Saving energy is a journey, and every journey begins with a first step – and of course, a second and a third.

Come join us as South Burlington continues our journey to save energy & money and to reduce our impact on the climate.


Step 1: Some easy, no-cost things your family can do

You’ve taken your first step on our journey.

Here are some easy and no-cost things that you and your family can do:

  • Always turn off the lights (and TV) when you leave a room

  • Put your computer in standby mode (close the screen on your laptop) when you take a break

  • Leave your printer off until you need it

  • Shut your computer down when you are finished for the day

  • Plug all computer gear into a power strip. You can shut off power to all of the computer equipment at once when you are through using it.

  • Unplug your second fridge. Plug it in only when you need it when guests are coming or you are having a big party – savings from this are huge!

  • Rinse dishes in cold water before loading them in the dishwasher

  • Wash dishes by hand? Don’t run hot water the whole time you  are washing them

  • Wash most clothes in cold water

  • Run only full loads in your clothes washer or dishwasher

  • Take shorter showers

  • Print this page and use it as a checklist

Mastered those easy, no cost actions? Well, it no matter what season it is there are some special actions you should take to make sure you aren’t losing money keeping comfortable.


Step 2A: Low and No Cost Fall and Winter tips

Brrrrrrrr! It’s cold out there.

A big part of everyone’s total energy bill is for heating. Saving energy on heating will help you stop wasting money and lower your carbon footprint to reduce your family’s impact on Climate Change.

  • Make sure all windows (including storm windows) are closed and securely locked – Check your basement windows too!

  • Remove window air conditioners and close and lock the windows

  • Close drapes and shades at night to keep the heat in. Open drapes and shades in the morning to let the sun in to help heat your house

  • Close the damper on your fireplace if you have one.

  • If you have baseboard heat, vacuum the radiators for maximum efficiency and fast-working heat.

  • Manual thermostat? Turn your heat down 5-6 degrees when you leave for work or go to bed. Save Big! and it won’t affect your comfort!

  • Programmable thermostat? Don’t have one? Get one and ask a handy friend to help you install and program it. Set the temperature back 5-6 degrees when you are in bed, at work or at school. Save Big! and it won’t affect your comfort!

  • Turn the heat down or off in unused rooms until you need them.

  • Going on Vacation? Turn your heat down to 55 – 58 degrees & unplug TVs, DVRs – anything that won’t be necessary while you are gone. This is called a “vacation hibernation” and can actually save quite a bit of energy.

These tips may cost a little money but they are very good investments:

  • Do you have a forced air furnace? Change your air filter regularly (according to manufacturers’ recommendations).

  • Have you had your heating unit checked lately? It will run more efficiently and will ensure that your furnace is running as it should to keep you family safe!

Are you still cold? Don’t turn the thermostat up. Put away the summer clothes and dress for the season. Wear cozy socks, corduroy pants, long sleeve shirts (try flannel they are great!) and a sweater or sweatshirt. Try flannel sheets – they are heavenly!

You will feel much warmer!


Step 2B: Low and No Cost Spring & Summer tips

It’s getting hot out there.

Be more comfortable during warm weather by cooling your house by opening all your windows at night and closing them during the day – do the same with shades or drapes – this helps even if you have air conditioning!

  • Have Air Conditioning? Raise the thermostat while you are away at work. Most systems will cool your house quickly when you return. Save Big and not substantially affect your comfort.

  • Try using a ceiling or stand fan with your A/C. You can raise the thermostat by a couple degrees for big savings and still be cool.

  • Change your A/C air filter monthly during heavy use. When it’s clogged, air flow is restricted – cooling costs rise, and your system may eventually suffer a compressor failure with a $1,000+ repair bill!

  • Make sure all windows are closed and locked when the air conditioning is on.

  • During warm weather wear thin, loosely fitting clothes and you may not have to keep room temperatures as cool.

  • Decrease dehumidifier run time by keeping water away from your house by cleaning your gutters and with downspout extensions and grading the soil away from the house. Save Big!

  • Have a pool? Turn off your filter overnight when the pool is not in use. Save Big!

  • Try using a solar clothes dryer – a clothes line – once a week to get started. Your clothes will smell amazingly fresh!

  • Going on vacation? Turn off the A/C, unplug computers, TVs, DVD players, stereos, cable boxes, printers, etc. that use power even when they are off. Make it easy by putting them on power strips. This is called a “vacation hibernation” and can actually save quite a bit of energy.

  • Keep your lawn green – water once a week during dry spells – a cooler outside means you house will be cooler inside.

These tips may cost a little money but they are very good investments:

  • Plant some shade trees for the future owners of your house. Pick trees that won’t grow too tall and shade your or your neighbor’s south facing roof – there may be solar panels up there someday.

  • Now’s the time to have your heating unit checked! Save money this coming winter and be safe. winter rush!

Ready for some more easy lighting things you can do that won’t cost you much or take much time to do?


Step 3: “Let there be light” – easy lighting and other actions that will cost very little but save you big!

We all need light in our homes, especially during our long dark winters. There are some easy and low cost things you and your family can do to shave your energy bills and help South Burlington reduce our Climate Impact.

Upgrade your light bulbs:

  • Change your light bulbs to inexpensive LEDs – most cost only $.99!

  • LEDs are widely available at local hardware and electrical supply places, and most are reasonably priced because Efficiency Vermont subsidizes them. As an additional benefit, LEDs last much longer than incandescent bulbs.

  • Important: Be sure to get the color (warm or daylight) that you prefer.

  • Don’t forget to look up – change lights in ceiling fixtures, down lights (cans in the ceiling) and flood and spot lights – there are LEDs for these applications too.

Here are some reminders about important electrical energy saving tips from Step 1

  • Put your computer in standby mode (close the screen on your laptop) when you take a break

  • Leave your printer off until you need it

  • Shut your computer down when you are finished for the day

  • Plug all computer gear into a power strip. You can shut off power to all of the computer equipment at once when you are through using it.

  • Second fridge? Plug it in only when you need it when guests are coming or you are having a big party – savings from this are huge!

Remember back in Step 1 when we asked you what the hardest things to do would be? Did you find turning off lights when not needed was as hard as you thought? Another way to think of it is, “Changing an old fashioned light bulb to a LED can save you 75% of the energy, but turning a light off can save you 100%!!!!”

Curious how your electric usage compares with your neighbors?

Visit evt.opower.com to create an account on the Home Energy Portal and see how your electric usage compares with your neighbors, view customized energy savings suggestions, and prepare an energy efficiency plan.

Did you know that water heating is often the second biggest energy user in your home? Here are a few easy and low cost things you can do about that and get us on our way to being the Champions!


Step 4: It takes a lot of Energy to heat water!

Heating water uses a lot of energy.

Here are some ways to stem the flow, stop wasting your money, and reduce your carbon footprint!

  • Replace your existing shower heads with low flow units. They have a good spray pattern and can reduce the flow by half and save a lot of hot water. Look for one that uses only 1.5 gallons/minute. Ask at the hardware store for their recommendation.

  • Is your hot water too hot to hold your hand under it when the faucet is running? Turn down the heat in your hot water heater to 120 degrees. Need Help? Ask one of your handy friends to help with this or check out this video: www.water-heater-repair-guide.com/waterheatertemperature.html

We have repeated a few actions from Step 1 to reinforce how important they are.

  • Using the dishwasher? Usually a quick rinse of dishes in cold water is fine before loading them in the dishwasher. They don’t need to be nearly clean before they go in.

  • Don’t run the hot water the entire time you are hand washing your dishes. Turn it on to rinse them, scrub them while the water is off and rinse them all at once.

  • Wash most clothes in cold water. Current washers and detergents will work fine. For especially dirty clothes (like sports gear) you may need to try warm or hot if necessary.

We’ve saved the best for last. The most effective way for you to save energy and money (and to contribute to winning the Prize) is to make sure the air you have paid good money to heat or cool isn’t leaving your house.


Step 5: Your House is likely to be your best energy saving opportunity

Heating and cooling your house may be your family’s biggest energy user (right up there with gas for the family cars – see our handy Transportation Tips).

We have talked about some easy ways to reduce the energy used to keep your home comfortable. If you have done those things it’s time to take the next steps. Let’s start by talking about what happens to the air in your house – why doesn’t it stay the temperature you want?

Here are a couple examples to demonstrate.

  • If you open a door on a cold winter day what happens? Warm air rushes out and cold air rushes in. Most homes have enough hidden air leaks that would add up to a small window being open – all winter long. That adds up to a lot of heat lost and money wasted. You need to find and close all those air leaks!

  • The same thing happens in the summer, only in reverse. All that fresh cool air that your air conditioner worked so hard to cool down can escape outside through the hidden air leaks that plague every home.

  • If you leave the house on a cold day without your coat what happens? Brrrrrrrrrrr! Heat leaves your body really fast! So, you go back in your house and on another layer of clothing. Maybe your home needs another layer too!

The way to find out how your house is losing energy is to have an Energy Audit. Unlike an IRS auditor, an energy auditor is there to help you. Do not fear – an energy auditor will study your house and make recommendations for ways you can reduce its heat loss and money wasted. They may also spot safety issues with heating or domestic hot water systems that might put you and your family at risk if not corrected.

Do you heat with Natural Gas? Vermont Gas Systems (VGS) has an award-winning audit and weatherization program. If you qualify (use enough gas annually) the audit is free and they will provide a 33% rebate for many of their recommended upgrades. You may also qualify to finance the rest at a low interest rate. Contact VGS for info about their weatherization program at 802-863-4511 ext. 321 or go to www.vermontgas.com/efficiency.

If you don’t qualify for the Vermont Gas program or if you use other home heating fuels, contact Efficiency Vermont at 888-921-5990 or go to www.efficiencyvermont.com/For-My-Home for more information. For home audit information look under “Read Our 3-Step Guide” which explains things you can do and how to get more professional help through their list of Efficiency Vermont approved auditors and contractors. This program provides Energy Audits for a fee but also provides for significant rebates for efficiency upgrades (up to several thousand dollars!).

Are you confused or seem to be at a standstill and need help? Contact a member of the South Burlington Energy Committee at info@energyprize.org.