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Energy Efficiency Tips

Energy Efficiency Tips

Wondering how to save money on electricity bills? Just follow these tips for conserving energy.

Below you will find simple home energy-saving tips that help you lower utility bills without sacrificing comfort. Visit our Energy Efficiency Video Library for more in-depth visual examples of some of these tips. If you have further questions about energy efficiency and saving on electric bills, call us at 402-536-4131 or send an email to customerservice@oppd.com.

Seasonal ways to conserve energy and reduce utility bills

Fall

  • The fall is a great time to have your furnace inspected in preparation for colder temperatures. Hire a licensed HVAC contractor for this task – he or she will know exactly what needs to be checked, cleaned and tuned up.
  • Check for leaky spots around exterior windows and doors. They can be sealed with caulk (windows) or weatherstripping (doors, some window areas).
  • If caulking a window is not an option, consider using a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet on the window frame. It also can be taped to the inside of your window frames. Be sure the plastic is sealed tightly.
  • Opening blinds or curtains to direct sunlight will help warm a room. This is especially effective for southern-facing windows.
  • Reverse the directional-rotation of your ceiling fan. In the fall and winter, fans should rotate clockwise to push warm air down and distribute it evenly.

Winter

  • Use dampers on the ductwork to control airflow to different rooms (i.e., one room colder than another). Closing registers should be a last resort if dampers are not accessible.
  • Resetting a programmable thermostat from 72° to 65° for eight hours a day can lower energy usage by up to 10% ( NOT recommended with heat pumps).
  • Close the fireplace damper when not in use to avoid losing heat through the chimney.
  • Do not use a wood-burning fireplace for supplemental heating, as it pulls hot air out of a home through the chimney in order to fuel the fire.
  • Leave curtains, blinds and/or shades open in direct sunlight to warm the room, but close them at night to prevent heat loss through the windows.
  • Seal windows and external doors with weatherstripping.

Spring

  • Have your air-conditioning system checked out by a licensed HVAC contractor in preparation for warm weather.
  • Consider opening your windows to cool off the home and add fresh air. Promote air movement by opening windows on the opposite ends of your home.
  • Cooking outside can cut the amount of heat generated within your home by an oven or stove. Extra heat from cooking can cause earlier or more frequent use of the air conditioner than is necessary.
  • Before turning on the air conditioner, consider using a ceiling or box fan to cool off via the wind chill effect. This makes your body feel cooler than the surrounding air.
  • If you use a ceiling fan to keep cool, make sure it is rotating counter-clockwise in the warmer months to pull heat upward.

Summer

  • Use dampers on the ductwork to control airflow to different rooms (i.e., one room colder than another). Closing registers should be a last resort if dampers are not accessible.
  • Close curtains, blinds and/or shades to direct sunlight to prevent the room from warming up. White-backed curtains are recommended.
  • Raise the temperature of the thermostat and use ceiling and box fans to provide continuous circulation of air in a room. This creates the wind chill effect whereby the body feels cooler than the room temperature.
  • Try to limit using heat-generating appliances (oven, stove, dishwasher, etc.) until the cooler hours of the day or night.
  • If your thermostat is located in a hallway with bedrooms, open the doors. Closed doors prevent air movement around the thermostat, which can provide a false reading that causes your AC to run longer than needed.

Use your HVAC system efficiently for home energy savings

Heating

  • Hire a licensed HVAC contractor to check the furnace. This ensures the heat exchanger is clean and in proper working order with no cracks or leaks, which can lead to harmful carbon monoxide gas being emitted inside your home.
  • If you own an air conditioner (not a heat pump), cover the outside condenser unit to protect the inside from icicles, dust, leaves, etc. Place a garbage can lid or similar device over the top and secure it to the unit with bungee cords or ties. Do not cover the entire unit (like a grill is covered), as it can lead to animals nesting inside.
  • If you have a wood-burning fireplace, be sure the chimney flue is closed when not in use. It’s also a good idea to have the chimney inspected and cleaned by a professional.
  • Seal any leaky windows or doors with foam or felt weatherstripping. You can use a thermal gun ($$$), an anemometer ($) or simply feel around the frames to determine if and where there are leaky spaces.
  • Install door sweeps on any exterior doors to prevent air leakage.
  • Seal your ductwork. This can be done using aluminum foil tape or mastic paste, but be sure what you use is certified with the UL logo.

Cooling

  • Clean around the outdoor condenser unit. Keeping it clear of debris will increase both efficiency and longevity. Before starting, be sure to turn off the AC at the disconnect box outside or the breaker or fuse panel inside. For a thorough cleaning, contact a licensed HVAC contractor.
  • Clean all registers and vents with a vacuum using the brush attachment to clear away dust, pet hair and other particles. Keeping them clean and clear will help improve your HVAC system longevity and your home air quality.
  • Use fans to cool off via the wind chill effect, where your body feels cooler than the room temperature. This allows you to raise the thermostat and lower electricity bills.
  • If your thermostat is located in a hallway with bedrooms, open the doors. Closed doors prevent air movement around the thermostat, which can provide a false reading that causes your AC to run longer than needed.
  • Keep curtains and blinds closed to direct sunlight in order to keep some of the heat out of your home.
  • Don’t use heat-generating appliances (e.g., stove, oven, dishwasher, dryer) during the hottest time of day. Evening or night is best for these appliances.
  • Seal your ductwork using aluminum foil tape or mastic paste. Be sure the product is certified by looking for the UL logo on the packaging.
  • Clean out the condensate or drain lines coming from the A-coil at the furnace, which is the inside portion of your air-conditioning system. There will be PVC or clear piping coming from it to the drain in the floor. Pour 1⁄4 cup of vinegar down the line to clean out any mold, mildew or buildup. Before starting, be sure to turn off the HVAC system.

Ventilation

  • Seal your ductwork using aluminum foil tape or mastic paste. Be sure the product is certified by looking for the UL logo on packaging.
  • Clean all registers and vents with a vacuum using the brush attachment to clear away dust, pet hair and other particles. Keeping them clean and clear will help improve your HVAC system longevity and your home air quality.
  • Use dampers within the duct to balance airflow throughout your home. Dampers can be found in the ductwork itself, near the furnace. Look for a handle or wing nut.
  • If you don’t have dampers, open or close room registers or vents to achieve more balanced airflow.

Filters

  • Replace your furnace filter monthly to achieve the maximum utility savings. If the filter is gray or shows build up, it is time to replace the filter.
  • A MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) score is a rating system for how effective a furnace filter is at blocking particles and other debris. The highest rating most residential systems can withstand before airflow and efficiency is affected is 13.
  • For most residential systems, a MERV rating of 8 to13 is recommended but be aware that a higher MERV doesn’t automatically equate to improved efficiency.
  • The MPR (Microparticle Performance Rating) is another scoring system for filter quality. An MPR of 1900 is equivalent to a MERV 13 rating. Similarly, FPR (Home Depot) could have a rating of 9 to 10, which is equivalent to a MERV 12 rating.

How to lower home electricity bills throughout the year

Insulation

  • The Department of Energy states that only 20% of homes built before 1980 have enough insulation. If your home is of that era, check out the Department of Energy - Insulation page to see if your insulation meets recommended standards for utility savings.
  • Insulation is measured in R-values: The higher the R-value, the better your walls and roofs will resist the transfer of heat, saving on energy. The Department of Energy - Insulation page also outlines recommended R-values.
  • Use higher density insulation, such as rigid foam boards, in cathedral ceilings and on exterior walls.
  • Consider insulating your cold and/or hot water pipes, especially if they are metal. Heat can be lost if the pipes run through spaces that are not insulated. This also helps with avoiding an accumulation of condensation.
  • Split batts of insulation vertically around cables and pipes. This helps avoid open gaps in the insulation and improves its ability to conserve energy.

Water Heaters

  • Set the hot water heat temperature to between 120° and 140°.
  • If your water heater is in a cool or unheated area, insulate it with a cover. Insulating the cold and hot water pipes also helps maintain efficiency and avoids potential heat loss.

Thermostat

  • In summer, set your thermostat as high as comfortably possible. In winter, set it as low as comfortably possible. An increase or decrease of just one degree can save 1% to 5% on energy use.
  • When it’s cold outside, never set your thermostat lower than 55°. This lessens the risk of your pipes freezing and rupturing, which can cause significant damage.
  • When you leave home, raise your thermostat by 2° to 4° in summer and lower it by 2° to 4° in winter to save on the electricity bill.
  • In winter, the lower the interior temperature of your home, the slower the heat loss. In summer, the higher the interior temperature, the slower heat flows into your house, saving energy on air conditioning.
  • Programmable thermostats can add comfort by cooling or heating your home in advance of you waking up or returning home.
  • The blower for your HVAC system generally has two options: On or Auto. On will cause the blower (aka: fan) to run nonstop, even when the system no longer needs to heat or cool your home. Auto will run the blower only when the system needs to heat or cool. Setting your blower to On will help circulate air, but will use more energy than when it is set to Auto.
  • Take into consideration where your thermostat is located for an accurate reading. If it is near a heat-generating area like the kitchen or bathroom, close those areas off when in use. If it’s in a hallway, make sure hallway doors are open to ensure a proper reading leads to an accurate home temperature.

Lighting

  • For ways to save on electricity bills, use LED bulbs. They are 85% more efficient than incandescent bulbs and 20% more efficient than CFLs.
  • LED bulbs last 20,000 to 30,000 hours; CFLs last up to 10,000 hours; incandescent bulbs last only 750 to 1,000 hours.
  • Switching a 60-watt incandescent bulb to a 13-watt equivalent LED bulb, turned on for five hours a day, can save nearly $20.00 per month (per bulb!).
  • Be sure to properly recycle any old CFL bulbs as they contain mercury.
  • Consider using dimmers with dimmable bulbs.
  • There are a variety of LED bulb types, including flood and dimmable versions.
  • Turn off the lights in when you leave a room. When possible use natural sunlight instead of electrical lighting, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the HVAC system.
  • Use motion sensors on outdoor lighting whenever possible.

Weatherization

  • Seal windows and external doors with caulk and weatherstripping, respectively.
  • Use blinds and/or curtains to your advantage. Open them to direct sunlight to help warm a room, or close them to keep a room cool.
  • If your home is more than 20 years old, check the insulation in the attic to ensure it is up to recommendation by the Department of Energy. Visit the Department of Energy - Insulation page for more information on the recommended R-value.
  • Seal all exposed ductwork joints with duct mastic paste or approved aluminum duct tape. Do not use the common cloth duct tape as it is not intended for that purpose.

Appliances

  • Using heat-generating appliances (dishwasher, clothes dryer, oven, etc.) during the cooler part of the day or night is best, no matter the time of year.
  • The use of smart strips can help you easily turn off multiple appliances at once when not in use.
  • Clean the coils on the back of your refrigerator or freezer to keep it running efficiently.
  • Reduce your electricity bill by washing your laundry with cold water when possible, as 90% of energy consumed from washing machines is due to use of heated water.
  • If your dryer has a moisture sensor, take advantage of that. It will prevent you from over-drying your clothes, saving you energy and money.

Energy Usage FAQs