Project Category: Energy

Whether it’s changing your light bulbs, insulating your attic or replacing out-dated, inefficient appliances and heating/air conditioning equipment, every step you take to improve your home’s energy efficiency reduces greenhouse gases and dependence on fossil fuels, and helps to save you money. So pick your projects and enjoy the difference you’re making to the planet and your wallet.

Wrap Your Water Heater and Hot Water Pipes

Wrap Your Water Heater and Hot Water Pipes

Keep your water warm and cozy.

Keeping your water hot is a full-time job for your water heater.  Even when you’re not using hot water, the water in the tank loses heat — especially since it’s typically in a cool basement or garage — and so it has to run day and night to keep the water hot and ready for you. The same goes for the pipes that carry your hot water — they cool down and then have to heat up again before you can get hot water.  An insulating blanket on your water heater and insulating wraps on your hot water pipes save energy, and you won’t have to wait as long for the water to get hot at the faucet.   Image of a person preparing to wrap hot water pipes  

Install a Programmable Thermostat

Install a Programmable Thermostat

Set it, forget it, and save every day.

Heating or cooling a house when no one’s home is like burning money. And since heating and cooling account for 48% of household energy use, you’re talking real money. A programmable thermostat can put that money back in your pocket, while adding convenience and comfort to your day. It can adjust the temperature so that it uses less energy when you leave in the morning and ramps back up to a comfortable level before you get home later. It’s a true no-brainer, because once you set it, it does all the remembering for you. And your utility has programs so you can get one at not cost or at a deep discount.  
Hand turning down temperature on programmable thermostat

Image credit: Steve Cukrov/Shutterstock


Choose Energy-Efficient Products

Choose Energy-Efficient Products

Look for the label and watch your energy savings add up.

They look just like any other appliances, windows, air conditioners, furnaces or electronics. They work exactly the same. But every time you use them, you save energy. So when you’re shopping, look for the ENERGY STAR label or the Savenia Labs Energy Rating label — it’ll even tell you how much you’ll save.  
Installing an LED lightbulb

Image credit: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

Switch to Clean Energy

Switch to Clean Energy

Power your home with wind or solar — no equipment required!

In Maryland, you can choose where your electricity comes from. Choose a clean, renewable energy source — find one under the Resources tab. Then, your current utility will add renewable energy to its grid to power your home. You don’t have to install any new equipment, your service won’t change, you’ll get the same bill as always, and you may even end up paying less for your electricity. About 60% of electricity from Pepco, BGE and Potomac Edison comes from coal-fired power plants and other fossil fuel sources. Only 7-9% comes from cleaner, renewable resources such as wind and solar. When you choose clean energy, you decrease our dependence on fossil fuels and all their problems.  
Wind turbines

Image credit: MGS/Shutterstock

Clean Your Coils, Ducts & Filters

Clean Your Coils, Ducts & Filters

Cleaner systems use less energy and just work better.

A little light cleaning goes a long way to keep your systems running smoothly and efficiently. Clean radiator or duct vents, routinely replace your HVAC filters, rinse your outdoor central air conditioner coils once a year, and keep your refrigerator coils clean and free of dust. Clean HVAC filters also reduce the allergens and other particles in your air, which helps to keep your home healthy. Check your filter once a month during high-use winter and summer seasons.  
Image of a person replacing their HVAC filter

Image credit: Serenethos/Shutterstock

Install Motion Detectors on Outdoor Lighting

Save money and keep burglars away.

On when you need them, off when you don’t — that’s the beauty of outdoor lighting controlled by motion detectors.  And they can be a great deterrent for thieves. They’re a more efficient choice than timers or photosensors because the light is on only when it’s needed.  Plus, timers need frequent resetting, and with photosensors, the light is on all night.  If you need all-night light, opt for an ENERGY STAR-qualified outdoor fixture with a CFL and a built-in photosensor.

Caulk and Weatherstripping are Your Friends!

Plugging small leaks can add up to big savings.

Small gaps and cracks around your windows and doors and in your basement and attic can let the air you’re heating or cooling escape, and can let in moldy and dusty air, and even vermin!  If you can feel drafts, you really have a problem, but even if you don’t, almost every home, new or old, can benefit from additional caulking and weatherstripping.  Nearly half your energy cost is for heating or cooling your home.  So it’s not just air that’s leaking out — it’s money! While a do-it-yourself sealing project can help remedy many drafty situations there is no replacement for the effectiveness of an air sealing professional.  Working with an auditor these professionals can identify and seal hard-to-locate leaks and test the home to ensure energy efficiency and that a healthy level of air exchange is maintained.   Weatherstripping windows, photo by Cameron Whitman via Shutterstock

Understand Your Electricity Bills

Your utility can tell you a lot about your electricity use and potential savings.

Did you know that many utilities offer you more than just monthly data? You can access and analyze your electric consumption on your utility’s website, using its free bill analyzer tool. The tools can help you to answer questions like: Are you using more or less energy than last year? Was your bill this November higher or lower than last year? The tools can even help you determine whether your energy use is generally going upward or downward, and maybe help you identify areas that you can improve

Maintain Your Heating and Air Conditioning Equipment

Get a handle on your biggest home energy users.

Half your energy bill goes to heating and air conditioning your home, on average. If your units are not running in top form, they’re wasting your money. An annual check-up and maintenance keeps them running efficiently, keeps your energy bills in line, and can also increase their useful life, delaying expensive system replacement.

Change Your Appliance Settings

Adjust your fridge settings, lower your water heater temperatures.

Raising your refrigerator’s temperature setting from 35 to 38 degrees, and lowering your hot water heater temperature to 120 degrees can save energy and money. It’s just a few degrees that you won’t even notice. It won’t affect operation of your appliances, and it’s free and easy!

Install & Use Power Strips

Save the energy your electronics still use when they’re turned off.

TVs, computers, stereos, surround sound systems, chargers, DVD players — if the light is glowing, it’s using power, even if it’s turned off. This “phantom” standby power helps them to turn on quickly, but also quickly adds up to a lot of unnecessary energy usage, as much as 5–10% of your energy usage. A simple power strip with an on/off button lets you turn the power all the way off. You can find a good one for less than $20 — $5 or $6 if you shop around. Use them regularly, and they’ll pay for themselves in a year or less. To make things even simpler, go for a “smart” strip. When you power off the main device — computer or TV, for example — the peripherals plugged in the same strip are also automatically powered down with it, whether printers, speakers, whatever. You don’t even have to think about it.

Home Energy Assessment

Find out how you’re using energy & how you can save money.

Most homes have areas where energy is wasted or overused — and wasted energy costs money you could be keeping in your pocket. A home energy assessment can help identify the best and most cost-effective strategies to reduce your energy bills — and consumption — by up to 30%. It pinpoints energy “leakage” and how to fix it through things like weather-stripping, insulation, heating and cooling tune-ups, etc. An energy assessment report gives you a list of things you can do along with estimates for cost, savings potential, and payback period. Many utilities are also now offering energy assessments at a reduced price. All utilities serving Montgomery County offer Quick Home Energy Check-Ups (QHECs), often for free. They’re not as detailed as a full assessment, but can identify some quick energy-saving options. And many of these check-ups will offer you free energy savings products such as efficient lighting and water heater blankets as part of the visit.  

Replace Your Windows

The final step in energy efficiency improvements.

Many people believe that energy efficiency starts with replacing windows. And while windows are very important (and an energy audit may recommend replacement), a wiser strategy is to take care of all the smaller projects first. Caulk any leaks, weatherstrip around windows and doors, install a programmable thermostat, etc. Replacing a HVAC or adding insulation are often better bangs for your buck than windows, and they reap savings faster. But once you’ve taken care of everything else, decide if making the investment in new windows is right for your home. When you are upgrading windows and potentially replacing frames, consider upgrading your window shading to be more insulative or reflective, especially on the southern side of your home. By reflecting off some of the sun in the summer afternoon, you can reduce how much cooling is required.

Kill A Watt® Meters

Find out how much energy your appliances and electronics really use.

Even when they’re turned off, TVs, computers, stereo systems and other things you plug into the wall can still use electricity — “phantom power” or “energy vampires” — sometimes as much as three to five kilowatt hours each. Plug any device into a “Kill A Watt” meter and you’ll soon know how much energy it uses when it’s off or on. And you’ll get an idea about whether it’s time to replace that refrigerator or air conditioner. When you know how much juice they’re using, you and your family will have a strong incentive to use power strips to turn them all the way off.