A variety of small, inexpensive conservation measures often can cut home energy bills a total of 25 percent, the Energy Department says.
In a draft of a brochure expected to be distributed late this year to 4 million residents of New England, where a low-cost energy demonstration project is under way, the department says its various tips "could save you 25 percent, between $100 and $250 a year, at current gas and electricity prices, on an investment of $100 or less."
Deputy Under Secretary Maxine Savitz, in testimony Monday to a House Government Operations subcommittee, said the department has stressed energy-saving measures in the past that entail major costs, such as paying a contractor to install insulation.
Now, she said, the department will give equal emphasis to inexpensive or no-cost measures.
Leading the list of opportunities to save, the draft says, is "hot water . . . both because it is an amazingly large part of household energy bills and also because the costs can be easily and cheaply reduced."
A single shower, for example, often costs 15 cents, the draft says.
"We believe that your hot water costs can be cut by 50 percent, or a savings on the order of $100 and $150 a year for electrically-heated water systems, and $30 to $150 a year for gas-heated water, if you follow these four tips:"
Install plastic flow restrictors on showers and faucets to reduce hot water usage.
Turn down the thermostat on the hot water heater. "Anybody with a screwdriver and five minutes to spare" can do the job, the draft says.
Add extra insulation around the water tank, a job that costs $10 in foil-backed insulation and tape.
Wash clothes on the "warm" setting and set the rinse cycle for "cold." Most washers are set for a "hot" wash and "warm" rinse.
Other ways to save energy cited in the brochure include insulating gaps in fireplace dampers, covering attic doors with material to prevent heat leaks, caulking underneath baseboards and in holes for plumbing pipes and turning off furnace pilot lights in warm months.
In the meantime, DOE and the Department of Housing and Urban Development have jointly published a 60-page guide for home buyers on energy-saving features to look for in houses. The agencies say to check for:
1. Proper levels of insulation in ceilings, attics, walls, floor, crawl spaces, basement walls and foundation perimeters.
2. Caulking and weatherstripping around windows, doors and cracks and joints on the exterior.
3. Storm windows and doors.
4. The type of heating system.
5. The worthwhile use of a heat pump instead of electric resistance heat, if oil and gas are not available, in some geographic areas.
6. An air conditioning system with a high energy-efficiency ratio -- or consider not having central air conditioning in cooler climates.
7. Ducts and pipes located in the heated spaces of the house.
8. The quality and installation factors of attic insulation.
9. Use of a clock thermostat for central heathing and air conditioning systems and individual room controls for electric resistance baseboard heating.
10. Proper orientation and shading of windows.
11. Band joist insulation as a part of quality contruction.
12.Exterior combustion air intakes for furnaces and fireplaces.
These and other energy-conservation tips are offered in the Energy-Wise Home Buyer, which costs $2 and is available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Dept. 32, Washington, D.C. 20402.