Boost your energy savings

13 home improvement ideas, from lightbulbs to insulation, to make your house work smarter

Joyanna Laughlin and Elizabeth Jardina


A budget of $300 can get big results

1. Replace incandescent lightbulbs with compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs)
What it costs: $1-$20 each (quantity discounts available)
Why do it: CFLs use 70% less energy

2. Install an Energy Star-rated programmable thermostat
What it costs: $29-$100
Why do it: Save up to 15% on heating and cooling bills

3. Employ "smart" power strips that use motion or power sensors
What it costs: $35-$50 each
Why do it: "Idle current" can account for 1%-2% of energy bills

4. Clean or replace furnace and air-conditioning filters
What it costs: $2-$20 each
Why do it: Clean filters can reduce heating/cooling costs by 1%-2%

5. Caulk and seal walls, ceilings, floors, windows, doors, and ductwork
What it costs: $10-$40 for caulking, weather-stripping, or mastic
Why do it: Eliminating drafts can save 5%-30% on heating costs

6. Insulate older water heaters and pipes
What it costs: $30-$45 for thermal blanket, pipe insulation, and tape
Why do it: Preventing heat loss can save 4%-9% on water-heating costs

7. Audit your home energy use with a DIY guide ( or
What it costs: $0
Why do it: Following the suggestions can cut your energy bill by 20%

Add it all up: Total $300

20 CFLs, $70
1 programmable thermostat, $35
2 "smart" power strips, $80
4 furnace/AC filters, $40
Caulking and weather-stripping supplies, $30
Water heater thermal blanket and pipe-insulating supplies, $45

The benefit

These easy changes could save you as much as 15% of your total annual energy bill ― up to $450 per year for a family that spends $3,000 on gas and electric.


• Replaced 1 incandescent lightbulb with a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL), we'd save 2 million pounds of CO2 per day

• Reduced their driving by 1 mile every day, we'd save 4.8 million pounds of CO2 per day

• Washed their clothes in cold water, we'd save 2.4 billion pounds of CO2 per year

• Line-dried 1 load of laundry once a week, we'd save 836 million pounds of CO2 per year

• Turned down the thermostat 2° (to 68°) in winter and up 2° (to 78°) in summer, we'd save 26 million pounds of CO2 per day

• Unplugged their electronics when not in use, we'd save at least 13 million pounds of CO2 per day

We'd save 20 billion pounds of CO2 per year, the equivalent of 2 million fewer cars on the road for 1 year.

Based on 4.8 million Sunset readers