How can utility customers save money and energy? There are a number of simple solutions to making your home more energy efficient:

Adjust Thermostat Settings

The fastest way to save energy and money is to adjust thermostats. Consider using a programmable thermostat in your home to help you avoid unnecessary energy costs. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates you can save as much as 10 percent a year on heating and cooling by turning your thermostat back 7 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit for eight hours a day from its normal setting.

Install a Programmable or "Smart" Thermostat.

Program your thermostat to heat or cool the house during the day, depending on whether you're home or away. Some thermostats can be adjusted using your smartphone when you're away from home.

Close Unused Vents

Partially closing vents in unused rooms lets air circulate, but can lower heating or cooling costs. Be cautious about completing closing vents as it could affect the efficiency of your furnace and air flow through the ducts. Check with a heating and cooling professional for guidance.

Change Furnace Filters Regularly

A clean filter reduces the wear and tear on your furnace. Change the furnace filter frequently to keep it clean and shorten the time the HVAC system needs to heat or cool your home.

Furnace filters have MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) ratings that indicate how efficiently the filter will stop dust and other particles from moving through the air in your home. Check the manufacturer's recommendation on your furnace for the right MERV rating for your unit.

Seal Cracks and Gaps

According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, tightening the home exterior and sealing problem areas can save a typical homeowner about 40 percent a year on energy costs. Contact your utility company to see if it offers incentives for improving household energy efficiency. 

Check the weatherstripping around windows and doors and repair with caulk or window/door kits to stop drafts. Other common trouble spots that can be low-cost fixes are:

  • ceilings and ceiling fixtures
  • walls
  • foundations
  • basement ducts
  • attic doors
  • bathroom fans
  • plumbing or other lines running from the basement or outside
  • chimneys
  • electrical outlets

Are you building a new home? Check with your utility company to see if it offers rebates or incentives for energy efficient construction. 

Focus on the Sun

One of the quickest ways to save energy is to pay attention to the windows. Close window shades, blinds, and curtains on the sunny side of your home during summer so your air conditioner doesn't have to work so hard. In the winter, let the sun in during the day to help heat your home.

Eliminate Wasted Electricity

Turn off lights, televisions, kitchen and bath ventilation fans, computer monitors and printers when not in use. Unplug items such as phone chargers, which might draw energy whenever they're plugged in. Using natural lighting instead of lamps, when possible, can save energy, too.

Improve Insulation

Increase the insulation in your home. Higher "R" values represent better insulation and greater resistance
to heat flow. Insulation is available in a variety of forms:

  • Batts and blankets that fit between studs in walls or joists in ceilings and floors
  • Rigid board to add to basement walls, exposed foundation, cathedral ceilings, and the inside of exterior walls
  • Loose fill that is poured or blown into spaces

Replace the Furnace

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heating and cooling systems require more energy and money than any other system in your home. An energy efficient furnace helps during cold Iowa winters that can make up to 44% of an energy bill. Many Iowa utility companies offer rebates or cash-back incentives for the installation of high efficiency furnaces.

A typical modern heating system will last about 25 years. The efficiency of a furnace is measured in a rating known as Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE), which indicates how efficiently the furnace converts fuel into heat. High-efficiency furnaces have AFUE ratings of 90 percent or higher.

Replace the Water Heater

The U.S. Department of Energy and the Iowa Energy Center report that water heaters are the second leading home energy expense. They account for about 20 percent of a typical home energy bill, especially if they are more than 10 years old. Save energy now by replacing the water heater before it breaks.

When considering a new hot water heater, look at the amount of water the unit can heat during the first hour (FHR) and the overall energy factor (EF), which tell how efficiently the unit heats water. The higher the rating, the better the unit. Wrapping the water heater in an insulating blanket, insulating water pipes, and/or lowering the water heater temperature will lower energy costs. Most hot water needs are met with the heater set to around 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Your local utility can usually help you maximize the efficiency of your water heater if you schedule a home energy audit. Many utilities offer energy audits and include free materials to insulate water heating systems. Contact your local utility to learn more.