Conservation Tips

older woman with grand-daughter

Conservation tips

We have suggestions that let you stay comfortable while conserving energy, no matter what the season.

Summertime

Conservation is most critical during the summer months, when air conditioners make heavy demands on our power supplies. The easiest way to keep your home cool is not to let it heat up in the first place. So you want good insulation, caulking and weather stripping. Shade trees, overhangs and awnings help, too. Beyond that:

  • Keep windows closed during the heat of the day, and draw blinds and draperies to keep the heat out.
  • Set the thermostat at 78 degrees or higher. You'll gain savings of about 5 to 10 percent on the operating cost of an air conditioner for every two degrees of cooling you're willing to give up.
  • Change the filter regularly. An air conditioning unit with dirty filters can use 5 to 10 percent more energy.
  • Use fans instead of the central air conditioning unit whenever possible. Individual fans cost about 90 percent less to operate.
  • Adjust ceiling fans to turn counter-clockwise in the summer. (Usually this means that the switch on the fan should be in the "down" position.)
  • Turn off unnecessary lights.
  • Lay off appliances during hot afternoons and evenings. Many appliances create heat and moisture, making the air conditioner work harder. Limit use of ranges and stoves, dishwashers, dryers, washing machines, and other heat-producing equipment to early morning or late evening when temperatures are cooler.
  • Rig a clothesline in the yard and give your dryer a break.
  • Prepare cold meals such as salads and sandwiches. Cook hot meals only late in the evening, when it's cooler.
  • If you have a refrigerator or freezer in your garage that isn't full, consider getting rid of it. These appliances tend to be older and hog energy.
  • SMUD's Shade Tree program offers free shade trees for customers whose homes have an eastern, western or southern exposure that heats up during the summer.

Wintertime

For every two degrees that you lower your thermostat during the winter, you save approximately 10 percent on your heating bill. So it pays to dress in layers and add a blanket to your bed.

  • Set and keep the thermostat on your heater at 68 degrees when the home is occupied, and 55 degrees at night or when it's unoccupied.
  • If you have a heat pump, set the lower temperature at 63 degrees. That's because heat pumps are designed to maintain temperatures within a narrower range.
  • A clock-thermostat can be pre-programmed so you don't have to remember to change the setting on your heater. You can even set it to pre-heat your home before you get up in the morning or before you get home in the evening.
  • Don't close doors or shut off registers in rooms. That just puts added strain on the central system.
  • If you notice little or no air coming from some registers - or if some rooms are colder than others - this could mean your ductwork leaks. It's estimated that about 20 percent of Sacramento homes have substantial duct leaks.
  • If you suspect duct leaks, have a licensed HVAC contractor check your entire system. (Check for rebates under our Heating & cooling section.)
  • Open drapes and shades on sunny days to let in the sun's heat. Close them at night and on cloudy days.
  • Close the damper and cover your fireplace when not in use. Be sure that any fire has been completely extinguished.
  • Get your heating system professionally checked once a year and change filters regularly to keep the unit running efficiently.

Portable heaters

  • Using portable heaters can be costly. Use them only to warm rooms that don't get enough heat or in homes without central heating systems. Turn them off when nobody's in the room.
  • Choose the type of heaters that sound an alarm or turn off automatically if they are tipped over.
  • Never use propane heaters, hibachis, barbecues, or any heater with an open flame indoors. They produce carbon monoxide, which is a clear, odorless gas that can suffocate humans and animals.

For additional ways SMUD can help you save energy and money, visit the Rebates, incentives & financing section.

Going on vacation?

  • Set your air conditioner thermostat at 85 degrees or higher.
  • Put lights on a timer to save energy and give the house a "lived in" look.
  • Draw the drapes on windows facing south and west.
  • Shift your water heater to the lowest setting.
  • Check to make sure no faucets are dripping.

Year-round

No matter what the season, you want to save energy to save money.

Water heaters

  • Newer water heaters may have insulation built into the unit - check the owner's manual to determine if additional insulation can be added.
  • Wrap the water heater with a water heater blanket to keep heated water warm.
  • Lower the temperature on the water heater to about 120 degrees F. This is sufficient for most household tasks, and it will save energy.
  • Install low-flow showerheads, and fix any leaky faucets. A small drip can waste a bathtub full of hot water each month.
  • Weatherization

    Weather stripping and caulking can help keep your home comfortable:

    • If your house is more than 15 years old, check the insulation in the attic and floor. Even if the insulation met requirements when it was installed, it has most likely settled significantly over time.
    • Current standards call for at least R-30 in the attic, R-13 in the walls, and R-19 in the floor.
    • Because up to 20 percent of the heat or cooling inside a typical house is lost through the windows, check the weather stripping and caulking around doors and windows.
    • Curtains or blinds should be opened during the day to let sunlight in, which will also help heat the home. Curtains should be closed at night to act as additional insulation for windows.

    Appliances

    • When not in use, turn off lights and appliances.
    • Some newer TVs, VCRs and other electronic appliances have a "sleep" or "stand-by" mode that allows them to start immediately when you turn them on. However, that means they are constantly drawing a small amount of energy. When possible, you should switch this option off.
    • Use appliances such as dishwashers, washing machines, and clothes dryers only when they are full, and preferably before or after the peak hours of 4 to 8 p.m., when demand for electricity is highest.
    • Refrigerators usually consume the second most amount of energy in a home. (No. 1: the heating/air conditioning system.) Help the refrigerator maintain its efficiency by cleaning the coils at the back or bottom of the unit.
    • Keep in mind: Every time you open a refrigerator door, the compressor has to run for 8 to 10 minutes.
    • When you are ready to replace an appliance, purchase an Energy StarĀ® model. They're between 15 percent and 40 percent more efficient than older models, and will save you energy for years to come.
    • Replace incandescent lights with energy-efficient compact fluorescent lights or LEDs.

    Be Water Wise

    A tremendous amount of electricity is used to run the pumps that bring water to your house and transport waste to your regional water utility.

    SMUD and the Sacramento Area Water Works Association ask that you avoid using large amounts of water between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Because energy prices are highest then, it costs your local water utility more to run the water pumps during those hours. These costs are eventually passed along to you.

    Avoiding running dishwashers and clothes washers during peak hours. Water your lawn and gardens before 10 a.m. or after 10 p.m. And try not to do all of your watering between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m.

    Related Topics

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