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Add an Advanced Power Strip
Use advanced power strips. Most electronics—such as TVs, computers, and game consoles—draw power even when they’re turned off. Advanced power strips eliminate this wasted electricity, saving you up to $100 per year.
Add storm windows and doors
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, leaky windows can account for 10–25% of your heating bill. If your windows are in good shape—or if you’re on a tight budget—adding storm windows is far more affordable than replacing the windows. Storm windows keep outside air from seeping in and protect your windows and doors from storm damage. Storm windows are most often installed on the exterior of your existing windows, but you can opt for interior storm windows as well. Options range from simple, interior plastic storm window kits to more costly (and effective) interior and exterior options.
There are several ways you can start saving energy now. But some opportunities are out of one person’s control. Local, state, and federal government can update building codes to ensure your (or your kid’s) future home is more efficient and healthy, help utilities provide cleaner energy, and provide more public transportation options. Businesses and nonprofits can also step up to help Vermonters save energy by making services and manufacturing more efficient. Talk with your elected officials about what they can do to increase options to use less energy and join local groups to advocate for the change you want to see. Check out 350.org, Brighter Vermont, Conservation Law Foundation, Energy Independent Vermont, Local Motion, Renewable Energy Vermont, Rising Tide, Sierra Club, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, Vermont Energy & Climate Action Network, Vermont Natural Resources Council, Vermont Public Interest Research Group, and local groups near you.
Air seal and insulate your attic
Attics are often the single largest source of heat loss in a home. Heat loss is due to both air leakage through gaps and holes, as well as lack of sufficient insulation. Sealing air leaks through the use of professional spray foam gun is highly effective. Once air leaks have been sealed, then additional insulation can be added.
Ask your landlord to make energy-saving upgrades
If you’re renting, there’s often only so far you can go with energy saving improvements. Sometimes, landlords just need a little reminder about rebates available for efficient appliances. In fact, there are several rebates only available to owners of rental properties to make it more likely that renters can save energy.
Buy an electric vehicle
If your commute is under 80 miles, it’s time to think about an electric car. Ranges continue to extend, you’ll save on maintenance, and the energy you need to travel is less than half.
Buy ENERGY STAR® appliances
Appliances and electronics that are ENERGY STAR certified meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. An ENERGY STAR certified TV, for example, uses about 40% less energy than a standard model.
Caulk your windows and other gaps along the window frame
To make your windows more efficient, start by fixing some common sources of air leaks: replace cracked panes and glazing compound, add caulking around window casings, and fill in unused pulley cavities. (Be careful not to caulk the window shut.) Watch a video for air sealing equipment.
Change the filter on your furnace every 3-4 months
Clean or replace your furnace, heat pump, and ventilation system filters every few months to improve indoor air quality and energy efficiency. Consult the manual for the manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule.
Clean refrigerator coils
If you have an older model fridge and you’re not ready to upgrade yet, pull it back from the wall and dust off any coil system you find behind it. This helps it do its cooling job more effectively for less cost.
Close fireplace or wood stove damper
If you own a fireplace or a wood stove, close the damper when there isn't a fire. An open damper pulls warm air out of your house, so be sure to close it once ashes have gone cold.
Don’t drive to work alone
Car or van pooling to work, or taking the bus, can mean big savings. GoVermont will help you figure out how to drive less.
Dust and unblock your heating system
Don’t block the heat. Dust or vacuum radiators, baseboard heaters, and furnace duct openings, and be sure not to block them with furniture, carpets, or drapes. If you’re covering your radiator with a blanket of dust, you’ll have to wear more blankets too.
Get a light timer, motion detector, or smart switch
Are there lamps that you only need on at certain times of the day and you’re not there to turn them on or off? If you need a light home for when you come back at night, consider either a motion activated fixture or a timer for a lamp that can light up just before you’re home. There are even devices now that allow you to activate them with your phone.
Get a loan to weatherize
If you’re ready to make some big improvements in air sealing and insulation but can’t afford them, consider getting a low- or no-interest loan. Your loan payments may even be less than the monthly savings on energy costs.
Get a tune-up on your boiler or furnace
A pre-winter tune-up helps your furnace or boiler run cleaner, more efficiently and last longer. For fuel oil systems, make sure you get an inspection and tune-up on an annual basis. For gas-fired (propane or natural gas) systems, every two years will suffice. Talk with your fuel provider about getting a tune-up.
Get a walk-through assessment or energy audit of your home
A walk-through with an energy professional can point out great ways to save money and make your home more comfortable. A full audit involves a test to see how leaky your house is and a written report that explains all suggested measure to take, the cost of each measure, and the time it will likely take to pay off. This information is great for planning the most significant energy saving upgrades to your home. Audits usually cost between $300-600 and your contractor may apply that cost toward the actual work, should you choose to pursue it. Here are tips on how to prepare for an audit.
There are a variety of walk-through and audit services available, depending on where you live, the fuel you use, and your income level.
If you are a Vermont Gas customer, check out their audit program.
Get expert advice
Want to talk with someone about the best way forward? We’re here to help. Whether it’s quick and cheap actions or investments that will give you big savings, we can help you prioritize and make your home or business more comfortable and healthier. Maybe it’s a big rebate on a new appliance or weatherizing your home or business. A quick call helps you determine what to tackle first.
- Efficiency Vermont: email or call 888-921-5990
- Capstone Community Action in Central VT: email or call 877-919-2299
- Green Mountain Power: email or call 888-835-4672
- Burlington Electric: fill in a form or call 802-865-7362
- Vermont Gas customers: call 802-863-4511
- Vermont Energy Co-op: call (802) 860-4090
Install a cold climate heat pump to displace some of your heating needs
A cold climate heat pump can lower your heating costs considerably and double as a cooling system in the summer. Heat pumps draw heat from the environment and move it indoors to heat your home, or move it outdoors to cool your home. Air-source heat pumps gather heat from the ambient air, while ground-source or geothermal heat pumps extract it from the ground. Heat pump technology has evolved in recent years, and new ductless air-source models are designed to excel in cold climates like Vermont’s. The efficiency and cost savings of switching to heat pumps can be significant, depending on the fuel you use currently. Efficiency Vermont is offering rebates for heat pumps at the time of purchase.
Install a fireplace insert
Fireplaces are great. Until they suck all the warm air out of your house. Think about adding a fireplace insert and keep that nice look while actually getting some heat from the wood you’re burning.
Install a heat pump hot water heater
Water heating can eat up 20% of your total energy bill. Heat pump water heaters can cost half as much to operate as traditional electric resistance water heaters, and can save over $1,800 over the lifetime of the unit. Not only do they heat water, heat pump water heaters also air condition and dehumidify the space around them.
Install and use solar power
There’s never been a better time to go solar for generating electricity or hot water. It’s an upfront investment that could save you a ton on energy costs down the road. Imagine no more electric bills. There are several solar installation businesses to choose from across Vermont. Look them up online or ask a neighbor who has solar installed. If you can’t put solar at your property, your electric utility may offer an opportunity to purchase solar generation. Ask them.
Install modern wood heat furnace
Modern wood heating offers an affordable, local, and renewable source of fuel with lower carbon emissions than fossil fuels. Switch to wood heat and support the Vermont economy by buying a Vermont fuel. Check out rebates for an energy efficient furnace.
Install outlet and switch-plate foam gaskets and outlet safety plugs
If you place your hand over your electrical outlets in the winter on a windy day, you can feel cold air blowing through them. Foam gaskets seal off the wall cavity behind the outlets and switch plates facing the exterior of the house from the living space. The plugs reduce leakage through unused outlets. You can purchase foam gaskets and plugs from most hardware and building supply stores.
Install shower heads that use 1.5 gallons/minute or less
Low flow showerheads used to mean you were just in a mist of water. No more. There are some great options at local retailers that maintain water pressure with a lot less water, meaning you pay less to heat it.
Insulate and weatherize your basement door
One of the leakiest parts of the basement is the basement door – which in many cases is a simple piece of plywood. Be sure to install weather stripping, and either insulate the door or replace it with an exterior door that is well-insulated.
Insulate pipes from the hot water heater
Insulating the hot water pipes with foam tubes helps keep that water hot as it travels from your heater to where you’re using it. Pipe insulation is cheap and easy to add. Some newer water heaters have built in insulation. If your water heater says it has less than an R25 insulation, or if it feels warm when you touch it, it’s worth insulating. Renee will show you how. Figure out the size of your pipes and pick some insulation up at your local hardware store.
Insulate the box sill and rim joist
Basements are oftentimes the second largest area of heat loss in your home after the attic. Some of the leakiest parts of the basement are the box sills, sill plates, and rim joists. The sill plates and rim joists sit on the foundation wall. Air leaks through the gaps and cracks all the way along your foundation wall. Your rim joist or box sills may already be insulated with fiberglass; however, fiberglass does not do a good job at stopping air leakage. If you have fiberglass in the box sill or rim joist, pull it out and air seal and re-insulate.
Is your refrigerator running (too much)?
Let’s make sure it’s not running more than it has to. Set the temperature to 40° and the freezer temperature at 0°. Test the door seal by closing the door over a piece of paper so it is half in and half out of the refrigerator. If you can pull the paper out easily, the door may need adjustment, the seal may need replacing, or maybe it’s time to consider buying a new fridge (if it’s over 15 years old, it’s probably time). Another trick is to keep your fridge full so there’s not a big volume of cold air to spill out each time you open the door. Try throwing a few gallons of water in the back to take up any space you never use.
Join Way to Go!
Way To Go! is a chance for you or your business to go toe to toe against carbon pollution. Bike, walk, carpool or ride the bus to victory! Win prizes, have fun—and help us reach our goal of reducing 500,000 lbs of carbon pollution in Vermont.
Log progress in your community’s energy dashboard
Make sure cold air returns for forced-air systems are free from blockages
Don’t block the heat or the cold air returns from a forced-air system. Furnaces need adequate supplies of cold air in order to operate efficiently. For radiators or baseboard heaters, be sure to vacuum or dust them regularly and remove furniture, carpets, or drapes that cover them.
Make sure window sash locks are working and locked
Locking the window sash lock will help ensure that the window is completely closed, reducing air leakage. If you find a window without a sash lock, they can be easily purchased at your local hardware or building supply store.
Open the shades when it’s cold
The sun can be a powerful (free) heater. Open shades on the east, south, and west sides of your home during the day to let in the light. Look for opportunities outside to remove any objects that are blocking sun from reaching your windows.
Reduce use of space heaters and air conditioners
Anything that heats or cools uses a lot of energy. If you use an air conditioner, make sure it’s sized appropriately and aim for 72° or higher. And if you find you can’t avoid using space heaters, give us a call at (888) 921-5990. There may be other solutions for staying warm in the winter.
Replace your dishwasher
On average, ENERGY STAR® certified dishwashers use 15% less water and 5% less energy than standard models on the market. If you’re replacing an older machine, the energy savings are even greater. Features of these dishwashers include advanced soil sensors, better water filtration, and adjustable dish racks. Most dishwasher have a default heated drying phase. Consider turning this off and opening the door to let dishes air dry.
Replace your furnace/boiler with an energy efficient, ENERGY STAR qualifying model
Furnaces and boilers are how most Vermonters heat their homes and businesses. Today’s models are up to 50% more efficient than those built pre-1995 – saving you money and energy. While a new furnace or boiler is a major expense, you’ll recoup the cost over time through lower energy bills. And if you weatherize your home or building, you may be able to buy a smaller, less expensive system.
Replace your washer and dryer
Washers and dryers are two of the highest energy-using appliances. ENERGY STAR® certified models can save money on both electricity and water—over 3,000 gallons per year. There are also many low- and no-cost ways to economize. Use the coldest water setting, run only full loads, and use high-speed spin if you have it. Clean your dryer’s vents twice per year, dry full (but not overfull) loads, and air-dry your clothes when possible. Check out heat pump dryers, the newest drying technology, and get tips on cutting the energy your washer and dryer uses.
Seal ductwork in attic and uninsulated crawlspaces
Seal up and insulate your attic hatch
Attic hatches can be a huge source of heat loss in a home. They are often not air sealed, allowing air to transfer between the conditioned space and the attic. In addition, they are usually constructed from thin wood or drywall, neither of which provides any appreciable resistance to energy loss. Be sure to install at least 6 inches of rigid insulation attached to the hatch and weather stripping.
Seal up the fireplace chimney
A wood-burning fireplace adds beauty and a comfortable atmosphere, but it is not a very efficient way to heat your home, and can actually increase your winter energy bills. If you own a fireplace, close the damper when there isn't a fire. In addition, consider installing flue sealers – which are removable stoppers that prevent air from escaping through the chimney. These inflatable devices – made from heavy-gauge plastic – are inexpensive, and easy to install and remove.
Seal your window AC unit
Knowing how to insulate a window AC unit for the winter is one of best things one can do to keep heating costs under control once the thermometer starts to dip. With window air conditioning units, there are two options when it comes to weatherizing the home: cover and insulate around the unit or remove the unit entirely and seal the window for the winter.
Set the dehumidifier at 60%
Dehumidifiers will use dramatically more electricity if you need them to make a room really dry. Make sure it’s sized appropriate for the room and aim for 60% humidity to save energy. If you need a new dehumidifier, get an ENERGY STAR® option and get a $25 rebate in 2016.
Set up a clothesline or buy a clothes rack
Hanging clothes up to dry saves a good amount of energy over the year and it’s just as good in the winter as in the summer.
Show up on November 12th
Buttoning up isn't just for your home. November 12th is a day to join your neighbors and improve the community. Look for an event near you or host your own. Help your community spend tax money on services (or just need less taxes) instead of air leakages by buttoning up your public buildings. Work with local retailers to promote weathization materials. Help out a neighbor with their checklist. There are tons of ways to button up together.
Find and seal air leaks. This is an easy way to make your home more comfortable and save on heating and cooling costs. By keeping out moisture, you’re also taking a stand against mold. Pick up some cheap materials (caulk, door sweep, weather stripping, window heat-shrink plastic) and start making a difference in just a few minutes. You can also go big with air sealing in your basement and attic, making a significant difference. Consider a Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® project with up to $2000 of incentives available. Watch a video and find a retailer for air sealing equipment.
Stop over-drying clothes
You may not need to dry clothes as long as you do. Experiment to see how short a dryer load can go before everything is dry.
Turn down your thermostat or install a programmable thermostat
For each degree you turn the thermostat down in the winter (around the clock), you save about 2% on your heating bill. Traditional, programmable, and smart thermostats are simple and effective tools to reduce energy use and save money. All thermostats can save energy and money when used or programmed to maximize efficiency. Non-programmable thermostats require in-the-moment action to adjust temperatures. Programmable thermostats adjust your heating and cooling set-points for you (but only if you program them properly). And smart thermostats study your behavior to self-optimize and automate for greater energy savings. They can also be remote-monitored and adjusted via smartphone, allowing for a high degree of user control.
Turn off water heater when traveling
Hitting the road? Remember to turn your water heater down or completely off. No point in heating a big tank of water the entire time you’re gone.
Turn your hot water down to 120 degrees
120° is a high enough temperature to kill bacteria and good enough for a shower.
Undertake comprehensive energy improvements on your home
Vermont is aiming for 80,000 homes to be weatherized by 2050. Be the next one. Based on where you live and the fuel you use to heat your home, different offers may be available. One statewide option is Home Performance with ENERGY STAR®. It’s a comprehensive way to upgrade the comfort, health, and efficiency of your home. A contractor will review your heating and ventilation systems for safety, determine where your home is losing heat, and present a plan to improve the air sealing and insulation. You decide what to move forward with. There are up to $2000 of incentives available for this ($5000 for businesses).
Income-qualified Vermonters can get low-cost or free weatherization services. Check with your local weatherization agency:
- Bennington Rutland Opportunity Council (BROC), (802) 447-7515
- Capstone Community Action, (800) 639-1053
- Champlain Valley Weatherization Services (CVOEO), (800) 545-1084
- Northeast Employment & Training Organization (NETO), (800) 639-3212
- Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA), (800) 464-9951
- Vermont Office of Economic Opportunity (statewide), (802) 241-2453
Unplug electronics when you’re done
Many electronics keep using power when they’re off and that costs you. Unplug them or hook them up to a power strip that allows you to easily shut off a bunch at once by flipping the switch.
Unplug the refrigerator or freezer you’re not really using
Still have that extra fridge or freezer in the basement or garage that has a couple items in it? Try cleaning it out and unplugging it so you don’t have to pay so much each year to keep it running.
Upgrade your refrigerator or freezer
If your fridge was built back in the 90’s, it’s time for an upgrade. A new super efficient model could save you 47% and that adds up for something that’s always on. You can also check to make sure your refrigerator door seals are airtight. Whenever you buy a new fridge, make sure you get an ENERGY STAR® model and a rebate from Efficiency Vermont. Find a retailer.
Use ENERGY STAR® LED bulbs
Use fans for cooling (and heating!)
There aren’t many days in Vermont when we need serious cooling assistance, but when we do, it’s nice to have something that works. Unfortunately, air conditioners use a lot of energy. Try getting portable fans, ceiling fans, or a whole house fan system to keep you cool and save you electricity costs. In the winter, run your ceiling fan in reverse to circulate the hot air from the ceiling back down toward the floor. If you have a cold room, a portable fan or a whole house fan can help bring warm air to it rather than relying on an extra heater.
Use LED holiday lights
All those little pretty light bulbs add up fast. LEDs cut those energy costs by up to 70% and allow for many more strands to plug into the same outlet without overwhelming it.
Use less electricity for your computer
Computers, especially desktops, can draw a lot of electricity. Shut them down when you can, just like you turn off the lights. Use any energy savings features, like putting the display to sleep instead of using a screensaver, or putting the computer to sleep after fifteen minutes of inactivity. If you can choose between using a laptop and a desktop, laptops will save you in energy costs.
Use natural light and spotlight work spaces
If you’re working somewhere that requires a lamp during the day, consider moving your work area near a window so you can get by without lighting. If you still need electric light, consider getting a lamp that can shine light right where you’re working, rather than using the lights for the entire room.
Walk more / bike more
Travel by foot or bike instead of driving saves money and keeps you healthy. Local Motion can help you with ideas to ditch the car and get out more often.
Weather strip your doors
Exterior doors in your home can allow air leaks even when they are closed. Weather stripping your doors is easy and it can keep energy costs down. It'll also help you stay cozy in winter. Seal cracks around your door with weather stripping to weatherize your home and keep out drafts. There is a wide variety of weather stripping to choose from. Also, be sure to install a door sweep at the bottom of the door. Watch a video and find a retailer for air sealing equipment.
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