How to Save Energy ($$) At Home, At Work, & in Your Car (And Help Protect the Environment)

How to Save Energy ($$) At Home, At Work, & in Your Car (And Help Protect the Environment)


Are you concerned about rising utility costs? Do you hear a lot about what to do, but don’t understand how it works? This article provides simple tips to save energy costs and shows how you get the money savings.


1. Turn off unnecessary lights. A single 60 watt bulb that is left on 2 hours a day, 5 days a week when it could be turned off will cost you at least $27.50 per year. Here’s why:

60w X 10 hours/week X 52 weeks/year = 31.2 kilowatt-hours X $0.8815 per KwH = $27.50. Your cost: nothing.

2. Heating and cooling account for about 50% of household utility costs.

(a) Set your thermostat to 68 degrees for heating. Each additional degree of heat will cost you at least 1 to 3% more on your bill. If you normally set your thermostat to 72, that means your bill could be as much as 12% higher.

(b) In the summer, the thermostat should be set no lower than 78 to 80 degrees. For every degree the thermostat is raised, 4 to 8 % can be saved on cooling costs.

Let’s say that your July heating bill is $120 with the temperature set to 72 degrees. At 50% of your utility bill, this means that $60 was spent on air conditioning. At a saving of 4% per degree, this means that you could save 24%, or $14.40 on your bill by raising the temperature to 78. The math works the same way during the winter when you lower the temperature. Your cost: nothing.

3. Use an ENERGY STAR rated programmable thermostat. These thermostats are accurate to within +/- 2 degrees, and when properly used, can save you as much as $150 per year on your heating and cooling costs. Your cost: $30 and up, depending on options, a small price to pay in return for such good energy cost savings.

4. Replace incandescent lights with compact fluorescents. The results are similar to item #1; by moving from 60 watts to 13 watts, you’re saving 47 watts, but in this case, you get the same light output. If you use the light 20 hours per week, you will save at least $43.08 per year. CFL lights come in a variety of color temperatures; some produce more “white” light than others. If you’re concerned about off-white light, try the daylight or hobby type CFL light bulbs.

47w X 20hours/week X 52 weeks/year = 48.88 KwH X $0.8815 per KwH = $43.08.

Your cost: Roughly $1.50 to $4 per lamp, a small price to pay for the potential savings.

5. Check for air leaks and drafts at window frames, around doors, window or wall mounted air conditioners, attic hatches, baseboards, etc. An easy way to do this is to use a candle or strip of yarn; just watch for it to deflect. Use weather stripping for moving surfaces (doors, windows and caulking for the rest. This can save you between 5 to 30% on your heating bill.

6. Replace your furnace/ air conditioner air filter every 3 months. Dirty filters cause the blower to work harder and waste energy. Clean filters will save you between 3 and 5% per month of your air conditioning or heating costs. Your cost: $7 to $20, depending on degree of filtration.

7. Use a water heater blanket and insulate the first 3 or 4 feet of the discharge pipe (more, if you have easy access). This will reduce energy use by 10 to 15%. Your cost: about $40.

8. Use ENERGY STAR rated ceiling fans. The up front cost can be $100 or so for each, but can save over $600 per year when compared to the cost of running an air conditioner.

9. Clean the air conditioner condenser coils and fins when you see grass and airborne debris collected on them. To clean them, remove the top cover and use a garden hose with a spray attachment. The condenser is the unit outside your house.

10. Fix leaky faucets; this can save you up to $35 per year on heating costs for hot water. Your cost: About $6 for a faucet repair kit, with o-rings and gaskets.

11. Rather than a timer or manual control, install a photocell to control outdoor lighting. They are much more accurate and do not require resetting as the time of sunset and sunrise changes. Your cost: $15 and up.

12. Clean your refrigerator coils with a soft brush at least annually, more often if you have pets that shed. This makes for a more efficient transfer of heat and cuts the amount of energy used. Your cost: nothing.

13. Maximize your clothes dryer’s efficiency. Remove and replace flexible lint ducting, especially the slinky-type plastic stuff. It holds lint and causes the fan to work harder. Open up the back and bottom of the dryer and vacuum it out to remove additional lint and debris.

14. Lower your water heater setting to 120 degrees F for both energy saving and safety. Your cost: nothing.

15. Shade is a great insulator. Maybe there are places where trees or shrubs can be planted on the east and west sides of your house. Leave the southern side more clear to accept the sun’s warmth during winter. An added boost is that trees are great for the environment. If trees aren’t an option, consider window awnings or window film treatments.

16. Consider using the lowly- but highly efficient- clothes line whenever the weather cooperates.

17. Go to the Homeowners section of the ENERGY STAR website at and take the home energy survey. You’ll also find more ways to cut energy costs.


1. All political jokes aside, you can improve gas mileage by maintaining tire pressure. Tires will have the pressure range stamped on them, and there will also be a tire pressure listed by your car manufacturer on a sticker, usually inside the driver’s door. Check the tire pressures when they are “cold” and you haven’t driven much on them. Use the pressure listed on the door sticker.

2. Rotate your tires regularly (around every 10,000 miles). This gives the tires longer life and helps ensure they wear evenly.

3. Check and if needed, replace your air filter every time you get the oil changed. Ignore the dirt on the leading edges of the pleats; use a flashlight or shop light to see how much dirt and oil has penetrated through the entire thickness of the filter. Replace them when 50% of the light is blocked by debris.

4. Get regular oil changes and use good quality oil and filters at the manufacturers suggested interval. If you don’t do the oil change yourself, be sure to go to a reputable service provider.

5. Turn off the car rather than idling while at banks, ATMs, and other drive up windows.

6. Reduce air conditioner use when driving at low speeds in warm weather. At 50 mph and above, the engine load due to wind drag from open windows becomes more costly.

7. Go to the Drive Smarter Challenge to learn about ways to save fuel. You can also download coupons from ExxonMobile and AutoZone. It’s at


1. Ensuring all air conditioning and heating equipment is performing according to specification will save you from 2 to 11%. Consider the age of your equipment, its remaining service life, cost of repairs and maintenance. You may find it cheaper to upgrade to new more energy efficient equipment. The best way to do this is with a life-cycle cost analysis.

2. Calibrating thermostats to ensure their settings equal the actual space temperature can save up to 3%.

3. Heat office buildings to 68° when occupied, 50 to 60° degrees when unoccupied. Interior spaces tend to gain significant amounts of heat from lighting, equipment, and people.

4. If you have electric reheat units, turn them off during cooling season except in areas where equipment requires humidity control.

5. Preheat buildings so that they reach 65° by the time occupants arrive and complete warm-up during the first hour of operations. In the evening, cut off heating an hour before the building is closed and let the temperature drift down to the nighttime setback temperature.

6. If you have a central plant with multiple air compressors, operating one at full load is more efficient than operating two or more at a reduced load. Set them up in a lead-lag configuration and rotate the lead compressor on a weekly basis.

7. Wasted lighting consumes about 24% of total lighting usage. Reduce janitorial services lighting use by having these services performed during work hours. Ask the service to do team cleaning, where each floor is done at one time rather that cleaners spread throughout the building. It can save up to 8%.

4 hours wasted per building per day X 7.2% of total building energy wasted x average cost of $2 per SF for cleaning X $0.09 per KwH will save 160,000 KwH per year or $14,400 per 100,000 SF of space. It will cost you nothing to implement this, and the quality of the work done and tenant satisfaction generally will improve.

8. Turning off equipment, harvesting daylight, implementing an energy awareness program, using work station task lighting, and installing computer power management software can save between 3 and 15%.

9. I can’t say enough about the cost benefits of an active preventive maintenance program. Although the up-front costs in implementing such a program can be expensive, the increased service life and reduced frequency of catastrophic equipment failure more than make up for it. Want proof? Contact me, and I will send a copy of “Thinking Like a CFO: Analysis Shows Prevention Pays to you as a PDF file.

10. Everyone is plagued by a lack of time. Consider the cost of delay; given a business with an annual energy cost of $25,000 and an upgrade program that could save them 30%, this could be as much as $7500 per year. Assuming that the improvements would pay for themselves in 3 years, delaying the upgrade is equivalent to forfeiting a low risk investment opportunity at 27%. The savings will continue for the life of the equipment, usually an additional 7 to 13 years or as much as $97,500.00.


1. Say NO to plastic grocery bags! A plastic grocery bag will last almost 1000 years in a landfill without breaking down. We go through 380 billion of these things, at a cost of 1.6 billion gallons of oil every year, and less than 6% get recycled. Please, please use paper sacks or bring a cloth shopping bag with you when you go shopping. You might even get a cash credit for each bag you bring with you.

2. Recycle, Recycle, Recycle. Cardboard, white paper, aluminum, tin, and plastic. And don’t forget to save drink cans and bottles for the deposits. You could even save money on your trash removal costs.

3. Curtail unnecessary driving and carry out an energy upgrade program at home and at work. This will cut down on production of greenhouse gases (CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride, perfluorocarbons, and hydrocarbons). In the atmosphere, these greenhouse gases act much as the roof of a greenhouse, creating climate changes on a worldwide scale. Even if you do not believe in the existence of global warming, use of sustainable practices and green technologies will provide you with lower operating costs and a healthier environment.

If you take action to improve energy efficiency, there is good news. In 2004, Americans reduced U.S. greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking 20 million cars off the road and saved over $10 billion on their energy bills. Let’s all keep up the good work!



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