Energy-Wise Checklist

As much as half of the energy used in your home goes to heating and cooling. So making smart decisions about your home's heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) system can have a big effect on your utility bills and your comfort. Take these steps to increase the efficiency of your heating and cooling system.

Change your air filter regularly

Check your filter every month, especially during heavy use months (winter and summer). If the filter looks dirty after a month, change it. At a minimum, change the filter every 3 months. A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you warm or cool — wasting energy. A clean filter will also prevent dust and dirt from building up in the system — leading to expensive maintenance and/or early system failure.

Tune up your HVAC equipment yearly

Just as a tune-up for your car can improve your gas mileage, a yearly tune-up of your heating and cooling system can improve efficiency and comfort.

Install a programmable thermostat

A programmable thermostat is ideal for people who are away from home during set periods of time throughout the week. Through proper use of pre-programmed settings, a programmable thermostat can save you about $150 every year in energy costs.

Seal your heating and cooling ducts

Ducts that move air to-and-from a forced air furnace, central air conditioner, or heat pump are often big energy wasters. Sealing and insulating ducts can improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system by as much as 20 percent — and sometimes much more.

Focus first on sealing ducts that run through the attic, crawlspace, unheated basement, or garage. Use duct sealant (mastic) or metal-backed (foil) tape to seal the seams and connections of ducts. After sealing the ducts in those spaces, wrap the ducts in insulation to keep them from getting hot in the summer or cold in the winter. Next, seal ducts that you can access in the heated or cooled part of the house.

Consider installing ENERGY STAR qualified heating and cooling equipment

If your HVAC equipment is more than 10 years old or not keeping your house comfortable, you should have it looked at by a professional HVAC contractor. If it is not performing efficiently or needs upgrading, consider replacing it with a unit that has earned the ENERGY STAR.

Kitchen - Refrigerator

A typical home uses 600-1200 kiloWatt-hours per year for refrigeration and freezing. To become more energy efficient with refrigeration in your home, follow these tips:

* Keep your refrigerator at 37°- 40° F and your freezer at 5°F.

* Keep your refrigerator filled to capacity, but don't overcrowd to the point where doors cannot be closed or air cannot circulate.

* Vacuum the condenser coils (underneath or behind the unit) every three months or so.

* Check the condition of door gaskets by placing a dollar bill against the frame and closing the door. If the bill can be pulled out with a very gentle tug, the door should be adjusted or the gasket replaced.

* Do not put uncovered liquids in the refrigerator. The liquids give off vapors that add to the compressor workload.
* Allow hot food to cool off before putting it in the refrigerator.

* Plan ahead and remove all ingredients for each meal at one time.

* Try switching off the power-saver switch, if your refrigerator has one. If only a small amount of condensation appears, save energy and leave the switch off.

Range/Oven

A typical home uses 200-700 kiloWatt-hours per year with its range/oven. To become more energy efficient with your range/oven, follow these tips:

* Only use pots and pans with flat bottoms on the stove.

* Include more stews, stir-frys, and other single-dish meals in your menus.

* Develop the habit of "lids-on" cooking to permit lower temperature settings.

* Keep reflector pans beneath stovetop heating elements bright and clean.

* Carefully measure water used for cooking to avoid having to heat more than is needed.

* Begin cooking on highest heat until liquid begins to boil. Then lower the heat control settings and allow food to simmer until fully cooked.

* Cook as much of the meal in the oven at one time as possible. Variations of 25°F still produce good results and save energy.

* Rearrange oven shelves before turning your oven on - and don't peek at food in the oven! Every time you open the oven door, 25°-50°F is lost.

* There is no need to preheat the oven for broiling or roasting.

* When preheating an oven for baking, time the preheat period carefully. Five to eight minutes should be sufficient.

* Use your microwave oven whenever possible, as it draws less than half the power of its conventional oven counterpart and cooks for a much shorter amount of time.

* Use the self-cleaning cycle only for major cleaning jobs. Start the cycle right after cooking while the oven is still hot, or wait until late in the evening when electricity usage is low.

Laundry

About 90% of the energy used for washing clothes is for heating the water. There are two ways to reduce the amount of energy used for washing clothes—use less water and use cooler water. Unless you're dealing with oily stains, the warm or cold water setting on your machine will generally do a good job of cleaning your clothes. Switching your temperature setting from hot to warm can cut a load's energy use in half.
Laundry Tips

* Wash your clothes in cold water using cold-water detergents whenever possible.

* Wash and dry full loads. If you are washing a small load, use the appropriate water-level setting.

* Dry towels and heavier cottons in a separate load from lighter-weight clothes.

* Don't over-dry your clothes. If your machine has a moisture sensor, use it.

* Clean the lint filter in the dryer after every load to improve air circulation.

* Use the cool-down cycle to allow the clothes to finish drying with the residual heat in the dryer.

* Periodically inspect your dryer vent to ensure it is not blocked. This will save energy and may prevent a fire. Manufacturers recommend using rigid venting material, not plastic vents that may collapse and cause blockages.

* Consider air-drying clothes on clothes lines or drying racks. Air-drying is recommended by clothing manufacturers for some fabrics.

Home Energy Calculator

ENERGYSTAR guide to heating and cooling

Content courtesy of Energystar.gov, Edison electric institute



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