Getting to the Next Level in Home Energy Efficiency

John F. Neville
The SEA Group

Spend a Little Money, Take a Little Time

Here are some simple and inexpensive ways to make your home energy efficient. They involve minor costs and some work on your part, but the energy and cost savings make it worthwhile.

Switch to fluorescents

  • The typical incandescent light bulb is very inefficient because much of the energy is used to generate heat. Fluorescents burn cooler and provide more light per watt of energy than incandescents.
  • Compact fluorescents cost more to purchase than incandescent bulbs; however, they last 10 times longer and use much less energy, saving a significant amount of energy and money during the life of the bulb. For example, replacing a 60-watt incandescent light bulb with a 15-watt compact fluorescent that may cost $8 or $10 will save nearly $20 in electricity costs. Or using a 20-watt compact fluorescent that costs $16 to replace a 100-watt incandescent bulb will save $34 over the life of the bulb.

Clean appliances regularly

  • Clean the condenser coils on the refrigerator. Dust build-up means that it takes more energy to cool the food.
  • Make sure the hot air furnace filter is clean. Check it every month and clean or replace it when it gets dirty.
  • In the spring, clean the condenser coils of the air conditioner.
  • Keep the lint-catcher clean on the dryer. It will take less power to run the dryer and will decrease the risk of a fire.

Tune up appliances

  • Have your local energy company tune up your furnace before the heating season. This can mean lower energy bills.
  • Make sure your air conditioner is operating at peak efficiency. You don’t want CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) escaping to damage the ozone layer. Plus, an efficient air conditioner costs less to run.
  • If you have a forced-air furnace, have the air ducts cleaned periodically.
  • Feel the side of your water heater. If it is warm, the heater is wasting energy. You can reduce the energy loss by wrapping the water heater in an insulating blanket. Inexpensive water heater covers are available at most hardware stores.
  • Once a month, drain a few gallons of hot water out of your water heater. This will help clear the corrosion that builds up in the tank. Corrosion build-up can require more energy to heat the water.

Seal in the energy savings

  • Leaky windows, doors and frames can let out the air you paid so much to heat or cool. So once a year, check the caulking around your windows, doors and joints to make sure everything is sealed tightly.
  • Install weather stripping around any leaky windows and doors.
  • If you use storm windows, check them each winter to be sure they provide a good seal and are not cracked.
  • If you have only single glaze windows, you can purchase do-it-yourself plastic storms that just tape into place.
  • If you use window air conditioners, take them out for the winter. Or if they are attached to the wall or too big to move, make sure they are well-covered with insulating material, otherwise they can leak out a lot of your warm air.
  • If you have a fireplace, install a glass door that reduces hot air loss.

As you consider these options, keep in mind that the 2001 Legislature passed a tax law exempting energy efficient products from the state sales tax. This includes residential light fixtures and compact fluorescent bulbs if they have an Energy Star label. This law will be in effect from August 1, 2001, through August 1, 2005. To learn more, contact the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

Read Up

Minnesota Department of Commerce – Energy Division
85 7th Place East
Suite 500
St. Paul, MN

Home Energy Guides

The following is a list of guides designed to help Minnesotans save energy in their homes. The guides are available individually or in bulk. Call the Department of Commerce, Energy Information Center at:
Phone: 651-296-5175 or 800-657-3710
View or download at:

Appliances: (CJ)
Attic Bypasses: (AD)
Basement Insulation: (A6) discusses
Caulking & Weather-stripping: (A2)
Combustion Air: (C2)
Energy Saving Landscapes: (A5)
Home Cooling: (CB)
Home Heating: (C1)
Home Insulation: (A3)
Home Lighting: (CP)
Home Moisture: (B3)
Indoor Ventilation: (E9)
Low Cost/No Cost Tips: (A1)
New Homes: (F1)
Water Heaters: (CO)
Windows & Doors: (A4)
Wood Heat: (T1)
CD-ROM of all guides: (AK)


Other Tips

For information and to order energy efficient lighting, call Xcel Energy at 877-535-0350 or 763-502-2302. Or you can find information on the Internet at You can also find energy efficient fluorescent bulbs and fixtures at many Twin Cities lighting stores.

Minnegasco-Reliant Energy offers appliance tune-up and repair services. They provide duct cleaning and other services. Call 800-722-6821 or 612-333-1664. Also on the web at

Home Energy Efficiency

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