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Energy efficiency has become a way of life for many of today's homeowners. Not only is it environmentally responsible, but this lifestyle change can save you a lot of money over time. Another reason to consider? Many of the energy-saving purchases and updates you can make to your home -- discussed in the following slides -- qualify for U.S. federal tax credits. For more information, visit energystar.gov/taxcredits.
Major appliances are your home's second biggest energy hogs, behind heating and cooling. Replace outdated appliances with efficient new models and save roughly $75 per year on energy. Energy Star-qualified models have a range of efficiencies, so compare models and go with the most efficient.
Turn off the lights when you leave a room. If that's difficult for you or your kids to remember, buy lights with occupancy sensors that automatically turn off when there hasn't been movement for a period of time. Consider dimmer switches that let you reduce lighting when you don't need it and have occupancy sensors. Dimmers can easily replace the regular switch and keep a low profile.
If you leave gadgets and charger cords plugged in when they're not being used, this can account for as much as 10 percent of a home's energy use. Instead, plug devices into power strips that you can switch off when not in use.
Do your laundry in cold water. Many of today's detergents and fabric softeners are much more efficient and don't necessarily need the hot water. Using cold water means you won't have to waste energy to start up the water heater.
In the summer months, line-dry your laundry instead of using a dryer. Reducing your use of a dryer can save up to $100 a year in operating costs. Plus, line-drying is easier on your clothes, so you save what you would otherwise spend on wear and tear.
--On cool days, take advantage of the sun's warmth by opening south-facing window blinds and shades; close them at night. On hot days, block out the sun's warmth by closing these window treatments.
--When using your oven, don't open the oven door to view inside. Instead, just use the light. When you repeatedly open the oven door, it takes longer for food to cook and it wastes energy.
--Prune shrubs and remove grass and leaves that block airflow around your central air-conditioner or heat pump unit.
Install a programmable thermostat. This allows you to set times for the air-conditioner or furnace to run and won't waste energy on an empty house. This gadget easily pays for itself in less than a year.
Lower the temperature on your water heater. Most water heaters are set much too high at 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Save energy by turning your water heater down to 120-110 degrees -- and yes, you can still live comfortably.
Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs). They cost about $1 more than traditional bulbs, but they use 75 percent less energy and last 10 times longer. It takes only about 17 days to coup the difference.
Small gaps around windows, doors, and other areas of the house add up on average to equal a 9-square-foot hole. Seal gaps and cracks with caulk and/or weather stripping to keep the cold air out in the winter and the hot air out in the summer and watch your energy bills drop by up to 20 percent.
Dirt can build up over a year's time, causing your HVAC system to perform poorly. If ignored, this can lead to higher energy costs and potentially higher repair costs. Have a licensed professional check your system annually.
If your furnace or boiler is more than 15 years old, and your heat pump or air-conditioner 12 years old, consider replacing it with a new energy-efficient model.
Check the HVAC filter each month and wash or replace it at least every three months. A dirty filter increases your energy bill and shortens the life of your heating and cooling systems.
In addition to caulking and adding weather stripping around windows and doors, close the fireplace damper when it's not being used to keep cold air out in the winter and hot air out in the summer. Also, check your dryer vent cap to make sure it closes tightly.
Check for leaky fixtures and appliances, and inspect the pipes under each sink, your washing machine hose, and the floor around your water heater for potential leaks that could be wasting energy and draining your wallet. Also, test toilets for leaks. Replacing the flapper will usually fix that problem.
Tankless water heaters are growing in popularity. They warm water on demand, eliminating the excess energy use that comes from keeping water warm in a standard tank. You can save up to 30 percent a year on water-heating costs compared with standard units. Plus, they last longer and require less maintenance.
If your home has single-pane windows, they could be wasting up to 25 percent of your energy costs. Replacing single-pane windows with high-performance double-pane Energy Star-rated windows reduces this energy loss. Look for windows labeled low-emissivity (low-E) or spectrally selective. They have a coating that reduces thermal heat transfer.
Most homes are underinsulated, which means heating and cooling systems are forced to work overtime to keep a home comfortable. Add fiberglass insulation to your attic floor and house walls and save up to 30 percent on heating and cooling costs. Check out the U.S. Department of Energy's online tool that recommends the most efficient level of insulation for a house based on ZIP codes and other parameters including house type, fuel used, and current energy prices.