Save Energy in the Summer
Powering the Next Energy-saving Idea
There are hundreds of ways you can save energy at home every day.
It may not seem like swapping in an LED bulb or fixing a leaky faucet will do much to reduce your energy use or protect the environment, but if every household did just a few of the tips below, we would reduce energy consumption significantly.
Check out our video resources, tips and helpful facts for easy ways to cut your energy costs, and then choose a few to try.
Move furnishings away from floor or return air vents.
Install awnings on windows that get excessive sun in the late afternoon.
Use light-colored shades and window coverings.
Set your clothes dryer on a cooler setting and hang clothes dry whenever possible.
Install a Wi-Fi / Smart thermostat to set temperatures warmer when you are away from the house. You can program to cooler your home before you arrive
Avoid using heat-producing appliances such as ovens or dryers during the hottest parts of the day.
If using an air conditioner, close outside doors and windows.
Close curtains and shades on west and south-facing windows to block sunlight and heat during the day.
Set your air conditioner thermostat to as high a temperature as you can be comfortable.
Reflective window film can help reduce heat gain during the summer and it will keep furniture and carpets from fading.
Don’t judge the efficiency of your central air conditioner by the sound of the fan shutting on and off. The blower will continue to circulate cooled air throughout your home up to 15 minutes after the compressor has stopped.
Maintain your central air conditioner by cleaning the outside compressor with a garden hose. Be sure to shut off power at the fuse or breaker first.
Use ceiling fans to help circulate air throughout your home. A ceiling fan should run counter clockwise during the summer and clockwise during the winter.
Make sure your window air conditioner is the proper size. It’s better to get one that’s too small than too large. A larger unit will turn off and on up more frequently and won’t do as good a job dehumidifying the air.
Plant a tree. One well-placed shade tree can reduce your cooling costs by 25%. For maximum benefit, place leafy shade trees to the south and west and evergreens to the north.
Turn off unnecessary lights and wait to use heat-producing appliances until after 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. It’s also a good idea to close the blinds on south- and west-facing windows during the hottest part of the day.
Set the fan on your central air conditioner to “on” rather than “auto.” This will circulate air continuously, keeping the temperature in your home more consistent, plus help dehumidifying the air.
Raise the thermostat to about 78°F whenever you go to bed or leave the house. A Wi-Fi / Smart thermostat will do this for you automatically.
Install a Wi-Fi / smart thermostat. If you set your thermostat a little higher during summer months, you’ll reduce your cooling costs about 4% for each degree of adjustment. Changing the temperature from 74°F to 78°F could lower your energy bill by up to 10%.
If your home doesn’t have central air conditioning, try an attic or whole-house fan. The fan pushes hot air out through attic vents, lowering your homes’ temperature about five degrees in less than ten minutes. Attic fans cost less than $0.25 per day to operate.
If your basement is unheated, install blanket insulation in between exposed floor joists.
Install a cover above your attic hole, or remove the hole and just use a hatch.
When using loose-fill insulation, be sure to distribute evenly. Any inconsistencies in depth can reduce the insulating value.
While shopping for insulation, remember that R-value measures the amount of thermal resistance. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation.
Add pieces of batt insulation to the rim joists – the area along the top of the foundation where it meets the exterior walls.
Install more attic insulation. Upgrading from three inches to 12 inches, and doing proper attic sealing, can cut heating and cooling costs up to 20%.
Never cover attic vents or recessed light fixtures with insulation. To prevent overheating and avoid the risk of fire, allow a three-inch clearance around chimneys and flue pipes.
Install additional attic insulation at right angles to the previous layer. You don’t need to use the same type of insulation. It’s fine to use batts or blankets over loose-fill, or vice versa.
Install exterior or interior storm windows; storm windows can reduce your heat loss through the windows by 25% to 50%, particularly if you have single pane windows.
Have a leaky roof repaired and make sure your basement is waterproofed. Wet insulation is worthless.
Choose the new “no-itch” or poly-wrapped insulation products. They’re much easier to handle and safer to work with – making them worth the extra cost.
Increase your attic insulation if joists are showing.
Check insulation levels throughout your house. Measure attic insulation with a ruler and check behind switch plates for sidewall insulation. Be safe, remember to turn off circuit breakers before removing switch plate and outlet covers.
Check the exterior of your home for air leaks, especially around openings for water spigots, air conditioner hoses, dryer vents and gas pipes. Use caulk or expanding foam to seal spaces.
Seal doors and windows with caulk, weather stripping and plastic film. An investment of $50 in weatherproofing supplies can reduce heating costs by two to three times that much. Don’t forget the basement windows!
Check windowpanes to see if they need new glazing. If the glass is loose, replace the putty holding the pane in place. Most types of window glazing require painting for a proper seal.
Add foam gaskets behind all outlet covers and switch plates. Use safety plugs in all unused outlets. These are prime places for outside air to leak into your home. Be safe, remember to turn off circuit breakers before removing switch plate and outlet covers.
Safely repair and/or apply weather stripping to air leaks in the home. Up to 25% of energy used to heat / cool homes escapes via air leaks. Areas to check include dropped ceilings, recessed lighting, attic entrances, ducts, doorframes, electrical outlets and switches, window frames and plumbing/utility access.
Don’t forget to weatherproof the attic access. Secure batt insulation to the back of the hatch or door and use weather stripping to seal the opening.
Seal the edges of unused doors and windows with rope caulk. Don’t permanently seal them shut; you might need quick ventilation or escape during an emergency.
Choose the right kind of caulk for the job. Use latex or acrylic caulk inside – it’s easy to clean and more forgiving if you’re a beginner. Silicone caulk is great for outside use because it lasts longer and seals virtually any type of surface.
Use light sensing LED nightlights to help you find your way through the house. LED nightlights cost pennies a year to operate and help light steps for safety.
Keep lamps away from thermostats; the heat produced can cause your furnace to run less than needed or your air conditioner more than needed.
Replace an incandescent outdoor light or high-intensity floodlight with a high-pressure sodium fixture or LED bulb. The bulbs will last longer and use less energy.
Dust light fixtures/bulbs regularly. A heavy coat of dust can block up to 50% of the light output.
Learn how to read the label on the bulb to make sure you are buying the bulb you need. A basic understanding of Lumens (Brightness) and Color Temperature (Light Appearance) can help you more effectively light your home.
Use lighting control devices like dimmers, motion detectors, occupancy sensors and timers to provide light only when you need it.
Use solar lights to light walkways, patios and decks. The soft light will also attract fewer annoying insects.
Use only a single bulb in a multi-socket fixture. Be sure to check the maximum wattage the fixture allows.
Decorate with pale colors on walls, ceilings and floors. Soft tones reflect more light, so you can use lower wattage bulbs and delay turning on lights until later in the day. Using high-gloss paint can help as well.
Switch to LED bulbs. LEDs use 90% less energy than typical incandescent bulbs and last 25x longer. Replacing just five bulbs can save $75 a year.
Choose the capacity that’s right for your family. Whether it’s a furnace or a refrigerator, it doesn’t pay to purchase a unit that’s too large or too small.
Replace inefficient appliances – even if they’re still working. An aging water heater or refrigerator could be costing you much more than you think. If your central air conditioner is more than 10 years old, replacing it with a high-efficiency new unit will cut your summer electric bills by about one-third.
Look for the ENERGY STAR logo. This designation from the Environmental Protection Agency means that the appliance exceeds minimum federal energy-use standards, usually by a significant amount.
Remember that it pays to invest in energy efficiency. In some cases, the money you save in energy costs can pay back the purchase price in just a few years.
Always read the Energy Guide label carefully, and make sure you’re comparing “apples to apples.” Energy use can range significantly even within a single brand.
Investigate new technology carefully. Some innovations, like convection ovens or argon-filled windows, may save energy and make life more convenient; others, such as commercial-grade kitchen appliances, might be merely expensive cosmetic enhancements.
Use kitchen, bath and other ventilating fans wisely. In just 1 hour, these fans can pull out a houseful of warmed or cooled air. Turn fans off as soon as they have done the job.
Turn off lights in empty rooms and when they are not needed.
If your home has no sidewall insulation, place heavy furniture like bookshelves, armoires and sofas along exterior walls. Also, use decorative quilts as wall hangings. This will help block cold air.
Unplug any electrical device that’s not being used. Many appliances draw power even when turned off. It’s called “phantom” or “vampire energy.”
Keep outdoor hot tubs covered when not in use. If you have a pool, use a solar cover to use the natural warmth of the sun to heat the water.
Keep the refrigerator door closed as much as possible.
Set your thermostat to “auto” so that the blower fan will not operate continuously. A 1/2 HP blower fan consumes 3850 kWh annually if run around the clock. It may only need to run a third or less if set on “auto.”
Place humidifiers and dehumidifiers away from walls and bulky furniture. These appliances work best when air circulates freely around them. Be sure to clean the unit often to prevent unhealthy mold and bacteria from developing.
Get rid of spare refrigerators or freezers. An extra appliance can add more than $150 to your energy bills every year, and it’s a safety hazard for small children.
If you need a new lawnmower, consider an electric model. They’re less expensive to operate, 75% quieter and they significantly reduce toxic emissions.
Try an electric outdoor grill. They’re more economical and more convenient—you will never run out of fuel.
When you go on vacation, don’t forget to give your appliances a rest too. Turn off and unplug everything you can. Set your water heater to the lowest setting and shut off the water supply to the dishwasher and washing machine.
Smart Power Strips help reduce “phantom” energy usage by automatically turning off standby power on electronics (Cable boxes, DVD players, video game consoles) when a main electronic device, like a TV, is off.
Turn off and unplug appliances when not in use. Many appliances use energy on standby power even if “off”. Eliminating this “phantom” energy can reduce household energy use by as much as 10%.
Dry one load of clothes immediately after another. This will minimize heat loss, reducing warm-up and drying times.
Use hot water only for very dirty loads. Always use cold water for the rinse cycle.
Remove clothes from the dryer while they’re still damp and hang them up. This will save energy, prevent static and reduce wrinkles and shrinkage.
Clean the lint screen on the dryer every time you use the machine. A clogged lint screen can make your dryer use up to 30% more energy – and it can be a fire hazard.
Use smaller kitchen appliances whenever possible. Microwaves, toaster ovens and slow-cookers can use 75% less energy than a large electric oven.
Run the dishwasher only with full loads and use the air-dry cycle. You could save $30-$40 per week washing two loads per week instead of four loads per week.
If your dishwasher has a “booster” water heater, use it; this will heat the water to the 140°F recommended by manufacturers while maintaining an energy-saving 120°F on your water heater.
Use your oven’s self-cleaning feature immediately after cooking, while the oven is still hot. This will reduce a lengthy warm-up time.
As your mother always told you, don’t leave the refrigerator door open. Every time it’s opened, up to 30% of the cooled air can escape. The same rule holds for the oven, too.
Check the seal on your refrigerator door by closing it on a dollar bill. If you can pull the bill out easily, it’s time to replace the gaskets. You can purchase a replacement kit from an appliance dealer or a home center.
Keep the grease plates under range burners clean to reflect heat more efficiently.
Keep the refrigerator temperature about 36-38°F and the freezer at 0-5°F.
Vacuum the refrigerator coils about twice a year to keep the compressor running efficiently.
Don’t overload the refrigerator. The cold air needs to circulate freely to keep foods at the proper temperature.
Make sure the refrigerator is level so the door automatically swings shut. If the floor isn’t level, use shims to prop up the front of the refrigerator.
Don’t worry about placing hot leftovers in the refrigerator. It won’t affect energy use significantly, and cooling food to room temperature first can increase the chance of food-borne illnesses.
Use lids on pots and pans to reduce cooking times, and don’t put a small pan on a large burner.
If your water heater is more than 15 years old, install an insulating blanket wrap to reduce “standby” heat loss. Insulate hot water pipes where they’re accessible.
Take showers, not baths. A five-minute shower will use about 7.5 gallons of hot water, while filling a bathtub can use up to 20 gallons.
Install a water-saving showerhead. Don’t worry – it won’t reduce your water pressure. A family of four, each taking a five-minute shower a day, can save $250 a year in water heating costs by switching to an energy-efficient showerhead.
Take shorter showers; they require less hot water.
Lower your hot water heater temperature to 120°F. Some are originally set at 140°F. This can save hundreds of dollars a year.
Fix leaky faucets, especially if it’s a hot water faucet. One drop per second can add up to 165 gallons a month! That’s more than one person uses in two weeks.
Use aerators on kitchen and bathroom sink faucets. If you have hard water, clean aerators and showerheads with vinegar regularly to reduce deposits and build-up.
If your home has a boiler system, avoid covering radiators with screens or blocking them with furniture. It’s also a good idea to add a reflecting panel behind radiators – you can purchase one at a home center or make one yourself with a plywood panel and aluminum foil.
Don’t set the thermostat higher than you actually want it. It won’t heat your home any faster, and it will keep your furnace running longer than necessary.
If you’ll be going on vacation, lower the thermostat to 55°F. This will save energy while preventing water pipes from freezing.
Install a Wi-Fi / smart thermostat. If you set your thermostat a little lower during winter months, you’ll reduce your heating costs about 3% for each degree of adjustment. Changing the temperature from 72°F to 68°F could lower your energy bill by up to 10%.
If you have hardwood or tile floors, add area rugs to keep your feet warm.
Avoid using space heaters, including electric, kerosene or propane models. Not only are they expensive to operate, but they’re also very dangerous.
Vacuum registers and vents regularly, and don’t let furniture and draperies block the airflow. Inexpensive plastic deflectors can direct air under tables and chairs.
Change or clean your furnace filter once a month. Dust and dirt can quickly clog vital parts, making your furnace run harder and eventually break down.
If you have a forced-air furnace, do NOT close heat registers in unused rooms. Your furnace is designed to heat a specific square footage of space and can’t sense a register is closed. It will continue working at the same pace. In addition, the cold air from unheated rooms can escape into the rest of the house, reducing the effectiveness of all your insulating and weatherizing.
Have your heating system inspected regularly. A $50-$100 annual tune-up can help reduce your heating costs by up to 5%.
If you have a wood-burning fireplace, have the chimney cleaned and inspected regularly. Burn only fully dried hardwoods to produce the most heat output.
When the fireplace is not in use, make sure fireplace dampers are sealed tight, and keep the glass doors closed. If you never use your fireplace, plug the chimney with fiberglass insulation and seal the doors with silicone caulk.
If you have a chimney, add fireproof caulk where the chimney meets the wall, inside and outside.
When using the fireplace, lower the thermostat to 55°F. If you don’t, all the warm air from the furnace will go right up the chimney, wasting energy and money.
Check the seal on the fireplace damper by closing it and holding a piece of tissue paper inside the firebox. If drafts blow the tissue around, repair or replace the damper.
Collection of Tips
Saving energy doesn’t have to be hard. With just a few minutes a month, you’ll notice a difference — and make a difference! Download or print these PDFs and choose a few tips to work into your daily routine.
Save Energy All Year
Saving energy year-round can be simple.
When temperatures rise with summer heat, you can be cool and save energy.
Save Energy in the Winter
When temperatures drop in the winter, you can be warm and save energy.
Learning to Save Energy Together
Saving energy can be fun for all ages. Use our collection of resources and games to engage in energy-saving activities.