7 Bright Ideas to Save on Your Energy & Water Bills Right Now


Here are a few simple suggestions you can incorporate into your home and lifestyle, in order to save lots of money and energy right now. Many of these suggested tools are affordable, easy to install, simple to use, and have excellent return on investment potential. Additionally, as many government programs, utility companies and EnergyStar partners offer great incentives and rebates for switching to these products, there hasn't been a better time to start saving than now!

• Rebate Locator • Home Energy Saver
• Federal Tax Credit Programs • Energy Saving Tips for Homeowners
• Appliance Cost Calculators • Energy Saving Tips for Renters


Energy Efficient Lighting

Replacing your incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient lights such as Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs is one of the easiest ways to start saving money. EnergyStar-rated CFLs in particular will save you money because they use 75% less energy and last 6 to 12 times longer than traditional bulbs. In fact, replacing your 5 most frequently used bulbs with EnergyStar-rated CFLs can save you more than $65 a year in energy costs; or $50 per lifespan of a CFL bulb (calculation based on 15-watt CFL, 10,000-hour lifespan, and $0.0898 per kWh).

Better still, did you know that if every US household makes its next lightbulb an EnergyStar-rated CFL, we will save more than $800 million on our national energy bill and 8.4 billion kWh of energy (that's enough to power over 808,000 homes for one year – about the number of homes in Boston, Denver, and San Francisco combined)! In pollution terms, it is like removing the pollution of 1.2 million cars for one year!

Cost: Approximately $2.50 to $5 per bulb
Payback: Around 3 to 7.5 months, depending on usage and your electric rate (cost per kWh)
Savings: Provided ALL household light fixtures are energy-efficient: per year = $117; 10-year savings = $1861*
Resource:  EnergyStar's CFL Calculator
 Reliant Energy's Lighting Calculator
 National Resources Canada's Lighting Calculator


Low Flow Fixtures

Low flow fixtures such as low flow faucets aerators and low flow showerheads save you water, energy and money by limiting the volume of water that flow through them. As such, by switching from standard showerheads (2.5 gpm) to low flow showerheads (1.0 gpm to 1.5 gpm), you can easily save 7,300 gallons of water (approximately 10% to 60% off your current consumption); in terms of combined water and energy savings, that equals to about $91 for natural gas and $143 for electric (calculation based on 4-person family using 1.5 gpm showerhead, FEMP/DOE data, and average water rate of $4/1000 gallons).

Cost: Approximately: low flow faucet aerator = $1 to $3.50; low flow showerhead = $10 to $68
Payback: For aerators, immediate; for showerheads, 2+ months, depending on the gpm
Savings: Niagara Conservation 1.5 gpm 2915CH low flow showerhead, for example:
 Electric Water Heat = 949 kWh + 7,300 gal H2O = $143 (per year)
 Gas Water Heat = 52 therms + 7,300 gal H2O = $91 (per year)
Resource:  Dept of Energy's Calculator for Faucet & Showerheads
 Dept of Energy's Calculator for Toilets
 Dept of Interior's Home Water Use Questionnaire


Smart Power Strips

Electrical devices consume power even when they’re switched off. In fact, this “phantom” use of power makes up 40% of your total home (or 73% of your total office) energy usage. But what's the alternative to crawling underneath the desk(s) to unplug your things each time? Or, replacing all of your old appliances EnergyStar-rated ones? It's called the smart power strip.

Also known as the energy saving power strip, this smart little gadget automatically cuts off the power supply from the power source when devices are shut off, while still supplying power to the devices that you always need on (e.g., Internet phone, cable modem, DVR). Best of all, in addition to costing you no more than a standard power strip, a smart power strip will give you surge protection and save you about $15 to $20 per month on your energy bill!

Cost: Approximately $20 to $100
Payback: For a smart power strip around $35, as little as 6 weeks
Savings: According to treehugger.com, per year = $178; 10-year savings = $2834*
Resource:  My Green Electronics Calculator



Weatherstripping literally refers to the narrow strip of material that covers the joint of a door or window to exclude the cold; but often times it actually refers to the act of sealing air leaks, drafts, dust and moisture from under and around doors, windows, and electrical outlets on exterior walls as well as air ducts and chimneys. And while it takes some time for you to caulk and seal your entire home, the total effects in terms of money savings are dramatic and long-lasting.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, weatherproofing your entire home may cost $1000 but will potentially save $300 to $500 per year. That amount is equal to 20% of your total heating & cooling bill or 10% of your total energy bill (based on a 3-bedroom house with insulation in walls, attic, among other areas and spaces). As a matter of fact, if you insulate your home on or before 12/31/2010, you can earn a tax credit up to $1,500!

Cost: Approximately: door = $2.50 to $15; window = $2 to $23; electrical outlet = $0.10 to $5; air duct done yourself = $10 to $20; air duct done professionally = $300 to $1000; chimney = $45
Payback: About 2 to 3 years, depending on how well you weatherstrip all of your doors, windows, electrical outlets, air ducts, chimneys and any other sources for drafts or unwanted air seepage
Savings: $300 to $500 per year, provided your entire home is properly caulked and sealed; cannot estimate savings from individual sealing fixes (epa.gov)
Resource:  Dept of Energy's Insulation Calculator
 Oak Ridge National Lab's Simple Whole Wall Calculator
 Home Insulation $1,500 Tax Credit Requirements
 Air Seal & Insulate with EnergyStar (Article)


Motion Sensors

Motion sensors (Motion Sensing Wall Switches or Occupancy Sensors) are ideal for controlling lights that have unpredictable usage and could be accidentally left on for prolonged periods of time. In addition to the typical commercial applications, they can be used in home entryways, bathrooms, closets, basements, attics, garage and porches to save money. Motion sensors are convenient because they eliminate the need for anyone to have to remember to turn anything off as they leave a room or space.

In a commercial setting, motions sensors can save you 13% to 90%, depending on the type of room or area of installation. In a residential setting, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy estimates lighting costs adds up to about 10% of total household energy costs (annual average); that means, for example, at $0.0898 per kWh, a $50 motion sensor will pay for itself by saving around 560 kWh over 9 months (based on bulbs that use 2 kWh per day).

Cost: Approximately $50 to $100; most porch lights have built-in sensors
Payback: 6 months to 1 year, depending on your electricity rate
Savings:  Residential: Up to 10% of your entire monthly energy bill (aceee.org)
 Commercial: 13% to 90% (mge.com)
Resource: • University of Missouri's Occupancy Sensor Calculator
 Madison Gas & Electric's Occupancy Sensors
 EnergyStar Labeled Building Project


Programmable Thermostats

High-tech programmable thermostats give you the flexibility to preset temperatures based on criteria such as day of week, time of day, and occupancy. That means, you can set a different temperature for a particular day or range of days; any particular time of day; or an occupied or unoccupied space. Programmable thermostats are convenient because you don’t have to remember to adjust or turn off anything (e.g., before going to bed at night or on a long vacation), once the temperature settings are locked in. Best of all, some utility companies like Enbridge offer free installation (e.g., in exchange for letting them scale back your air conditioner use in the on hot summer days) and/or rebates, so check with them for great incentives to get started today.

Cost: Approximately $40 to $125
Payback: About one year, assuming thermostat controls heat and air conditioning, and depending on where you live (climate and electricity rate) and personal preference (average set temperature during the hottest and coldest months)
Savings: Depending on your electricity rate and climate (per year):
 Low kWh but need lots of heat (e.g., Fargo, ND) = $115
 High kWh and need lots of cooling (e.g., Las Vegas, NV) = $75
Resource:  Energy Experts' A/C Cost Calculator
 Energy Experts' Heating Cost Calculator
 Reliant Energy Calculator


Drain Water Heat Recovery System

Did you know that 90% of the energy used to heat water goes down the drain? The good news: by installing a Drain Water Heat Recovery Systems (DWHR) system in your home, you can recycle 60% of the energy that would otherwise be wasted, and reduce your water heating bills by 25% to 40% without altering your lifestyle. A non-storage DWHR is basically a copper heat exchanger that replaces part of your existing vertical shower drainage pipe; as you shower, the heat from the outgoing drain water preheats the freshwater supply that feeds into your water heater, thus saving you water heating bills. Additionally, DWHR systems can be applied to industrial or commercial uses to preheat or precool large quantity of water or other liquids. Better still, some utility companies like Minnesota Power offer rebates for those who install, so check with your local company to see if they are offering any incentives.

Cost: Approximately $625 to $995, plus $100 for professional installation (optional)
Payback: About 2 to 5 years at a rate of return of 15% to 50% per year -- more specifically, it's closer to 2 years, if you use electricity to heat water; and it's closer to 5 years, if you use natural gas to heat water
Savings: • If your natural gas rate is fairly high like NYC (Energy Info Administration), then around $120 per year
Resource:  Minnesota Power DWHR Calculator
 Dept of Energy's Calculator for Electric & Gas Water Heaters
 Reliant Energy Water Heating Calculator
 Canada DWHR Calculator

* Including annual 10% fuel inflation

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