Heating and cooling account for almost 50 percent of the energy use in a typical American home according to the U.S. Department of Energy. It’s the largest single energy expense for most homes. Whether you rent or own, you can take steps to weatherize your home for little or no expense. Fall is the perfect time to make some changes. Here are some ways to get started:
Steps that won’t cost you a thing:
- Set your thermostat to 68 degrees. Your heating system will operate less and use less energy. You can save as much as 10 percent a year on heating and cooling by simply adjusting your thermostat by 7 to 10 degrees for 8 hours a day from its normal setting.
- Set your water heater to 120 degrees. Water heating is the second largest energy expense in your home. It typically accounts for about 18 percent of your utility bill. There are three ways to cut your water heating bills: use less hot water, turn down the thermostat on your water heater, and insulate your water heater.
- Open the shades on south-facing windows to let warm sunlight in. Consider closing window coverings in rooms that receive no direct sunlight to insulate from cold window drafts. At night, close window coverings to retain heat. Up to 15 percent of your heat can escape through unprotected windows, but the solar heat gain from the sun during the day can conserve valuable energy.
- Use cold water to wash clothes. According to ENERGY STAR®, washing clothes in cold water will save you about $40 a year with an electric water heater and about $30 a year with a gas water heater.
Low-cost steps you can take:
- Replace your furnace filter regularly. Dirty filters reduce airflow, making your equipment work harder and use more energy. Replace your furnace filter monthly (unless it is a high-efficiency filter designed to last several months) to reduce heating costs by 5 to 15 percent.
- Install a programmable thermostat. According to ENERGY STAR, through proper use of a programmable thermostat you can save about $180 every year in energy costs. A good rule is to set your temperature five to eight degrees up or down when you leave or go to sleep. A five degree change gives you about a 5 percent savings on your energy bill.
- Install high-efficiency showerheads and faucets. Modern faucets use 40 percent less water than pre-1995 faucets. Showerheads manufactured after 1995 use 50% less water than old models. Replacing faucets with models that have a flow rate of less than 2.5 gallons per minute can cut your water usage for showers in half.
- Switch to CFLs or LEDs. They cost a little more, but you can save at least $50 over the life of just one bulb. Xcel Energy partners with local retailers to offer CFLs for as little as $1 each and LEDs at discounted rates
- Weatherize your home and save up to 10 percent of your heating and cooling costs. A handy homeowner can seal up holes to the outside by weather-stripping doors and sealing windows and gaps along the home’s foundation.
Go BIG and save BIG:
- Insulate and air-seal your home. Is your attic insulated and air-sealed? What about your walls and crawl spaces? When insulation is correctly installed AND the home is totally weatherized, the average home can see a savings of up to 20 percent of your heating and cooling costs.
- Purchase ENERGY STAR® appliances. ENERGY STAR reports that appliances account for nearly 20 percent of the average household’s energy use. A comprehensive package of ENERGY STAR qualified appliances can save up to $80 a year in energy costs compared to standard appliances. Xcel Energy helps offset the cost of high-efficiency equipment such as furnaces, boilers and water heaters by offering rebates. Get cash back for choosing higher efficiency appliances.
- Hire an expert. For $60 ($200 value), you can get a Standard Home Energy Audit, which includes a visit from a contracted energy expert who will identify energy efficiency opportunities and help you develop a plan of action.
The audit includes a review of the attic, insulation, doors, windows, furnace, appliances and more. The expert will identify energy waste in places such as drafty windows, insufficient insulation, humidity problems, inefficient appliances, poor ventilation, or inefficient heating and cooling systems. Another great option is the Home Energy Squad visit for $75 (A $200 value).
A Home Energy Squad visit is ideal for homeowners who have completed a Home Energy Audit and need someone to implement some of the recommended energy-saving measures.
The Home Energy Squad will quickly assess your home’s efficiency and make the energy-saving installations for you—all in about two hours or less. The result: a more efficient, comfortable home and savings on your bill.
The Home Energy Squad service includes the installation of:
- Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs)
- Programmable thermostat
- Weather stripping for an external door
- High-efficiency showerheads
- Kitchen and bathroom faucet aerators
- Water heater insulation