Save Energy and Money Today
Tips to Save Energy Today
• Set your thermostat comfortably low in the winter and comfortably
high in the summer. Install a programmable thermostat that is
compatible with your heating system.
• Use compact fluorescent light bulbs.
• Air dry dishes instead of using your dishwasher’s drying cycle.
• Turn off your computer and monitor when not in use.
• Plug home electronics, such as TVs and DVD players, into power
strips; turn the power strips off when the equipment is not in use (TVs
and DVDs in standby mode still use several watts of power).
• Lower the thermostat on your hot water heater to 120° F.
• Take short showers instead of baths.
• Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes.
• Look for the ENERGY STAR® label on home appliances and products.
ENERGY STAR products meet strict efficiency guidelines set by the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.
Your Home’s Energy Use
The first step to taking a whole house energy efficiency approach
is to find out which parts of your house use the most energy. A home
energy audit will pinpoint those areas and suggest the most effective
measures for cutting your energy costs. You can conduct a simple
home energy audit yourself, you can contact your local utility, or
you can call an independent energy auditor for a more comprehensive
examination. For more information about home energy audits,
including free tools and calculators,
Energy Auditing Tips
• Check the insulation levels in your attic, exterior and basement
Walls, ceilings, floors, and crawl spaces.
• Check for holes or cracks around your walls, ceilings, windows,
doors, light and plumbing fixtures, switches, and electrical outlets that
can leak air into or out of your home.
• Check for open fireplace dampers.
• Make sure your appliances and heating and cooling systems are
properly maintained. Check your owner’s manuals for the
• Study your family’s lighting needs and use patterns, paying special
attention to high-use areas such as the living room, kitchen, and
outside lighting. Look for ways to use lighting controls—like occupancy
sensors, dimmers, or timers—to reduce lighting energy use, and
replace standard (also called incandescent) light bulbs and fixtures
with compact or standard fluorescent lamps.
Formulating Your Plan
After you have identified where your home is losing energy, assign
priorities by asking yourself a few important questions:
• How much money do you spend on energy?
• Where are your greatest energy losses?
• How long will it take for an investment in energy efficiency to pay
for itself in energy cost savings?
• Do the energy saving measures provide additional benefits that
are important to you (for example, increased comfort from installing
double-paned, efficient windows)?
• How long do you plan to own your current home?
• Can you do the job yourself or will you need to hire a contractor?
• What is your budget and how much time do you have to spend on
maintenance and repair?
How We Use Energy in Our Homes
Heating accounts for the biggest chunk of a typical utility bill.
Once you assign priorities to your energy needs, you can form a whole
house efficiency plan. Your plan will provide you with a strategy for
making smart purchases and home improvements that maximize
energy efficiency and save the most money.
Another option is to get the advice of a professional. Many utilities
conduct energy audits for free or for a small charge. For a fee, a
professional contractor will analyze how well your home’s energy
systems work together and compare the analysis to your utility bills.
He or she will use a variety of equipment such as blower doors,
infrared cameras, and surface thermometers to find leaks and drafts.
After gathering information about your home, the contractor or auditor
will give you a list of recommendations for cost effective energy
improvements and enhanced comfort and safety. A good contractor
will also calculate the return on your investment in high efficiency
equipment compared with standard equipment.
Tips for Finding a Contractor
• Ask neighbors and friends for recommendations
• Look in the Yellow Pages
• Focus on local companies
• Look for licensed, insured contractors
• Get three bids with details in writing
• Ask about previous experience
• Check references
• Check with the Better Business Bureau
Checking your home’s insulation is one of the fastest and most cost
efficient ways to use a wholehouse approach to reduce energy waste
and make the most of your energy dollars. A good insulating system
includes a combination of products and construction techniques
that protect a home from outside temperatures—hot and cold, protect
it against air leaks, and control moisture. You can increase the comfort
of your home while reducing your heating and cooling needs by up to
30% by investing just a few hundred dollars in proper insulation and
sealing air leaks.
First, 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. Insulation is measured in
R-values—the higher the R-value, the better your walls and roof
will resist the transfer of heat. DOE recommends ranges of
R-values based on local heating and cooling costs and climate
conditions in different areas of the nation. State and local codes
in some parts of the country may require lower R-values than the
Where to Insulate
Adding insulation in the areas shown below may be the best way to
improve your home’s energy efficiency.
For customized insulation recommendations, visit energysavers.gov
and check out the Zip Code Insulation Calculator, which lists the most
economic insulation levels for your new or existing home based on
your zip code and other basic information about your home.
Although insulation can be made from a variety of materials, it usually
comes in four types; each type has different
Rolls and batts—or blankets—are flexible products made from mineral
fibers, such as fiberglass and rock wool. They are available in widths
suited to standard spacings of wall studs and attic or floor joists.
2x4 walls can hold R-13 or R-15 batts; 2x6 walls can have R-19or R-
Loose-fill insulation—usually made of fiberglass, rock wool, or
cellulose comes in shreds, granules, or nodules. These small particles
should be blown into spaces using special pneumatic equipment. The
blown-in material conforms readily to building cavities and attics.
Therefore, loose-fill insulation is well suited for places where it is
difficult to install other types of insulation.
Rigid foam insulation—foam insulation typically is more expensive
than fiber insulation. But it’s very effective in buildings with space
limitations and where higher R-values are needed. Foam insulation
R-values range from R-4 to R-6.5 per inch of thickness (2.54 cm),
which is up to 2 times greater than most other insulating materials
of the same thickness.
Foam-in-place insulation—can be blown into walls and reduces air
• Consider factors such as your climate, building design, and budget
when selecting insulation R-values 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 providing moisture control 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 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 IC—designed for direct insulation contact. Check
your local building codes for recommendations.
Insulation and Sealing Air Leaks
Should I Insulate My Home?
The answer is probably “yes” if you:
• Have an older home and haven’t added insulation. Only 20% of
homes built before 1980 are well insulated.
• Are uncomfortably cold in the winter or hot in the summer—
adding insulation creates a more uniform temperature and increases
• Build a new home, addition, or install new siding or roofing.
• Pay high energy bills.
• Are bothered by noise from outside—insulation muffles sound.
Long-Term Savings Tip
One of the most cost-effective ways to make your home more
comfortable year-round is to add insulation to your attic. Adding
insulation to the attic is relatively easy and very cost effective.
To find out if you have enough attic insulation, measure the thickness
of the insulation. If it is less than R-22 (7 inches of fiber glass or rock
wool or 6 inches of cellulose), you could probably benefit by adding
more. Most U.S. homes should have between R-22 and R-49 insulation
in the attic.
If your attic has enough insulation and your home still feels drafty and
cold in the winter or too warm in the summer, chances are you need
to add insulation to the exterior walls as well. This is a more expensive
measure that usually requires a contractor, but it may be worth the
cost if you live in a very hot or cold climate.
You may also need to add insulation to your crawl space. Either the
walls of the ceawl space or the floor above the crawl space should be
How Much Insulation Does My Home Need?
For new construction or home additions, R-11 to R-28 insulation
is recommended for exterior walls depending on location.
Tomeet this recommendation, most homes and additions constructed
with 2 in. x 4 in. walls require a combination of wall cavity insulation,
such as batts and insulating sheathing or rigid foam boards. If you
live in an area with an insulation recommendation that is greater
than R-20, you may want to consider building with 2 in. x 6 in.
framing instead of 2 in. x 4 in. framing to allow room for thicker wall
cavity insulation—R-19 to R-21.
Today, new products are on the market that provide both insulation
and structural support and should be considered for new home
construction or additions. Structural insulated panels, known as SIPS,
and masonry products like insulating concrete forms are among these.
Some homebuilders are even using an old technique borrowed from
the pioneers, building walls using straw bales.
Radiant barriers (in hot climates), reflective insulation, and foundation
insulation should all be considered for new home construction.
Sealing Air Leaks
Warm air leaking into your home during the summer and out of your
home during the winter can waste a lot of your energy dollars. One of
the quickest dollar-saving tasks you can do is caulk, seal, and
weatherstrip all seams, cracks, and openings to the outside. You can
save 10% or more on your energy bill by reducing the air leaks in your
Tips for Finding And Sealing Air Leaks
• First, test your home for air tightness. On a windy day, hold a lit
incense stick next to your 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 weatherstripping.
Sources of Air Leaks in Your Home
Areas that leak air into and out of your home cost you lots of money.
Check the areas listed below.
Water heater and furnace flues
Electrical outlets and switches
Plumbing and utility access
Insulation and Sealing Air Leaks
• Caulk and weatherstrip doors and windows that leak air.
• Caulk and seal air leaks where plumbing, ducting, or electrical
wiring penetrates through exterior walls, floors, ceilings, and soffits
• Install rubber gaskets behind outlet and switch plates on exterior
• Look for dirty spots in your insulation, which often indicate holes
where air leaks into and out of your house. You can seal the holes by
stapling sheets of plastic over the holes and caulking the edges of the
• Install storm windows over single-pane windows or replace them
with doublepane windows.
• When the fireplace is not in use, keep the flue damper tightly closed.
A chimney is designed specifically for smoke to escape, so until you
close it, warm air escapes—24 hours a day!
• For new construction, reduce exterior wall leaks by either
installing house wrap, taping the joints of exterior sheathing, or
comprehensively caulking and sealing the exterior walls.
How and Where Does the Air Escape?
? Plumbing penetrations 13%
? Windows 10%
? Floors, walls, and ceiling 31%
? Fireplace 14%
? Fans and vents 4%
? Doors 11%
? Ducts 15%
? Electric outlets 2%
Air infiltrates into and out of your home through every hole, nook, and
cranny. About one-third of this air infiltrates through openings in your
ceilings, walls, and floors.
Heating and Cooling
Heating and cooling your home uses more energy and drains more
energy dollars than any other system in your home. Typically, 61% of
your utility bill goes for heating and cooling. What’s more, heating and
cooling systems in the United States together emit over a half billion
tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, adding to global
warming. They also generate about 24% of the nation’s sulfur dioxide
and 12% of the nitrogen oxides, the chief ingredients in acid rain.
No matter what kind of heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning
system you have in your house, you can save money and increase
your comfort by properly maintaining and upgrading your equipment.
But remember, an energy-efficient furnace alone will not have as great
an impact on your energy bills as using the whole-house approach.
By combining proper equipment maintenance and upgrades with
appropriate insulation, air sealing, and thermostat settings, you can
cut your energy bills and your pollution output in half.
Heating and Cooling Tips
• Set your thermostat as low as is comfortable in the winter and
as high as is comfortable in the summer.
• Clean or replace filters on furnaces once a month or as needed.
• Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters, and radiators as
needed; make sure they’re not blocked by furniture, carpeting, or
• Bleed trapped air from hot-water radiators once or twice a season;
if in doubt about how to perform this task, call a professional.
• Place heat-resistant radiator reflectors between exterior walls and
• Turn off kitchen, bath, and other exhaust fans within 20 minutes
after you are done cooking or bathing; when replacing exhaust fans,
consider installing high-efficiency, low-noise models.
• During the heating season, keep the draperies and shades on your
southfacing 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.
• During the cooling season, keep the window coverings closed during
the day to prevent solar gain.
Long-Term Savings Tips
• Select energy-efficient products when you buy new heating and
cooling equipment. Your contractor should be able to give you energy
fact sheets for different types, models, and designs to help you.
One of the most important systems in your home, though it’s hidden
beneath your feet and over your head, may be wasting a lot of your
Your home’s duct system, a branching network of tubes in the walls,
floors, and ceilings, carries the air from your home’s furnace and
central air conditioner to each room. Ducts are made of sheet metal,
fiber glass, or other materials. Unfortunately, many duct systems
are poorly insulated or not insulated properly. 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 buying a new duct
system, consider one that comes with insulation already installed.
Sealing your ducts to prevent leaks is even more important if the ducts
are located in an unconditioned area such as an attic or vented crawl
space. If the supply ducts are leaking, heated or cooled air can be
forced out unsealed joints and lost. In addition, unconditioned air can
be drawn into return ducts through unsealed joints.
In the summer, hot attic air can be drawn in, increasing the load on
the air conditioner. In the winter, your furnace will have to work longer
to keep your house comfortable. Either way, your energy losses cost
you money. Minor duct repairs are easy to do, Here are a few simple
tips to help with minor duct repairs.
• 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, which tends to fail quickly. Researchers
recommend other products to seal ducts: mastic, butyl tape, foil tape,
or other heat approved tapes. Look for tape with the Underwriters
• Remember that insulating ducts in the basement will make the
basement colder. If both the ducts and the basement walls are
uninsulated, consider insulating both.*
* Note: Water pipes and drains in unconditioned spaces could freeze
and burst in the space 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.
• If your basement has been converted to a living area, install both
supply and return registers in the basement rooms.
• Be sure a well-sealed vapor barrier exists on the outside of the
insulation on cooling ducts to prevent moisture buildup.
• For new construction, consider placing ducts in conditioned
space—space that is heated and cooled—instead of running ducts
through unconditioned areas like the crawl space or attic, which is
When you cozy up next to a crackling fire on a cold winter day, you
probably don’t realize that your fireplace is one of the most inefficient
heat sources you can possibly use. It literally sends your energy
dollars right up the chimney along with volumes of warm air. A
roaring fire can exhaust as much as 24,000 cubic feet of air per hour
to the outside, which must be replaced by cold air coming into the
house from the outside. Your heating system must warm up this air,
which is then exhausted through your chimney. If you use your
conventional fireplace while your central heating system is on, these
tips can help reduce energy losses.
• If you never use your fireplace, plug and seal the chimney flue.
• Keep your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is going. Keeping the
damper open is like keeping a window wide open during the winter; it
allows warm air to go right up the chimney.
• When you use the fireplace, reduce heat loss by opening dampers in
the bottom of the firebox (if provided) or open the nearest window
slightly— approximately 1 inch—and close doors leading into the room.
Lower the thermostat setting to between 50° and 55°F.
• Install tempered glass doors and a heat-air exchange system that
blows warmed air back into the room.
• Check the seal on the flue damper and make it as snug as possible.
• Add caulking around the fireplace hearth.
• Use grates made of C-shaped metal tubes to draw cool room air into
the fireplace and circulate warm air back into the room.
Natural Gas and Oil Heating Systems
If you plan to buy a new heating system, ask your local utility or state
energy office for information about the latest technologies available to
consumers. They can advise you about more efficient systems on the
market today. For example, many newer models incorporate designs
for burners and heat exchangers that result in higher efficiencies
during operation and reduce heat loss when the equipment is off.
Consider a sealed combustion furnace; they are both safer and more
Long-Term Savings Tip
• Install a new energy-efficient furnace to save money over the long
term. Look for the ENERGY STAR and EnergyGuide labels.
You can save as much as 10% a year on your heating and cooling bills
by simply turning your thermostat back 10% to 15% for 8 hours. You
can do this automatically without sacrificing comfort by installing an
automatic setback or programmable thermostat.
Using a programmable thermostat, you can adjust the times you turn
on the heating or air-conditioning according to a pre-set schedule. As a
result, the equipment doesn’t operate as much when you are asleep or
when the house or part of the house is not occupied.
Programmable thermostats can store and repeat multiple daily settings
(six or more temperature settings a day) that you can manually
override without affecting the rest of the daily or weekly program.
Landscaping is a natural and beautiful way to keep your home cool in
summer and reduce your energy bills. In addition to adding aesthetic
value and environmental quality to your home, a well-placed tree,
shrub, or vine can deliver effective shade, act as a windbreak, and
reduce overall energy bills.
Carefully positioned trees can save up to 25% of a typical household’s
energy used for heating and cooling. Computer models from DOE
predict that just three trees, properly placed around the house, can
save an average household between $100 and $250 in heating and
cooling energy costs annually.
Studies conducted by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found
summer daytime air temperatures to be 3° to 6°F cooler in treeshaded
neighborhoods than in treeless areas.
The energy-conserving landscape strategies you should use for your
home depend on the type of climate in which you live.
Water heating is the third largest energy expense in your home.
It typically accounts for about 16% of your utility bill. There are
four ways to cut your water heating bills: use less hot water, turn
down the thermostat on your water heater, insulate your water heater,
or buy a new, more efficient water heater.
A family of four, each showering for 5 minutes a day, uses 700 gallons
of water a week; this is enough for a 3-year supply of drinking water
for one person. You can cut that amount in half simply by using lowflow
aerating showerheads and faucets.
Water Heating Tips
• Install aerating, low-flow faucets and showerheads.
• 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 120°F provides comfortable hot water for most uses.
• Take more showers than baths. Bathing uses the most hot water
in the average household. You use 15–25 gallons of hot water for a
bath, but less than 10 gallons during a 5-minute shower.
• 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 hotwater storage tank, but be careful
not to cover the water heater’s top, bottom, thermostat, or burner