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Cornell University

What You Can Do At Home To Conserve Energy

Conserving energy doesn't have to stop once you leave campus!


The following list provides practical actions you can take at home to live sustainably:  

Dress for the season

  • Wear slippers at home to avoid walking on cool flooring which will lower your body temperature and prompt you to raise the thermostat. 
  • Wear a sweater or sweatshirt in the house if you feel cool.

Program the thermostat

  • Programmable thermostats are fairly inexpensive and cost effective. Reduce house temperature when you are away from home and at night.

Window Management

  • During the winter, keep south facing windows unshaded. 
  • During the summer days, keep blinds close to reduce heat gain
  • Tighten up your house by ridding it of window leaks and door leaks.

Furnace/Hot Water Management

  • Clean or replace the air filter on your furnace monthly during the winter.
  • Wrap your electric water heater in an insulated blanket designed for water heaters.

Refrigerator/Freezer

  • Set the coldness on the refrigerator for only as cold as you need, check manufacturer's recommendations.
  • Don't overfill the refrigerator - it needs circulation around items to keep them cool. On the other hand, a full freezer works best.
  • Check seals on your refrigerator and your freezer.  If a dollar bill is closed in the door and can fall out, you need to repair/replace your seal.
  • Clean the intake grill every three months.
  • Allow hot foods to cool before putting in the refrigerator.
  • When replacing, look for energy-star qualified refrigerators or freezers.

Stove/Oven

  • Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator.
  • When cooking with pots, put lids on pots - it warms contents faster and keeps the heat
  • Choose the right size pot for the job and match it to the right size burner.
  • For small cooking jobs, use smaller appliances.  For example:  a toaster oven or a microwave.  The microwave uses 75% less energy than a conventional oven.
  • If you use foil in the bottom of the oven, be sure not to cover circulation holes.
  • Do not cover racks with foil.
  • You can turn off the oven just before cooking is done, the remaining heat will finish the cooking process.

Dishwasher

  • Do not pre-wash dishes - scrape and rinse.
  • Check and clean dishwasher drains regularly to ensure efficient operation.
  • Wash only full loads.  A dishwasher used once (full) saves more water and energy than 3-4 hand washings.
  • Air dry your dishes, do not use the hot dry option.

Washer

  • Run full loads only.
  • Wash in cold or warm water.  Hot water sets stains and fades clothing faster.  85-90% of energy usage for washing is from heating water.

Dryer

  • Make sure clothing is sufficiently "spun" before putting in the dryer.
  • Separate drying loads by weight, i.e. heavy, medium and light loads.
  • Dry consecutive loads to use heat from the previous load.
  • Clean the lint filter after each load.
  • Do not add wet clothes to a partially dried load.
  • Use a clothesline whenever possible.

Computers/TV's

  • Use energy efficient computer systems and monitors - enable the computer's energy savings systems.
  • Turn off the computer screen when not in use - that's 60% of the computer's power used.
  • Unplug infrequently used TVs as many continue to draw power even when "off."

Lighting

  • Use bright light only exactly where you need it - this is called "task lighting."
  • Open blinds or shades to brighten a room.
  • For lights that remain "on" such as nightlights, use the lowest wattage bulbs.
  • Decorate your home with lighter colors that reflect light.
  • Dust and clean light fixtures regularly.
  • Use dimmer switches to add interest and lower energy use.
  • Turn off unnecessary lights.
  • Turn off lights whenever you leave a room and don't need them - even for a few minutes.
  • Halogen bulbs are expensive, hazardous (fire) and waste energy - avoid them.  LED’s are big energy savers and fit most any light fixture.

Water

  • If you are used to long showers, make them shorter.
  • Lessen your use of very hot water when it isn't necessary.
  • Reuse water where you can, i.e. in plants, to soak dirty dishes or stained clothing.

Landscaping

  • Plant deciduous trees along the south side of the house for summer coolness.  In winter the branches will allow the sun to filter through and warm that side of the house. 
  • Plant wind breaks if needed to protect the house from wind.