Some ways to save energy require you to undertake a messy home improvement project or make such lifestyle changes as taking shorter showers or lowering your heat. But saving energy doesn't have to be a hardship. There are simpler ways to save by making small changes that offer big payoffs for years to come. Here are some money-saving secrets from our experts that’ll help trim your energy use and your utility bill.
Buy Energy Star-qualified appliances. Energy Star appliances are 20 percent more energy efficient than non-Energy Star versions. And appliances with Energy Star’s “Most Efficient” designation are an additional 10 percent more efficient. Trading a 10-year-old refrigerator for an Energy Star-rated model can save about $100 a year. Replacing a pre-1994 dishwasher with an Energy Star model can save around $40 a year (and 10 gallons of water per cycle).
Switch to energy-saving lightbulbs. Replacing your incandescent lightbulbs with CFLs (compact fluorescent lightbulbs) can save you $24 a year just in your kitchen (based on four light fixtures). Each CFL bulb saves about $6 per year in electricity, so if you have 30 bulbs in your home, that’s $180 per year in your pocket. CFLs produce 75 percent less heat than traditional incandescents, so your home will be cooler in the bargain.
Choose LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs for undercabinet lighting to save even more money. They cost $25 to $200 per unit, but Energy Star versions should last 22 years based on 3 hours of use per day. To find the right lightbulbs for your fixtures, check the results of our tests of LED, CFL and halogen lightbulbs.
Match your pots to your burners. You can save $36 a year for an electric range and $18 annually on gas by using the correct sized pot for cooking. A smaller pot will require less energy to heat its contents, something to remember next time you consider using a 10-quart stockpot to heat up a package of peas. Also, keep those pots covered: You’ll cook more efficiently and keep the kitchen cooler.
Look out for energy rebates. When making energy upgrades, including buying new appliances, it can pay to check the website of the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (dsireusa.org). According to a recent survey, Consumer Reports readers saved about $150 with rebates alone.
Tighten your envelope. Time to replace your windows? You’ll save some $95 per year by installing windows with the Energy Star label. Proper, gap-free installation is a must. Energy Star-qualified windows can help improve your comfort, cut drafts, and reduce fading of interior furnishings. See the windows that did best in our tests.
—Adapted from Consumer Reports’ Kitchen Planning & Buying Guide