To Reduce the Climate Change Impact of Your House, Follow This Checklist
By Diane MacEachern /

Because climate change is caused by the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted when fossil fuels like coal and oil are burned, saving energy is an important way to slow and even stop the build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere. Most people can save the most energy by reducing the amount of energy they use at home. Part 1 of this checklist identifies the first five of ten steps that will cut home energy use significantly. Part 2 will highlight five additional steps to save energy at home.


Caulk or weatherstrip windows and doors.

Heating accounts for the biggest chunk of most utility bills, so offers the most opportunities for money and energy savings. Caulking or applying weather stripping around leaky doors and windows will reduce heating needs as soon as they're applied. You can find weatherstripping and caulk at most hardware stores or online. Materials for the average twelve-window, two-door house could cost around $25. But savings in annual energy costs might amount to more than 10 percent of a home's yearly heating bill.


Install new, energy-saving windows and doors.

Combination screen and storm windows and doors are the most convenient and energy efficient because they can be opened easily when the weather is pleasant. Installing high efficiency ENERGY STAR windows can reduce heating and cooling costs by 15 percent. Alternatively, cover existing windows with a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet stretched across the frame (again, check the local hardware store for an inexpensive do-it-yourself kit). Standard drapes, or thermal draperies made with a thick, fiber-filled backing to fit snugly against the entire window frame, can also reduce heat loss.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, if every gas-heated home were properly caulked and weather-stripped, we'd save enough natural gas each year to heat almost 4 million more homes.


Install a programmable thermostat.

A programmable thermostat lets homeowners predetermine temperatures for daytime and evening comfort as well as energy savings. Homeowners can save as much as 20 percent on home heating by reducing temperatures by 5 degrees at night and 10 degrees during the day, when most people are out of the house.


Get an energy audit.

Many local utilities provide specially trained auditor's to examine a home and explain what inexpensive and free energy conservations can be taken to save energy and money immediately. An audit will also identify attics, crawl spaces and walls in need of additional insulation.



Reduce home energy needs by as much as 20 to 30 percent and save about four months' worth of household energy by investing in insulation. Target crawl spaces, the attic or top floor ceiling, exterior walls, basement ceilings and walls and rooms over unheated spaces, like garages. An energy audit will identify specific areas where insulation will make the biggest difference in home much energy the home uses.

Using less energy at home is something every homeowner can do to save energy and help reduce climate change. Part 2 of this article highlights five additional energy-saving actions that make a difference.


Part 2

Virtually every homeowner can take simple and affordable steps to use less energy. Part 1 of this series shone the spotlight on tightening up doors, windows, attics and crawlspaces. It explained the importance of getting an audit to show where insulation can make the biggest difference, and highlighted how programmable thermostats can help automate home energy efficiency. Part 2 of this series focuses on the hot water heater, furnace, and appliances.


Set your water heater to 120 degrees.

If you currently heat your water to 140 degrees you might save as much as 10 percent on water-heating costs by dialing the thermostat down a bit. 120 degrees is still plenty hot!


Wrap your water heater in an insulating blanket.

The higher the "R" value (which indicates how much insulation the blanket will provide), the better. You can get a water-heater insulation blanket as a kit at your local hardware store. Choose a blanket that will accommodate the size of your water heater (e.g., 30 gallons, 40 gallons, etc.). Follow the directions on the package to install. If you have a gas water heater, don't wrap the top in insulation because it could catch fire from the heat being exhausted. Electric water heaters have no exhaust, so you can wrap the top as well as the sides. For both gas and electric water heaters, do not cover the control panels, pressure or temperature relief valves, or access panels.


If just one in 10 homes used ENERGY STAR qualified appliances, the environmental benefit would be like planting 1.7 million new acres of trees.


Be smart about hot water.

Most laundry can be washed in cold water and still come clean. That will help. So will installing low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators, tightening up leaky faucets, and washing full loads of laundry and dishes. See: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's WaterSense program provides more information on energy- and water-efficient showerheads and faucets.


Maintain your furnace.

Oil furnaces should be serviced at least once a year to save 10 percent in fuel consumption. Regularly clean or replace the filers in forced-air heating systems. Dust or vacuum radiator surfaces weekly. And if you have a fireplace, keep the damper closed when not in use to avoid losing as much as 8 percent of your home's heated or cooled air.


Choose ENERGY STAR appliances.

When it's time to replace your refrigerator, stove, air conditioner, and home electronics, choose ENERGY STAR models. They'll save you 10-50% on energy, which means you'll save money on your energy bills, too.

Energy-efficient homes can be an important part of the climate change solution, rather than part of the problem. The do-it-yourself actions highlighted in this series make it possible for every homeowner to make a difference.


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To Reduce the Climate Change Impact of Your House, Follow This Checklist