Helpful Homeowner Information & Tips

TOP TEN TIPS - Save energy and money and make your home more comfortable

1. Use Compact Florescent Light bulbs
An ENERGY STAR qualified compact fluorescent light bulb uses 75% less energy than an incandescent bulb and CFL's will save about $30 over the lifetime of the bulb and pay for itself in about 6 months.  Also, PEPCO and BG&E have lowered cost purchasing programs and rebates to help you purchase CFL's.  (http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=find_a_product.showProductGroup&pgw_code=LB)

2. Use Smart Power Strips
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 75 percent of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off.  VCRs, televisions, stereos, computers, and kitchen appliances draw electricity even when they are turned off.  To stop the energy flow we either have to unplug the appliance or use a smart power strip.  Smart power strips are designed so that you can use one switch to turn off some electronics, like televisions and computers, but leave on other electronics like computer routers. (4 Ways to Reduce a Gadget's Power Drain at SmartMoney.com http://www.smartmoney.com/spending/deals/4-ways-to-reduce-a-gadgets-power-drain-23733/#ixzz0j9WHOkL8 )

3. Use a programmable thermostat
The average household spends more than $2,350 a year on energy bills - nearly half of which goes to heating and cooling.  Homeowners can save about $180 a year by properly setting their programmable thermostats and maintaining those settings. When you're asleep or out of the house, if you turn your thermostat back 10°–15° for eight hours, you can save around 10% a year on your heating and cooling bills.  The key to using programmable thermostats is to establish a schedule that is comfortable for your family so that you automatically reduce heating and cooling in your home when you don't need as much. (http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=find_a_product.showProductGroup&pgw_code=TH)

4. Plug air leaks in your home and Insulate
Many air leaks and drafts are easy to find because they are easy to feel — like those around windows and doors.  Many houses have air leaks around where pipes go through the walls, and gaps around chimneys.  You can add caulk, spray foam or weather stripping to seal air leaks around leaky doors and windows.  Sealing air leaks is the quickest and cheapest energy improvement you can make and it also makes your home more comfortable by evening out living space temperatures. To get the biggest energy savings, the easiest place to add insulation is usually in the attic. (http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=home_sealing.hm_improvement_sealing)

5. Regularly maintain your heating and air conditioning systems and change your filters
Although it's tough to quantify the benefits, it's clear that checking your system's air filter once a month and replacing them at least every 3 months can save energy and help your equipment run better and longer.  Get a pre-season check-up of your system by a licensed contractor in the Spring and Fall, to ensure all parts are working properly to avoid early system failure.  If your furnace is more than 15 years old, or your a/c unit is more than 12 years old, consider replacing it with a more efficient and properly sized unit. Replacing old equipment with more efficient equipment is one way to save. (Check with your utility for rebates, PEPCO provides them for Tune-Ups http://homeenergysavings.pepco.com/md/hvac-efficiency-program

6. If you need new appliances, electronic equipment or even windows, then you should try to Buy Energy Star Products
Appliances account for nearly 20% of the average household's energy use and a package of Energy Star qualified appliances can save up to $80 a year in energy costs.  And there are more benefits, energy efficient appliances often include higher quality components than standard appliances which can result in fewer mechanical problems and longer equipment life.  Some Energy Star appliances also have other features such as lower operating noise. (Check http://www.energystar.gov/ and your utility for rebates )

7. Install Low Flow Showerheads, faucets, and toilets
Low-flow shower heads use 25-60% less energy and water than regular ones.  Reducing hot water use saves energy because your hot water heater has less work to do.  Approximately 73% of the water used in a typical shower is hot water.  Inexpensive and simple-to-install, low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators can reduce home water consumption and water heating costs by as much as 50%.  Low-flow shower heads save more than 12 gallons per shower which is a savings of 44% over non-conserving shower heads.  Ultra-low-flow heads conserve even more, using only .8 to 1.5 gallons per minute, reducing the average five-minute shower's water usage from 40 to 7.5 gallons. (http://www.fypower.org/res/tools/products_results.html?id=100160 )

8. Landscape to keep your house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, if your home is not already shaded you can reduce your air conditioning costs by 15% or more by adding a well-planned landscape.  This can be done by using trees and bushes to block the sun from windows and walls; reducing air temperatures outside the home with properly placed shade trees; and planting groundcovers, trees, and shrubs to reduce the heat reflected from the ground to walls and windows. 

9. Do an Energy Audit
A home energy audit is often recommended as the first step in making your home more efficient.  An audit can help you assess how much energy your home uses and evaluate and prioritize what measures you need to take to improve efficiency.  Thorough audits often use equipment such as blower doors, which measure the extent of leaks in the building, and infrared cameras, which reveal hard-to-detect areas of where air is coming in the house and missing insulation.  One of the major benefits of an audit is that it can help you make sure that you reduce your demand for energy before you increase your supply . 

For example, if you think you need new heating or cooling system to lower your energy costs, an energy audit can help you decide whether this costly improvement is the best thing to do first, because if you actually need more insulation for your home, doing that first might mean you can purchase and install a smaller unit and save money.  If you do decide to get an energy audit, make sure you hire a home energy professional.  Or if you prefer to do an energy audit yourself,  there are a variety of tools available online to help you self-audit and assess your home.  (http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=home_improvement.hm_improvement_audits To find a certified contractor go to http://www.mdhomeperformance.org/aboutus.html

10. Use Federal, State, Local and Utility Incentive Programs to Save Money
Check for incentives by using the Database of State Incentives for Renewable and Efficiency http://www.dsireusa.org/ the database also has a link to national incentives. Check your utility for money saving programs and rebates. For Montgomery County incentives, go to http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/dectmpl.asp?url=/content/dep/energy/EnergyIncentives.asp and for utility programs, go to Maryland Performance with Energy Star Website to link to the company providing your power.