When you look for ways to reduce your energy use, little things can add up to surprisingly big savings, including unplugging electronics you don't use, lowering the temperature of your water heater to a safe but energy-efficient level and turning out lights when you leave a room. Whether you've been on the hunt for savings or have just started planning an efficiency program for your home, look for big and little ways to raise your home's energy IQ.
Hire a certified contractor to inspect your home's insulation, doors and windows, caulking and comfort systems for leaks, inefficiencies and potential savings. A well-insulated attic helps keep conditioned air inside and cold or hot outdoor air from creeping in. Doors and windows that don't seal tightly or that lack insulation also force your air conditioner or furnace to run longer. Even your electric outlets and switches can leak air. An energy audit also looks for wasted electricity, gas leaks, dangerous carbon monoxide and too-high water heater temperature settings.
Enacted in 2007, U.S. government standards for energy efficiency in lighting products require bulbs to use 25 percent less energy than the incandescent bulbs that have lit homes and businesses for more than 100 years. LED replacement bulbs require up to 80 percent less electricity than traditional incandescents. Replacing your old bulbs with LED lighting produces the same lighting levels without the byproduct heat. Furthermore, LED bulbs can operate 35 times longer than incandescents, even lasting at least twice as long as fluorescents. LEDs offer instant lighting with no warmup requirement to reach full brightness after you turn them on, unlike fluorescents, and can operate on circuits with dimmers.
If you still rely on a refrigerator that's at least 10 years old, its performance offers vastly less energy efficiency than a new model, thanks to improvements in insulation that can yield greater food storage space in an appliance that occupies no more space than its predecessors. In fact, a refrigerator with ENERGY STAR certification uses 75 percent less energy than an appliance sold in 1975.
Appliances account for 13 percent of the energy use in the average American household, and the refrigerator leads the way as the necessity with the heaviest energy usage in your home, other than your water heater. Once you upgrade to a new, efficient model, keeping your refrigerator full and its cooling coils clean also helps it operate efficiently.
An ENERGY STAR washer can help you cut your clothes-cleaning water use in half. In an agitator-style top-loading washer, you need a tub of water in which to dissolve laundry products and swish clothes back and forth through detergent. Swap out that thirsty appliance for a high-efficiency front-loading washer and you can skip the tub-filling phase of wash day altogether.
HE washers spray water through your clothes to wash and to rinse them, getting better cleaning action out of less liquid. If you switch to cold-water wash cycles, you can add even more energy savings on top of HE models' 37 percent reduction in electricity requirements, according to ENERGY STAR. Skipping partial loads helps maximize the energy value of your wash.
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