Heating, Air Conditioning, Hot Water
Most homes waste a lot of energy meaning energy costs are higher than they need to be. The best way to reduce costs is to get an energy audit and follow the recommendations. If an audit is impractical for you, there are many things you can do on your own.
Lower the Thermostat
A Certified Energy Auditor will inspect and test your home to discover where energy is being lost. The auditor will then provide you a list of improvements, prioritized by cost and how much energy is saved. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources maintains a list of certified auditors, as does the Home Performance With Energy Star Program.
Heating and air-conditioning your home are your biggest energy gobblers so why do it when you don’t need it? Set back your thermostat at night and when you aren’t home (warmer in summer, cooler in winter). Better yet, install an Energy Star programmable thermostat from your local hardware store and program it to automatically set back. Every degree saves 2-3% on your energy bill.
Sealed and Delivered
Most homes have so many gaps and cracks around walls, windows, and doors that it is equivalent to leaving a window open all winter long. Seal gaps and cracks with caulking and weather stripping - it is cheap and easy to do, and can save 5-10% on your energy bill! Also, consider sealing your ducts. You can seal your ducts yourself if they are easily accessible, otherwise ask your HVAC contractor to do it for you. Get more information here.
Wash Clothes in Cold Water (even whites!)
Almost all of the energy used to wash clothes is used to heat the water but today's detergents are formulated to work in cold water. Why throw money out with the wash water? You can also save money by drying your clothes on a line instead of in the dryer.
Lower the Thermostat on the Hot Water Heater
Hot water sitting in a tank radiates its heat away. To reduce loss, lower the temperature of the water by lowering the thermostat on the hot water heater. For gas fired hot water heaters, there should be a dial on the gas valve. Electric heaters may be more complex; see here for instructions.
Install Low-Flow Showerheads
Using a low-flow showerhead can save the average family almost $200 per year in energy and water bills. For a satisfactory shower experience, be sure to get a quality low-flow head. Ask at your local plumbing or hardware store.
Savings Spotlight: John & Maryellen’s Energy Audit
John & Maryellen have a ranch house in Creve Coeur. The energy audit they purchased suggested they add insulation to their attic, caulk and seal around walls, doors, and windows, and install programmable thermostats. They hired a contractor to blow insulation into their attic until it was R-45. John bought some caulk and began caulking where the audit indicated it was needed, and they installed programmable thermostats. Despite more extreme seasons in the years since their audit, their gas use has dropped 15% and their electricity use has dropped 21%. When an old air conditioning compressor burned out, they found that the changes they made allowed them to downsize the unit. The smaller, highly efficient compressor they installed will result in even more savings.