How to Save Household Energy

"Turn out the lights!" We all remember hearing that command from our parents. Now, as we repeat it to our kids (and ourselves), we understand its significance better. But despite skyrocketing fuel prices and diminishing resources, household energy use and its consequential pollution continue to climb. A few strategic shifts can reduce your home's impact on the environment -- we're talking thousands of pounds of greenhouse gas emissions -- while saving you hundreds of dollars on energy bills and more in taxes (learn more at energy.gov/taxbreaks.htm). The following savings estimates are based on national averages.

Upgrade Windows
Single- and even some double-pane clear glass windows can force heating and cooling systems to work overtime. Energy Star-qualified windows with insulating glazes, gas fills, and better framing materials deliver the best results.
Potential Annual Savings: $95 and 2,200 pounds of emissions

Go Low-Flow
To reduce hot-water consumption (and thus energy needs), federal legislation mandated improved showerhead efficiency for models made after 1994. Replace older models with ones that spray no more than 2 1/2 gallons a minute.
Potential Annual Savings: $145 and 370 pounds of emissions

Lose the Old Fridge
Refrigerators use more electricity than any other appliance. Older ones are worse, so give top priority to replacing a pre-1993 fridge.
Potential Annual Savings: $70 and 1,720 pounds of emissions

Fill the Dishwasher
Energy Star dishwashers can be more efficient than hand washing. Run full loads, air dry, and skip the prerinsing (most newer models don't need it).
Potential Annual Savings: $25 and 110 pounds of emissions

Adjust Your Water Heater
Lower your water heater's thermostat to 120 degrees to restrict heat loss. The exception: dishwashers. Check if yours has a "booster heater" for sanitizing 140-degree rinsing.
Potential Annual Savings: $450 and 215 pounds of emissions

Moderate the Thermostat
Lower the thermostat by just two degrees this winter to conserve energy without sacrificing comfort. Turn it down 10 degrees at night and when you're not home -- or install a programmable thermostat for automatic adjustments.
Potential Annual Savings: $100 and 500 pounds of emissions

Wash in Cold Water
About 90 percent of the energy used for a load of laundry goes to heating the water. Some stains demand hot water, as do bed linens (to kill dust mites). Wash all other loads in cold.
Potential Annual Savings: $300 and 330 pounds of emissions

Change Lightbulbs
Compact fluorescent lightbulbs consume a quarter of the electricity required by comparable incandescent bulbs and last up to 12 times longer. Maximize savings by changing at least five frequently used bulbs.
Potential Annual Savings: $60 and 770 pounds of emissions

Unplug Electronics
Many household appliances continue to suck electricity even when switched off; nationally, this creates the annual emissions equivalent of 17 power plants. Minimize leaks by unplugging idle electronics.
Potential Annual Savings: $200 and 480 pounds of emissions

The Next Step
Want to reduce your eco-footprint and energy use even further? Consider replacing outdated small appliances like TVs and DVD players with energy-efficient models. In doing so, Americans could prevent more than 25 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions in a year -- equivalent to taking 3 million cars off the road. Granted, you can't replace every gadget. But when you're looking to buy, choose products with a label from Energy Star (energystar.gov). Some bear higher price tags, but lower operating costs make up for the difference over time.

Savings calculated from data provided by the EPA Global Warming Resource Center, Energy Star, the Rocky Mountain Institute, and the Alliance to Save Energy.

Text by Josie Garthwaite; illustration by Headcase Design

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