By Richard Buzard Almost everyone wants to cut their home energy costs without giving up lighting or comfort. This article provides some easy no and low-cost ways to cut your utility bill and it explains the calculations that show the energy and cost savings. No-cost ways to save energy: 1) Turn off unnecessary lights. A single 60 watt bulb that is left on 2 hours a day, 7 days a week when it could be turned off will cost you $5.87 per year based on August 2010 average electric rates for Michigan homeowners. How this works: 60w X 14 hours/week X 52 weeks/year = 43.68 kilowatt-hours X $0.1345 per kWh = $5.87. 2) Heating and cooling account for about 50% of household utility costs. a) Set your thermostat to 68 degrees for heating during winter. Each additional degree of heat will cost you at least 1 to 3% more on your bill. If you normally set your thermostat to 72, your bill could be as much as 12% higher. b) In the summer, the thermostat should be set no cooler than 78 to 80 degrees. For every degree the thermostat is raised, 4 to 8 % can be saved on cooling costs. How this works: Let’s say that your July heating bill is $120 with the temperature set to 72 degrees. At 50% of your utility bill, this means that $60 was spent on air conditioning. At a saving of 4% per degree, this means that you could save 24% or $14.40 on your bill by raising the temperature to 78. The math works the same way during the winter when you lower the temperature. 3) Clean your refrigerator coils with a soft brush at least annually, more often if you have pets that shed. This makes for a more efficient transfer of heat and cuts the amount of energy used. 4) Clean the air conditioner condenser coils and fins when you see grass and airborne debris collected on them. Use a garden hose with a spray attachment and rags or a soft brush. If the amount of debris is extensive, you can buy condenser cleaning sprays at most plumbing and heating supply houses. The condenser is the unit outside your house. 5) Lower your water heater setting to 120 degrees F for both energy saving and safety. 6) Wash as much of your clothing on cold rather than warm or hot settings. Low-cost ways to save energy: 1) Use an ENERGY STAR rated programmable thermostat. These thermostats are accurate to within +/- 2 degrees, and when properly used, can save you as much as $150 per year on your heating and cooling costs. Your cost: $30 and up, depending on options. 2) Replace incandescent lights with compact fluorescent lamps. The results are similar to no cost item #1; by moving from 60 watts to 13 watts, you’re saving 47 watts, but in this case, you get the same light output. If you use the light 20 hours per week, you will save at least $6.57 per year, per lamp. a) Remember that CFL bulbs come in a variety of color temperatures; some produce more “white” light than others. If you're concerned about off-white light, try the daylight or hobby type CFL light bulbs.

© Richard Buzard 2013. All rights reserved.

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How it works: 47w X 20 hours/week X 52 weeks/year = 48.88 KWh X $0.1345 per KWh = $6.57. Your cost: Roughly $1.50 to $4 per lamp, a small price to pay for the potential savings. You will save even more money because CFL bulbs last much longer than standard bulbs. 3) Check for air leaks and drafts at window frames, around doors, window or wall mounted air conditioners, attic hatches, baseboards, etc. An easy way to do this is to use a candle or strip of yarn and watch for it to deflect. a) Use weather stripping for moving surfaces (doors, windows, etc.) and polysulfide or urethane (not silicone) caulking for the rest. This can save you between 5 to 30% on your heating bill. 4) Replace your furnace/ air conditioner air filter every 3 months. Dirty filters cause the blower to work harder and waste energy. Clean filters will save you between 3 and 5% per month of your air conditioning or heating costs. Your cost: $7 to $20, depending on degree of filtration. a) Be careful in the type of filter you use. Those with extremely high filtration must be replaced more often because as they get dirty, the amount of air flow through them decreases. This puts a heavier load on the fan and results in less cooling or heating. b) Remember to clean the return air duct grills for the same reason. 5) Use a water heater blanket and insulate the first 3 or 4 feet of the discharge pipe (more, if you have easy access). This will reduce energy use by 10 to 15%. Your cost: about $40. 6) Use ENERGY STAR rated ceiling fans. The upfront cost can be $100 or so for each, but can save over $600 per year when compared to the cost of running an air conditioner. 7) Fix leaky faucets; this can save you up to $35 per year on heating costs for hot water. Your cost: About $6 for a faucet repair kit, with O-rings and gaskets. 8) Rather than a timer or manual control, install a photocell to control outdoor lighting. They are much more accurate and do not require resetting as the time of sunset and sunrise changes. Your cost: $15 and up. 9) Maximize your clothes dryer's efficiency. Remove and replace flexible lint ducting, especially the slinkytype plastic tubing (replace with metallic). It holds lint and causes the fan to work harder. Open up the back and bottom of the dryer and vacuum it out to remove additional lint and debris. 10) Consider using a clothes line if you have space available. Why spend money on electricity when the weather is good? 11) Shade is a great insulator. Maybe there are places where trees or shrubs can be planted on the east and west sides of your house. Leave the southern side more clear to accept the sun's warmth during winter, or plant deciduous trees here. An added boost is that trees are great for the environment. If trees aren't an option, consider window awnings. An expert in facilities management and energy efficiency, Richard has experience in commercial, institutional, and governmental facilities, and provides services on a contractor or project basis. His LinkedIn profile is at, and he can be contacted at (248)935-9097 or at

© Richard Buzard 2013. All rights reserved.

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