Green Living

Home Energy Makeover

Reducing your energy bills doesn’t have to involve major home renovations. Save hundreds on your utility bills with a few household tweaks.
Home Energy Makeover
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Reducing your heating and energy bills doesn’t have to involve major home renovations. You can easily seal air and water leaks and make your appliances more efficient with a few quick do-it-yourself fixes—whether you rent an apartment or own a home. Start today by deactivating your microwave’s digital clock and installing faucet aerators; our room-by-room guide shows you how.

Living Room
Swap out bulbs. Switch incandescent bulbs for compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs).  Vu1 has launched a line of efficient dimmable bulbs for recessed lighting. “Companies are also developing versatile LED (light-emitting diode) lighting,” says David Johnston, coauthor of Green from the Ground Up (Taunton, 2008).
Savings: Cuts electricity costs by up to 75 percent.

Insulate light switches. Seal air leaks like those around uninsulated switch plates. Johnston suggests placing foam pads under the plates, which come in four-packs and cost less than a dollar at hardware stores.
Savings: Lowers energy bills by 1 to 30 percent (depending on how drafty your home is).

Cut phantom loads. Plug appliances into a power strip and use the on/off switch; otherwise they’ll draw electricity even when not in use, a phenomenon known as phantom loads.
Savings: Slashes your carbon emissions by 240 pounds a year.

Deactivate digital clocks. Over the course of its lifetime, your microwave will use more energy to power its digital clock than to cook food, says Joanna Yarrow, author of How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint (Chronicle Books). Unplug microwaves and coffee makers when not in use.
Savings: Cuts carbon emissions by more than 34 pounds per year.

Upgrade appliances. When replacing a major appliance, choose an Energy Star-rated one. An efficient refrigerator saves enough energy to pay for itself within eight years.
Savings: Conserves electricity by 30 to 50 percent.

Fine-tune the fridge. Set your fridge between 35 and 38 degrees and keep it away from heat sources like the stove and direct sunlight. (If you can’t move your fridge, place a piece of “blue board” insulation, found at Home Depot, between it and the stove, suggests Johnston.)
Savings: Shaves energy use by about 25 percent.

Turn down the heat. Program your thermostat to lower the heat overnight and when you leave home.
Savings: Trims heating bills by about 5 percent for every degree you lower the heat.

Shade windows wisely. Open shades in cool weather to maximize warmth from the sun; when temperatures rise, close drapes to block heat.
Savings: Reduces energy needs by up to 25 percent.