Do a Little, Save A Lot
Every household uses energy differently, but whether you're living by yourself in a small home or have a large family in a big home, you can take quick and easy steps to conserve energy and save money.
Cooking, combined with lighting and energy use of other appliances accounts for about 33 percent of a home's energy bill.
- Cooking on gas barbeque grills in the summer is much more efficient than using a conventional stove. Gas grills use no electricity, and do not release heat into the kitchen, forcing your refrigerator and other cooling systems to work harder and use more energy.
- Microwaves, toaster ovens and slow cookers can use 75 percent less energy than a large electric oven.
- Make sure refrigerator and freezer seals fit tightly when doors close.
- Keep outside coils clean. Dirty coils make your refrigerator compressor work longer to remove heat.
- Setting your freezer below 0° uses extra energy.
- Setting your refrigerator below 37° uses extra energy.
- Don't over-dry your clothes. If 50 minutes works, don't set it to 70 minutes.
- Make sure to clean the inside lint filter before each drying cycle.
- Periodically check your flexible metal dryer vent hose to ensure it is tightly connected and not kinked.
Homes are increasingly using more electronics to power their lives. Many new electronics are energy efficient, but there are ways you can prevent them using "phantom" energy, or energy used even when a device is turned off.
- Electronic appliances can draw power even when they are turned off. Avoid leaking energy by unplugging your appliances or turning off the switch on the power strip. Energy saving circuits that have a hard off switch can save up to 90 percent of the potentially lost energy.
- Turn off computers and other office equipment when they're not being used, especially overnight, on weekend and when you go on vacation.
Outdoor Electronics & Motors
Energy isn't just used inside the home. Outdoor electronics are also guilty of using extra energy.
- Motors in fountains and water features can draw a surprisingly high amount of energy. Don't forget to consider the cost of running these items when you calculate the price of installation and maintenance.
- Consider replacing pool pumps and motors with updated, more efficient equipment.
- Set your hot tub thermostat to 102°F, which is the temperature recommended by most health departments for adults and children. Some hot tubs have been factory set to heat water to 104°F. When you're on vacation, turn down the thermostat.
- Insulated covers will help more efficiently maintain pool and hot tub water temperatures.
Heating and air conditioning account for more than 55 percent of your home energy use. The following steps can help you keep your system running efficiently, without using extra energy. If you're looking for an energy efficient option to replace your current unit, consider installing a heat pump. Heat pumps will cool your home in the summer, just like an air conditioner, and also heat your home in the winter, reducing your gas heating expenses. United Power also offers rebates on heat pumps.
General Tips & Tricks
- Carefully monitor your energy use as you spend more time at home, especially around the holidays, and turn off electronics that are not being used (to avoid generating unnecessary heat).
- Use an electric heat pump to warm your home when it is as cold as 40° outside. You'll extend the life of your gas furnace and save on gas heating expenses.
- More cooking and baking can increase your electric bill. Use smaller appliances whenever possible and small pots on small burners. Avoid wasting energy by frequently opening the oven to check our baked goods. Especially important on the holidays, when you're cooking more food than normal.
- Try to use microwave ovens and gas barbeques to prepare meals when possible. Not only do they use less energy, but they also won't warm up the inside of your home, forcing your air conditioner and refrigerator to work harder.
- On sunny days, open blinds and drapes to let the sun warm your home. At night, close blinds and drapes to keep heat in.
- Cross ventilate you home when it's cool outside. Many nights in Colorado are cool and dry, even after the hottest days. Cut your cooling costs by opening windows when it's cooler outside than inside.
- Whole house fans help cool your home by pulling cool air through the house and exhausting warm air through the attic. They are effective when operated at night and when the outside air is cooler than the inside.
- Hang heavier clothing to dry to avoid longer drying cycles.
- By installing a programmable thermostat, energy setting are easier to maintain and the thermostat will automatically turn back the temperature while you're asleep or away.
- Keep your heat set at 68° in the winter and your air conditioning at 78° in the summer to see significant energy savings.
- For every 3° you adjust your thermostat, expect to pay 10 percent more on your energy bill.
Maintaining Your HVAC System
- HVAC systems should be checked to verify they are moving the correct amount of air. Check with an HVAC technician if you have questions about your unit.
- Systems should be checked annually to verify they are properly charged, strictly in accordance with manufacturers' guidelines.
- Inside and outside coils should be kept clean and free of debris.
- Make sure to change return filters monthly.
A considerable amount of air transfers in and out of homes through leaky windows and cracks, crevices and holes, potentially increasing your energy consumption. Here are some helpful tips to avoid air infiltration:
- Seal around pipe penetration coming through walls.
- During hot and cold weather, ensure windows are closed tightly and locked.
- Ensure weather-stripping around doors and windows is tight.
- When your fireplace is not operating, its flue should be closed tightly, with a sign hanging from the flue handle warning it is closed.
- Check the ceiling behind the cornice of built-in bookshelves for holes cut during construction.
- Drop-down, disappearing stairways should fit tightly into the ceiling and be carefully weather-stripped.
- Whole-house attic fans should be sealed tightly during the winter.
- Make sure your outside dryer vent door closes when the dryer is not in use. This requires cleaning away lint accumulation periodically.
- Tighten and weather-strip your old windows and then add storm windows.
- When it's time to replace old windows, consider new double-glazed windows. In colder climates, like Colorado, "low-e" coatings on glass can help reduce heat loss through windows.
Lighting has become much more energy efficient as LEDs have become more common and more affordable. Consider switching out your old incandescent lighting or newer CFLs with longer lasting and brighter LED lights, which also use just a fraction of the energy of other lighting.
When leaving a room, remember to turn off lights. In winter, lighting use increases due to shorter daylight hours. Leaving unnecessary lights on increases energy costs. For reference, a 100-watt lamp costs roughly a penny per hour to operate, or the equivalent of $88/year for a single light.
During the holidays, remember to look for LED lighting instead of incandescent lighting, and turn off lights before going to bed to avoid wasting energy overnight.
Your water heater is the second largest energy user in your home. According to the Department of Energy, water heating accounts for up to 18 percent of our home energy use. If you are building a new home or replacing an old water heater, consider purchasing a high efficiency electric water heater replacement for your hot water needs.
- Make sure your water heater is set at the lowest point. Try setting it to 120°F.
- Check for water leaks around your water heater and faucets. A constant drip that may feel cold could actually be hot water that has cooled by the time it reaches the faucet. Hot water leaks can waste hundreds of dollars per year in energy costs.
- Wash clothes with cold water. Many new detergents are made specifically for cold water washing.
- Overfilling your washer can increase your energy use.
- Taking extra long showers runs up the water heating (and water/sewer) bills. Reduce shower time and install low flow shower heads. You'll be surprised how much this simple device can cut your hot water costs.
- If your water heater is located in an unconditioned space, consider installing a thermal wrap around it. Take care to install it in accordance with the tank and wrap manufacturer's instructions.
- If you need to install a new water heater, choose an electric unit and receive a rebate from United Power.
Save up to 30 percent on heating and cooling bills with this easy "sweat-equity" project
Your home's duct system carries the air from your furnace and central air conditioner or heat pump to each room. These ducts are typically made of sheet metal, fiber glass, or other materials that easily conduct heat. Ducts are also usually located in unconditioned spaces and unfortunately, many duct systems are poorly insulated, or not insulated at all.
- 10 - 30 % of the energy used to heat and cool the air in your home is lost to conduction through duct surfaces.
- Poorly insulated ductwork results in hard to maintain temperatures in rooms served by long duct runs and can add hundreds of dollars a year to your heating and cooling expenses.
Start by downloading the instructions & materials list (pdf) and then watch this four-part instructional video series.
Part 1: Insulate Duct Work
Part 2: Supply Ducts
Part 3: Transition Ducts
Part 4: Hot Water Pipes
Three Easy Steps to Enjoy the Benefits of Insulated Duct Work
- Start by cutting the polyisocyanurate sheathing to wrap around the supply and return trunks’ sides and bottoms. Tape the cut pieces of sheathing to the trunks and adjacent sheathing using the foil faced duct tape.
- Wrap the 6 inch round distribution ducts with fiberglass batts. Keep in place using staples and string. Zigzag the string back and forth across the length of the fiberglass insulation batt and staple it to the joists or underside of the floor. Wrap or stuff fiberglass insulation around the sheet metal “boot” that connects the 6 inch pipe to the register.
- Cut the fiberglass batts to size and place on top of the supply trunks, between the floor joists.
ENERGYSTAR® suggests these benefits for insulating your duct work:
- Improve Comfort – Duct insulation minimizes conductive heat losses and gains, allowing supply air to be delivered closer to desired temperatures. In winter, leaks of heated air will be reduced in rooms supplied with long duct runs. This can result in quicker recovery from night-time setbacks and a more consistent level of comfort throughout a house.
- Save Money – The average homeowner spends over $600 per year on heating and cooling. Leaky ducts can reduce heating and cooling system efficiency by as much as 20 percent. Sealing and insulating ducts increases efficiency, lowers your energy bills, and can often pay for itself in energy savings.
- Protect the Environment – Energy used in our homes often comes from the burning of fossil fuels at power plants, which contributes to smog, acid rain, and global warming. Simply put, the less energy we use in our homes, the less air pollution we generate. By sealing your ducts and reducing the amount of energy necessary to comfortably heat or cool your home, you can reduce the amount of air pollution generated.