Energy Savers

House illustration in a neighborhood.

Right in your own home, you have the power to save money and energy. Saving energy reduces our nation’s overall demand for resources needed to make energy, and increasing your energy efficiency is like adding another clean energy source to our electric power grid. This guide shows you how easy it is to cut your energy use at home and also on the road. The easy, practical solutions for saving energy include tips you can use today from the roof and landscaping to appliances and lights. They are good for your wallet and for the environment—and actions that you take help reduce our national needs to produce or import more energy, thereby improving our energy security.

Tips for Renters and Property Owners

If you rent, or if you own a rental unit, you can use many of the tips throughout this guide to save money and energy!

Renters — You can reduce your utility bills by following the tips in the Lighting, Heating, and Cooling (if you control the thermostat), Appliances, Home Office and Home Electronics, Windows, and Transportation sections. Encourage your landlord to follow these tips as well. They’ll save energy and money, improving your comfort and lowering your utility bills even more.

Property Owners — Nearly all of the information in this guide applies to rental units. The section on Your Home’s Energy Use focuses on air leaks, insulation, heating and cooling, roofing, landscaping, water heating, windows, appliances, and renewable energy.

Find even more information about saving money and energy at home by visiting the Energy Savers website. To learn more about U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) programs in energy efficiency and renewable energy, visit the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy website.

Save Money and Energy Today

An energy-efficient home will keep your family comfortable while saving you money. Whether you take simple steps or make larger investments to make your home more efficient, you’ll see lower energy bills. Over time, those savings will typically pay for the cost of improvements and put money back in your pocket. Your home may also be more attractive to buyers when you sell.

The 113 million residences in America today collectively use an estimated 22% of the country’s energy. Unfortunately, a lot of energy is wasted through leaky windows or ducts, old appliances, or inefficient heating and cooling systems. When we waste energy in our homes, we are throwing away money that could be used for other things. The typical U.S. family spends at least $2,000 a year on home utility bills. You can lower this amount by up to 25% through following the Long Term Savings Tips in this guide.

The key to these savings is to take a whole-house approach—by viewing your home as an energy system with interdependent parts. For example, your heating system is not just a furnace—it’s a heat-delivery system that starts at the furnace and delivers heat throughout your home using a network of ducts. Even a top-of-the-line, energy-efficient furnace will waste a lot of fuel if the ducts, walls, attic, windows, and doors are leaky or poorly insulated. Taking a whole-house approach to saving energy ensures that dollars you invest to save energy are spent wisely.

Tips to Save Energy Today

Easy low-cost and no-cost ways to save energy:

  • Install a programmable thermostat to lower utility bills and manage your heating and cooling systems efficiently
  • Air dry dishes instead of using your dishwasher’s drying cycle
  • Turn things off when you are not in the room such as lights, TVs, entertainment systems, and your computer and monitor
  • 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
  • Lower the thermostat on your water heater to 120°F
  • Take short showers instead of baths and use low-flow showerheads for additional energy savings
  • Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes
  • Air dry clothes
  • Check to see that windows and doors are closed when heating or cooling your home
  • Drive sensibly; aggressive driving such as speeding, and rapid acceleration and braking, wastes fuel
  • Look for the ENERGY STAR® label on light bulbs, 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
  • Visit the Energy Savers website for more energy-saving ideas

Your Home’s Energy Use

A home energy assessment (sometimes referred to as an energy audit) will show what parts of your house use the most energy and suggest the best ways to cut energy costs. You can conduct a simple home energy assessment by doing it yourself (DIY) or, for a more detailed assessment, visit our Energy Audit page. Also, you can learn more about home energy audits and find free tools and calculators by visiting the Energy Savers website, visiting the Residential Services Network, or visiting the Building Performance Institute website.

DIY Energy Assessment Tips

  • Pie chart showing costs of energy in homes. Space heating= 45%. Water heating= 18%. Space cooling=9%. Computers and electronics= 6%. Lighting= 6%. Other= 5%. Cooking= 4%. Refrigeration= 4% Wet cleaning= 3%.
    How We Use Energy in Our Homes: Heating accounts for the biggest portion of your utility bills. Source: 2010 Buildings Energy Data Book, Table 2.1.1 Residential Primary Energy Consumption, by Year and Fuel Type.
    Check the insulation in your attic, exterior, and basement walls, ceilings, floors, and crawl spaces. To determine the insulation R-values in different parts of your home, visit the Air Leaks and Insulation section of the Energy Savers website.
  • Check for air leaks around your walls, ceilings, windows, doors, light and plumbing fixtures, switches, and electrical outlets.
  • Check for open fireplace dampers.
  • Make sure your appliances and heating and cooling systems are properly maintained. Check your owner’s manuals for the recommended maintenance.
  • Study your family’s lighting needs and look for ways to use controls— like sensors, dimmers, or timers—to reduce lighting use.
Heat Loss from a House: A picture is worth…in this case, lost heating dollars. This thermal image—taken by a professional energy auditor—shows warm air escaping through windows and cracks. The red shows where the most warm air is escaping.

Your Whole-House Plan

After you know where your home is losing energy, make a plan by asking yourself a few questions:

  • How much money do you spend on energy?
  • Where are your greatest energy losses?
  • How long will it take for an investment in energy efficiency to pay for itself in energy cost savings?
  • Do the energy-saving measures provide additional benefits that are important to you—for example, increased comfort from installing double-paned, efficient windows?
  • How long do you plan to own your current home?
  • Can you do the job yourself or do you need a contractor?
  • What is your budget?
  • How much time do you have for maintenance and repairs?

Planning smart purchases and home improvements will maximize your energy efficiency and save you the most money.

A more advanced alternative to performing a DIY energy assessment is to get advice from your state energy office, utility, or an independent energy auditor. A professional energy auditor uses special test equipment to find air leaks, areas lacking insulation, and malfunctioning equipment. The auditor analyzes how well your home’s energy systems work together, and compares the analysis to your utility bills. After gathering information about your home, the auditor will recommend cost-effective energy improvements that enhance comfort and safety. Some will also estimate how soon your investment in efficiency upgrades will pay off.

Smart Meters and a Smarter Power Grid

Millions of smart meters have been installed across the country. Smart meters provide two-way communication between you and your utility, helping your utility know about blackouts, for example. This helps utilities to maintain more reliable electrical service.

Smart meters can be used with home energy management systems such as Web-based tools that your utility provides or devices that can be installed in your home. Smart meters can display your home energy use, help you find ways to save energy and money, and even allow you to remotely adjust your thermostat or turn appliances off.

Time-Based Electricity Rates

To help reduce their peak power demands and save money, many utilities are introducing programs that encourage their customers to use electricity during off-peak hours. The programs pass on the savings to you, the customer, through rebates or reduced electricity rates.

Smart meters and home energy management systems allow customers to program how and when their home uses energy. Such programs might charge you the actual cost of power at any one time, ranging from high prices during times of peak demand to low prices during off-peak hours. If you are able to shift your power use to off-peak times—such as running your dishwasher late in the evening—these programs can save you money while helping your utility. Time-based rates are very attractive to owners of plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles since typically these vehicles are recharged at night. See the Transportation section for more information.