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Home Energy Guide: Use & Care

Home Energy Guide: Use & Care

You’ve outfitted your home with efficient appliances, electronics and materials…now what? Use and maintenance of your investments can go a long way toward an energy-conscious lifestyle. We’ve provided a few tips here to help you maximize your efficiency.

Build Savings: Materials


Weatherizing your home can be a do-it-yourself task, but be sure to consult a reliable manual and understand the concepts and steps before starting.

Before insulating, begin by weatherizing the attic and basement, where increased pressure causes leakage. Then, seal doors and windows. Each year, check caulking and weather stripping and replace as needed.


Proper installation and maintenance will maximize efficiency measures. Windows with no major damage need little upkeep to maintain their efficiency. Clean all seals and gaskets and replace as needed.


Properly installing and maintaining your home’s insulation will maximize efficiency measures. Some areas of your home may be easy to insulate yourself, while others should be handled by a qualified contractor.

Make sure your insulation is installed correctly. Check for moisture, and ask a contractor to install air barriers and vents to let your home breathe.

Temp Control: Heating & Cooling

Portable Heating:

Follow guidelines outlined by the U.S. Department of Energy: When using a gas-powered heater, make sure the room is properly ventilated to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

For electric-powered heaters, make sure your model has a tip-over safety switch, and operate on a level surface, keeping family members at a safe distance. Use models with built-in thermostats to save energy and avoid overheating the room.

Air Conditioning:

Adequate insulation and weatherization may allow you to raise the temperature setting of your thermostat and still remain comfortably cool. Have ducts tested and sealed by a qualified contractor. Change disposable filters or clean permanent filters on a monthly basis, and install your room AC in the shade instead of direct sunlight.

Have a licensed professional conduct a thorough cooling system inspection and cleaning once a year to ensure efficiency.

Central Heating:

Seal duct joints and seams with mastic (not duct tape), and use fiberglass insulation to insulate hot air ducts that pass through unheated spaces.

With older models, consider turning the pilot off in warmer seasons. Clean or change air filters and registers as recommended by the manufacturer. Make sure radiators are not placed against exterior walls to prevent heat loss. And unless otherwise recommended by the manufacturer, gas furnaces and boilers should be tuned every two years, while oil units should be tuned annually.

Bright Ideas: Lighting

Indoor Lightning:

Regularly clean all reflectors, diffusers, and lenses on lights and replace any parts that have yellowed or lost reflectivity. Use the right fixture with the right bulb to eliminate possible thermal and glare problems. You can also save energy by using timers to turn lights on and off on a schedule.

Install windows that use spectrally selective glazing and tints or low-e coatings to reduce heat transfer, or add film to existing ones to let the desired amount of light and heat in.

Use a CFL instead of an incandescent bulb to reduce the amount of mercury released into the atmosphere, and be sure to drop off CFLs that have burned out at the nearest CFL recycling center.

Recipes for Efficiency: Kitchen


Scrape your dishes and skip the pre-rinse, since most models are designed to clean off small pieces of food. Run your dishwasher when it is full, and for best results, stack dishes neatly in trays.

Turn your water heater thermostat down to 120°F. Internal booster heaters in modern dishwashers raise the wash cycle water temperature to 140°F.

Use the energy-saving mode to conserve water, and choose an air-dry cycle to save on costs. Another option is to stop your dishwasher just before the dry cycle and open the machine to allow dishes to air dry.

Refrigerators & Freezers:

Using a thermometer, set your refrigerator to between 35°F and 38°F, and your freezer between 0°F and 5°F. When leaving for an extended period of time in summer, set thermostats to a high temperature (the EPA recommends 85°F).

Clean condenser coils at least once a year by unplugging the unit and brushing or vacuuming the coils. Manually defrost whenever ice becomes ¼ inch thick, and test seals by closing a dollar bill between the door seal and the door. If the dollar bill moves easily, consider replacing seals.

Stoves & Ovens:

You can decrease energy use with your stove by up to 66% by using pot lids, which allow you to set lower temperatures while cooking. Match pot size to burner size, using the smallest possible pot. When using gas, make sure the flame doesn’t reach around the cookware.

Use the proper cooking tools for the kind and amount of food you are cooking. Toaster ovens, crockpots, pressure cookers, and electric kettles may be a better choice than your oven or stove.

Use glass or ceramic pans when appropriate, and be sure to defrost food before cooking in the oven. Cook multiple dishes at once, since reheating is more efficient than heating your oven multiple times.

Turn off the heat a few minutes early. Your appliance will retain heat for a short time and continue to cook the food without using energy. Only preheat conventional ovens for the designated time, and don’t peek: temperatures drop every time you open the door while cooking.

Keep It Clean & Green: Laundry

Clothes Dryers:

Dry full loads, keeping similar clothes and fabrics together. Do multiple loads in a row while the air and dryer is still warm. Use moisture sensors and timers to avoid over-drying or damaging clothes.

Store your unit in a warm space because the dryer has to work harder to heat up in a cold room. Be sure the outside dryer vent fits snugly, and keep lint filters clean to allow proper airflow.

Clothes Washers:

Washing in cold water with cold-water detergent is gentler on your clothes and helps preserve color. Wash full loads, saving hot water for heavy stains or sanitation purposes. Rinse using cold water.

Turn down your water heater thermostat to 120 °F to save costs, and insulate exposed hot water pipes to reduce heat loss.

Plug In to Savings: Electronics

Home Electronics:

Televisions: Be sure to activate your TV’s energy-saving features. Turn all electronics completely off when not in use. Plug your entertainment system electronics into a surge protector with a switch, and reduce your TV’s light output and backlight settings to save energy.

Computers & Office Equipment: Turn off your computer anytime you’ll be away longer than two hours, and shut off your monitor anytime you take a break that is 20 minutes or longer. Keep all electronics connected to a surge protector, and turn the protector off at night. Donate used computers to a school or non-profit organization to help prevent waste.

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