Energy conservation for your home and pocketbook

Home energy and cost savings range from no-cost to higher cost depending on what level of energy conservation you want to achieve.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that 48 percent of household energy use is for heating and cooling. This accounts for 20 percent of the average monthly household expenses.

There are a number of ways to reduce your household energy consumption, and you may have already adopted some of them. The following are eight top strategies that every homeowner should adopt to lower their energy use (and bill) as outlined by the U.S. Department of Energy Building Technologies Office. These can be implemented any time of the year, and they range from free to a larger investment for long-term savings.

  1. Use sunlight to your advantage: Sunlight can add heat during the winter. Take advantage of free sunlight by opening shades and curtains during the day to let the sun’s warmth in to heat your home naturally. Natural light also reduces the need for artificial lights. In the summer, reverse this process by closing light-colored shades or curtains to reflect the sunlight and heat back outside keeping your home cooler and using less air conditioning.
  2. Install a programmable thermostat: Setting temperatures to reflect when you are home, away or asleep can save an estimated 10 percent per year on heating and cooling costs. In addition, it will be one less thing to remember.
  3. Choose energy efficient lighting: Ten percent of home energy cost is lighting. Fluorescent bulbs last six times longer than incandescent bulbs and can have 75 percent energy savings. Changing the five most used lights in your home with energy-saving bulbs could save up to $75 per year in energy costs.
  4. Use power strips: Electronic equipment is designed to consume energy even when not in use. These are called “energy vampires” and can cost a family up to $100 a year depending on how many “vampires” you have. By using a power strip to plug multiple electronic devices into, you can easily turn off the strip and multiple electronics when not in use. This includes chargers. They draw power if plugged into an outlet even if nothing is being charged.
  5. Reduce water heating energy: Heating water accounts for 14-18 percent of household energy use. First, make sure the hot water heater is set for no more than 120 degrees. Install low flow shower and faucet devices to reduce use. If your hot water heater is more than five years old, wrap it with a hot water wrap to reduce heat loss from the tank. Wrapping basement pipes can also reduce hot water use.
  6. Purchase Energy Star appliances: When it is time to replace appliances, electronics or even fans, look for Energy Star certified models. With appliances and electronics using 20 percent of your home energy, you can save 10-15 percent on energy and water use by switching to current energy-efficient models.
  7. Use maintenance professionals: Heating and cooling equipment needs annual check-up and maintenance to keep at peak performance. This includes checking proper refrigerant levels, air flow over the coil, the combustion process and heat exchanger. Air flow through the ductwork should be checked to ensure adequate air flow to each room. Furnace filters should be checked and changed based on manufacturer’s recommendations.
  8. Consider a home energy audit: A comprehensive energy audit done by a professional can provide you with a complete picture of where your home is using and losing energy and recommendations to eliminate the “losses” and reduce use.

Michigan State University Extension has a series available titled “Home Main & Improv” on the MSU Extension Bookstore website. These fact sheets cover a number of topics including a Home Checklist, windows, weather-stripping, insulation, furnaces, appliances and landscaping tips.

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