All households rely on utilities such as electric, natural gas and water service to meet basic, everyday needs. Each day, you use these utilities to perform many daily tasks. As the price of energy continues to rise, so does the cost for these necessities, and many households are looking for ways to reduce the cost of their utilities. By practicing energy conservation, you can develop habits to reduce your energy usage and save money on your utility bills. Whether you own your home or rent, there are a number of things you can do to save on the energy you use every day, throughout your day.
Turning up the heat is necessary in the winter months to keep out the cold Ohio weather. There are a few simple ways for you to make sure your home is efficiently keeping the warm air in and the cold air out.
- Keep the thermostat set to 68 degrees, and set it back even more when you are sleeping or away from your home. You can purchase a programmable thermostat to automatically turn the thermostat down at night and when you are not home. By turning down your thermostat one degree, you can save up to 3 percent on your heating bill.
- Look for a furnace that is ENERGY STAR approved for energy efficiency.
- Make sure there is adequate insulation in your attic, walls, basement, crawl spaces and floors. You should also make sure the accesses to your attic are insulated and weather-stripped.
- Check your furnace filter monthly and change it when needed. Keep the space around your furnace clean to ensure it is operating efficiently.
- If needed, have your heating system tuned-up by a professional. Keep all heat registers and air ducts clear of obstructions.
- Install storm windows and doors, and replace any weather-stripping or caulking that may be damaged.
- Remove window air conditioning units from your windows during the winter months, or fill the cracks with weather-stripping. Seal drafty windows with plastic.
- Use a portable electric space heater to add warmth to the room you are in. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for safe use.
- Close the fireplace damper when it is not in use. You can also shut the door and close the heat vents in rooms that are not used.
During the summer months, keeping the house cool can be a difficult and costly task. Keep these tips in mind to get the most out of the cool air.
- During the day, block the heat from the sun by closing windows, doors and curtains.
- To save money on cooling costs turn the thermostat to 80 degrees or higher when you are sleeping or away from home. Raising the temperature by 5 degrees for eight hours can reduce your cooling costs by 3-5 percent.
- Look for an air conditioning unit that is ENERGY STAR approved.
- Avoid creating unnecessary heat and humidity in the house during summer days. Plan to do heat and moisture-creating activities such as washing dishes, doing laundry, bathing and cooking before noon or past 8 p.m.
- Limit the amount of time you run kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans. Only run them for as long as it takes to get rid of any odors to minimize losing cool air.
- If you use a window air conditioning unit, make sure it fits correctly into the window to reduce the amount of cool air lost.
- Consider using a window fan, which requires as little as 1/10 the amount of energy needed to run an air conditioner.
Everyone loves a home-cooked meal, but the appliances used in cooking can use a lot of energy. Conserve energy while you cook by using these tips for the kitchen.
- Use a microwave oven, toaster oven or slow-cooker to cook smaller meals. Keep the burners and reflectors on your oven clean so that they will reflect heat better and use energy more efficiently.
- Keep the oven door shut while cooking. Each time you open the oven the temperature decreases 25-75 degrees. Use a timer if your oven does not have a window to know when your food is done cooking.
- Keep your freezer stocked. Food retains cold temperatures, meaning that a full freezer will be more efficient than an empty one. If you do not have a frost-free model, defrost the freezer periodically to ensure the frost does not accumulate more than ¼ inch.
- Set out frozen food to defrost or use the microwave instead of running it under hot water.
- Check the gasket, or seal, in your refrigerator door to make sure it fits properly. A loose gasket will cause cold air to leak out of your refrigerator.
- Get rid of any old refrigerators or freezers you may be keeping for extra food storage. These appliances can cost between $100-150 per year to run.
- Never use your stove or oven for additional heat, this is unsafe.
- Look for ENERGY STAR approved kitchen appliances that will cook more efficiently.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Cleaning and fixing up the home is a great time to look for ways where you can conserve energy.
- Only run the dishwasher when it is full, and load the dishwasher properly to ensure efficient water circulation. You can save even more water by scraping dishes instead of pre-rinsing them before putting them in the dishwasher.
- Use the air-dry option or stop the dishwasher when the dry cycle begins and let the dishes air dry.
- Run the clothes washer with a full load, match the water level to the size of the load, and use a minimum amount of detergent. Each load of laundry uses approximately 50 gallons of water.
- Only use hot water to wash clothes that are very dirty. Clothes that are dirty from everyday wear can be cleaned using warm or cold water.
- Buy a front-loading washer, which uses 1/3 less water than top loading models.
- Be sure to clean your dryer’s lint filter after each use to make sure the dryer is running efficiently.
- Repair leaky faucets and toilets to avoid wasting hundreds of gallons of water each week.
- Use a bucket instead of running water to mop the floor. Also, a sponge mop will use less water than a string mop.
- When shopping for new appliances, look for ones that qualify as ENERGY STAR models. These appliances meet stricter standards for energy efficiency.
Sometimes conserving energy is as simple as flipping a switch. Here are some easy ways to reduce the energy you use around the house.
- Save energy by turning off lights and appliances when you leave a room.
- Use compact fluorescent lamp(CFL) bulbs. CFLs use as little as 1/4 the energy of regular incadescent light bulbs and can last 10 times as long.
- Your home computer can use a considerable amount of electricity. To save energy, turn it off while not being used. Keep in mind that the computer monitor uses more energy than the CPU unit.
- If you have a waterbed, keep the heater set at 85 degrees. You can prevent heat from escaping by covering the bed with a blanket or comforter.
- Set the water heater thermostat to the warm setting, or 120 degrees. If you will be away from your home, turn the thermostat down even more. This will avoid using energy to reheat the same water while you are not there.
Each day, you take time for personal care activities such as showering, shaving and brushing your teeth. Try to save water in your daily personal care routine by following these tips.
- Take short showers instead of baths. Baths use 5-15 more gallons of water than showers.
- Save water by installing a low-flow showerhead and limiting your shower time to five minutes.
- Turn off the water while brushing your teeth, and use only a partially filled sink to rinse your razor while shaving.
Spending time outdoors to play in the pool, wash the car or maintain your yard can be a lot of fun, and a good time to look for ways to conserve water.
- Use a nozzle on your hose to shut off or adjust the spray to fit the amount of water you need to use when you water the lawn or wash your car.
- Mow your lawn using a higher lawn mower setting. Having longer grass will allow less evaporation and keep your lawn more hydrated.
- Try not to over-water your lawn, and make sure to prevent water evaporation by watering the lawn in the morning or evening.
- Use a broom to clean your sidewalk and driveway instead of water from the hose.
- Plant drought-resistant landscaping and rain gardens and use mulch to conserve moisture in your yard.
- Install rain barrels on your gutter downspouts to catch storm water for use in watering the lawn and washing your car.
Managing Energy Costs
In addition to conserving energy throughout your home, there are a few other options to help you manage utility bills. Most electric and natural gas companies offer a budget billing program, where the cost of your energy usage is spread out over a 12-month period. With budget billing, you pay a set amount each month rather than facing higher electric bills in the summer and higher natural gas bills in the winter. At the end of the 12-month period is a true-up statement, where you will receive a bill or a credit depending on if you used more or less energy than your budgeted amount. If you would like more information about electric and natural gas budget billing, contact your utility company.
Low-income households may also qualify for assistance programs to help pay utility bills. Contact the PUCO at (800) 686-PUCO (7826) for more information about the available assistance and the income guidelines to qualify.