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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
  • Fall is a great time to have your furnace inspected in preparation for colder temperatures. Hire a licensed HVAC contractor to inspect your furnace and ensure it is in proper working order. A cracked heat exchanger can leak harmful gases into the home.
  • 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 sealed tightly on the inside of the window frame.
  • Opening blinds or curtains to direct sunlight can help warm a room by up to 5 degrees.
  • Reverse the rotation of your ceiling fan to clockwise. During the cooler months, this helps push the warm air out and down, helping evenly distribute warm air.

Winter
  • Use dampers on the ductwork to balance the airflow in your home (i.e. if one room is colder/warmer than another). Closing registers should be a last resort if dampers are not available.
  • Each degree you change on your thermostat can increase or decrease your usage by 1-3%.
  • 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.
  • To reduce the amount of heat generated in the home while the air conditioner is on, consider cooking outside whenever possible.
  • 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 help with the wind chill effect.

Summer
  • 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 dampers on the ductwork to balance the airflow in your home (i.e. if one room is colder/warmer than another). Closing registers should be a last resort if dampers are not available.
  • Close curtains, blinds and/or shades to direct sunlight to prevent the room from warming up. White-backed curtains are recommended.

Use your HVAC system efficiently for home energy savings

Heating
  • If you have a gas furnace, the flames should be mostly blue in color. If they aren’t, it is best to contact a licensed HVAC technician to inspect the burners and other components of the furnace.
  • 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 have an air conditioner (not a heat pump), cover the outside condenser unit to protect the inside from dust, leaves, etc. You can cover just the top or you may cover the whole unit itself.
  • 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 weather stripping. You can generally feel the cold air coming through if the window frame has leaks.
  • 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 with a vacuum using the brush attachment. This helps clean off dust, pet hair and other particles. Keeping your registers clean will help improve the air quality of your home.
  • You can lower your electricity bill when you raise the temperature on your thermostat and use a fan to cool your body off via the wind chill effect.
  • 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.
  • Evening or nighttime is best for heat-generating appliances (i.e. stove, oven, dishwasher, and dryer) as it is generally cooler outside than during the daytime.
  • 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 with a vacuum using the brush attachment. This helps clean off dust, pet hair and other particles. Keeping your registers clean will help improve the air quality of your home.
  • 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 registers to balance the air flow within the home.

Filters
  • A dirty filter not only slows airflow and decreases air quality, it also adds dirt and dust to the internal components of a furnace. This can damage a furnace or a-coil (for the air conditioner) over time causing costly repairs.
  • Check or replace your filter once a month. It may not need to be replaced, but it can be difficult to tell if it should be replaced without observing its color or build up.
  • 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
  • Insulation slows the flow of heat from one space to another. An uninsulated wall can cause the body to radiate heat towards that wall making you feel colder despite the temperature on your thermostat.
  • 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.
  • Insulating your hot water pipes can help prevent heat loss, especially if the pipes run through unconditioned spaces.
  • Split batts of insulation vertically around cables and pipes. This helps avoid open gaps in the insulation and improves its ability to conserve energy.
  • Try to avoid compressing or over-packing insulation. This reduces its R-value and effectiveness at slowing the flow of heat.
  • If you have ductwork in an unconditioned space (i.e. crawl space or attic), be sure the duct is either sealed (Video: How to seal your ductwork) or insulated. It may also be a good idea to have a radiant barrier installed in your attic.
  • For more information on Radiant Barriers, please visit the Department of Energy - Radiant Barriers

Water Heaters
  • Changing your hot water heater’s temperature from 140 to 120 degrees can save you 5-10% on your utility bill.
  • Insulating your hot and cold water pipes can help maintain the temperature of the water, especially if the pipes run through unconditioned spaces.
  • Water Heaters’ efficiency is measured in Energy Factor [EF]. The higher the EF, the more efficient the Water Heater is.
  • Fix faucet leaks as quickly as possible. You can use this Drip Calculator to determine how much water you may be losing from a leaky faucet.
  • Install a low-flow shower head or faucet aerator. These can save your water usage by up to 50-60%.

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 modes of operation: On or Auto. The Auto setting will run the blower (aka: fan) only when the system is heating or cooling your home. The On setting causes the blower to run nonstop until you turn it off or back 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.
  • While setting your HVAC system’s blower to On can help continue to circulate air, it will also add to the humidity of the home if left on for too long. This can cause higher cooling bills in the summer.

Lighting
  • LED bulbs are 80% more efficient than incandescent bulbs and 20% more than CFLs.
  • LED bulbs can last up to 25,000 hours; CFLs up to 12,000 hours; incandescent bulbs last roughly 750 to 1,200 hours.
  • Replacing a 60 watt [w] incandescent bulb with an equivalent 9w LED bulb can save you roughly $1.50 per bulb.
  • All CFL bulbs should be recycled once they no longer work or burn out. You can take them to Home Depot, Lowe’s or you can use this Recycling Locator to find a recycler near you.
  • 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.

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.
  • Clean the seal (or gasket) on your refrigerator and freezer doors on a quarterly basis. This helps enable a good seal keeping cold air in and hot air out.
  • Use a thermometer inside your refrigerator and freezer to determine the best setting for coldness. Refrigerators should be 30-40 degrees whereas a freezer should be 0-5 degrees.

Energy Usage FAQs