9 ways to cut your energy bills

An attic-to-basement primer on amping up energy efficiency and cutting your power bill this winter.

  • Get audited

    The problem: Your power bills seem suspiciously high.

    The solution: For $250 to $800, an energy auditor will do a detailed diagnosis of your home, identifying problems and possible solutions.

    Find auditors via the Building Performance Institute or Residential Energy Services Network — and ask your utility provider if an audit qualifies you for a rebate.

  • Bulk up on insulation

    The problem: Insufficient insulation or gaps in key places, such as around attic doors and chimneys and in corners.

    The solution: Check your attic floor to see whether you need more; when the insulation sticks up above the floor joists, you probably have enough. But if it’s level with or below the joists, you may need more, says Chandler von Schrader, residential program manager with the EPA.

    For fiberglass insulation, expect to spend around $1 a square foot. (To find the best type for your region, check out the sealing and insulating section of

    Your investment will pay off: Increasing insulation can shave about 20% off heating costs.

  • Stay out of hot water

    The problem: Water heaters can account for as much as 15% of a home’s energy use, says Jim Lutz, a researcher with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

    The solution: If your water heater is set at 140° F, turn it down to a hot, but not scalding, 120° F. Insulating pipes and covering the heater itself with a $25 insulating blanket will minimize heat loss.

    Finish with a low-flow showerhead (look for the EPA’s Water Sense label) and you’ll cut water use by at least 25%.

  • Get with the program

    The problem: Coming home or waking up to an icy house.

    The solution: Turning down the thermostat when you’re out or asleep could save $200 or so a year — but can make for some chilly moments. Try a programmable thermostat, starting around $20. Spend a little more ($50 or so) and you can upgrade to a five-plus-two-day model that will adjust to your weekend schedule.

  • Dial down the refrigerator

    The problem: A fridge that’s cranked too high.

    The solution: Temps of 35° F to 38° F (and 0° F to 5° F for the freezer) are cool enough. Keeping the coils underneath the machine clean will also help it stay cold more efficiently.

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