Skip to Content


Although providers, government and consumers all share an important role in energy conservation, home energy conservation begins with you. There are several ways to reduce the cost of your energy bills. No matter what stage you are in of home ownership, there are several, simple, low to no cost solutions to conserving energy and money. Below we present a few tips in five main areas of home energy consumption (appliances and electronics; heating and cooling; insulation and air sealing; lighting and daylighting; and water heating) that might help you save energy and save money.

Appliances and 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. In the average home, 75% of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off. This 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.

Clean the lint filter in the dryer after every load to improve air circulation.

Consider air-drying clothes on clothes lines or drying racks. Air-drying is recommended by clothing manufacturers for some fabrics.

Dry one load of clothes immediately after another to minimize heat loss.

Dry towels and heavier cottons in a separate load from lighter-weight clothes.

For older appliances, use a power controlling device to reduce the energy consumption of the appliance's electric motor.

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.

Dry heavy and light fabrics separately and don't add wet items to a load that's already partly dry. If available, use the moisture sensor setting. (A clothesline is the most energy-efficient clothes dryer of all!)

Use the cool-down cycle to allow the clothes to finish drying with the residual heat in the dryer.

When possible, wash clothes in cold water. About 90% of the energy use in a clothes washer goes to water heating.

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.

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.

Configure your computer to "hibernate" automatically after 30 minutes or so of inactivity. The "hibernate mode" turns the computer off in a way that doesn't require you to reload everything when you switch it back on. Allowing your computer to hibernate saves energy and is more time-efficient than shutting down and restarting your computer from scratch. When you're done for the day, shut down.

Turn off your personal computer when you're away from your PC for 20 minutes or more, and both the CPU and the monitor if you will be away for two hours or more.

When buying new appliances, be sure to purchase energy-efficient ENERGY STARŪ labeled models.

Wash only full loads in a dishwasher and use the shortest cycle that will get your dishes clean. If operating instructions allow, turn off the dishwasher before the drying cycle, open the door and let the dishes dry naturally.

Defrost refrigerators and freezers before ice buildup becomes 1/4-inch thick.

Keep the refrigerator stocked; it takes more energy to cool an empty refrigerator.

Consider replacing your older model refrigerator, especially if older than 10 years. Older models can often use over 3 times the energy of newer models.

Always use the bathroom or kitchen exhaust fans while showering or cooking and baking to avoid potential moisture problems.

Use a microwave or toaster oven for smaller items.

Set your refrigerator temperature at 38 to 42 degrees Fahrenheit; your freezer should be set between 0 and 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Use the power-save switch if your fridge has one, and make sure the door seals tightly. You can check this by making sure that a dollar bill closed in between the door gaskets is difficult to pull out. If it slides easily between the gaskets, replace them.

Don't preheat or "peek" inside the oven more than necessary. Check the seal on the oven door, and use a microwave oven for cooking or reheating small items.

Clean refrigerator coils regularly to keep compressor running efficiently.

Use the microwave when possible - it cooks faster and doesn't create as much heat as a stove burner.

Run your dishwasher and clothes washer only when full.

Match the size of your pot or pan to the size of the burner.

Defrost frozen food in the refrigerator before cooking.

Use the oven light to check on progress when cooking or baking.

Keep your freezer full. The fuller the freezer, the less cold air you lose when opening the door.

Use the self-cleaning cycle of your oven right after you finish baking. That will give it a head start in heating up.

Hang on to appliance manuals so you can refer to them for care information and possible energy-saving tips.

Heating and Cooling

During the heating season, keep the draperies and shades on your south facing windows open during the day to allow the sunlight to enter your home and closed at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.

Properly maintain and clean heating equipment. Replace furnace filters regularly.

Wrap heating and cooling ducts with duct wrap, or use mastic sealant.

Close the damper when the fireplace is not being used. Try not to use the fireplace and central heating system at the same time.

Lower your thermostat at night and whenever the house is unoccupied. Close off and don't heat unoccupied rooms (unless you have a heat pump). If you consistently set your thermostat back at night 10 degrees Fahrenheit, you may reduce your heating bill by 10-20 percent.

Lower the thermostat and dress warmer. As little as 1 to 3 degrees (F) makes a noteworthy difference in energy consumption.

Tune-up your heating and cooling system annually to keep it running as efficiently as possible.

Keep all windows and doors located near your thermostat closed tightly.

Keep heat sources such as lamps and appliances away from your thermostat.

Keep your outside air unit clean and clear of debris or weeds.

Reduce air conditioning costs by using fans, keeping windows and doors shut and closing shades during the day.

Insulation and Air Sealing

Weatherize your home-caulk and weatherstrip any doors and windows that leak air.

Check the insulation in your attic, ceilings, exterior and basement walls, floors, and crawl spaces to see if it meets the levels recommended for your area.

Test for air leaks by holding a lit incense stick next to windows, doors, electrical boxes, plumbing fixtures, electrical outlets, ceiling fixtures, attic hatches and other locations where there is a possible air path to the outside. If the smoke stream travels horizontally, you have located an air leak that may need caulking, sealing or weather stripping.

Replace old windows with new high performance dual pane windows.

Install foam gaskets behind electric-outlet and switch-plate covers.

Examine and adjust, if necessary, weather stripping, door sweeps, and thresholds.

Have your ductwork inspected and repair any leaks.

Wrap your water heater with insulation or install an insulating blanket.

Lighting and Daylighting

Don't forget to flick the switch when you leave a room. Remember this at the office, too. Turn out or dim the lights in unused conference rooms, and when you step out for lunch. Work by daylight when possible. A typical commercial building uses more energy for lighting than anything else.

Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents; they use 75% less energy and last 10 times longer.

Use low-watt bulbs where lighting is not critical.

Place floor lamps and hanging lamps in corners. The reflection off the walls will give you more light

Turn off outdoor lighting during the day. Try timer switches or photoelectric controls if the finger method is a bother.

Turn off unnecessary lighting and use task or desktop lamps with CFLs instead of overhead lights.

Water Heating

Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes.

Take short showers instead of baths.

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.

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.

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 Guide label.

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.

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.

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.

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 your electric hot-water storage tank, but be careful not to cover the thermostat. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations.

Select a shower head with a flow rate of less than 2.5 gpm (gallons per minute) for maximum water efficiency. Before 1992, some showerheads had flow rates of 5.5 gpm, so you might want to replace them if you're not sure of their flow rates.

Insulate your hot water pipes, which will reduce heat loss and can raise water temperature 2F-4F hotter than uninsulated pipes. This allows for a lower water temperature setting.

Lowering the thermostat on your water heater by 10F can save you between 3%-5% in energy costs. Most households only require a water heater thermostat setting of 120F, or even 115F.

Fix defective plumbing or dripping faucets. A single dripping hot water faucet can waste 212 gallons of water a month. That not only increases water bills, but also increases the gas or electric bill for heating the water.

When washing clothes, use warm or cold water and rinse with cold. Air dry clothes, but not indoors as this creates unwanted mold and moisture problems.