AARP HomeFit

Smart Ways to Spend Less

Here, 22 easy and often free home energy and maintenance solutions

See the "Next Steps" box on page 2 to order a free copy of the HomeFit Guide (in English or Spanish).

After a mortgage, utility bills for heating and cooling are among the priciest expenses of maintaining a residence.

Here are some ways to lower those costs.


  1. Open curtains, blinds or shades on south-facing windows in winter to let the sun warm your rooms. In summer, close the window coverings to keep rooms cool.

  2. If you live in a warm climate, install white shades or blinds on windows to reflect heat away from the house.

  3. To block solar heat and protect furnishings from UV damage, install awnings over windows if the roof eaves or other overhangs don’t shield windows from direct sunlight.


  1. Install glass doors on a fireplace opening to prevent embers and ash from flying free and keep the warm air in the house from escaping up the chimney. Shut the fireplace damper when the fireplace is not in use to prevent heated air from going up the chimney. After burning a fire, be sure all embers are out before closing the damper.

  2. Turn ceiling fans on low, and set the blades to force warm air near the ceiling downward in the winter. Do the reverse in the summer by making the blades turn in the opposite direction.

  3. Use heat-generating appliances such as a clothes dryer and oven during the coolest time of day. This reduces the load on your air conditioner in the summer and helps heat the house in the winter.

  4. Install a programmable thermostat to change the set point for heating and cooling when you are away from home or are asleep.

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

  6. Remove window air-conditioning units before cold weather to prevent heat from escaping through and around the unit. If the a/c unit can't be removed, cover it to prevent drafts and air leaks.

  7. Insulate the attic to maximize energy efficiency fand save on both heating and cooling costs.

  8. Unsealed or improperly insulated ducts running through unfinished spaces — such as attics, crawl spaces and garages — waste energy. Seal the joints with a non-hardening sealant and insulate the ducts. Use expanding foam, which comes in convenient aerosol cans, to seal gaps around pipes that connect from outside.

Next page: Power-friendly ideas, water works and clean cash. »

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