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• When possible, wash your laundry in cold water. In top-load models, about 90    percent of the cost per load is to heat the water.

• To reduce unwanted heat and humidity in your home, do laundry after 7:00 p.m.    You can also dry clothes outside on a line to save energyand avoid the heat a    dryer generates.

• During cold weather months, set your thermostat to 68° and lower when it makes    sense. Your heating system will operate less and use less energy. To save even    more on energy costs, turn your thermostat down another 5° at night or when    leaving home for an hour or more.

• Let natural sunlight into your home by opening window coverings on south-facing    windows to warm your home. Keep window coverings closed in rooms that    receive no direct sunlight to insulate from cold window drafts. At night, close    window coverings to retain heat.

• Set the temperature on your hot water tank to 120 degrees. Extremely hot water    can lead to higher energy costs even scalding accidents.

• Keep showers short and use a low-flow showerheads. A shower takes less hot    water than a bath, but only if it is short in duration.

• Install Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs. Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs)    last 10x longer than a standard bulb and use at least two-thirds less energy.

• Install Energy Star Appliances. In 2006, the ENERGY STAR program saved    energy equivalent to taking 25 million cars off the road and saved Americans    $14 billion in utility costs. If you aren't in the market for new appliances, learn    how to save money with the ones you already own.

How Energy Star Works

In an effort to promote energy conservation, the Environmental Protection Agency started the Energy Star program in 1992. What began as a way to cut down on the energy drain from computers now covers more than 50 product categories. The program has evolved, of course, but the purpose remains the same: to conserve energy through innovations in technology. Energy Star was designed as a voluntary program to promote energy-saving innovations by providing consumers with objective information about products -- not everyone has the time or resources to investigate how much energy one ceiling fan or dishwasher saves over another. The Energy Star label indicates that the product uses less energy than other products in that category -- you're probably familiar with it on appliances or heating and cooling equipment, but you can also find the label on roofing materials, commercial products and indoor air quality products. The EPA has also extended the Energy Star label to cover new homes, commercial buildings and industrial structures.

According to the Department of Energy, "Last year alone, Americans, with the help of Energy Star, saved enough energy to power 10 million homes and avoid greenhouse gas emissions from 12 million cars -- all while saving $6 billion."

The price of converting to Energy Star products can be high at the outset. To make a refrigerator more energy-efficient, for instance, manufacturers must spend money to research and develop energy innovations. While Energy Star encourages manufacturers to find cheaper ways to produce these products, the cost of innovation is often passed along to the buyer. But you can recoup the cost over time with lower utility bills, and the federal government and some local governments also offer rebates and tax breaks to encourage consumers to convert to Energy Star.
Energy Star requirements

So what does a product need to do to get the Energy Star label? It begins with the Department of Energy "Energy Guide" label, the familiar yellow tag that stores require on all major home appliances. This label indicates the results of testing according to the Department of Energy's standard procedures. The label lists how much energy the appliance uses, compared with similar products, and the approximate annual operating costs. (Estimated yearly operating costs are based on the national average cost of electricity.)

If the product has met the specific criteria for its particular category -- typically a percent reduction in energy consumption versus other products in the same category -- the yellow tag will have an Energy Star label on it.

Specific categories include:

  • Appliances: clothes washers, dishwashers, refrigerators and room air conditioners
  • Heating and cooling: central air conditioners, furnaces and programmable thermostats
  • Home envelope: windows, roofing materials and insulation
  • Home electronics: televisions, VCRs, DVD players and home audio systems
  • Office equipment: computers, monitors, photocopiers, notebook computers and printers
  • Lighting: fixtures and bulbs
  • Commercial products: exit signs, vending machines and water coolers (see sidebar)
To find out the specifics on an individual product's Energy Star rating, click on this link.
Energy Efficiency Programs and Rebates

Click here to find out what programs, rebates and other incentives your service area provides.