Collapse All Expand All
Your Small Appliances
It makes the most sense to focus on the appliances and equipment already covered in this brochure, because combined, they make up an estimated 90% of your monthly energy bill. Most of the remaining appliances in your home are relatively inexpensive to operate.
Some of the more expensive small appliances used are: vacuum cleaners at 11¢ per hour, hair dryers at 14¢ per hour, and irons at 7¢ per hour. But, since they're usually not on for long periods of time, they really don't add up to much. There are also small appliances that are on all day that you may wonder about, like clocks at 16¢ per month, answering machines at 82¢ per month and fax machines at 66¢ per month.
These costs are still insignificant when you look at the hours of operation.
Watch Those Gas Fireplace Logs
Gas fireplace logs can keep you cozy each night, but at 25¢ per hour, your gas costs can really take a jump if you use them every night. And, most of the heat goes up your chimney instead of into the room.
Pull The Plug Or Hit The "Off" Button
There's no need to leave television sets, computers, curling irons, electric skillets and irons on when you're not using them.
Play It Safe
Besides wasting energy, leaving electric appliances and equipment on needlessly will cause them to wear out faster. It may also be a significant safety hazard. So play it safe, and shut them off when you're through.
If you're like most people, chances are your refrigerator/freezer is one of the largest energy users in your home, gobbling up about 20% of your household's annual energy costs. Why? Because it requires electricity to operate, and it's on 24 hours a day (costing from $7 to $24 per month).
Keep It In Good Shape
A refrigerator works best when it's kept in good condition. So check the door seals. If a seal is cracked, or you feel cold air leaking out, the seal should be replaced.
A 19-year old, 22-cubic-foot side-by-side refrigerator/freezer costs about $215 per year to operate. But a brand new high-efficiency refrigerator costs only $80 per year to operate -- a savings of $135 each year on your energy bill.
If you have an extra refrigerator or freezer and don't keep it full, you could save $200 to $300 a year simply by unplugging it.
Use The Right Settings
Check your thermostat controls. To work most efficiently, your refrigerator should be set between 38°F and 40°F. The freezer temperature should be set at 0°F.
Go For High Efficiency
Newer refrigerators use half as much energy as older models of the same size, so they cost half as much to run. Be sure to compare cubic footage and purchase price, as well as estimated operating costs. The yellow Energy Guide label can help you in your decision-making process.
The yellow Energy Guide label on new appliances can be a valuable resource in helping you select a new appliance. It will show you the estimated annual operating cost, which can help you make the decision that's right for you.
Defrost It Regularly
If you have a manual defrost freezer, don't forget to defrost regularly. More than 1/4 inch of frost makes your freezer work harder to keep your food (and the frost) frozen.
Keep It Clean
Dirty condenser coils could lead to higher operating costs. Coils, found on the back or bottom front of your refrigerator, should be checked and cleaned at least twice a year.
Keep It Level
A refrigerator that's not level may cause the door gasket to seal improperly, letting cold air leak out. Set a glass of water on top to check. Adjust the legs until the water looks level.
Keep It Cool
Keep it in a well-ventilated, dry and cool space. Refrigerators and freezers near ovens, stoves, water heaters, clothes dryers or other crowded or warm places have to work harder.
Keep It Closed A refrigerator works more efficiently when you open its door as little as possible. So make your decisions before opening the door and get everything you need quickly and at one time.
To check door seals on your refrigerator and freezer, place a flashlight inside and close the door. If you can see light with the door closed, it's time to replace the seal.
Keep Foods Covered
Covering foods will reduce moisture buildup on the inside of the refrigerator. Also, wipe moisture from bottles and other containers before placing them back in the refrigerator.
Keep The Heat Out Of Your Refrigerator
Before you store leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer, allow them to cool slightly. That way, your refrigerator or freezer won't have to work to cool them off.
Flip That Switch
You can save energy by keeping the Energy-Saver Switch turned on (which actually turns the anti-sweat heater off). Anti-sweat heaters prevent moisture build-up on the outside of a refrigerator, which is generally not needed in areas of low humidity like Southern California. Check your owner's manual for directions on your model's switch.
Keep It Full
Refrigerators operate most efficiently when they are full, but not overloaded. While it's true that frozen foods help to keep the air cool, over-packing food in either compartment can prevent cold air from circulating properly. Refer to your owner's manual for the correct capacity.
Don't Cool It If You're Going To Throw It Away Anyway
Why cool something you'll probably throw out anyway? If you're going away for a few days, get rid of foods that are likely to spoil. If you'll be gone for more than a month, consider cleaning out your refrigerator, unplugging it and leaving the doors open.*
* Caution: Some older models are impossible to open from the inside, a hazard for children and pets. Also, older models may have difficulty restarting.
A single light doesn't use a whole lot of energy. But when you add up all the lights in your home, and think about how long they are usually on during the month, it can really add up. In fact, lighting is about 12% of your monthly bill (9% for all electric homes).
Let The Sun Shine
Why use lights when you can use the sun? Open blinds and curtains during the day to take advantage of nature's light.
Dim The Lights
Consider buying solid state dimmer switches. They can increase bulb life while reducing electric consumption and cost. But don't use them with compact fluorescents because they're not compatible.
Replace Incandescents With Compact Fluorescents
Compared to regular light bulbs, compact fluorescent bulbs cost one-fourth to operate, last ten times longer and use 75% less energy. Replacing an incandescent bulb with a compact fluorescent will help the environment, saving the energy equivalent of 46 gallons of oil. That's one-half ton of carbon dioxide emissions over the lifetime of the bulb.
Motion Sensors Make Sense
Are you tired of asking everyone to turn off the lights when they leave a room? If so, try replacing light switches with motion or occupancy sensors. These make the lights go on or off when someone enters or leaves a room. The garage is the perfect place for one. They're also good for exterior or security lighting. Your lights will only come on when motion is detected.
Let Timers Take On The Task
If you sometimes forget to turn off the lights, think about buying a timer. It turns lights off and on automatically, and helps your day-to-day home security too. Best of all, you can set it and forget it.
Save Watts Whenever You Can
Use watt-saving bulbs. They give off the same amount of light as regular bulbs, but use 10% less energy. Just remember, the higher the wattage, the more it costs to have your lights on.
Photocells automatically turn on your lights when it gets dark. Then when it's bright enough, the photocell turns the lights off. They're great for outdoor or security lighting because you don't have to remember to turn them off in the morning. The sunlight will do it for you.
Decorate In Light Colors
If you plan to redecorate, think about lighter colors. Dark colors absorb light, so you'll use more watts to light the room.
Let The Light Through
Lamp shades can make a big difference. A lamp with a light-colored shade, especially one that's lined in white, will give the best light. Tall, narrow shades or short, dark-colored shades let through less light. So, you'll probably need to turn on another light to see properly, which means you'll use more electricity.
Keep Them Clean
Dirty or dusty light bulbs don't put out as much light as clean bulbs. That's because dirt and dust absorb light. So, add bulb-dusting to your cleaning list.
Consider Low-Voltage Lighting For The Outdoors
If you're planning to light up your landscaping, install low voltage lighting wherever possible. A string of 6 low voltage lights uses about 108 watts, compared to a single 150-watt flood light.
Plan For That Vacation
If you're going away, you'll probably want to leave some lights on for security purposes. If so, consider buying timers to turn your lights on and off instead of leaving them on 24 hours a day. The money you save on lighting could easily pay for the timers.
Use Only What You Need
Do you ever go into a room and turn on all the lights? Or leave landscape lighting on all night? Inside and outside, use only as much light as you need.
Your Water Heater
Heating water is one of your largest annual energy expenses. A water heater can cost a typical household of three, $12 a month (for gas) to $34 a month (for electric).
Set It Properly
Check your thermostat control. To work most efficiently, your water heater should be set between 120°F and 130°F. If you have a dishwasher, you may have to set it as high as 140°F. Refer to your owner's manual for proper dishwasher operating temperatures.
Keep It Warm
If your water heater doesn't have a water heater blanket, you may need one. To find out, place your hand against the outside of your water heater. If it feels warm, then you should consider buying a water heater blanket. It can save up to 9% on your water heating costs. But check the caution label on your water heater. Newer models come with proper insulation, and some even prohibit installing a blanket. Finally, don't cover the inspection plate with the blanket or store any combustibles close to the heater. It could be a fire hazard.
Fix Those Drips
If your faucets drip, that's money down the drain. A slow drip of hot water can waste up to 350 gallons per month. So, you're not only paying to heat the water, but you're paying for the water itself.
Cut The Flow
Install low-flow devices on your faucets and showers. They can cut up to 11% of your water use, which will help reduce your energy bills. Also consider taking showers rather than baths. A shower typically uses less hot water than a bath (especially if you limit your showers to five minutes or less). If you just need a shampoo, try using the sink rather than taking a shower.
Shut Off Your Pilot Light
If you're going away for longer than a month, consider shutting off your water heater. With a gas water heater, cut off the gas by turning the thermostat to "Off," then turning off the supply valves. With an electric water heater, shut it off at the circuit breaker box. Either way, your water heater won't have to heat water while you're gone. Always refer to the manufacturer's instructions for shutting off and relighting your gas pilot light.
The bright yellow Energy Guide label on new appliances can be a very valuable resource in helping you select a new appliance. It shows the estimated annual operating cost, which can help you make the decision that's right for you.
Use Cold Water When You Can
Use cold water instead of hot water to wash clothes or rinse dishes. If you have a gas water heater, this will save you about 5¢ for a load of clothes and 1¢ for a load of dishes. But, if you have an electric water heater you can save more: about 17¢ for a load of clothes and 4¢ for a load of dishes.
Twist The Tap
Turn the water off while you're brushing your teeth, lathering your hands with soap or scrubbing dishes.
Run Your Dishwasher
That's right... run your dishwasher. By running it once a day (or less) you'll use around 17 gallons of hot water each time, compared to the 10 gallons you'll generally use each time you wash the dishes by hand. Only wash full loads and use the energy-saver setting, which eliminates the dry cycle at a savings of 6¢ per load. If you have an electric water heater, use your dishwasher's booster heater. This booster heats the water used in the dishwasher to 140°F, allowing you to set your water heater at an energy-efficient 120°F.
Your Washer & Dryer
Your washer costs from 8¢ per load (gas water heater) to 21¢ per load (electric water heater) to run, and your dryer costs an additional 14¢ per load (gas) to 36¢ per load (electric). Which means that you're paying from 22¢ to 57¢ in energy alone with every load of laundry.
Wash Full Loads
Over 70% of the cost of washing a load of laundry is in heating the water. If you have a gas water heater, a load washed in warm water and rinsed in cold will cost you about 8¢. But if you have an electric water heater, the same load will cost roughly 21¢. So get the most for your money, and make every effort to wash full loads.
Buy Gas When You Have The Choice
Electric dryers are often less expensive to buy than their gas counterparts. But, the energy savings you'll see from a gas dryer will more than offset the additional cost to buy one.
Don't Overwork Your Clothes
Most clothes only need a 10-15 minute wash cycle to get clean. Overdrying will make them stiff, wrinkled and nearly impossible to iron. They'll wear out faster too. So wash and dry for only as long as necessary.
Dry Full Loads
A load dried for 30 minutes can cost from 14¢ (gas dryer) to 36¢ (electric dryer). Since you're going to spend that much, you might as well dry a full load.
Use Cold Water As Often As Possible
Washing in cold water will get most clothes just as clean. Besides, they'll fade less and have fewer wrinkles. You might even save on ironing (which costs another 7¢ per hour). Save washing in warm water for whites or hard-to-clean items. Above all, always rinse in cold.
If you're in the market for a new clothes washer, consider buying one that is Energy Star® rated. You can:
Get The Lint Out
- Use 50% less water
- Use 40% less energy
- Save 7,000 gallons of water per year
Clean your dryer's lint screen after every use. Besides keeping your clothes looking good, a lint-free dryer works much more efficiently.
Do It For Free
Use the sun to dry your clothes. It's free, and the only energy it requires is your own.
Check Your Connections
Check for hose cracks and leaky faucet connections. Either one can cause you to lose hot water every time you wash.
Your Oven & Range
Your food budget doesn't stop at the checkout counter. These days, the costs associated with preparing meals can really add up, with your oven costing from 7¢ an hour (gas) to 17¢ per hour (electric), and your range costing from 6¢ per hour (one gas burner, on high) to 14¢ per hour (one electric burner, on high). Here are some suggestions to help you save energy and money with cooking.
Don't Pre-Heat If You Don't Have To
If you're baking breads and cakes, pre-heating your oven may be necessary. But for most foods, like casseroles and broiled items, pre-heating simply isn't necessary. It's an energy and money waster.
Every time you open your oven's door, you lose approximately 25 degrees of heat.
Buy Gas Appliances For Your Kitchen
If you're in the market for a new range or oven, consider buying gas. They always cost less to operate than electric appliances. And, they're usually on for a shorter period of time.
Small But Significant
For smaller meals that can't be cooked in a microwave, consider using your electric skillet, broiler oven or toaster oven. They use half the energy of their full size electric counterparts, and won't heat up your kitchen in the warmer months.
Use Your Microwave Oven
Your microwave requires about the same amount of energy per hour to operate as your electric oven (roughly 17¢). But, since it cooks food so much more quickly, it saves you time, energy and money. In contrast, a gas oven costs only 7¢ per hour. So, your decision whether to use your microwave or your gas oven should be based on the length of time you need to cook in either one to get the same results.
Boil Until Boiling And Not A Minute Longer
Once water or other liquids reach a state of boiling, they won't get any hotter. So if you need to bring something to a boil, turn the burner down or off when it starts to boil.
Think Smart When Planning Your Meals
A meal like roast chicken, green bean casserole and brownies can all be cooked at the same time because they cook at the same temperature. It's easier on you and your oven too.
Use Your Leftovers
Your oven and range have leftovers too. A gas oven can retain heat up to 15 minutes; an electric oven up to 30 minutes. Even your electric range top burner can stay hot for an extra 3 to 5 minutes. Take advantage of this extra heat to warm up desserts or rolls. After all, you've already paid for it.
Keep The Heat Inside The Oven
Every time you open the oven door, you lose about 25 degrees of heat. This means that your food will take longer to cook and your oven needs to work that much harder to keep the temperature consistent.
Pay Attention To Pots & Pans
They can make a difference. Pans with flared sides or bottoms that are smaller than your burner let heat escape. If pots and pans are too big, or have warped bottoms, your food won't cook evenly. For most foods, a medium-weight aluminum pan cooks faster and more efficiently than other types. Save your heavier pots and pans for foods which require slow and steady cooking.
Cover It Up
Covers and lids on your pots and pans trap steam to help cook food faster.
Keep Your Oven & Range Clean
An oven or range that's free of grease and baked-on residue will work more efficiently.
Thaw First, Then Cook
If you thaw your foods completely before cooking, your oven won't have to work so hard to cook your meal.
Your Heating System
In the winter, your heating system is probably your biggest energy user, accounting for 13-16% of your monthly bill. A gas central furnace (about 60¢ per hour) is always cheaper to run than an electric central furnace (about $1.40 per hour).
Don't Touch It
The best temperature for your heater's thermostat is 68°F or below. Before bedtime, turn it down to 55°F or lower (or even off) for more savings. And if you don't want to wake up to a cold house, let a setback thermostat turn the heat up an hour before you plan to wake up. If you have a heat pump, raising and lowering the thermostat could cause the electric heating strips to come on, significantly increasing your heating costs.
Finally, thermostats should never be turned up high to heat a home in a hurry. It won't heat your home any faster.
Vents Have Their Virtues
They're adjustable and you can control where heat goes. Try closing a few of the rooms you don't use, along with their heating vents. But, don't close off too many rooms, or your furnace won't operate as efficiently. Also, remember to leave the vent open nearest the thermostat to ensure a proper temperature reading.
Stay Warm For Less
If you're in the market for a new furnace, consider a high-efficiency gas furnace. It's less expensive to operate. If you have an electric furnace, consider buying a heat pump.
Don't Let Heat Escape
Keep doors and windows closed on chilly nights. Weather-strip and caulk your doors and windows. And when you're not using your fireplace, close the damper.
Weather-stripping and caulking can save as much as 6% of your heating costs.
Close Blinds And Drapes At Night
It'll help keep the cold out. And, be sure to open them in the morning so the warmth of the sun can help warm your home.
Insulate Your Home Properly
Up to 20% of your heating can be lost through your ceiling. Which means you're paying for something you're not keeping. Proper insulation will keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The higher the "R value", the greater the insulating power. Your attic must also be adequately ventilated to prevent heat build-up in the summer and moisture build-up in the winter. Good insulation also helps prevent this build-up.
You can install insulation yourself or have a licensed insulation or roofing contractor assist you.
Installing R-19 ceiling insulation can cut heating costs by up to 20%. In some areas of San Diego County, R-30 insulation is recommended. Be sure to look into insulation carefully before buying.
Keep It Clean
A furnace with a dirty filter has to work harder to heat air for your home. Check filters at least twice during the heating season, and either vacuum or replace them. Also, check to see that heating vents are unobstructed so your system doesn't overwork itself getting heat into your home. Plus, it's a good idea to have your entire system checked yearly by a qualified heating contractor.
Beware Of Portable Space Heaters
If you use more than one, you can use more energy and spend more money than if you had just used your gas furnace to heat your entire home. There is a time and a place for space heaters (when you're trying to heat one room, for example). But, it's not a good idea to use them throughout your home all at the same time.
Wear The Layered Look
Consider wearing layers of clothing inside the house. It'll keep your body heat in, and you won't need to turn up the heat.
Don't Waste It While You're Gone
If you're going on vacation, turn your gas furnace control to the "pilot" position. If you have electric ceiling heat, turn it off at the circuit breaker.
Your Air Conditioner
Keeping your home comfortable in the summer can be quite a challenge. And quite expensive if you use central air conditioning, costing anywhere from 27¢ per hour to 58¢ per hour. Air conditioning often represents a sizable portion of your energy bill in the warmer months, so it makes sense to cool those costs whenever possible.
Installing insulation is generally one of the best things you can do to reduce your home's cooling costs. That's because up to 20% of your home's air conditioning can be lost to the great outdoors. If you plan to insulate your home's ceiling, consider a minimum "R value" of 19, and in some warmer areas an "R value" of as high as 30.
Do Your Homework
Important factors to consider when shopping for a new air conditioner are: size of area to be cooled, climate, your home's construction, sun exposure, wiring, insulation and the number and location of windows. Once you have this information, you should consider all the types available and determine which will cool your home for the lowest cost. The SEER rating on the EnergyGuide label can also help you. Whole house fans, evaporative coolers, heat pumps, room air conditioners and central air conditioning systems all have their pros and cons, so it's worth the time to do a little research before buying.
SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio -- All new central air conditioners have a minimum SEER of 10. Consider buying a high efficiency model with a SEER of 11 or higher. A SEER 16 Model can save you up to 40% on your cooling costs.
Shade Your House
Use landscaping, awnings, and overhangs to provide shade around the outside of your home. A shaded house is easier to cool than one in direct sunlight. There are even white reflective roof paints available that can reduce air conditioning costs for those living in the warmer inland areas.
Set It And Leave It
The best temperature for your air conditioner's thermostat is 78°F or higher. And if you don't want to come home to a hot house, consider purchasing a programmable thermostat.
A setting of 78°F instead of 72°F can save up to 12% of your cooling costs.
Use It Where You Need It
There's no sense cooling a room that's never used. So keep its doors and vents closed. But, don't close off too many vents, or your air conditioner will not run as efficiently. Be sure to leave a vent open near the thermostat for an accurate temperature reading.
Use Fans Instead
An average central air conditioner can cost up to 58¢ per hour to operate. In contrast, a fan (ceiling or portable) costs only one cent an hour to operate. That's a savings of up to 57¢ an hour on those days when a fan will do the trick.
Turn It Off
If you plan to leave for a few minutes or more, turn the fan off. Running it while you're not there is a definite energy-waster.
Proper maintenance helps your air conditioner run more efficiently. Replace disposable filters or hose down permanent filters every few months during the cooling season. It's a good idea to have your entire system checked yearly by a qualified air conditioning contractor.
Clean Its Coils
Clean the outside condenser coils at the beginning and end of the air conditioning season. Spray the coils with diluted detergent, then hose them down.
Keep It As Cool As Possible
Install your air conditioner out of direct sunlight. Also, shade it beneath an awning or patio cover.
Watch Those Windows
During the cooler parts of the day, open your windows and use the outside air to cool your home. Then, during the warmer parts of the day, close draperies and blinds to keep the warm sun out. Consider installing reflective films or solar shade screens on windows with the greatest exposure to the summer sun (this can help keep your furniture and carpet from fading too).
Keep The Vents Clear
An obstructed vent, inside or outside your home, wastes both energy and money. Move furniture away from vents and window air conditioners. And trim shrubbery that might affect outside vents.
Keep It In
First, keep your doors and windows closed when you have the air conditioner on. Second, weather-strip and caulk your doors and windows to seal in cooled air.