25 Extreme Energy-Saving Tips

By Aleksandra Todorova

IT'S NO SECRET THAT home-heating costs are expected to soar this winter.
Fortunately, homeowners can cut their heating bills dramatically by taking a few
relatively painless steps.

But why stop there? According to the Edison Electric Institute, or EEI, a
Washington-based energy trade association, space heating represents only about
49% of the energy use in American homes. The other 51% is attributed to
household appliances, lighting and water heating. And while those bills might not
be soaring, you still can save money by practicing energy conservation.

What follows is a list of little-known ways to save on these costs,
according to the EEI, power company Consolidated Edison and the National Energy
Assistance Directors' Association, or NEADA, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group.
(Technically, the tips below cover 44% of your household's average energy
use; the remaining 7% is attributed to air-conditioning.) Some of these
strategies might sound a bit extreme. But then again, you might be ready for some
extreme measures once those winter energy bills start rolling in.

1. Appliances and Lighting

It's hard to believe, but appliances and lighting account for 28% of the
typical household's annual energy use. Here's what you can do to conserve.


  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. On average, they use 66% less energy, according to the EEI.
  • Keep bulbs clean. Dust can cut light output by as much as 25%, according to NEADA.


  • When preheating an oven, don't let it sit empty for longer than necessary, and don't open the door to check on food. Every time you do that, you lose 25% of the heat.
  • Use a microwave oven instead of a regular oven. You'll burn about 40% less energy.
  • Keep the inside of your microwave clean. It will cook your food more efficiently.
  • Use the smallest pans possible. It takes energy to heat them.
  • Use lids. They help the food cook more quickly by keeping steam inside.
  • Use glass or ceramic pans in ovens. They heat faster than metal pans.

Washing machine, dryer

  • Wash and dry full loads, and don't over-dry clothes.
  • Keep the dryer's lint filter clean.
  • Wash laundry in cold water instead of hot, unless you're dealing with very dirty loads.
  • Don't add wet items to a load in the dryer that has already been started.


  • Wash only full loads. It costs exactly the same to wash one dish as a whole load.
  • If your dishwasher has an air-dry feature, use it.
  • If you wash by hand, rinse dishes in groups rather than one at a time, and don't leave the water running



  • Check refrigerator temperatures by putting one thermometer in a glass of water in the center of the fridge and another between packages in the freezer.
  • You're losing money if temperatures are lower than 37-40 degrees for the main compartment and 0-5 degrees in the freezer.
  • Cover and wrap food. Uncovered food and liquids release moisture and drive up electricity costs.
  • Let hot food cool before putting it in the fridge. This way the fridge will use less energy to cool it down.
  • Keep the freezer full. It's more efficient than an empty freezer. If necessary, fill up the space with plastic containers filled with water.
  • If you have a second fridge that's not being used, unplug it. It can cost about $130 a year to keep it plugged in


2. Water heating

Water heating is the third-largest money-eater in your home, accounting for
16% of annual energy consumption. Remember: you're paying for the water and
you're paying to heat it. You should:

  • Lower your water heater temperature from 140 degrees to 120 degrees. You'll cut your water heating costs by 10% to 15%, the EEI says. Unfortunately, if you have an older-model dishwasher that doesn't have a booster heater (a device that heats up the water to the temperature the dishwasher needs to clean the dishes), you should leave the water heater set to 140 degrees to make sure the bacteria on your dishes are good and dead.
  • Insulate your storage water heater tank. You'll save 4% to 9% on water heating costs.
  • Drain the sediment from the bottom of the water heater tank every one to three years.
  • Install low-flow shower head and faucets. They use one-third to half the water used by regular shower heads. You can cut your water use and water heating costs by an average 15% to 30%, according to the EEI.
  • Take short showers (and preferably, no baths showers use less hot water).

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