With coronavirus sending employees and students home for quarantine or social distancing, you may find yourself and your family members cooped up inside. That means more people using tablets and computers, opening and closing the refrigerator, turning on lights, and adjusting the thermostat. If you don’t take the proper precautions, you could find yourself with higher-than-average utility bills. Use these ten tips for saving money and reducing energy at home now and all year long.

1. Adjust the thermostat. Keep the thermostat at an energy efficient and comfortable setting during the day and readjust at night and while you are away. Wear appropriate clothing to keep comfortable. Better yet, buy a programmable thermostat so you don’t have to remember! Try 68 F in the winter and 78 F in the summer when you are awake. Adjust the temperature down in the winter and up in the summer when you are asleep or away from home.

2. Replace conventional light bulbs with new energy- efficient bulbs. New light bulb technologies are flood- ing the market. Depending on the bulb you choose, you can save 75 to 80% of the energy needed. And for maximum conservation, turn off lights when you leave a room and turn outside lights off during the day. Use natural daylight whenever possible.

3. Unplug unused appliances and electronics. Many small appliances and electronics still use power, even when turned off. This is especially true if they have a light or clock that stays on. Unplug them when they are not being used, or plug several (like TVs, DVD play- ers, cable boxes, etc.) into power strips, and turn power off at the power strip. This also includes phone chargers when not in use.

4. Lower the hot water temperature. Most hot water heaters are set at 140 F. Turn the temperature down to 120 F. Not only is this recommended for safety in preventing scalding, but it also cuts water heating cost by 6 to 10%.

5. Wash clothes in cold water. Clothing today is made from a variety of fibers that do well with cold water washing. Water heating accounts for 90% of the energy used by washing machines. Unless the laundry load contains diapers or stained work clothes, cold water should work well. To save even more, use a clothes- line instead of the dryer on a sunny day.

6. Replace your shower head. Standard shower heads use up to 8 gallons of hot, steaming water per minute. With a new, low-flow shower head, you will only use 1 to 2 gallons of water per minute. Faucet aerators cost about $5 and work much the same way.You probably won’t notice a difference, but you will on your utility bill.

7. Seal air leaks. Reducing the amount of air that leaks in and out of your home is one of the most cost-effective things you can do to cut heating and cooling costs. Caulking and weather stripping are two simple and effective air-sealing techniques that will pay back their cost, usually within a year or less.

8. Replace or clean your heating-cooling system’s filter. All forced air systems have filters that keep dust and dirt from blowing throughout the house. Once the filter becomes full of dust and dirt, air movement is restricted. This restriction makes the heating-cooling system less efficient and can eventually damage the entire system. Check filters monthly. Replace disposable filters, clean reusable filters, or do both as needed.

9. Manage appliance usage. Keep appliances clean and use appropriately.

10. Conduct an energy audit. A home energy audit helps you determine where your house is losing energy and money — and how to correct these problems in order to make your home more energy efficient.

If you need ideas on how to make your home more comfortable, this free, self-guided evaluation will walk you through areas of your house where you could be losing energy and money. Receive a free energy saving kit from the Tennessee Valley Authority, your local power company and $10 Home Depot gift card while supplies last. https://selfaudit.2escore.com/Home/Registration.aspx.

For more information on this or other family and consumer sciences related topics, contact Shelly Barnes, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension agent for UT Extension in Wilson County. Barnes can be reached at sphill24@utk.edu or 615-444-9584.

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