Wasting energy means wasting money. This guide to practical energy-saving tips shows just how easy it is to reduce your home energy use and lower your energy bills. Many of these things you can do yourself with minimal expense and maximum results.
When your heating equipment works at peak efficiency, you reap the benefits in comfort and savings. Proper maintenance of your system is key for performance. And if you're ready to replace your current equipment, high-efficiency models really pay off. Use our energy calculator to see how much you can save.
- Get a heating system tune-up. A heating and cooling professional can perform an annual inspection and routine system maintenance to make sure your furnace is operating at peak performance.
- Replace furnace filters a minimum of every three months, especially if you have pets. A dirty or clogged filter will demand more energy and slow down the heating process. Make sure your furnace and hot water heater are properly ventilated.
- Allow heat to circulate. Once you have your furnace operating at peak performance, go through your home to be sure that heat is circulating properly. Prevent furniture, draperies and rugs from obstructing registers and heat vents. Keep radiators and registers dust-free.
- Install an ENERGY STAR* programmable thermostat. This type of thermostat will automatically change settings at certain times of day.
- Install an ENERGY STAR* high-efficiency furnace or boiler. Newly installed natural gas furnaces with an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) of 95 percent or greater or a boiler with an AFUE rating of 85 percent or higher are eligible for a rebate up to $500 from New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program and an NJNG Enhanced Rebate of $500. Contact NJNG’s The SAVEGREEN Project® at 877-455-NJNG (6564) for more information and program specifics.
- Insulate hot water pipes. Insulating hot water pipes from the water heater to the source is another way to conserve.
- Replace your old water heater. A new high-efficiency model will help save energy dollars. Newly installed water heaters with a Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association energy factor of .82 or higher are eligible for a rebate.
- Wash with full loads. Dishwashers use approximately 15 gallons of hot water per use. That's why you should always wash a full load of dishes. Washing dishes by hand could use as much as 20 gallons.
- Let dishes air-dry. If you do not have an automatic air-dry switch, turn off the control knob after the final rinse and open the door a little so that dishes dry faster.
- Replace an older model dishwasher. Upgrade to a new ENERGY STAR* rated model.
- Clean the lint trap. Be sure to clean the trap after every use.
- Line-dry your clothes. Use the dryer for just a few minutes to soften line-dried clothes.
- Avoid over drying clothes. It wastes energy, causes shrinkage and shortens the life of the clothes.
- Run consecutive loads. This is a way to take advantage of accumulated heat.
- Vent your clothes dryer to the outside. This prevents buildup of excessive moisture in the laundry room, as well as the rest of the house.
- Avoid preheating. Don't preheat your natural gas oven unless the recipe specifically requires it.
- Keep the oven door closed. Don't open the oven door while food is cooking. You can lose up to 50 degrees in temperature and waste energy.
- Plan ahead. Cook several meals at the same time.
- Adjust the gas flame to fit your pans. The flame should never come up around the sides of a pan.
- Keep the lid on. Keeping lids on your pots will make the water boil faster.
- Use the sun to heat your pool. A solar pool cover heats your pool water naturally, which saves energy dollars. Using a solar pool cover can also extend your family's swimming season.
- Conserve water. You'll reduce evaporation and save on your water bill when you use a solar pool cover.
- Use fewer chemicals. A solar pool cover saves on chemicals - good for your budget and for the environment.
- Eliminate debris. Keep your pool cleaner and run your filter less by eliminating leaves and other debris with a solar pool cover.
- Repair leaky faucets promptly. A leaky faucet wastes gallons of water in a short period of time. A small leak that fills a coffee cup in 10 minutes wastes 3,280 gallons of water a year. If it's hot water, you're wasting energy as well.
- Install low-flow faucets and showerheads. Older showerheads send up to 3-5 gallons per minute down your drain. New, easy-to-install conservation models provide a satisfying shower using only 2.5 gallons per minute or less.
- Take a shower. Showers generally use less hot water than a tub bath.
- Turn off the tap. Don't let the tap water run unnecessarily while you wash or shave.
- Reduce the temperature. Turning down the thermostat by 10 degrees at night and when the house is unoccupied can save as much as 20 percent of your heating costs. Every 24-hour period that the heat is lowered by 1 degree can result in a 3 percent savings on your heating bill. For example, if you normally keep your thermostat set at 72 degrees, you can save 12 percent on your winter heating bills by turning it down to 68 degrees. Before making adjustments, be sure to check that no one in the household will be adversely affected by the reduced temperature. Remember that small children and the elderly in particular may be vulnerable to problems at lower temperatures. Reduce the temperature gradually to give your body time to adjust to the new temperature level. Don't forget to install a programmable thermostat!
- Dress a little warmer. Instead of turning up the thermostat when you feel a chill, grab a sweater or another layer of clothing. To trap body heat, wear thicker, knitted clothes and dress in layers, which traps insulating air near your body to keep you warmer.
- Let the sun shine in. Be sure to open draperies and blinds on sunny days to let the sunlight warm your home. But remember to close them at night and on overcast days.
- Don't heat unused rooms. If you have a spare bedroom or another room that is not used regularly, heating it unnecessarily will waste energy dollars. Adjust the airflow on registers to a minimum. Caution: Make sure the unused space gets enough heat in winter to prevent plaster from cracking or water from freezing and bursting pipes or radiators.
- Use ceiling fans to help circulate warm air. Since heat rises, ceiling fans can keep your home energy-efficient and warm in the winter by circulating the warmer air down from the ceiling into the living area.
- Find and plug leaks and gaps. Plug gaps around pipes, ducts, fans and vents that go through walls. Use caulk to seal around plumbing that goes through walls. Use caulking products rated for high temperatures when sealing around combustion appliance vents. To seal duct leaks, use UL-approved mastic sealants and UL-approved plastic or metallic tapes. Do not use cloth-backed tapes. To pinpoint drafts, try running a wet finger around the door or window frame to feel cold air, or hold up a tissue and see if it waves. Seal leaks between moving parts (between door and its frame) with weather stripping. Fill leaks between non-moving parts (between window frame and wall) with caulking.
- Insulate. Make sure your home is well insulated to prevent heat from escaping. Check levels of insulation in the attic, walls and floors. Insulate ducts in unheated spaces. Most ducts are in crawl spaces, attics and outdoor locations. If your ducts aren't already insulated, do it now using R-6 or higher fiberglass insulation and install according to manufacturer's specifications.
- Lock out the cold. Make sure that storm windows are in place before cold weather arrives. Check to make sure that storm doors close properly and that windows fasten tightly. When windows are locked, the sashes and insulation should meet each other perfectly and reduce outside drafts that infiltrate the home. Replace broken glass, worn weather stripping and improperly fitting doors.
- Put heat loss under wraps. If you leave your air conditioning unit in your window year round, wrap it in a protective cover and seal up any spaces that could allow heat to escape. DO NOT COVER A HEAT PUMP! Put an insulating jacket around an older-style water heater.
- Close the fireplace flue. Keep the fireplace damper closed when your fireplace is not in use. An open flue allows heat to escape right up the chimney. As the fire dies down, it can actually draw room heat out of your home. Glass fireplace doors can prevent heat loss. Please note that certain natural gas fireplace models require the damper to remain open. See the manufacturer's instructions for details.
Energy Guide Labels
Except for ovens and ranges, all major appliances come with a yellow Energy Guide label to help you compare the models and brands you're considering. Estimates of energy use are made under laboratory conditions and are based on U.S. Department of Energy statistics. You can use the estimates to calculate what a particular appliance is likely to cost to operate in your home over the life of the appliance.
When looking for new household appliances, look for the ones that have earned the ENERGY STAR. They meet strict energy-efficiency guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.
For more in-depth information on energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, visit these Web sites:
Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Alliance to Save Energy
New Jersey's Clean Energy Program