Appliances and Electronics

f you live in a typical U.S. home, your appliances and home electronics are responsible for about 20 percent of your energy bills. These appliances and electronics include everything from clothes washers and dryers, to computers, to water heaters. By shopping for appliances with the ENERGY STAR® label and turning off appliances when they’re not in use, you can achieve real savings in your monthly energy bill.

  • Air dry dishes instead of using your dishwasher’s drying cycle.
  • Always look for the ENERGY STAR® and EnergyGuide labels when shopping for home appliances. The ENERGY STAR® label is the government’s seal of energy efficiency. TheEnergyGuide label estimates an appliance’s energy consumption.
  • Clean the lint filter in the dryer after every load to improve air circulation.
  • Consider air-drying clothes on clothes lines or drying racks. Air-drying is recommended by clothing manufacturers for some fabrics.
  • Consider buying a laptop for your next computer upgrade; they use much less energy than desktop computers.
  • Don’t over-dry your clothes. If your machine has a moisture sensor, use it.
  • Dry towels and heavier cottons in a separate load from lighter-weight clothes.
  • ENERGY STAR® computers and monitors save energy only when the power management features are activated, so make sure power management is activated on your computer.
  • Look for the ENERGY STAR® label on home appliances, electronics and other products. ENERGY STAR® products meet strict efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.
  • Many appliances continue to draw a small amount of power when they are switched off. These “phantom” loads occur in most appliances that use electricity, such as VCRs, televisions, stereos, computers, and kitchen appliances. In the average home, 75% of the electricity used to power home electronics and appliances is consumed while the products are turned off. This can be avoided by unplugging the appliance or using a power strip and using the switch on the power strip to cut all power to the appliance.
  • For older appliances, use a power controlling device to reduce the energy consumption of the appliance’s electric motor.
  • 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.
  • Plug home electronics, such as TVs and DVD players, into power strips; turn the power strips off when the equipment is not in use (TVs and DVDs in standby mode still use several watts of power).
  • Saving energy starts with being an informed consumer. Estimate an appliance’s annual energy cost using this guide.
  • Studies have shown that using rechargeable batteries for products like cordless phones andPDAs is more cost effective than throwaway batteries. If you must use throwaways, check with your trash removal company about safe disposal options.
  • There is a common misconception that screen savers reduce energy use by monitors; they do not. Automatic switching to sleep mode or manually turning monitors off is always the better energy-saving strategy.
  • To maximize savings with a laptop, put the AC adapter on a power strip that can be turned off (or will turn off automatically); the transformer in the AC adapter draws power continuously, even when the laptop is not plugged into the adapter.
  • Turn off your computer and monitor when not in use.
  • Unplug battery chargers when the batteries are fully charged or the chargers are not in use.
  • Use the cool-down cycle to allow the clothes to finish drying with the residual heat in the dryer.
  • Wash and dry full loads. If you are washing a small load, use the appropriate water-level setting.
  • When shopping for a new clothes dryer, look for one with a moisture sensor that automatically shuts off the machine when your clothes are dry. Not only will this save energy, it will save wear and tear on your clothes caused by over-drying.
  • Turn off your monitor when you’re away from your PC for 20 minutes or more. If you will be away for two hours or more, turn off your personal computer and monitor.

Heating and Cooling

Heating and cooling account for about 56% of the energy use in a typical U.S. home, making it the largest energy expense for most homes. A wide variety of technologies are available for heating and cooling your home, and they achieve a wide range of efficiencies in converting their energy sources into useful heat or cool air for your home.

When looking for ways to save energy in your home, be sure to think about not only improving your existing heating and cooling system, but also consider the energy efficiency of the supporting equipment and the possibility of either adding supplementary sources of heating or cooling or simply replacing your system altogether.

  • Your contractor should be able to give you energy fact sheets for different types, models, and designs to help you compare energy usage. For furnaces, look for high Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) ratings. The national minimum is 78% AFUE, but there are ENERGY STAR®models on the market that exceed 90% AFUE.
  • Place heat-resistant radiator reflectors between exterior walls and the radiators.
  • Bleed trapped air from hot-water radiators once or twice a season; if in doubt about how to perform this task, call a professional.
  • Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters, and radiators as needed; make sure they’re not blocked by furniture, carpeting, or drapes.
  • Clean or replace filters on furnaces once a month or as needed.
  • Use fans during the summer to create a wind chill effect that will make your home more comfortable. If you use air conditioning, a ceiling fan will allow you to raise the thermostat setting about 4°F with no reduction in comfort.
  • Turn off kitchen, bath, and other ventilating fans within 20 minutes after you are done cooking or bathing to retain heated air.
  • Install a programmable thermostat that can be adjust the temperature according to your schedule.
  • ENERGY STAR® labeled products can cut your energy bills by up to 30 percent. Find retailers near you at when you’re ready to replace your heating and cooling systems –as well as appliances, lighting, windows, office equipment, and home electronics.
  • Insulate your hot water heater and hot water pipes to prevent heat loss.
  • Insulate heating ducts in unheated areas such as attics and crawlspaces and keep them in good repair to prevent heat loss of up to 60 percent at the registers.
  • Heating can account for almost half of the average family’s winter energy bill. Make sure your furnace or heat pump receives professional maintenance each year. Look for the ENERGY STAR® label when replacing your system.
  • Explore ways to save energy and improve the environment by taking simple steps around your home.

Insulation and Air Sealing

You can reduce your home’s heating and cooling costs by as much as 30 percent through proper insulation and air sealing techniques. These techniques will also make your home more comfortable. Reducing your home heating and cooling bills begins with conducting a home energy audit to assess where your home may be losing energy through air leaks or inadequate insulation.

  • Remember that new windows must be installed correctly to avoid air leaks around the frame. Look for a reputable, qualified installer.
  • In temperate climates with both heating and cooling seasons, select windows with both low U-values and low solar heat gain coefficiency (SHGC) to maximize energy benefits.
  • In temperate climates with both heating and cooling seasons, select windows with both low U-values and low solar heat gain coefficiency (SHGC) to maximize energy benefits.
  • Select windows with air leakage ratings of 0.3 cubic feet per minute or less.
  • Remember, the lower the U-value, the better the insulation. In colder climates, a U-value of 0.35 or below is recommended. These windows have at least double glazing and a low-e coating.
  • When you’re shopping for new windows, look for the National Fenestration Rating Council label; it means the window’s performance is certified.
  • Installing new, high-performance windows will improve your home’s energy performance. While it may take many years for new windows to pay off in energy savings, the benefits of added comfort and improved aesthetics and functionality may make the investment worth it to you.
  • Apply sun-control or other reflective films on south-facing windows to reduce solar gain.
  • Install awnings on south- and west-facing windows.
  • Close curtains on south- and west-facing windows during the day.
  • Install white window shades, drapes, or blinds to reflect heat away from the house.
  • Repair and weatherize your current storm windows, if necessary.
  • Install exterior or interior storm windows; storm windows can reduce heat loss through the windows by 25% to 50%. Storm windows should have weather stripping at all moveable joints; be made of strong, durable materials; and have interlocking or overlapping joints. Low-e storm windows save even more energy.
  • Keep windows on the south side of your house clean to let in the winter sun.
  • Close your curtains and shades at night; open them during the day.
  • Install tight-fitting, insulating window shades on windows that feel drafty after weatherizing.
  • You can use a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet on a frame or tape clear plastic film to the inside of your window frames during the cold winter months. Remember, the plastic must be sealed tightly to the frame to help reduce infiltration.
  • Conduct an energy audit of your home to find air leaks and to check for the proper level of insulation. Common sources of air leaks include cracks around windows and doors, gaps along baseboard, mail chutes, cracks in brick, siding, stucco or foundation, or where any external lines (phone, cable, electric, and gas) enter the home.
  • To test for air leaks on your own, on a windy day, hold a lit candle next to windows, doors, electrical outlets, or light fixtures to test for leaks. Also, tape clear plastic sheeting to the inside of your window frames if drafts, water condensation, or frost are present.
  • Plug air leaks with caulking, sealing, or weather stripping to save 10 percent or more on your energy bill.
  • Adequate insulation in your attic, ceilings, exterior and basement walls, floors, and crawlspaces, as recommended for your geographical area, can save you up to 30 percent on home energy bills.
  • Installing storm windows over single-pane windows or replacing them with ENERGY STAR® windows can reduce heat loss from air leakage, and reflect heat back into the room during the winter months to save even more energy.
  • In cold climates, ENERGY STAR® windows can reduce your heating bills by 30 to 40 percent compared to uncoated, single-pane windows, according to the Efficient Windows Collaborative.
  • Close fireplace dampers when not in use. A chimney is designed for smoke to escape, so until you close it, warm air escapes.