You have no doubt seen the Energy Star symbol on appliances, and you probably even have some of those appliances installed in your home. But did you know that Energy Star certified products have saved more than $450 billion in energy costs (and over 3.5 trillion kWh of electricity) since the program was launched in 1992?

Americans have been serious about combating energy waste in the past few decades, but many of us still face surprisingly high electricity bills each month. Why? Those snazzy, savvy new appliances are all well and good, but it turns out that when it comes to wasting energy, the devil is definitely in the details. 

For 10 signs your household isn’t as energy efficient as it could be, read on!

1. Your Filters Are Filthy

Clogged, dirty filters are the number one cause of HVAC system failures. They restrict the flow of air, thereby putting a strain on the entire system. 

While you’re checking the furnace and air conditioner filters, make sure to dust or vacuum the vents, returns, registers, ducts, and coils on those appliances to keep everything in tip-top shape for maximum efficiency.

2. Your Insulation Is Insufficient

Speaking of efficiency, how does your insulation rate? Go up to your attic and check; if you can see the joists, you don’t have enough insulation. According to Energy Star, the attic should have 10 to 14 inches’ worth.

Remember that heat rises, and if the top of your home isn’t properly insulated, that heat is going to head right out into the atmosphere instead of staying where it belongs, between your four walls.

3. Your Foundation Is Failing

As above, so below. Cracks, gaps, or other signs of wear-and-tear on the bottom of your house can also be culprits if your energy bills seem higher than they should be

Do an annual inspection of your home’s foundation, repair any cracks you find, and use either caulk or spray foam insulation to seal gaps around vents or ductwork.

4. Your Windows Aren’t Weather Proof

Replacing your windows, if they are old, cracked, or ill-fitting, is another good step to take toward energy savings. Seal up any cracks or gaps with weatherstripping or caulk.

Don’t forget about window treatments, which can be used strategically to keep your home’s temperature more pleasant and improve your energy expenditure.

5. Your Doors Are Drafty

If your windows are letting heat or AC out, there’s a good chance your door does too. Don’t have a storm door? Invest in one ASAP to help keep the winter winds and the summer sun at bay.

6. Your Light Bulbs Are Lacking

It may seem like quibbling to look to your light bulbs for cost- and energy savings, but this small act can actually make a huge difference. We’re talking “70% to 90% more energy efficiency” difference here.

Use LED light bulbs and Energy Star-qualified fixtures. They last longer than incandescents and use much, much less power.

7. Your Appliances Are Ancient

We talked about Energy Star rated refrigerators, washers and dryers, and other appliances earlier, but this advice bears repeating. You may think your old dishwasher is working just fine, but it’s probably gobbling energy nonetheless.

Even if you don’t think that a new appliance is in the budget, remember that you could recoup the cost of a new whatever-needs-replacing within just a few months by choosing wisely.

8. Your Temperature Is Too High (or Too Low)

“Put on a sweater if you’re cold” is probably right up there with “Eat your vegetables” when it comes to thing your parents used to say that annoyed you. (And maybe also things you now say that annoy your own children.)

But turning down the thermostat a few degrees, and bundling up with some extra warm clothes, is really some of the best advice that Dear Old Dad could have given you.

Keeping your home’s temperature higher or lower than it really needs to be is going to add up over time. 

9. Your Thermostat Isn’t Timed

This tip is even more of a no-brainer. Are you air conditioning every room in the house even when no one is home? Or heating it at night, despite the fact that everyone’s snuggled up under cozy, warm covers?

Invest in a programmable thermostat. They’re not expensive, and they will save you a bundle in heating and cooling costs by putting your temp on a timer.

10. Your Devices Are Draining

Want to know how to green your home? You could look it up on your smartphone or laptop. You could also make sure those devices haven’t turned into vampires.

Nah, we’re not feeling nostalgic for #TeamEdward. We’re talking about energy vampires, which suck electricity, rather than blood — even when they’re not being used or even turned on!

Small appliances like your microwave, television, game systems, and printer, as well as electronics like your cell phone and tablet, can slurp up electricity if they are plugged in. That’s true even when they are inactive and fully charged.

To slay these vampires, plug them into a smart power strip, which senses when electronics are idle and shuts off in response. Or do it the old-fashioned way, and go around unplugging everything when it isn’t in use.

Wasting Energy: Wrapping Up

Once you start finding ways to save energy, you will be inspired to keep up the good work. And after a few months of actively changing your habits from those that continue wasting energy to those that are much more efficient, you are sure to see the difference in your monthly bills!

Ready to save even more money — and make your life even greener? Check out these creative ways to turn would-be trash into treasure with upcycling projects to tackle this weekend!

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