The UTC's website has moved! Visit our new site at Please update your bookmarks and favorites.

Consumer > Consumer Publication List >

Simple steps to lower energy bills

How can I lower my energy bills?

Ten Top Energy Saving Tips
    1. Set your home’s thermostat at the coolest level you can without making your rooms uncomfortable. For most homes, the heating bill drops by about 2 percent for every 1 degree the thermostat is lowered.
    2. Lower your home’s thermostat at bedtime or while you’re away during the day. (See Tip #7.) Setting the thermostat to 58 degrees while you’re asleep (you may need an extra blanket!) can cut your natural-gas bill by up to 7 percent.
    3. Seal up leaky drafts around doors and windows with weather-stripping, caulking, and door sweeps. (And don’t forget to keep the damper closed on a fireplace or wood-burning stove when it’s not in use.) Also seal up any leaks or gaps in furnace ducts that extend through unheated basements or crawl spaces.
    4. Have your furnace inspected and tuned up every two to three years (before the heating season starts), and clean or replace the air filters on your furnace every two months during the heating season. Your furnace will run more efficiently and use less energy.
    5. Set your water heater’s thermostat to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Lowering it from a higher setting will save you money and reduce the risk of being scalded.
    6. Take shorter showers, wash clothes in cold water, and don’t over-dry your clothing.
    7. Install a programmable thermostat for home heating. It can save lots of energy while you’re sleeping or away from home – and will re-warm your house shortly before you wake up or return home from work.
    8. Replace traditional, incandescent lighting with Energy Star compact fluorescent bulbs and fixtures (especially in the lights you use most).
    9. Make sure you have adequate insulation in your home’s attic and walls, and around heating ducts that pass through unheated spaces.
    10. Purchase an Energy Star rated high-efficiency furnace, water heater, washer/dryer, and dishwasher when it’s time to replace worn-out models

More Ways to Save Energy
    1. Drapes can add an extra layer of insulation. Blinds also can insulate, but they aren’t as effective. Keep your drapes closed at night and on sunny days, open up the drapes and blinds to let in the sun’s free heat, especially on the south side of your house.
    2. Don’t block registers, baseboards, radiators or cold air returns. Air must circulate through and around them for maximum efficiency.
    3. If you are installing a new system, consider shopping for a heat pump to increase energy efficiency. Look for the Energy Guide label that contains the SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio), which measures efficiency during the cooling season. Also look at the HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) which measures energy-efficiency during the heating season. Look for 7.2 HSPF and 12 SEER or higher.
    4. Install energy-efficient showerheads and faucet aerators. They reduce the amount of water released by up to 50 percent, with almost no noticeable difference in pressure
    5. Fix leaky faucets. A dripping faucet can waste 6 to10 gallons (23-38 liters) of water per day. Repairs can be as simple and inexpensive as replacing a worn-out washer.
    6. Insulate hot and cold water pipes. If pipes are exposed beneath your home or in an unheated garage, insulate them with special pipe-insulating foam. This will help keep cold water pipes from freezing and hot water pipes hot.
    7. Take a shower instead of a bath. The average bath uses twice as much hot water as a five-minute shower.
    8. Turn off faucets immediately after use. Many of us tend to leave the faucet running while we wash dishes or brush our teeth. Turning on the faucet only when necessary can save thousands of gallons of water a year, not to mention the energy needed to heat it.
    9. Keep lights off in unoccupied rooms and get in the habit of turning off the light every time you leave a room for more than a few minutes.
    10. Use low-wattage bulbs wherever possible. Bright lights are often not needed in hallways or closets.
    11. Clean light bulbs and fixtures since dirt can reduce light output by as much as 10 percent.
    12. Remove unnecessary bulbs in track and recessed lighting. Positioned correctly, three bulbs can sometimes provide nearly the same light as four.
    13. Install dimmers in areas where they make sense, such as the dining room and bedroom. The amount you dim equals your energy saved. For example, lights dimmed 15 percent reduces energy consumption up to 15 percent.
    14. When working at a desk or workbench, use task lighting. Other lights in the room could be turned off or dimmed.

Efficient use of refrigerators and freezers
    15. Keep condenser coils clean and unobstructed for maximum energy savings.
    16. Locate your refrigerator or freezer away from heating equipment, heater vents and direct sunlight. Provide adequate clearance above, behind and on the sides for good air circulation.
    17. Set the temperature of your refrigerator between 37 and 40F, and your freezer at 0F for top efficiency. The Food and Drug Administration also recommends these settings to prevent rapid bacterial growth.
    18. Clean door gaskets with warm water or a detergent that leaves no residue since a tight-sealing door gasket is critical to the efficiency of your refrigerator.
    19. Keep your refrigerator or freezer full, but do not overload it. Overloading causes the compressor to have to run longer. Place foods slightly apart on shelves, making sure they do not block the unit’s interior air vents.
    20. Cover all liquids stored in the refrigerator. Moisture can be drawn into the air, making the unit work harder.

Cooking appliance tips
    21. If you have both a large and a small oven, use the smaller one whenever possible.
    22. Save time and energy by using one oven to prepare the entire meal. A pie or cake can go into the oven as a main dish is removed.
    23. Warming foods, plates and platters with the oven’s stored heat after baking requires no extra energy. If the food must be kept warm for an extended period of time, set the oven no higher than 140 to 200F.
    24. Consider using a microwave oven, small portable electric frying pan, grill, or toaster/broiler instead of the oven.
    25. Cook by time and temperature. Precise timing eliminates repeated opening of the oven door to check on cooking progress. Each time the door is opened, the temperature drops 25 to 50F.
    26. Choose pots and pans that evenly cover the heating elements. Use pans with flat bottoms, straight sides and tight-fitting lids that hold heat and permit lower settings.
    27. Use a slow cooker or crock pot to cook stews and other single-dish meals.
    28. Use only enough water to produce steam and prevent sticking when cooking fresh or frozen vegetables.
    29. Food cooks more quickly and efficiently in ovens when air can circulate freely. Don’t lay foils on racks. If possible, stagger pans on upper and lower racks to improve air flow.
    30. Use glass or ceramic pans in ovens. You can turn down the temperature about 25 degrees and cook foods just as quickly.
    31. Do not open the oven door to preview the food. Each time you open the door, the oven temperature drops by 25 - 50 degrees. Watch the clock or use a timer instead.

Wash dishes wisely
    32. Washing and rinsing dishes by hand three times a day actually uses more hot water and energy than one load a day in an automatic dishwasher.
    33. Run your dishwasher only when it is filled to capacity, but not overloaded. This will cut the costs of energy, water and detergent.
    34. Use partial-load cycles, rinse-only cycles, mid-cycle turn-offs and other special features designed for better energy use and more convenience.
    35. Always choose the shortest washing cycle that will clean your dishes, and scrape off accumulated food before loading dishes into the dishwasher.
    36. Wait to use your dishwasher until night on hot days. You will avoid adding heat in the house during the hottest time of the day.

Select an appropriate winter vacation temperature setting:
    37. When leaving your home unoccupied during periods of both mild and severe winter temperatures, finding the right temperature setting can be a challenge. It requires balancing the need to minimize the amount of heat added to the home (to save money), while providing freeze protection for pipes and plumbing fixtures, and moisture protection for belongings and furnishings. Every unoccupied home presents a different set of heating needs. A good option is to ask a neighbor or relative to check the home regularly, and increase thermostat settings when the weather becomes much colder. Or, you may wish to investigate new technology now available with some home security systems: Remote temperature control modules that enable you to increase or decrease the home temperature over the telephone. Electronic freeze alarms that dial a phone alert to another location when temperatures in an unoccupied home drop to a dangerous level, are also available.

Create a “Warm Room”
    38. If your home is large you may be able to lower heating bills by heating just the portion of the house that you spend time in. During severe cold weather, creating a “warm room” may keep you and other household members comfortable until outdoor temperatures rise. If there is no door to separate the room from the unused colder spaces, it is possible to create a “warm room” using curtains or blankets. Use an existing baseboard, wall heater or radiant heat in just your “warm room”. If your home has a central heating system, use a portable electric heater for your “warm room” rather than operating the furnace. heating systems. If you have an electric furnace, close doors to only a few rooms and do not close more than 1/4 of the home’s heating registers.
Pay attention to moisture levels:
    39. Some homes have high indoor humidity levels due to poor ventilation, concrete slab floors, inadequate vapor barriers installed in crawl spaces, or very damp and shady locations. During winter, excess humidity may contribute to mold and mildew growth in rooms receiving little heat. On dry, sunny days, turn off the heat and open windows to dry problem rooms. If this doesn’t work, heat the problem rooms just enough to discourage mold and mildew growth.
Inspect the ductwork of central heating systems.
    40. Gas and electric furnaces and heat pumps normally distribute heated air through a duct system to each room of the home. If your ductwork goes through an unheated basement, attic or crawl space, check for leaky joints or disconnected sections. Seal leaky joints with latex duct mastic or foil-backed butyl tape. Reconnect loose duct sections, seal and support. Durable duct sealing products are available from heating equipment suppliers.
Ensure heat pump air flow and maintenance.
    41. Heat pump performance and service life are adversely impacted by restricted air flow. This can be caused by an air filter becoming blocked with household dust and lint, or when heating registers and doors to rooms are closed, or the outside unit has the air flow blocked by leaves and yard debris, plants, or a structure such as a deck. Better-quality heat pump thermostats have an “auxiliary” or “emergency” heat indicator light. This light indicates the operation of electric heat which is approximately twice the cost of heat produced by the heat pump. If this light remains on for an extended period of time when outdoor temperatures are above 35 degrees F, your heat pump may need service.
Reducing leaks around windows, doors and chimneys:
    42. Repair broken windows. On little-used, movable windows and sliding doors, use non-hardening “rope caulk” to temporarily seal gaps. If windows are single-paned, for a low-cost, temporary fix, consider installing inexpensive “tape up” interior storm windows. (This will seal air leaks and can reduce window heat loss by as much as 50 percent.) Use inexpensive weather stripping and door sweeps to reduce air leaks around entry doors. For a no-cost fix, roll up a bath towel and hold it against the bottom of the door with a weight. Weather strip or temporarily seal access doors between heated rooms and large, unheated spaces.
    43. Keep the fireplace damper closed when the fireplace is not in use, or add tight-fitting glass doors or a metal cover to seal the fireplace opening. If the fireplace is metal, consult the manufacturer for an approved (safe) glass door installation. (An open fireplace damper can add as much as 10 percent to your annual heating costs.)
Reducing leaks from ceilings, floors or walls:
    44. Fill or patch holes in ceilings that allow warm air to leak into an unheated attic. Weather strip or temporarily seal access doors or hatches to unheated upper floors or attics. Fill, patch or caulk holes in floors that connect to unheated basements or crawl spaces. Often, large holes can be found in closets. Do not seal around surfaces that get hot, such as chimneys or vent pipes. Fill, patch or caulk holes in walls. Check under sinks and around plumbing pipes for gaps.
Improving insulation:
    45. Consider adding insulation when embarking on home remodeling projects. Insulate heating ducts passing through unheated spaces. Insulate an uninsulated ceiling or add insulation to an under-insulated ceiling. Insulate exterior walls if they don’t presently have insulation. Insulate if you have an uninsulated floor over an unheated crawl space Insulation levels in walls, ceilings and floors of your home play a major role in determining annual heating costs and comfort. The amount of insulation in ceilings, walls and floors is often determined by the building or energy code requirements mandated at the time your home was built. Unless insulation has been added at a later date, many older homes are under insulated.
Efficient lighting:
    46. Reduce the wattage of incandescent light bulbs that are used the most. Replace incandescent lighting with compact fluorescent bulbs and fixtures (particularly lights that are used the most). Use timers, photo cells and motion sensors to reduce the operating hours of interior or exterior lights left on for security purposes.
Using appliances efficiently:
    47. Avoid under-loading or overloading dishwashers or washing machines. Wash and rinse clothes in the coolest water setting that gives you good results. Avoid over-drying laundry. If your dryer has a moisture sensor or auto shut-off feature, use it. Clean the lint filter in your dryer every time you use it. A clogged lint filter increases drying time.
    48. If you have an older refrigerator or freezer, listen to see if the motor/compressor runs constantly. If so, you may need repair service to check for low refrigerant. Another cause may be a leaky door gasket.
    49. If you have a waterbed, set the heater at the lowest comfortable temperature. Place an insulation board under the heated waterbed. Keep the waterbed covered with a comforter.
    50. Never use an oven or range burners to heat a kitchen. Use a portable heater instead.
    51. Use a microwave oven, rather than your stove, to heat food whenever possible.
    52. If your home has a well pump, be sure it operates only when water pumping is required. A partially plugged pump inlet or faulty control switch may increase operating costs.
    53. An older hot tub or spa, that is poorly insulated, may be costly to operate. Evaluate the costs versus the benefits of continuing to use it.
What to look for when purchasing a heating system, hot water tank or other appliance:
    54. When purchasing any new appliance, especially for substantial energy users such as refrigerators, freezers or water heaters, be sure to select the most energy efficient model possible. Compare the yellow Energy Guide stickers on different models. A $25 difference in annual energy costs between models becomes a significant energy savings over the 10 to 15 year life span of the appliance.
    55. Put in a ceiling fan with an option to reverse the air flow. Most models will allow you to set the direction the motor turns so you can blow the warm air back down into the living space.

Budget Billing Plans

What is budget billing? Budget billing is a system where you pay the same amount each month throughout the year. Your monthly payment is figured on your 12 month average.

What is the advantage of budget billing? Budget billing allows you to know how much your energy bill will be each month. Instead of paying high bills in the winter and low bills in the summer, you pay the same amount all year round. By paying a little more in the summer months, you avoid high winter bills.

How is the budget bill amount calculated? Your energy company estimates your monthly budget payment based on your previous year’s total usage. You are then billed each month for one-twelfth of that amount.

How often is the bill calculated? Your budget payment is reviewed every 3-6 months. Adjustments are made automatically every four months to reflect any variations from previous use. At the end of the 12 month budget period, a true up is done to ensure that you pay only for the energy used.

How do I sign up for budget billing? Budget billing is available for both electric and natural gas services. Contact your energy provider for information on their particular budget plan.

Other Resources to help you conserve energy

Where to go:


Access Washington Logo
360-664-1160 | PO Box 47250, Olympia, WA 98504-7250