We keep hearing about the $1,500 tax credit to help with energy savings for your home, but how about changes that cost
little or nothing and can save you more than $1,500 over the course of a year in real money?
These are a few ideas from Department of Energy Savers Blog (eereblogs.energy.gov). Small changes can make a big
• Do-it-yourself energy audit - Start with this online site (http://hesw1.lbl.gov) that shows your energy expenses
and compares them to expenses after simple detailed upgrades with paybacks.
• Power Strips (not necessarily surge protector): Plug small household appliances that spend most of the time in a
standby mode into a power strip.
When not in use, turn off the power strip. Standby power accounts for 5 to 10 percent of household electricity
consumption - computer stations, multifunction devices, docking stations, TVs, VCRs, DVD players and chargers for
The Department of Energy found VCRs consumed more electricity over a year in standby mode than while actively
recording or playing. Cable and satellite boxes consume nearly as much power when switched off as when turned on.
• Water: Because a water heater accounts for 14 to 25 percent of a home's utility bill, is yours at a hotter
temperature than needed? Are you adding cold water to shower? For each 10 degree F reduction in water temperature, you can save 3 to 5 percent in energy costs. Start by checking the temperature of hot water at the tap.
If it's above 120 F (140 F if you use a dishwasher regularly), mark the current setting at the water heater with a
permanent marker then adjust both coils until the tap shows 120 F (or 140 F).
• Thermostat: The Department of Energy estimates you can save 5 to 15 percent annually by lowering the thermostat 10
to 15 F (1 percent savings per degree) at specific times of day.
Change furnace filters at least quarterly, clear obstructions that prevent vent air flow, and best of all, use that
(Recommendation: Set 6 a.m. temperature to 68 F, 8 a.m. temperature back to 60 F for when you are not home, then 6
p.m. back to 68 F, and for bedtime, back to 60 F).
• Ceiling fans: Set the blades to turn clockwise to send rising hot air down when you are in the room.
• Lights: The simplest way is to turn off lights when not in use, but did you know compact fluorescent bulbs use 75
percent less energy and last longer? But natural lighting is free. On warm sunny days, let the sunshine heat your
room; on cold days and nights, cover windows with insulated drapes or blinds to reduce thermal loss (as much as 15
• Air leaks: Find leaks using an incense stick, flashlight or even the back of your hand.
Check for cracked or missing caulking around doors, windows and where plumbing, heating or electrical equipment
passes through the house and replace caulking and weather stripping.
Foam inserts installed behind electric outlet covers on the outside walls even make a difference.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 247-4355.
Wendy Rice is family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office.