How to save energy

Find Energy Star products for your home - Choosing energy-efficient products can save families about 30 percent ($400 a year) while reducing our emissions of greenhouse gases. Whether you are looking to replace old appliances, remodel, or buy a new house, you can help. ENERGY STAR is the government's backed symbol for energy efficiency. The Energy Star label makes it easy to know which products to buy without sacrificing features, style or comfort that today's consumers expect. More steps you can take:

  • Turn off appliances and lights when you leave the room.

  • Use the microwave to cook small meals. (It uses less power than an oven.)

  • Purchase "green power" for your home's electricity. (Contact your power supplier to see where and if it is available.)

  • Have leaky air conditioning and refrigeration systems repaired.

  • Cut back on air conditioning and heating use if you can.

  • Insulate your home, water heater and pipes.

Reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions

Addressing air pollution in your home - The choices you make at home affect the amount of pollution outside your home as well as inside. Learn what you can do to pollute less and all the while save some money.

How you address air pollution in your home can have a big effect on the environment and on you and your family's health. The choices you make at home affect the amount of pollution outside your home as well as inside. Here is what you should do to pollute less and all the while save some money.

  • Use compact florescent lights with energy-efficiency lighting and other energy-efficient appliances. To learn more about energy-efficient appliances visit the Energy Star web site.

  • Turn off appliances and lights when you leave the room.

  • Use the microwave to cook small meals. (It uses less power than an oven.)

  • Plant deciduous trees in locations around your home to provide shade in the summer, but to allow light in the winter.

  • Recycle paper, plastic, glass bottles, cardboard and aluminum cans. (This conserves energy and reduces production emissions.)

  • Reuse materials like paper bags and boxes when you can.

  • Properly dispose of household paints, solvents and pesticides. Store these materials in airtight containers. For information on handling solid waste visit the Office of Solid Waste Concerned Citizens webpage at http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/osw/citizens.htm For questions about solid waste management call 1-800-424-9346.

  • Paint with a brush, not a sprayer.

  • Keep woodstoves and fireplaces well maintained.

  • Purchase "Green Power" for you home's electricity. (Contact your power supplier to see where and if it is available.)

  • Have leaky air conditioning and refrigeration systems repaired.

  • Cut back on air conditioning and heating use if you can.

  • Turn thermostat down in the winter and up in the summer.

  • Insulate your home, water heater and pipes.

  • Have air conditioning systems checked in the Spring and heating systems checked in the Fall.

  • Follow professional advise on how to check filters monthly. These tips can save money from more serious repairs down the road as well as insure cleaner air.

Make small changes

Making a few small changes in your home and yard can lead to big reductions of greenhouse gas emissions and save money. Explore our list of nine simple steps you can take around the house and yard to reduce greenhouse gas emissions:

  1. Change 5 lights
    Change a light, and you help change the world. Replace the conventional bulbs in your 5 most frequently used light fixtures with bulbs that have the ENERGY STAR and you will help the environment while saving money on energy bills. If every household in the U.S. took this one simple action we would prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions from nearly 10 million cars.
  2. Look for Energy Star-qualified products
    When buying new products, such as appliances for your home, get the features and performance you want AND help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. Look for ENERGY STAR qualified products in more than 50 product categories, including lighting, home electronics, heating and cooling equipment and appliances.
  3. Heat and cool smartly
    Simple steps like cleaning air filters regularly and having your heating and cooling equipment tuned annually by a licensed contractor can save energy and increase comfort at home, and at the same time reduce greenhouse gas emissions. When it's time to replace your old equipment, choose a high efficiency model, and make sure it is properly sized and installed.
  4. Seal and insulate your home
    Sealing air leaks and adding more insulation to your home is a great do-it-yourself project. The biggest leaks are usually found in the attic and basement.  If you are planning to replace windows, choose Energy Star-qualified windows for better performance.  Forced air ducts that run through unconditioned spaces are often big energy wasters.  Seal and insulate any ducts in attics and crawlspaces to improve the efficiency of your home.  Not sure where to begin? A home energy auditor can also help you find air leaks, areas with poor insulation, and evaluate the over-all energy efficiency of your home. By taking these steps, you can eliminate drafts, keep your home more comfortable year round, save energy that would otherwise be wasted, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  5. Use green power
    Green power is environmentally friendly electricity that is generated from renewable energy sources such as wind and the sun. There are two ways to use green power: you can buy green power or you can modify your house to generate your own green power. Buying green power is easy, it offers a number of environmental and economic benefits over conventional electricity, including lower greenhouse gas emissions, and it helps increase clean energy supply. If you are interested, there are a number of steps you can take to create a greener home, including installing solar panels and researching incentives for renewable energy in your state.
  6. Reduce, reuse, and recycle
    If there is a recycling program in your community, recycle your newspapers, beverage containers, paper and other goods. Use products in containers that can be recycled and items that can be repaired or reused. In addition, support recycling markets by buying products made from recycled materials. Reducing, reusing, and recycling in your home helps conserve energy and reduces pollution and greenhouse gases from resource extraction, manufacturing, and disposal.
  7. Be green in your yard
    Use a push mower, which, unlike a gas or electric mower, consumes no fossil fuels and emits no greenhouse gases. If you do use a power mower, make sure it is a mulching mower to reduce grass clippings (PDF, 8 pp., 1.59 MB, About PDF). Composting your food and yard waste reduces the amount of garbage that you send to landfills and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. See EPA’s GreenScapes program for tips on how to improve your lawn or garden while also benefiting the environment. Smart Landscaping can save energy, save you money and reduce your household’s greenhouse gas emissions.
  8. Use water efficiently
    Saving water around the home is simple. Municipal water systems require a lot of energy to purify and distribute water to households, and saving water, especially hot water, can lower greenhouse gas emissions. Look for products with EPA's WaterSense label; these products save water and perform as well or better than their less efficient counterparts.  There are also simple actions you can take to save water:  Be smart when irrigating your lawn or landscape; only water when needed and do it during the coolest  part of the day, early morning is best.  Turn the water off while shaving or brushing teeth. Do not use your toilet as a waste basket - water is wasted with each flush. And did you know a leaky toilet can waste 200 gallons of water per day? Repair all toilet and faucet leaks right away. See EPA's WaterSense site for more water saving tips.
  9. Spread the word
    Tell family and friends that energy efficiency is good for their homes and good for the environment because it lowers greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. Tell 5 people and together we can help our homes help us all.
Conserve and recycle

Choose water-efficient products and test your WaterSense - A family of four uses 400 gallons of water every day. EPA's WaterSense program helps conserve water for future generations by providing information on products and programs that save water without sacrificing performance.

More steps you can take:

  • Don't let the water run while shaving or brushing teeth.

  • Take short showers instead of tub baths.

  • Keep drinking water in the refrigerator instead of letting the faucet run until the water is cool.

  • Scrape, rather than rinse, dishes before loading into the dishwasher; wash only full loads.

  • Wash only full loads of laundry or use the appropriate water level or load size selection on the washing machine.

  • Buy high-efficient plumbing fixtures & appliances.

  • Repair all leaks (a leaky toilet can waste 200 gallons a day).

  • Water the lawn or garden during the coolest part of the day (early morning is best).

  • Water plants differently according to what they need. Check with your local extension service or nurseries for advice.

  • Set sprinklers to water the lawn or garden only – not the street or sidewalk.

  • Use soaker hoses or trickle irrigation systems for trees and shrubs.

  • Keep your yard healthy - dethatch, use mulch, etc.

  • Sweep outside instead of using a hose.

  • Landscape using "rain garden" techniques to save water and reduce stormwater runoff.
    Video: "Reduce Runoff: Slow It Down, Spread It Out, Soak It In"

Reduce, reuse and recycle materials

Practice the three R's: first reduce how much you use, then reuse what you can, and then recycle the rest. Then, dispose of what's left in the most environmentally friendly way. Read the tips below and explore the Consumer's Handbook for Reducing Solid Waste.

Reduce:

  • Buy permanent items instead of disposables.

  • Buy and use only what you need.

  • Buy products with less packaging.

  • Buy products that use less toxic chemicals.

Reuse:
  • Repair items as much as possible.

  • Use durable coffee mugs.

  • Use cloth napkins or towels.

  • Clean out juice bottles and use them for water.

  • Use empty jars to hold leftover food.

  • Reuse boxes.

  • Purchase refillable pens and pencils.

  • Participate in a paint collection and reuse program.

  • Donate extras to people you know or to charity instead of throwing them away.

Recycle:
Creating a strong market for recycled products is key to completing the recycling process or "closing the loop." Consumers close the loop when they purchase products made from recycled materials. Governments can promote buying recycled products through their own purchasing programs and guidelines. Manufacturers can participate as well by using recycled materials in their products.

Identifying recycled-content products

Product labels can be confusing to consumers interested in buying recycled because of the different recycling terminology used. The following definitions might help clarify any uncertainty regarding manufacturers' claims. For more detailed guidance, view a summary of the Federal Trade Commission's brochure Sorting Out Green Advertising Claims or their Official Guidance for the use of environmental marketing claims.

  • Recycled-content products are made from materials that would otherwise have been discarded. Items in this category are made totally or partially from material destined for disposal or recovered from industrial activities-like aluminum soda cans or newspaper. Recycled-content products also can be items that are rebuilt or remanufactured from used products such as toner cartridges or computers.
  • Post-consumer content refers to material from products that were used by consumers or businesses and would otherwise be discarded as waste. If a product is labeled "recycled content," the rest of the product material might have come from excess or damaged items generated during normal manufacturing processes-not collected through a local recycling program.
  • Recyclable products can be collected and remanufactured into new products after they've been used. These products do not necessarily contain recycled materials and only benefit the environment if people recycle them after use. Check with your local recycling program to determine which items are recyclable in your community.
There are more than 4,500 recycled-content products available, and this number continues to grow. In fact, many of the products we regularly purchase contain recycled-content. The following list presents just a sampling of products that can be made with recycled content:
  • Aluminum cans

  • Car bumpers

  • Carpeting

  • Cereal boxes

  • Comic books

  • Egg cartons

  • Glass containers

  • Laundry detergent bottles

  • Motor oil

  • Nails

  • Newspapers

  • Paper towels

  • Steel products

  • Trash bags

Learn more:

Reducing and recycling wastes, including syringes and other medical wastes, and used oil.

Recycling and disposing of hazardous materials properly - Find out how to recycle compact fluorescent bulbs, pesticides, and other common household wastes that contain hazardous materials.

Ensuring safe drinking water

Actions You Can Take to Reduce Lead In Drinking Water - This publication offers information and solutions to many common questions surrounding lead in your drinking water.

Cleaner water through conservation - Explains the relationship between the quantity of water and its quality and discusses how developing water-use efficiency programs can help states and local communities achieve cleaner water through conserving water.

Drinking water - The home page for the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water.

Drinking Water and Health: What you need to know - This EPA publication (EPA 816-K-99-001) answers many basic questions about drinking water systems.

Drinking Water Contaminants - EPA sets standards for approximately 90 contaminants in drinking water. This Web site contains more detailed information on specific contaminants.

Local drinking water information - This page gives consumers an easy way to find information about their drinking water supplier, their sources of drinking water, and what their state drinking water program is doing.

Private drinking water wells - Learn how to test and protect your private well water.

Water on Tap - How safe is my drinking water? Where does my drinking water come from, and how does it get to my home? What can I do to help protect my drinking water? This publication examines these questions and offers information on protecting your drinking water.

Improving indoor air quality

Asbestos in your home - This online pamphlet will help you understand asbestos: what it is, its health effects, where it is in your home, and what to do about it.

Indoor air quality in homes - While pollutant levels from individual sources may not pose a significant health risk by themselves, most homes have more than one source that contributes to indoor air pollution. There can be a serious risk from the cumulative effects of these sources. Find out about how to protect you and your family.

Flood Cleanup: Avoiding Indoor Air Quality Problems (PDF) - (15 pp, 1.6MB, About PDF) This fact sheet discusses problems caused by microbial growth, as well as other potential effects of flooding, on long-term indoor air quality and the steps you can take to lessen these effects.

Reduce risks of radon : Test and fix your home - You can't see radon. And you can't smell it or taste it. But it may be a problem in your home. Testing is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk from radon. Get information to reduce radon levels in your home.

Secondhand smoke - This site discusses the health risks to children and adults from secondhand smoke with particular regard to immediate health effects with links to publications.

Protect your family and yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning - Knowing the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and immediate first aid techniques provided in this document can save your life or the lives of your family.

Using toxic substances and pesticides safely

What is a pesticide? - This document explains what is and what is not a pesticide.

What are biopesticides? - Different from conventional pesticides, biopesticides are a group of pesticides that are sometimes controversial and make their way into the media. This web page helps to educate the public on this class of pesticides.

National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) - This site provides a wide variety of pesticide-related information as well as a toll-free number for further information.

Ten Tips to Protect Children from Pesticide and Lead Poisonings around the Home - These simple steps can help you save children from environmental hazards around the home.
* Spanish Version

Protecting pets - Learn how to protect your pets from pests and potential pesticide risks by following product label directions and understanding the precautions.

Controlling Pests - Learn how to reduce the need for pesticides and how to use pesticides safely

Disposing of toxics and pesticides - Common household items such as paints, cleaners, oils, batteries, and pesticides contain hazardous components. Although we cannot completely stop using hazardous products, we can make sure that leftovers are managed properly. The best way to handle household hazardous waste is to give leftovers to someone else to use.

Many communities have set up collection programs to keep hazardous products out of landfills and combustors. More than 3,000 household hazardous waste (HHW) collection programs exist in the United States. Find out more about HHW.

Reducing your exposure to harmful substances

Air quality - Explore EPA's AirCompare site. Discover how the air quality in your city compares with other cities, what time of year has the best air quality, and whether air quality in your area is improving or getting worse.

Asbestos - Wondering whether your home might contain asbestos? or what to do if you know materials in your home contain asbestos?

Lead and indoor air quality - Humans are exposed to lead in many ways; through air, drinking water, food, contaminated soil, deteriorating paint, and dust. This publication explains the dangers from lead, suggesting ways to reduce your exposure. Learn more about lead

Mercury - Mercury is contained in some of the fish we eat, whether caught in local lakes and streams or bought in a grocery store. Mercury is also contained in some of the products we use, which may be found in your home, at the dentist, and at schools.

Mold - Learn how to control moisture and mold in your home, and how to cleanup moldy areas.

Pesticides - Find out how to use pesticides safely in your home.

Radon - Radon is a cancer-causing natural radioactive gas that you can’t see, smell or taste. Its presence in your home can pose a danger to your family's health. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, and is the second leading cause of lung cancer in America.

Sun Safety: Learn about the UV Index - Do you know that a few simple precautions can help protect you and your children from skin cancer and serious eye injury?

Pollution prevention

Household waste management - This program can be used online to find reliable information about reducing the waste consumers generate and dealing with hazardous wastes in the home.

Recycling - This document provides an overview of recycling including what is in our trash and steps you can take to recycle at home.

Recycling Hotline: Earth 911  - By simply typing in your zip code, this hotline helps you locate recycling centers in your community "for all types of recyclables."

The Consumer's Handbook for Reducing Solid Waste - This booklet describes how people can help solve a growing problem...garbage! Individual consumers can help alleviate America's mounting trash problem by making environmentally aware decisions about everyday things like shopping and caring for the lawn.

Where can I take my computer? - EPA's Product Stewardship website has information on opportunities for donating and recycling computers and other electronics.

Used Oil Management Program - Provides information about changing motor oil, recycling used oil, and changing and recycling used oil filters.

Buying and maintaining an environmentally friendly house

Energy efficient homes and heating and cooling systems - This resource discusses home products such as air conditioners, furnaces, and thermostats, and illustrates the savings for homeowners who buy Energy Star products.

Home Buyer's and Seller's Guide to Radon - This Guide answers important questions about radon and lung cancer risk.  It also answers questions about testing and fixing radon hazards for anyone buying or selling a home.

How to buy an energy efficient home - This document describes the Energy Star Homes Program and how you can reduce pollution by saving energy.

Residential energy efficiency - This program shows effective ways to reduce home energy consumption and allows users to calculate how much they will save by making their homes more energy efficient.

EPA's Clean Energy Site - Clean energy is energy derived from highly efficient, clean technologies, including renewable, "green" power, and combined heat and power. The EPA’s Clean Energy Programs are designed to improve the national foundation of information on Clean Energy by creating networks between the public and private sector, providing technical assistance, and offering recognition of environmental leaders that adopt Clean Energy practices.

Lawn and garden care

Lawn and garden and tips for a waste-free lawn and garden - Learn about many things you can do to reduce waste and conserve resources from caring for you lawn and garden equipment, to greenscaping.

Your yard and clean air - This document provides tips on how you can prevent pollution in your own backyard by adopting practices that will help protect the environment now and in the future.

Green Landscaping with Native Plants - This site provides a wizard that answers commonly asked questions about landscaping with native wild flowers and grasses in the Great Lakes region.

The Hidden Hazards of Backyard Burning (PDF) (2 pp, 272K, About PDF) - This EPA publication (EPA 530-F-03-012) informs citizens of the health hazards of burning household waste in burn barrels and open piles and providing alternatives to burning.

Lawn equipment - Discusses the benefits of winterizing your lawn equipment.

Natural Landscaping - Online publication explaining natural landscaping ideas.

Greenscaping - EPA's GreenScapes Program can show you how to reduce the environmental impacts of landscaping your lawn and property by grasscycling, mulching, and composting.

Composting - Discusses what composting is, what compost can be used for, and other related topics.

Compost yard trimmings and some food scraps - Food scraps and yard trimmings can be turned into natural additives for lawns and gardens, and can significantly reduce the amount of waste that goes in a landfill.

The Natural Landscaping Alternative: An Annotated Slide Collection - Native plants provide a beautiful, hardy, drought resistant, low maintenance landscape while benefiting the environment. This Annotated Slide Collection contains fifty slides selected for their ability to define natural landscaping and explain its benefits, to illustrate applications of natural landscaping, and to demonstrate installation and management techniques.