StepstoSaveEnergy0327Little changes add up to big savings when it comes to energy use around the home. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, incandescent light bulbs that stay on in unoccupied rooms use 90 percent of the energy to produce heat and only 10 percent to produce light, meaning you’re running up your cooling bill and your lighting bill by leaving lights on around the house. How else can we cut energy costs and waste around the home?

1. Eliminate Phantom Energy Loads

No, this doesn’t mean exorcise ghosts who turn lights on in the basement. It does mean unplugging unused electrical appliances and cords, which can add an estimated 6 percent to your electric bills each month. This includes unplugging the coffee pot before leaving for work, unplugging the toaster and food processor when not in use, and pulling out your cell phone charger when the phone’s fully charged.

2. Switch to Compact Flourescent Lighting

Most of us are still using old, inefficient incandescent light bulbs. It’s difficult to estimate how much switching to compact flourescent (CFL) saves because it depends on how many lights you have in the home and how your family uses lighting; however, it’s safe to say that these inexpensive bulbs can noticeably cut your energy bills, especially when combined with a “turn it off if you’re not using it” policy.

3. Learn to Use Your Programmable Thermostat

Most modern heating and cooling units have programmable thermostats. If yours doesn’t, consider purchasing one — they are reasonably priced and your landlord might consider deducting the cost from your rent as a valuable property enhancement. According to Energy.gov, these little miracles can save you 5-15 percent on annual heating bills.

4. Use Your Ceiling Fans All Year Long

In summer, set your ceiling fan to rotate counter-clockwise. This provides a cooling breeze which can make the room feel up to 8 degrees cooler. Each degree you raise the thermostat saves 7-10 percent of your cooling costs. When the weather turns cold, set the ceiling fan to run clockwise. This pushes air trapped near the ceiling down into the room, which raises the temperature.

5. Rethink Your Landscaping

Trees and tall shrubs don’t just shield your home from the brutal summer sun. They also hold in warmth during the cold months, and shield it from winds. No funds to buy trees? Check your area for free tree giveaways. According to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, which offers free shade trees to residents of that area, trees can cut energy costs by 40 percent.

6. Consider Energy Star Appliances

If you buy your own appliances, shop Energy Star certified appliances first. All certified appliances meet strict Energy Star guidelines for low energy consumption, low water consumption (when applicable), and low operations costs. If your landlord buys the appliances, explain how Energy Star offers tax credits so he or she will consider the savings.

7. Get an Energy Use Inspection

Most power companies will come to your home and conduct a free energy inspection, even if you rent. They’ll tell you where your money is going and recommend ways to cut your bills and reduce your environmental impact.

Since heating and cooling accounts for 40 percent of most homes’ energy expenses, when looking at ways to save energy in your home, tackle HVAC issues first for the biggest overall savings. What are some of your tricks for going green and saving green? Share your thoughts in the comments below.