13 ways to celebrate Earth Day and slash your home energy bills

With simple steps, you can save hundreds of dollars in home energy costs each year.

Many steps such as turning off lights don’t cost a dime. Others can include home automation devices to remotely adjust your thermostat or brew morning coffee, but low-tech efforts will also work. You can save up to $100 a year by replacing five incandescent light bulbs with LEDs, according to SmarterHouse.org. LEDs use 75% less energy and last 25 times longer.

What’s more, you’ll not only save money, you’ll protect your family's health. By saving energy at home and driving more fuel-efficient cars, you'll burn fewer fossil fuels and reduce the pollutants they emit. This pollution is especially harmful to children and others with asthma. A new study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy finds that cutting U.S. energy use by 15% can prevent nearly 30,000 asthma attacks a year.

As you honor Earth Day this Sunday, April 22, we offer a roadmap for obtaining the multiple benefits of saving energy:

  1. Reduce the temperature of your water heater to 120°F. Use the lower temp settings on your dryer---it's gentler to your clothes.
  2. Wash clothes using full loads on a cold setting. Do full loads in dishwashers, too. If you must pre-rinse dishes (newer models make this unnecessary), use cold water.
  3. Ease demands on your fridge by letting hot food cool before putting it inside. Label food so you don’t stand there with the door open. Keep the freezer full (fuller freezers perform better than nearly empty ones).  
  4. Seal air leaks to minimize heat loss. Use caulk for leaky windows and gaps less than 1⁄4" wide. Use rigid foam insulation for large openings like plumbing chases.
  5. Use a power strip for electronics. Unplug it or turn it off when devices are not in use.
  6. Stream media using tablets or smart TVs rather than game consoles.  
  7. Select energy-saving settings on electronics, refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines, and clothes dryers.
  8. Set the thermostat to 65F when it’s cold outside and 80° when it’s hot. Turning down the thermostat from 70 to 65° in winter can save you 10% on heating bills.  
  9. Close windows when using air conditioning or heat. Close blinds and drapes to keep out the sun in hot weather, but open them during the day when it's cold outside.
  10. Clean or replace air filters. Clean your registers and don’t block them with furniture, carpets, or drapes.
  11. Buy water-saving showerheads and faucet aerators to cut water use by up to 50%. Repair leaky faucets right away.
  12. Get a home performance audit to identify the best ways to reduce energy use and improve comfort. Typical upgrades include new insulation and air and duct sealing.
  13. Replace old, inefficient appliances and heating/cooling equipment with new models that meet minimum efficiency standards. These changes can save you $500 a year. Look for models with the blue ENERGY STAR label.