Though consumers grumbled, and with good reason, at paying up to $2 a gallon for gas this summer, most are even more "sticker shocked" as their energy bills arrive this winter. But as heating oil and natural gas prices skyrocket and electricity usage increases, it is possible to hold down costs to a more reasonable level and still retain comfort. How? By being energy efficient.

These tips, courtesy of the Alliance to Save Energy, can help you save on energy bills throughout the year:

  • Properly insulate your house. Fiberglass or cellulose insulation maintains even temperatures. This can increase comfort and reduce heating costs up to 30%. Start with basement walls, floors, and crawl spaces.

  • Insulate your hot-water heater by wrapping it in an insulting "blanket" if it feels warm to the touch. Follow manufacturer guidelines.

  • Set your hot-water heater thermostat at 120 degrees (or "low"). This is hot enough for most needs—including dishwashers, which are generally made with booster heaters—and cuts down on energy needed to keep water hot in the tank.

  • Use warm or cold water for laundry when possible. Rinse in cold, and wash when you have full loads.

  • Purchase a programmable thermostat. It will automatically coordinate your home temperature with your daily and weekend patterns.

  • Clean or replace furnace and air conditioner filters once a month during heating/cooling season.

  • Find and plug leaks. Seal leaks between moving parts (between door and frame) with weatherstripping. Fill leaks between nonmoving parts (between window frame and wall) with caulking.

  • Shop for high-efficiency windows. They're three to four times more energy efficient than windows commonly installed 10 years ago. Low-e (emissivity) or spectrally-selective (solar control) coatings reduce the amount of heat that flows through glass so there isn't as much heat lost in winter or gained in summer. [Need help financing improvements? Talk to a credit union loan officer.]

  • Install storm windows or double-paned windows.

  • Consider landscaping around the home. Planting evergreen trees on the north side and deciduous (leafy) trees on the south side of a home can block winter winds and summer sun.

  • To order the Alliance to Save Energy's booklet, Power$mart: Easy Tips to Save Money and the Planet, call the Consumer Information Center at 888-878-3256. Or, order online.

    © 2001 Credit Union National Association Inc.