Resolve to be kinder to the earth this New Year, and save money or stay more comfortable at the same time! Here are some of our favorite ways to do it.
1. Install a programmable thermostat. Save 10% on energy costs when your thermostat automatically adjusts when you're sleeping or away. You may even get a rebate from your utility company. Learn more about programmable thermostats.
2. Add heat-blocking window coverings. Keep heat in during winter and out during summer when you replace sheer curtains with heavier drapes or blinds.
3. Adjust your water heater's temperature. Use a kitchen thermometer to test the temperature of the hot water coming out of your tap. To prevent scalding injuries, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends 120 degrees at the faucet (your water heater may need to be set slightly higher than 120, since water can lose heat as it travels through the system). If you can decrease your tank's temperature from where it's set now, you'll save energy and reduce water-heating costs.
A word of caution: Don't be tempted to turn down your water heater too much. That could allow dangerous bacteria like Legionella to grow. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends tank temperatures of 140 degrees, at least for multifamily residences.
Another surefire way to save: Always repair water-wasting leaky fixtures.
4. Switch to modern showerheads. Federal regulations limit showerhead flow to 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm) or less. Many showerheads made before 1992 had flow rates of 5.5 gpm, so if that's yours, switching showerheads could cut your water use in half!
5. Insulate the attic and crawlspace. Know your insulation's R-values (short for "thermal resistance") and if it's lacking, beef it up to recommendations for your area. Check R-value maps from the U.S. Department of Energy.
In your car:
1. Turn off instead of idling. Why burn gas and pump exhaust into the air to go nowhere? Turn off your engine when you're delayed by road construction or waiting in the ferry line. Some newer cars even shut themselves off at stoplights.
2. Don't warm up the car. At least, not if you drive a modern fuel-injected car. Their sensors adjust the gasoline and air mix to account for cold temperatures, unlike their carbureted predecessors that did need a warm-up on frosty mornings.
3. Inflate tires to manufacturers' specifications. Underinflated tires take more energy to roll, cutting fuel economy. Here are more reasons to watch your tires' inflation.
4. Use cruise control. The consistent speed boosts mileage and saves fuel. (Skip cruise in the rain, though: wipers on, cruise control off.)
5. Reduce weight in the trunk. Added weight (like sports equipment you won't use until spring) cuts gas mileage, sending you to the pumps more often.