Energy Efficiency

"The cheapest and cleanest energy choice of all is not to waste it."
(The Economist, 2015)

We tend to think of energy efficiency as something that needs expensive technological upgrades or sacrifices comfort, but there are a number of simple, low-cost approaches you can take while still staying comfortable. Making a few small changes such as switching off the lights or air-drying your clothes can help you save on your energy bill.  Air-sealing your home and other weatherization upgrades can offer even bigger savings and are a bigger step towards cutting back on fossil fuels. It is achievable whether you are a homeowner or a renter. Here are some basic steps to get you started.

1. Get Rid of Energy Vampires

  • Plug appliances and chargers into an advanced power strip that automatically turns electronics off when not in use as they continue to use energy when they are plugged in - even though they are turned off. You may save up to $200 a year

2. Replace All of Your Lights with LEDs

  • An incandescent lamp only converts about 9% -10% of energy to light while the rest is wasted as heat. The light emitting diode (LED) light bulb converts almost 100% of the energy into light. The LED bulb also does not contain any mercury, unlike compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL). Replacing 8 frequently used incandescent light bulbs in your house with LEDs can save you up to $120 a year (based on 2 hours of usage, electricity rate of 11 cents per kilowatt-hours)

3. Water Heating

Water heating is a typical family's third-largest energy expense, accounting for up to 14% of utility bills.

  • Set your water heater temperature at 120 degrees. A family of four, each showering for five minutes, uses about 700 gallons of water a week. By lowering the thermostat, you can cut water heating bills without sacrificing comfort
  • Always use cold water when it will do the job as well as hot

4. Refrigerator

  • Set the fridge at 40°F and the freezer at 5°F to save between $10 and $40 a year
  • Mother was right. Avoid opening the refrigerator or freezer door to browse. Each time you do, cold air escapes and your energy costs increase
  • Condenser coils remove heat from inside the unit. Make sure they’re at least two inches from the wall and clean them twice a year
  • Let hot foods cool before putting them in your refrigerator or freezer. Hot foods cause the motor to work longer and harder

5. Washer and Dryer

  • You’ll save more by waiting to wash until you have a full load
  • Add the right amount of detergent. Too many suds make your washer work harder and use more energy
  • Your dryer’s lint trap helps warm air flow better and dries your clothes faster. Make sure to clean it after each load
  • Dry your laundry in consecutive loads to take advantage of a heated dryer. Your laundry will dry faster and use less energy

6. Faucets and Shower-heads

  • Switch to low-flow shower-heads and faucets to decrease your water bill and reduce your energy costs by using less hot water

7. Home Heating and Cooling Tips

According to, up to 50% of the energy we use is for heating and cooling. Consider the following tips from a Michigan-based utility,  Consumers Energy:

  • In winter months, set your thermostat at 68 degrees when you’re home and at 65 degrees when you’re away for a short time. If you’re used to higher settings, dial down 1 degree at a time until you reach the lowest temperature you still feel comfortable at
  • Lower your thermostat to 58 degrees if you’re away from home five hours or more. You use much less energy to heat the house up when you return than to keep it heated while you’re away
  • In summer months, set your air conditioning thermostat to 78 degrees when you are home and higher when you are away.
  • A programmable thermostat lets you automatically turn your heat up before you get out of bed, down when you leave for work, up before you return from work and down again when you go to bed. Installing one before the heating season begins could save as much as 20% on your heating costs and recover your investment in the first year
  • Have your heating system tuned and inspected by a service professional before each heating season. Heat losses from a poorly maintained system add up over time, sometimes at a rate of 1- 2%  a year
  • Clean or replace the furnace filter often during the heating season. Furnaces use less energy if they “breathe” more easily. Follow instructions in the furnace manufacturer’s manual

Learn more from our team on how to stay cool in the summer by clicking here.

8. Need Help Figuring Out Energy Efficiency?

Getting a free energy audit, air-sealing your home, and purchasing energy efficient appliances are the biggest ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Need help figuring out how to be more energy efficient at home? Contact Cooperative Extension's Energy Outreach Team (607) 272-2292 before your next appliance or heater purchase for tips and learn how to get a free energy audit and low-cost energy efficiency upgrades. Learn more about Whole House Energy Upgrades  by clicking  here.

Last updated July 26, 2019