energy bills.
The information on this page was gathered from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Quick guide to efficiency
- Use ceiling or oscillating fans to keep air moving, so you feel cooler without increasing air conditioner use.
- In winter, change your ceiling fan blades to rotate clockwise, which will pull warm air to the ceiling and redistribute it to warm the entire room. This will allow you to set your thermostat a few degrees lower without compromising comfort.
- Dry laundry loads right after each other so your dryer doesn't have to reheat for each load. And do it during cooler periods of the day and night in summer. Also, clean the lint tray after each load.
- Turning the thermostat up will save you money in the summer, and the opposite is true during the winter. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends thermostat settings of 78 degrees in the summer and 68 degrees in the winter, but individual preferences may vary.
- Caulking around door frames and installing weather stripping around door openings are inexpensive and highly effective means of saving energy. If a door is cracked or warped so it does not seal well around the edges, it should be replaced. Choose an insulated metal or fiberglass door as a replacement.
- Replace traditional incandescent light bulbs and compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) with Light Emitting Diode (LED) lights. ENERGY STAR®-qualified LEDs use up to 90 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 25 times longer. They also generate about 90 percent less heat, so they're safer to operate and can reduce energy costs associated with home cooling. Explore energystar.gov to learn more.
- Deciduous trees with high, spreading leaves and branches can be planted to the south of your home to provide maximum summertime roof shading. Trees with foliage lower to the ground are more appropriate to the west, where shade is needed from lower afternoon sun angles.
- Cutting a 15-minute shower in half can save substantially on yearly hot-water costs.
- In summer, use shades, blinds or curtains to keep sunlight out, especially during the afternoon in rooms facing west.
- Don't block vents or ducts inside the house. Maintaining clear air paths allows your cooling and heating systems to work more efficiently.
- About 80 to 85 percent of the energy involved in washing clothes is used to heat the water. As such, there are two good ways to reduce the amount of energy used for washing clothes – use less water and lower the temperature. Switching your temperature setting from hot to warm can cut energy use in half.
- 8 Ways to Reduce Energy Use This Holiday Season eBook
Improving lighting efficiency is one of the fastest ways to reduce energy use and costs. One LED bulb can save you about $80 in electricity costs over its lifetime.
- Replace traditional incandescent light bulbs with ENERGY STAR-qualified LEDs, which use up to 90 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 25 times longer. They also generate up to 90 percent less heat, so they're safer to operate and can cut energy costs associated with home cooling. Explore energystar.gov to learn more.
- Turn off the lights in rooms you're not using. Consider installing timers or occupancy sensors to automatically turn off lights.
- Use task lighting. Instead of brightly lighting an entire room, focus the light where you need it.
- Consider three-way lamps, which allow for different lighting levels when brighter light is unnecessary.
- When choosing the brightness of your LED bulbs, check the lumens instead of the watts. The greater the lumens, the brighter the light.
- Dimmable LED bulbs let you create the right ambiance. Most ENERGY STAR-certified LED bulbs are dimmable, but not all bulbs work well with every dimmer switch. If you don’t find a good match with your current dimmer, consider changing the switch.
- ENERGY STAR-certified LEDs are available in a wide range of light hues. The color of light produced by the bulb corresponds to a temperature on the Kelvin (K) scale. Lower K bulbs give off a warmer, yellowish light, while higher K bulbs produce a cooler and bluer light.
If you are planning to remodel your home or add a room, investing in energy-efficient materials and building techniques will save you money on your electric bills for many years to come.
- Install double-pane or low-e windows.
- Consider sun exposure when selecting the locations of windows and skylights.
- Choose light colors for walls, ceilings, floors and furniture when redecorating, which will naturally brighten a room and reduce your need for electric lights.
- Check with your builder or contractor about light-colored roofing materials that can prolong the life of a roof while reducing a home's cooling costs.
Cooling and heating
When the temperature rises, so does the demand on your air conditioner. Heating and cooling costs account for about 44 percent of your yearly energy spending. Here are some tips to help keep your house cool without overheating your energy costs.
- Apply weather stripping and caulking around doors and windows to keep the chilled air inside.
- Set your thermostat at the highest comfortable temperature to minimize your cooling costs. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recommends a setting of 78 degrees in the summer, but individual preferences may vary.
- You may be able to further reduce costs by turning up your thermostat when you're away from home. DOE estimates you can cut your cooling costs by up to 10 percent by turning up your thermostat 10 to 15 percent for eight hours a day. Your results may vary, and some customers - including residents of energy efficient homes - might see little or no benefit from such temporary thermostat changes during the home cooling season.
- A programmable thermostat will allow you to automatically turn up the temperature after you leave home and restore a comfortable climate before your scheduled return. But these devices must be used properly to achieve energy savings, and some customers may be better off with a simpler manual thermostat.
- Keep exterior doors and windows closed when running the air conditioner.
- Plant trees and shrubs to keep the house and the air conditioner's outdoor component in the shade, yet still allow air to circulate.
- Change your air filter each month. A simple reminder is to change your filter on the day you receive your monthly electric bill.
Commonly referred to as swamp coolers, evaporative systems require good air circulation to cool effectively. To allow air to flow freely, open a window in each room, preferably selecting a window as far away as possible from the supply air register. You also want to:
- Replace cooler pads at the beginning of each season to maximize your cooler's effectiveness. Chemical water treatments are available to reduce scale build-up.
- Clean and service the unit annually. Protect metal parts with rust-resistant paint. Lubricate the motor and bearings with non-detergent oil. Check the belt and pump to ensure they are working properly.
- If you don't already have one, consider installing a two-speed motor, which enables you to decrease the cooler's output and energy use during periods of moderate temperatures.
The most energy-efficient heating and cooling system available, a heat pump uses a dual system that cools your house in the summer and heats it during the winter. In the summer, it removes heat from the house, dehumidifying as it cools. In the winter, it reverses the cycle and transfers in heat from the outside air. Even when outside temperatures are zero degrees Fahrenheit, the air contains about 80 percent of the heat energy it contains at 100 degrees.
Careful operation and maintenance of equipment can greatly reduce heating costs. Here are some practical tips to keep your costs low:
- Keep draperies and shades on south-facing windows open during the heating season to allow sunlight to enter your home. Close those window coverings at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.
- Set your thermostat at the lowest comfortable temperature to minimize your heating costs. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recommends a setting of 68 degrees, but individual preferences may vary. Warmer temperatures might be needed in homes with ill or elderly persons or infants.
- You can save even more money by allowing your home to get cooler when you're asleep or away from home. For example, by setting your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours, you can cut your annual heating bill by 5 to 15 percent. That’s a savings of up to 1 percent for each degree of a setback that lasts more than eight hours, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Longer and larger setbacks save more energy, while shorter and smaller setbacks save less. In colder climates, take care to maintain enough heat in your home to prevent water pipes from freezing.
- A programmable thermostat will allow you to automatically set back the temperature after you leave home and restore a comfortable climate before your scheduled return. But these devices must be used properly to achieve energy savings, and some customers may be better off with a simpler manual thermostat.
- Change your air filter each month. A simple reminder is to change your filter each month when you receive your utility bill.
- Keep heating outlets and return-air grills free from obstructions.
- Fireplaces, unless specially designed or modified, are inefficient heating units. Use a standard fireplace for ambiance only. Keep the damper closed whenever the fireplace is not in use.
- Humidity inside the house in winter helps the air feel warmer. Washing clothes and dishes and watering plants can add moisture to the air.
- Limit the use of portable space heaters, which are good for heating small areas but do not warm an entire home efficiently.
The building envelope includes everything that separates the interior of the building from the outdoor environment: the doors, windows, walls, foundation, roof, and insulation. All these components need to work together to keep a building warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Your home's insulation, for instance, will be less effective if the roof, walls, and ceiling allow air to leak in or allow moisture to collect in the insulation.
There are ways to determine how energy efficient a building really is and, if needed, what improvements can be made. Homeowners can conduct simple energy audits on their homes or have professional audits done.
Checking your home's insulating system is one of the fastest and most cost-effective ways to reduce energy waste. A good insulating system includes a combination of products and construction techniques that provide a home with thermal performance, protect it against air infiltration, and control moisture. You can increase the comfort of your home while reducing your heating and cooling needs by up to 30 percent by investing just a few hundred dollars in proper insulation and weatherization products.
- Consider factors such as your climate, building design, and budget when selecting insulation R-value for your home.
- Use higher-density insulation, such as rigid foam boards, in cathedral ceilings and on exterior walls.
- Ventilation plays a large role in controlling moisture and reducing summer cooling bills. Attic vents can be installed along the entire ceiling cavity to help ensure proper airflow from the soffit to the attic, helping to make a home more comfortable and energy efficient.
- Recessed light fixtures can be a major source of heat loss, but you need to be careful how close you place insulation next to a fixture unless it is marked. "I.C."-designed for direct insulation contact. Check your local building codes for recommendations.
As specified on the product packaging, follow the product instructions on installation and wear the proper protective gear when installing insulation.
Ducts that leak heated air into unheated spaces can add hundreds of dollars a year to your heating and cooling bills. Insulating ducts that are in unconditioned spaces is usually very cost effective. If you are installing a new duct system, make sure it comes with insulation. And be sure to get professional help when doing ductwork. A qualified professional should always perform changes and repairs to a duct system.
- Check your ducts for air leaks. First, look for sections that should be joined but have separated and then look for obvious holes.
- If you use tape to seal your ducts, avoid cloth-backed, rubber adhesive duct tape—it tends to fail quickly. Instead, use mastic, butyl tape, foil tape, or other heat-approved tapes. Look for tape with the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) logo.
- Remember that insulating ducts in the basement will make the basement colder. If both the ducts and the basement walls are not insulated, consider insulating both. Water pipes and drains in unconditioned spaces could freeze and burst if the heat ducts are fully insulated because there would be no heat source to prevent the space from freezing in cold weather. However, using an electric heating tape wrap on the pipes can prevent this. Check with a professional contractor.
- Be sure a well-sealed vapor barrier exists on the outside of the insula-tion on cooling ducts to prevent moisture condensation.
- Repair leaky faucets promptly. A leaky faucet wastes gallons of water and can waste energy if the leak is in a hot water faucet.
- Reduce the temperature setting to 120 degrees, as recommended by the National Safety Council. This will save some of the energy used to heat water for your washing machine and dishwasher while reducing the possibility of scalding injuries.
- Install water-saving showerheads and low-flow aerators on kitchen and bathroom faucets.
- Consider replacing your water heater with a new, high-efficiency model, or even a solar water heating system.
- For electric water heaters, install a timer that can automatically turn the hot water off at night and on in the morning. A simple timer can pay for itself in less than a year.
- Consider insulating your hot-water storage tank, but exercise caution and always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
- For electric water heaters, don’t cover the thermostat.
- For natural gas systems, don’t cover the water heater’s top, bottom, thermostat, or burner compartment.
- When in doubt, get professional help!
- Consider insulating the first 6 feet of the hot and cold water pipes connected to the water heater.
- Place your refrigerator and freezer in a cool, well-ventilated location and, when possible, some distance from the range or oven. Avoid placing a second refrigerator in a hot garage, which will keep the unit working overtime to try to stay cool.
- Clean dirt and dust from condenser coils frequently to help your refrigerator to operate more efficiently.
- Test your refrigerator temperature and adjust the setting to maintain the correct temperature (37-40 degrees). To check refrigerator temperature, place an appliance thermometer in a glass of water in the center of the refrigerator. Read it after 24 hours. To check the freezer temperature, place a thermometer between frozen packages. Read it after 24 hours.
- Check door seals for proper fit to avoid air leaks. If you can easily slide a credit card between the door and the frame, adjust or replace the seal.
- Clean the dryer's lint filter after every load to improve air circulation.
- Wash full loads of clothes, but don't pack them so tightly that air cannot circulate freely. In summer, wash during cooler times of the day and evening.
- Hang-dry your clothes outside on sunny days if possible.
- Wash your clothes in cold water using cold-water detergents whenever possible.
- Make sure the dryer is vented properly to the outside.
- Periodically inspect your dryer vent to ensure it is not blocked. This will save energy and may prevent a fire. Manufacturers recommend using rigid venting material, not plastic vents that may collapse and cause blockages.
- When shopping for a new clothes dryer, look for one with a moisture sensor that automatically shuts off the machine when your clothes are dry. Not only will this save energy, it will save the wear and tear on your clothes caused by over-drying.
- Use the lowest possible temperature setting to prepare food.
- Preheat only if the recipe calls for it.
- On stovetops, match the pan size with the cooking element.
- Cover pans to cook food faster and conserve fuel.
- Use a microwave oven to reheat leftovers and small dishes.
- Use a crock pot instead of an oven if possible.
- Run your dishwasher with full loads only.
- If your unit has an energy-saving setting, use it.
- In winter, open the door to allow dishes to air-dry, which will save energy and humidify the air, making it feel warmer. In summer, use the machine's air-dry setting, and only wash dishes during cooler times of the day and night.
Swimming pools provide a great way to exercise and beat the summer heat. Building and maintaining a pool, however, also adds significant costs to your household budget. To save on these expenses:
- Choose the smallest pump and the largest filter suitable for your pool.
- Cover your pool to prevent heat evaporation and reduce pool heating costs by up to 85 percent. Covering your spa as well will keep your water warmer during colder months.
- Reduce your pool pump’s run time from 8-12 hours in the summer to just 6-8 hours in the winter.
- Reduce the hydraulic resistance of the pool's circulation system wherever possible.
- Circulate water with the pump for the shortest time possible (often fewer than 3 hours).
- Install an accurate timer to control the pump's cycling.
- Keep in mind that all pools are different. Circumstances such as special cleaning and heating needs, climate, pool size and usage all affect a pool's circulation needs and your potential to saving money.