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Save Energy and Water

A photo looking across the waters of a lake
Demands for energy and water are at an
all-time high.
Watch demonstrations of energy and water saving tips and check out other clips on DEC's YouTube Channel.

The days of abundant, cheap energy and seemingly endless supplies of clean water are over. At the same time, demand for energy and water continues to grow. The solution to these crises requires that everyone make small and not-so-small lifestyle changes. Collectively, we can work to ensure that these precious resources are conserved.

Save Energy

  • Replace an incandescent bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL)
    CFLs use only one quarter to one third of the electricity of a comparable incandescent. Save $44 on your electric bill for each CFL installed over the lifetime of the bulb. More about CFLs Don't throw old or defective CFLs in the trash. Take them to a CFL recycling center or a household hazardous waste collection day. If you break a CFL, see EPA clean-up guidelines in Links Leaving DEC's Website at right.
  • Shut lights and turn off power to appliances when not in use
    "Vampire electronics"-TVs, DVD players, computers, monitors, cell phone chargers and other electronic appliances-use energy even when turned off and in "sleep" or "standby" mode. Plugging related electronics into one power switch and shutting it down when they're not in use makes saving energy easier.
  • Get a home energy survey/audit
    A compact fluorescent light bulb
    Taking small steps to improve your
    home's energy efficiency can really add
    up. This CFL uses one-quarter of the
    electricity of an incandescent bulb.
    NYSERDA (see link at right) or your local gas or electric utility. There are many incentives that will help you pay for recommended improvements.
  • Have your heating system cleaned and tuned
    Oil-fired systems should be cleaned and tuned every year; gas-fired systems every three years. Regular maintenance increases your system's lifespan, reduces heating costs and lowers particulate and CO2 emissions.
  • Going on vacation? Turn your water heater down to "Vacation" setting
    No sense keeping 40+ gallons at 120 degrees or more when no one's around. Leave yourself a note to remember to turn it back up when you return. More ways to save on water heating
  • Turn your thermostat down 10 degrees when you're asleep or at work
    In an eight-hour period, you'll save 10% for every 10-degree setback. A programmable thermostat will do this for you automatically.
  • Heat (or supplement) with wood
    When buying a cord of wood, be sure to get what you pay for. A full cord is four feet tall, four feet wide and eight feet long. A "face cord" is one-third of a cord. If you're buying wood by the truckload, measure the truck's bed volume (length x height x width) and divide it by 128 (the number of cubic feet in a cord).
  • Don't let your car idle
    Remember that idling equals zero miles per gallon.
  • Keep your tires properly inflated
    Check once a month in summer. Under-inflation increases fuel consumption by up to 6%. Keep tires inflated to the recommended pressure, not the maximum pressure shown on the tire.
  • Drive correctly
    Jack-rabbit starts, speeding and tailgating can reduce your gas mileage by 40%.
  • Use your bike for short trips
    According to the Federal Highway Safety Commission, 40% of car trips are only two miles long or under. Using your bike for these short distances saves gas and cuts greenhouse gas emissions. Check Google maps for a safe route (not necessarily the one you drive), and don't forget your helmet.
  • Wash and rinse laundry in cold water
    Even without using warm or hot water, your laundry will still be clean, and using cold water saves $60 annually in a typical household.
  • Dry laundry outside
    Get that fresh scent for free, save up to $25 a month in electricity, and make your clothing, towels and bedding last longer. For relatively wrinkle-free clothes, put clothing on hangers on the clothesline. Throw line-dried towels in the dryer for five minutes to remove any stiffness.
  • Keep cool in summer without A/Cs or fans
    At home, close windows and lower shades on hot, sunny days. Raise shades and open windows after dark to let in cool evening air. This strategy can result in indoor temps 20 degrees lower than outside. Another solution is to create natural shade by planting trumpet honeysuckle or American bittersweet near a west or south-facing wall, but be sure to provide a trellis or other support for them to climb. These native perennial vines are attractive and also offer berries that birds enjoy.
  • Choose Energy Star® appliances
    When replacing high-consumption appliances like refrigerators, air conditioners, dehumidifiers, clothes washers and dish washers, buy an energy-efficient model. To get information on rebates, credits and other incentives for all kinds of appliances and home improvements, use the link at the right to go to the Energy Star® site.
  • Insulate
    Uninsulated or under-insulated attics and walls lose tremendous amounts of heat. Add extra insulation if your attic has R-19 or less (equal to 6" fiberglass or about 5.5" cellulose). New York State building code currently requires R-38 in attics (12" fiberglass or approximately 11" cellulose).
  • Cook for the week
    Cook larger quantities of dinner and baked goods at one time to reduce oven use later in the week.
  • Get a push mower
    Woman mowing the lawn with a reel mower
    The new reel mowers are light, good
    for your grass and give off no green-
    house gases or air pollutants
    Powered lawn mowers use lots of (expensive) gas and give off more greenhouse gases than a car. The new push mowers, also called reel mowers, are light (less than 20lbs), and shear the grass rather than tearing it, as conventional mowers do, which is healthier for the grass.
  • Use the proper temperature settings
    Set your refrigerator between 38 and 42 degrees F. Set your freezer between 0 and 5 degrees F.
  • Summertime temperature control
    During the warmer months, keep windows, shades and/or drapes closed during the day to keep out the heat and open at night to let the cooler air in.
  • Deck the halls and your tree with LEDs
    LED holiday lights consume 1/10 to 1/3 the energy of traditional lights, last a long time (~20,000 hrs.), are hard to break (no filament), cool to the touch and safer. The initial cost may be higher, but payback is quick thanks to your energy savings and not needing to buy new lights every two years or so.
  • Invest now in renewables and energy conservation
    Substantial federal tax credits may be available for renewable energy systems and energy-related home improvements, including photovoltaic systems, residential wind turbines and heat pumps. Certain hybrid and electric vehicles also may qualify. Use the link on the right to the Energy Star website to check eligibility requirements.
  • Check your tire pressure
    Fall and winter are critical times to check your tire's air pressure. As the temperature drops, air contracts, reducing pressure. This results in lower mileage and increased tire wear. Keep tires inflated to the recommended pressure, not the maximum pressure shown on the tire.
  • Winterize your home
    Adding insulation to your home will save you money on heating costs and keep you more comfortable all winter.
  • Get rid of your second refrigerator
    If you have a second refrigerator that you use only occasionally, save energy by getting rid of it. When you have get-togethers, use coolers instead for "overflow" food and beverages.
  • Eat locally
    Purchase your food from farmers' markets, coops, CSAs and restaurants that serve local and/or organic products.
  • Vacation by bicycle
    Planning a vacation that enables you to bike, or drive and bike to your destination(s) will save fuel and provide exercise. Create an itinerary with the Parks and Trails New York Trailfinder, which makes it easy to plan a route and locate bicycle-friendly B&Bs along the way. See the link on the right side of this page.

Save Water

Start with these tips if you're brand new to water conservation. If you're looking for more ideas, read on.

  • Get a dual-flush toilet
    Long popular in Europe, this innovative toilet has finally reached America. There are two buttons on the top of the tank. The one for solid waste releases only 1.6 gallons of water per flush, and the one for liquid waste releases only .8 gallon per flush.
  • Use a soaker hose rather than a sprinkler
    Water your garden beds with a soaker hose or drip irrigation system and you'll cut your garden water use in half. This method of watering delivers the water directly to the root zone where it's needed and keeps the leaves dry, cutting down on mold and mildew problems.
  • Switch to a front-loading washing machine
    Also called horizontal axis washers, these use one-third to one quarter the water per load compared to a top-loading model. As an added benefit, the extremely fast final spin cycle leaves clothes drier saving energy too.
  • Water lawns wisely
    According to the EPA, Americans use 7 billion gallons of water per day on their lawns. Lawns need only an inch of water a week. Use a rain gauge to determine how much you need to supplement what Mother Nature provides. Also, plant lawn alternatives like groundcover and wildflowers, or convert a section of lawn into a bed of drought-tolerant perennials and flowering shrubs.
  • Capture water in a rainbarrel
    Rainbarrels catch the water from downspouts and rooftops and save it for use later. Add a fine mesh screen on top to prevent mosquitos from breeding in the water and to keep out debris. Drip irrigation or soaker hose systems (see above) can deliver the water to your garden. Rainwater also is ideal for houseplants as it doesn't contain chlorine or other chemicals found in municipal water supplies.
  • Use a low-flow showerhead
    Almost a quarter of household water use is for showers. The newer low-flow showerheads give a satisfying shower while cutting water use in half. If you were unhappy with the early water-saver showerheads, it's time to try them again.
  • Save the rain
    Divert some of the water from your gutter downspouts into a rain barrel for use during dry spells and for healthy plants. Rainwater is ideal for house plants and gardens as it has no chlorine or other chemicals found in municipal water supplies. Look for barrels with screens or lids to keep out debris and insects and an overflow pipe to give excess water a place to go during downpours.
  • Look for the WaterSense® label
    You're probably familiar with the Energy Star® label that identifies high-efficiency appliances, but there's also a WaterSense® label. Faucets, shower heads and toilets with this label save hundreds of gallons of water a year. Use the offsite link in the right column for more information.
  • Repair water leaks quickly
    Fix household leaks, and save both water and money. To detect and repair some common types of leaks, use the link in the right-hand column, WaterSense® Fixing Leaks Around the Home.

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