Energy-Saving Tips for Today's Consumers

This article originally appeared in Pennsylvania Heritage Magazine
Volume XXXV, Number 2 - Spring 2009

Conserving energy-and, in many cases, money-depends on personal behavior and choices. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that the typical American household expends 20 percent of its energy costs on appliances and home electronics and 56 percent on heating and cooling. By making prudent choices, consumers can reduce their energy levels-as well as their carbon footprints. Additional helpful tips are online at DOE's website.

  • Salvage and reuse older building materials such as wood, slate, brick, stone, and glass when making home improvements.
  • Install low-flow showerheads and launder clothes and linens in cold or warm water instead of hot water.
  • Buy Energy Star(r) qualified appliances, light bulbs, and equipment.
  • Insulate the crawl space, attic, and basement. Approximately 20 percent of energy costs arise from heat loss in those areas.
  • Lower thermostats by two degrees in winter and increase by two degrees in summer. This saves about two thousand pounds of carbon dioxide a year. Install a programmable thermostat that can be adjusted according to weekday and weekend schedules.
  • Install white curtains, shades, or blinds to reflect heat away from the house.
  • Turn off computers, air conditioning, and lights (especially exterior architectural lighting) when not needed. This will save thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide yearly. Energy-saving tips for today's consumers
  • Apply weather-stripping, caulking, and new paint to help keep doors and windows airtight.
  • Limit the use of large equipment, such as leaf blowers, compressors, trucks, and air conditioning during the peak hours of 3 to 7 p.m.
  • Choose light colors when painting or repainting building exteriors because they reflect heat better than darker hues.
  • Use task lighting in specific areas rather than lighting an entire room.
  • Select native plants for landscaping. This saves both time and expense of daily watering and requires less fertilizers and pesticides than non-indigenous flowers, shrubs, and trees.
  • Repair leaking faucets immediately; a leaky faucet wastes gallons of water in a very short time.
  • Insulate hot water heater and hot water pipes to prevent heat loss.
  • Request that your local utility company conducts an energy audit to identify problem areas and measure energy savings following improvements made to enhance building efficiency.
  • Change incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent light (CF L) bulbs. They significantly reduce carbon dioxide, last ten times longer, and save 75 percent on lighting costs.

Adding insulation behind wall plates of electrical outlets Installing weather stripping on door Insulating pipes

Dennis A. Stone demonstrates energy-saving steps, including (from left to right) adding insulation behind wall plates, installing weather stripping to doors, and insulating pipes. All photos by Kimberly L. Stone/PHMC