More Energy Saving Tips

Saving energy makes sense (and cents). Here are 10 easy ways to conserve that can add up to smaller utility bills.

In our March '07 Building to Last special section we listed 10 Easy Ways to Save Energy (see "Worth the Effort"). So many readers wrote to us asking for additional pointers about conservation that we've compiled 10 more tips you can try at home, no matter where you live.

1. Enable the "sleep" mode on your computer. This allows the machine to automatically switch to an energy-saving mode after several minutes of inactivity.

2. Televisions, cell phone chargers, printers, and many other electronic devices still draw power even when they're not turned on. So-called "idle current" is a notorious energy thief. The solution? Disconnect devices entirely when not in use, or plug them into power strips that you can switch off.

3. If you have an electric water heater and you're going on vacation for more than three days, switch it off entirely. Better still, equip it with a timer so that you only heat water during the hours you need it. (Neither of these tips apply to gas water heaters, because they operate using pilot lights.)

4. Keep your fridge full to save energy. A full refrigerator doesn't have to work as hard to stay cold. If you don't typically have much food in your fridge, fill it with jugs of water. Like the ice blocks in picnic coolers, the jugs will insulate the interior and help keep it cold.

5. Install motion sensors to activate lights as needed. You can use sensors for both outside floods and interior lights in high-traffic rooms, such as the kitchen.

6. Replace halogen bulbs in standing lamps with compact fluorescents specifically designed for these fixtures. They're 60 percent more efficient than halogens, and can produce more light.

7. Take a trip upstairs and look for discolored spots in your attic insulation. This telltale discoloration often comes from air or water leaks. Seal the discolored area with plastic sheeting from the hardware store to create an energy-saving barrier, then simply staple into place.

8. Look for the big yellow EnergyGuide stickers when you're shopping for appliances. The bold number at the bottom of the sticker shows the estimated annual operating cost for the appliance. Compare numbers for the models you're considering and opt for the lowest number, which identifies the most energy-efficient appliance.

9. Install attic fans that draw hot air out of your attic and allow air conditioners downstairs to cool more efficiently. To save even more energy, consider solar-powered attic fans.

10. Think cool: Dryers can be tough on clothes (the heat adversely affects delicate fabrics). Opt for a laundry line instead. Do the same thing with your dishwasher: Switch off the heating cycle and allow dishes to air dry.

Bonus tip: Install a programmable thermostat. You can save as much as 10 percent annually on heating and cooling by cutting back your thermostat 10 to 15 percent for eight hours.

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