Replace light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). They use only 1/3 of the energy needed by incandescent bulbs, and they last for five years. Swapping out the five most-used light bulbs in a house with CFLs, could cut $60 worth of electricity every year, which more than makes up for the higher price of the CFLs. However, many energy companies have rebate programs for CFLs. Sometimes they cost as little as $2. Check with the local power company to see if it offers rebates.
Get a service check on the furnace annually. Checkups are not only important for safety and efficiency, but they help the furnace last longer, too.
Upgrade to better furnace filters, and change them regularly. Indoor air quality and energy efficiency depend on how clean those filters are and how well they work. Look for pleated filters. They cost more (about $10 to $15), but they make a profound difference.
Put in a programmable thermostat. This can save as much as 30 percent on heating and cooling, depending on how well the house is insulated and the heating system. In the winter, program the thermostat so that the house is cooler when no one is home during the day and when everyone is in bed at night. When the weather warms up, set the temperatures higher during the day.
Caulk all windows. Experts estimate that tiny leaks around doors and windows let as much heat escape from the house as an open window does, so seal up those leaks and save some money. One option is to use removable caulking. When spring comes, peel it off and open the windows.
Put film on the windows. A film that blocks the sun’s heat from entering or leaving the house will make a big difference in utility bills. It’s easy to install and a lot less expensive than replacing the windows.
Choose the right kind of exterior doors, including the garage door. Look for insulated fiberglass models. They look like wood, but they are five times more energy-efficient than wood.
Add weather stripping to all exterior doors. Weather stripping is available at any hardware store or home center, and it’s another easy way to prevent air leaks.
When it’s time to replace the water heater, get a tankless version. Bosch, Rinnai and Takagi are just three of the companies that make them. Tankless water heaters work only when they’re needed; they don’t use energy keeping a big tank of water hot. Again, they cost more initially than conventional models, but the long-term savings are significant. The technology has been around for 70 years and is used widely in Europe and Asia. If your plumber says tankless water heaters don’t work, it’s time to find a plumber who is more up-to-date with technology.
Pay attention to how ventilation fans are used during the winter. While it’s important to remove excess humidity from the bathrooms and kitchen, the fans also remove heated air. In fact, one can suck all of the heated air from a house in about an hour.