En español | Americans all over the country are being hit hard by high energy costs. AARP offers these free and low-cost steps you can take to help lower your energy bills now and throughout the year. AARP is fighting to save you money on your energy costs and wants you to be an informed and engaged consumer.
See also: 18 Ways to Save on Your Utilities.
Here are 10 free and easy things you can do to bring down your home energy costs:
- Open curtains, blinds or shades on south facing windows in winter and let the sun warm your rooms. In summer, close window coverings on east and west facing windows to keep rooms cool.
- Close the fireplace damper when the fireplace is not in use to prevent heated air from escaping up the chimney. After burning a fire, be sure all embers are out before closing the damper.
- Unplug block-type chargers, such as phone, computer, small appliance, and toy chargers, from the wall when not in use. If the charger is plugged into the wall it is still on and consuming energy even if you aren’t charging.
- Clean the lint filter in your clothes dryer after every load and periodically clean the vent. Lint buildup in the filter can cause the dryer to run longer, wasting energy. Lint in the vent can lead to a fire.
- Turn ceiling fans on low and set blades to force warm air near the ceiling down in winter. Do the reverse in summer, making the blades turn in the opposite direction so cooled air will be forced up.
- Clean vents, registers, baseboard heaters and radiators for maximum heating or cooling output and make sure they aren’t blocked by curtains, furniture or carpeting.
- Use heat generating appliances such as clothes dryers and ovens 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.
- Turn off lights in unoccupied rooms and kitchen and bathroom ventilating fans after they’ve done their job. If left on, ventilating fans can blow a house full of heated or cooled air out quickly.
- Run clothes and dishwashers only when you have a full load. Use the cold water setting on your clothes washer when possible to reduce water heating costs.
- Take showers instead of baths and set the hot water heater at 120°.You’ll use less water and reduce water consumption and heating costs.
5 Low-Cost Steps to Save on Home Energy
Here are 5 inexpensive ways to lower your energy bills, courtesy of the AARP Bulletin:
- Seal wall openings. About 15 percent of air leakage in the average home occurs through wall openings. Spray insulating foam sealant around holes for outdoor faucets and wiring, and install foam gaskets around indoor electric outlets and light switches.
- Weatherize windows and doors. A few inexpensive tubes of water-based acrylic caulk can seal tiny leaks around windows and doors. For another $40 to $70, apply weather stripping to door frames.
- Update your thermostat. Do you like your house to cool at night but warm when you wake up? A programmable thermostat — one that you set to adjust temperatures automatically — can cut 20 percent from heating and cooling bills, according to Consumer Reports.
- Seal and wrap ductwork. As much as 30 percent of the air from the furnace or air conditioner escapes through ductwork, which expands and shrinks as temperatures change. If ducts are accessible — as in the basement, in the attic and at the furnace connection — seal joints with a waterproof, flexible sealant and wrap ductwork with HVAC insulation.
- Dress the hearth. A roaring fireplace burns more than just wood: One fire a week can boost winter heating costs about 10 percent, because the flames suck warm air out of the house and send it up the chimney. For $200, a glass screen or a heat exchanger can keep cold air out and reduce heat loss. For summer savings, inflatable fireplace draft-stoppers (starting at $50) prevent cooled air from escaping in older homes with leaky metal dampers.