6 ways to save energy and money right now

Make every day Earth Day with these simple tweaks to your routine

Published: April 22, 2014 12:45 PM

Heating and cooling your home accounts for a whooping 54 percent of your energy use. Heating water for bathing and cleaning accounts for another 18 percent. But without making much effort or sacrificing comfort you can cut your energy costs right now and save money too. It’s a win-win. Make every day Earth Day with these six simple tips from the experts at Consumer Reports.

Don’t rinse your dishes. Dishwashers are made to do dirty jobs so just scrape the excess food from the plates and let the machine do the rest of the work. Pre-rinsing your dishes under running water can easily waste more than 6,000 gallons of water per year. Soaking or prewashing is generally only recommended in cases of burned- or dried-on food. To ensure your dishes sparkle, use one of our top-rated dishwasher detergents.

Reset your thermostats. With warmer weather coming, it’s time to reset your programmable thermostat. Put it as high as is comfortable and also make sure the settings reflect your summer schedule when you may spend less time in the house. You can also lower the thermostat on your water heater to 120°F, which is hot enough for showers as well as washing clothes and dishes. The three top-rated thermostats in our tests get high marks for ease of use.

Take shorter showers. An average shower uses about five gallons of water per minute. Shortening your shower by two  minutes, can cut your water use by 10 gallons. Baths take a lot more water than showers but if you prefer them, plug the drain as soon as you turn the water on and adjust the temperature as the tub fills. Top-performong low-flow showerheads in our tests cost as little as $50.

Wash only full loads. Only run your dishwasher and washing machine when they are full. If your dryer has a moisture sensor, use it so you don’t over-dry your clothes or waste energy. Dry similar fabrics together—towels with towels, sheets with sheets. And air dry lighter clothing; some manufacturers recommend it. Check our top-rated laundry detergent powders, liquids, and pods.

Change your lightbulbs. Switching to energy-efficient lighting is one of the fastest ways to cut your utility bills. Timers and motion sensors can save you even more money by reducing the amount of time lights are on. Replacing 15 inefficient incandescent bulbs in your home with energy-saving bulbs can save you about $50 per year. To find the best bulbs for your sockets, check the results of our tests of energy-saving lightbulbs.

Clean your refrigerator coils. Your refrigerator is running all the time. To keep it in peak condition, clean the compressor coils—you should do it every few months. Wipe door gaskets with a mild detergent and water, not bleach. Check the seal by closing the doors on a dollar bill. If the bill falls out or can be removed without opening the doors, plan to replace the gasket. Our top-rated French-door refrigerator costs only $54 a year to operate.

—Mary H.J. Farrell

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