Save with Winter Energy-Efficiency Tips

Washington - With energy costs soaring, consumers have been reading about how utility companies are planning on hiking rates for natural gas and electricity. Here are some helpful tips for saving on energy costs this winter from the Environmental Protection Agency.

"With cold weather around the corner and President Bush's call to conserve, small actions like changing a lightbulb or weather-stripping the windows can benefit our wallets and our nation's energy resources," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "By taking a few common-sense steps to conserve our home energy use, we can get the most out of our energy dollars and keep more money in our pockets."

The average American household spends $1500 annually on energy bills -- a number that may go up as much as 50 percent this year. Almost half of that energy goes to heating and cooling your home. Lighting and appliances represent about a quarter and home electronic products like computers, TVs and cell phone chargers take a significant and growing share of what is left. There are ways to become more energy efficient in all these areas.

1. Seal up your home One of the most cost effective ways to reduce energy bills is to air-seal holes, cracks and openings in your home and then add insulation to stop the flow of heat through the walls and ceiling. Consider the following steps:

Weather-strip and insulate your attic hatch or door to prevent warm air from escaping out the top of your house. Seal holes in the attic that lead down into the house, such as open wall tops and duct, plumbing, or electrical runs.

Weather-strip doors and windows that do not seal tightly. Use foam caskets around electrical outlets (under the plates) to reduce drafts For more information on home sealing, consult EPA's Home Sealing Do-it-yourself guide at: http://www.energystar.gov/homesealing

2. Heat your home wisely Your heating system works hard during the winter to keep you warm. When it is working at top performance and your heating ducts are delivering warm air to your rooms effectively, you will be more comfortable and save money.

Replace your furnace air filter before the heating season begins as a dirty filter reduces air flow which makes your system work harder to deliver air to the registers. Also, cover the filter slot with a piece of wide tape to keep air from getting in around filter edges without passing through the filter.

Be sure your ducts are delivering all the warm air they can. If you can see the duct seams where the metal comes together, seal these joints with shiny foil tape with a UL-181 label

(This label is very important.) or duct mastic (also called duct sealant). This is especially important for the ducts that you can see in your basement or attic. Set back your thermostat when you're asleep or away. When used properly, an Energy Star qualified programmable thermostat with four-temperature and time settings can save you $100 each year on energy costs.

Call a heating contractor to service your system. Fall is a good time to have a service technician look at your heating system to make sure that it is running properly to keep you warm this winter without adding unnecessary costs. Ask your contractor to check your duct system also. For more advice on heating efficiently and sealing your ducts, consult EPA's Guide to Energy-Efficient Heating and Cooling.

3. Change a light Lighting our homes can represent 20 percent of home electricity bills and is one of the easiest places to start saving energy. If every household changed a light to an Energy Star one, together we'd save enough energy to light 7 million homes and reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to that of 1 million cars.

Replace the five most frequently used lights, or the bulbs in them, with one's that have earned the Energy Star, and save more than $60 each year in energy costs. Start with one light and take the Energy Star Change A Light Pledge.

4. Power down computers and electronics products when not in use Computers and other electronics account for an increasing energy load in most homes, and often use energy even when switched off.

Activate your computer's power management features, so it powers down when sitting idle. Unplug battery chargers and power adapters when they finish charging, or are not in use.

Consider using a power strip that can be turned off when you're done using (or at bedtime) your computers, printers, wireless routers, and other electronics.

5. Look for many products that have earned the Energy Star -- The government's Energy Star is on more than 40 different kinds of products the home, including lighting, home electronics, heating and cooling equipment and appliances. Energy Star qualifying products provide the features and performance you want while helping you save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Look for Energy Star qualified products when you are in the market for new products for your home

Check with your local utility about rebates or use our special offers finder.