50 Ways to Save Energy (and Money) This Winter


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If you've been a little lax about nudging the thermostat or leaving lights on, now is the time to turn over a new leaf. Here are 50 energy-saving tips to help lower your utility bills.

Related: 19 Steps to Prep Your House and Yard for Fall and Winter

woman's hand setting the room temperature on a programmable thermostat
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Each degree you lower the thermostat for a period of at least eight hours can cut the heating bill by 1 percent, according to estimates by the U.S. Department of Energy. Just throw on warmer pajamas or snuggle under an extra blanket at night.

installing a programmable thermostat
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A programmable thermostat can be set to automatically turn down the heat while everyone's at school or work all day and in bed at night. This avoids the more extreme (and costly) swings that often come with manual adjustments.

roll of duct tape
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The federal government's Energy Star program warns that about 20 percent of heated air can escape through the ductwork. Bring in a professional make sure the distribution channels are leak-free and make any necessary repairs.

man shining a flashlight into an air duct return vent
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This is one of the simplest energy-saving tips. A clogged air duct won't let heat in or out.

hand replacing disposable air filter in residential air furnace
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Furnace filters should be cleaned or replaced monthly during the cold season. A dirty filter blocks the flow of heat, which in turn can boost utility bills.

washable furnace filter
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Although they cost more, reusable filters last longer and give more bang for the buck. Wash off the filter at the beginning of each heating season, put it back in place, and you're good to go.

plumber fixing gas furnace
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Regular tune-ups to keep the furnace clean and properly adjusted help it run efficiently and prolong its lifespan. Some utility companies and furnace manufacturers offer annual inspections at no charge.

construction worker thermally insulating house attic with glass wool
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Heat could be escaping from the uppermost floor of the house. At least six inches of insulating material between the heated and unheated areas of the home will keep you warmer and your bills lower. Although the price of insulating an attic can be high, the investment should pay off in a few seasons.

hand in gloves holding mineral wool
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Insulation such as rigid foam boards for exterior walls or cathedral ceilings may be a worthwhile energy-saving investment.

Related: 15 Best Buys for Your Home for $50 or Less

ceiling fan
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Flipping a switch on a ceiling fan turns the usual counterclockwise rotation, which produces a cool breeze, to a clockwise rotation that pushes warm air back into circulation.

man on ladder caulking outside window
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Patch up problem spots (windows, doors, and anything that lets in air from the inside, like dryer vents) with caulk and weather stripping to save up to 30 percent on heating bills, according to the Energy Department. Cover single-pane windows with plastic.

window air conditioner
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Remove window air conditioners or tightly cover the front of the units. Leaving them in place or without protection is an open invitation to a cold air invasion.

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Make sure the flue is closed. If you have a glass screen, close that, as well. Open fireplaces allow heat to escape.

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Objects placed in front or on top of a vent get in the way of hot air. Take this opportunity to rearrange the furniture.

window shades open
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Open the shades even on chilly days to let natural sunlight warm the rooms in your home.

hands on settings of a water heater
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The water heater can account for up to 25 percent of your utility bill. Set the temperature to 120 degrees, which is still plenty warm, to save money all year.

view of two thermally insulated copper pipes
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Pipes protected from the cold and wind are much less likely to freeze. Frozen pipes often crack, and that's a very costly repair.

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The billing department at the utility company can make mistakes. Question any strange numbers and make sure the meter matches up with the usage posted on the bill.

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The washers uses the same amount of energy regardless how much you stuff in. It's more energy-efficient to do big loads than small loads.

woman loading the washing machine colored clothing
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The energy-saving advice for drying is opposite of that for washing. The less clothing inside the appliance, the less juice it uses.

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Air-dry washables on a clothesline or drying rack set in a warm room or outdoors, weather permitting.

Related: 10 Ways to Save Money on Laundry

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You don't need as much laundry soap as you think for the typical load. If an item is really filthy, soak it in the sink first. Using less detergent puts less strain on your washer and your wallet.

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If clothes are still soaked, run another spin cycle to cut the time needed in the dryer.

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A clean, dry towel added to a wet load absorbs moisture and could decrease drying time by 25 percent.

woman using a laundry day at home, selecting the setting
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This is the dryer setting that uses the least amount of energy. It's intended for thinner or more delicate fabrics but might be adequate for small loads.

woman taking clothes out of the dryer
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This tactic helps build up the heat in the dryer for heavier fabrics.

replacing the screen in the lint trap of a clothes dryer
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Do this after every load. Too much built-up fuzz slows down the dryer.

cook with a steel pot on the stove in the kitchen
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Start stovetop cooking at high heat, then lower the flame or electric setting to finish the job.

cover pan on the stove burning flame
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Water in a covered pot heats faster and uses less energy.

boiled broccoli in pot
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Use only enough water to reach the top of vegetables or other foods being cooked.

close up of female hands with rubber gloves cleaning frying pan in the kitchen
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Lots of black stuff on the outside surface of pots and pans blocks heat from reaching the food inside, so cooking time is longer. Scour and scrub after each use.

boiling water in pan on electric stove in the kitchen
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Put small pans on small burners and bigger pans on big burners to save energy.

woman roasting chicken meat in kitchen oven
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Every time you open the door, about 30 degrees of heat wafts out.

microwave oven on countertop
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Cooking or heating up food with a toaster oven or microwave saves more energy than warming on the stove or in the oven.

adjusting refrigerator
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Keep the fresh food section of the refrigerator set between 37 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit and the freezer section at 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

different plastic boxes for storage with vegetables
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Always cover items stored in the refrigerator. Failing to do so releases moisture and causes the compressor to work overtime.

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The refrigerator and freezer operate most efficiently when not crammed with food. Also be sure there's enough clearance behind the appliance to let air circulate.

dirty dishes
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It's hard to resist the urge to rinse off the last bits of spaghetti before loading the dishwasher, but trust the machine. The no-rinse strategy can save up to 55,000 gallons of water over the course of a dishwasher's lifetime.

woman unloading dishwasher
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Using hot water on dishes even for a short time causes the water heater to work harder and use more energy.

wall clock
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Running appliances at off-peak times can shave dollars off monthly energy bills, depending on the local utility. Avoid the after-dinner rush to the dishwasher and let it run late at night or midday.

female hand is shown loading dishes into full dishwasher
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Cram as many dishes as possible onto the racks. The energy used is the same regardless of the size of the load.

open dishwasher with clean utensils in it
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There might be a setting for no-heat drying on your dishwasher. If not, just open the door and let the air take over, or move the dishes to a drying rack.

Related: 10 Easy Conservation Tips to Teach Your Kids

pushing the power button
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Remember to turn off electricity-eating devices at night, especially electronics such as computer monitors that leech energy in sleep mode.

woman hands unplugging a charger in a smart phone in the bedroom at home
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Many electronics and appliances continue to draw electricity even when powered off. Unplug these energy "vampires" when not in use.

many plugs plugged into electric power bar
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It's easy to forget to turn off electronics when leaving the house, never mind unplug them. Plug items like TVs into a power strip so you can shut off several devices at once.

heap of energy efficient light bulbs
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Kiss incandescent bulbs goodbye and welcome their energy-efficient replacements: compact fluorescent and LED light bulbs. CFL bulbs use about a third of the energy consumed by a halogen incandescent. LEDs use about a quarter -- and last up to 25 times longer.

woman standing at the shower
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Long, hot showers use more water and more energy. Save on both by jumping in and out quickly.

woman washing her head in the shower by shampoo
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Cut down on shower time and hot water usage by washing hair less frequently -- unless it gets greasy quickly, that is.

happy child have fun with dad with shaving foam in the bathroom
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Believe it or not, you can shave your legs without the shower running. Just think of all the water and energy you'll be saving.

washing kitchen ware on the sink
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Whether washing dishes or hand-laundering delicates, fill the sink with water to lather up instead of running the tap.

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