How Much Can You REALLY Save with Energy Efficient Improvements?

How Much Can You REALLY Save with Energy Efficient Improvements?

By Allison Casey, U.S. Department of Energy National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Colorful leaves, cooler weather, cozy sweaters, pumpkin spice everywhere—it’s definitely fall! While you’re snuggling in and sipping a warm drink, we hope you’ll join us this October and take action to save energy—and money—at home.

October is Energy Action Month, so it’s the perfect time to get serious about energy savings. Not only is the weather perfect for taking on home improvement projects, but the timing is just right given that colder weather is coming soon. Taking steps now will mean greater comfort and savings by the time pumpkin spice gives way to peppermint.

To get you started, we’ve put together a list of specific actions you can take to save energy and water in your home, along with the potential annual savings for all of them. Be sure to check out the ideas below the table as well to really maximize your savings.

Install exterior low-e storm windows 12%-33% annually on heating and cooling bills $100-$274
Seal uncontrolled air leaks 10%-20% on annual heating and cooling bills $83-$166
Plant shade trees 15%-50% of annual air conditioning costs $35-$119
Use a power strip for electronic equipment and turn it off when not in use Up to 12% of electric bill per year $100
Replace an older toilet that uses 6 gallons per flush with a WaterSense model $100
Turn back your thermostat 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day Up to 10% annually on heating and cooling bills $83
Weatherstrip double-hung windows 5%-10% annually on heating and cooling bills $42-$83
Replace your home’s five most frequently used light fixtures or bulbs with models that have earned the ENERGY STAR 9% on electricity bill annually $75
Lower water heating temperature Save 4%-22% annually on your water heating bill $12-$60
Insulate water heater tank Save 7%-16% annually on water heating bill $20-$45
Fix leaky faucets; one drip per second wastes 1,661 gallons of water $35
Use sleep mode and power-management featureson your computer Up to 4% of annual electric bill $30
Insulate hot water pipes Save 3%-4% annually on water heating bill $8-$12

*Average annual energy expenditures per household in the U.S. are as follows: space heating: $593; water heating: $280; air conditioning: $237; refrigerators: $153; other (lighting and electricity): $827
**All actual savings will vary depending on home, climate, products, and use.

The above list is just a sampling of the potential savings you could see by making smart energy choices in your home. Not all of these improvements will be possible for everyone, and savings will vary.

If you want to understand how to get the biggest bang for your buck, we recommend a professional home energy audit, which can help you pinpoint areas where your home is losing energy and which improvements will save you the most money. Making upgrades recommended in a home energy audit—and many of the items above would likely be included in your recommendations—could save you 5%-30% on your annual utility bills (an average of $105-$627, depending on home, climate, products and use).

Furthermore, actions like proper heating and cooling equipment maintenance; turning off lightsreducing electricity use throughout your home; reducing hot water use; ensuring your home is adequately insulated; and smart use of home design elements, such as landscaping and window coverings will save you even more.

Wondering how much you could save each year with a more efficient appliance? Check out the ENERGY STAR website, which showcases products that exceed the federal minimum standards for efficiency. You can also take a look at our appliance energy use calculator to compare your current product with a more efficient one.

Also be sure to check if you are eligible for federal tax credits for energy efficiency or renewable energy. Some expire at the end of 2016, so plan your improvements now!

Finally, check out our fall and winter energy-saving tips for other ways to stay warm, save energy, and save money as the weather cools down. Happy Energy Action Month, and happy saving!

Allison Casey works with DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory to manage the Energy Saver website. She holds an Ed.M. in Technology, Innovation, and Education from Harvard University and a B.S. in Scientific and Technical Communication from the University of Minnesota.

This originally appeared on


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