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30 Ways to Lower Your Home Energy Costs

These smart, easy and often free solutions can help

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Low- and Higher-Cost Fixes

  1. Install weather stripping or caulk around doors and windows, and place foam gaskets behind outlet plate covers on exterior walls. If there is a gap at the bottom of the door, install a door sweep or door shoe gasket.

  2. Insulate the ceiling and attic for savings on both heating and cooling costs. Attic insulation is a primary way to maximize heating efficiency. New plastic-wrapped fiberglass batts slip easily into place and eliminate scratchy surfaces.

  3. Install a programmable thermostat and adjust the temperature higher or lower according to when you are regularly away from home or are asleep.

  4. Seal and insulate ducts. Ducts running through unfinished spaces (attics, crawl spaces, and garages) that are not properly sealed and insulated can waste energy used to heat and cool the home. Seal the joints with a non-hardening sealant and insulate the ducts. Also, seal the gaps around pipes that connect to the house from the outside with expanding foam, which comes in convenient aerosol cans.

  5. Wrap your hot water heater, especially older models that don’t have much insulation, with an insulation blanket or jacket made specifically for this purpose. (Blankets are not recommended for gas heaters and those with automatic vent dampers. Check with your heater’s manufacturer to see if your unit can be wrapped.) Reduce your water heating expenses further by installing low flow shower heads and faucets.

  6. Install glass doors on your fireplace opening. They can prevent embers and ash from flying free and warm air from escaping.

  7. Remove window air-conditioning units before cold weather to prevent heat from escaping through and around the unit. If the unit can’t be removed, put a cover over it to prevent drafts and make sure there are no openings where cold air can seep in.

  8. Replace or clean furnace air filters once a month or according to manufacturers instructions. A clogged, dirty filter blocks air flow and forces your furnace to work harder and raises your energy bill.

  9. Check the heating system. Call a professional to clean and tune your furnace once a year. Clean the warm air registers, baseboard heaters and radiators several times a year. If you have radiators, place a heat-resistant reflector between the radiator and outside wall.

  10. Replace incandescent lightbulbs, especially in high-use areas, with Energy Star® compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs). While they cost more, compact fluorescent bulbs use much less energy than incandescent bulbs and last a lot longer and are better for the environment.

  11. Install white shades or blinds on windows to reflect heat away from the house if you live in a warm climate. If there isn’t enough roof overhang to shield windows from direct sun, consider installing awnings over west and southfacing windows. They will not only block solar heat, but will also protect furnishings from UV damage.

  12. Install a motion detector or photocell unit on exterior porch or flood lights so they will only turn on when needed and will turn off during the day automatically.

  13. Ask your utility company to do an energy audit. The cost for an audit varies but some companies offer free audits for low income households.

Learn More! Select a Home Fit topic from the sidebar (above). Read the complete AARP Home Fit Guide in print by downloading (PDF) or ordering your free copy now. Contact your AARP State office and ask when it will be hosting an AARP Home Fit Workshop.

Article last reviewed or updated April 2014

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