The Basics

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  • Turn off the lights. Turn off lights when leaving a room. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program, turning off just one 60-watt incandescent bulb that would otherwise burn eight hours a day can save about $15 per year.
  • Replace incandescent bulbs with CFLs or light-emitting diodes (LEDs). An Energy Star-certified light bulb – whether CFL or LED – uses 70% to 90% less energy than a traditional incandescent bulb, can last 10 to 25 times longer, and saves $30 to $80 in electricity costs over its lifetime, according to Energy Star. Residents can contact the local utility for details on lighting product rebates and giveaway programs.
  • Prevent waste in water use and water heating. Ask the property manager to fix leaky faucets, showerheads, pipes, and toilets. Lower the thermostat on the water heater to 120° Fahrenheit (F) and minimize hot shower time. Scrape food off dishes instead of rinsing them, and wash only full loads of dishes and clothes. Install faucet aerators and low-flow showerheads to reduce hot water use, and use cold water for laundering.
  • Avoid overdrying clothes. Clean out the dryer’s lint trap before drying clothes, and dry only full loads.
  • Control plug loads. Unplug small appliances like smart phone and tablet chargers when not in use. Other “plug-load” devices such as microwaves, televisions, laptops, and video game consoles can draw power through the electric cord even when the appliance is turned off. A no-cost solution is to simply unplug these appliances when not in use. Other options include plugging appliances into a switched power strip that can be turned off when the appliances aren’t in use, or using “smart” power strips that automatically turn off plug loads when not in use.
  • Clean refrigerator coils and check the gaskets. Vacuum dust from the vent beneath the door and from the coils behind the fridge every two months or so—more often if the household has pets that shed. Check for leaks around the refrigerator door; if gaps exist, ask the property manager to repair the gasket or install a new one.
  • Seal gaps. Use caulk and weather-stripping to seal gaps around windows, doors, chimneys, and other structural elements.
  • Make use of the sun. During cold months, open drapes or shades on windows that receive direct sun—let the sun’s heat help warm the home during the day, but close the shades for extra insulation when the sun goes down. In warmer months, close drapes or shades to prevent heat gain from the sun and lighten the load on any air-conditioning units.
  • Use fans in hot weather instead of air conditioning. Ceiling fans and portable fans use much less energy than air conditioners. If it’s too hot to use a fan only, combine the use of a ceiling fan with the use of an air conditioner—the combination will enable the setpoint of the air conditioner to be turned up 4° to 5°F without a decrease in comfort. Consider an Energy Star–qualified room air conditioner—according to Energy Star, they use at least 10 percent less energy than standard models. In arid or semiarid climates where nights are cool, open windows at night, and then close them during the day to retain the cool air.
  • Tune up the furnace and replace the filter. Get the furnace tuned up at the beginning of winter and change the filter twice each heating season.
  • Avoid blocking air vents. Check air vents in the unit to make sure they aren’t covered or blocked by furniture, curtains, or other objects, so air can circulate without restraint. Shut off registers in unused rooms.
  • Install a programmable thermostat. Install programmable thermostats to automatically alter the unit’s temperature settings when residents are sleeping or away. Energy Star notes that when used properly, a programmable thermostat can save up to $150 a year in energy costs.

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