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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

In the House

  • Get a home energy survey/audit
    NYSERDA (see link at right) or your local gas or electric utility offer the service, sometimes for free. There are many incentives that will help you pay for recommended improvements.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Replace an incandescent bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL) or light-emitting diodes (LED) bulb
    CFLs and LEDs are more efficient choices and will save you money in the long run. See EnergyStar website for the different characteristics of LED, CFL and incandescent bulbs (leaves DEC website.) 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 (leaves DEC website.)
  • Turn off lights and unplug 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.
  • 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), and cool to the touch. The initial cost may be higher, but payback is quick thanks to the energy and replacement savings.
Heating and Cooling
  • 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. 120 degrees is adequate for most purpose. Hotter water is necessary only if your automatic dishwasher lacks a pre-heat function.
  • Have your tank flushed once a year, or carefully do it yourself. Mineral sediment can significantly reduce the amount of hot water available.
  • Insulate older water tank. If your tank feels warm to the touch, you may benefit from adding a fiberglass wrap. Be sure to check the tank's or manufacturer's information for any restrictions regarding a wrap.
  • Replace the anode rod every 5 to 10 years to extend the life of your water tank.
  • Lower your thermostat by 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).
  • Prepare and eat food outside during hot weather.
  • Keep cool in summer without A/Cs or fans
    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 offer berries that birds enjoy.
  • Add vents and an attic fan to expel hot air.
  • Install attic or whole-house fan to draw up hot air and vent it outside at night. Use box fans in windows to bring cooler nighttime air inside.
  • Open windows on opposite sides of the house and turn on fans to maximize cross breezes. Face a fan outside to suck hot air from the house and face another fan inside to draw in cooler air.
  • Drink lots of water to make your body's natural cooling system-sweating-more efficient. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and sugary drinks.
  • Wear a water-soaked hand towel around your neck, and keep several more in the refrigerator.
  • Enjoy a cool shower before bedtime.
  • Spritz your skin with water mixed with a few drops of rubbing alcohol. Because alcohol evaporates faster than water, the cooling sensation is increased.
  • Place a bowl of ice in front of a fan, or drape a cold wet towel over a fan and sit in front of it.
  • Lose weight (fat is an insulator).
  • 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.
  • Choose Energy Star®-rated 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.
  • Cook for the week
    Cook larger quantities of dinner and baked goods at one time to reduce oven use later in the week.
  • Use the proper temperature settings
    Set your refrigerator between 38 and 42 degrees F. Set your freezer between 0 and 5 degrees F.
  • 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 for "overflow" food and beverages.


  • 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, more often in fall and winter. As the temperature drops, air contracts, reducing pressure. This results in lower mileage and increased tire wear. 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 and don't forget your helmet.
  • 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.
  • Eat locally
    Purchase your food from farmers' markets, coops, CSAs and patronize restaurants that serve local products to save fuel of transporting food from far-off places.
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

Lawn and Garden

  • Get a push mower
    Powered lawn mowers use lots of gas and give off more greenhouse gases than a car. The new push mowers, also called reel mowers, are light (less than 20 lbs), and shear the grass rather than tearing it, which is healthier for the grass.

Save Water

In the House

  • Get a dual-flush toilet
    There are two buttons: 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.
  • Eliminate toilet leaks
    79% of water lost in the home is through toilet leaks. Often silent, these leaks can waste up to 300 gallons of water per day. If you pay for water, this can become expensive quickly. If your water is from a well, your pump will run more often, increasing your electric bill. Check for leak using food coloring. Replace refill valve or flush valve when necessary.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Look for the 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.

Lawn and Garden

  • 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.
  • Use greywater on your landscape
    Water recycled from showers, baths, sinks and washing machines is called greywater. Use greywater on trees, flowers and shrubs but not on vegetable gardens or lawns. Use it the same day you collect it. Don't use water from automatic dishwashers or wash water that has liquid fabric softener or bleach in it.
  • 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. 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.