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Energy Efficiency Tips

Columbia utility employee showing customer efficiency improvements

Of all the ways we use electricity to make our homes more livable, heating and cooling uses the most energy. Improving how you heat and cool your house will lower your energy bills. How much energy is needed to keep your space comfortable depends on the weather, your house, and how you use your thermostat. Simple changes can add up to significant energy savings.

Winter Energy Efficiency Tips

  • Set the thermostat at 68 degrees in the winter. If you will be away for four hours or more, change the thermostat to 60 degrees. Install a programmable thermostat to automatically adjust your thermostat.
thermostat, showing to set your thermostat at 60 degrees when away and 68 degrees when home. Each degree down can save you up to 5 percent in the winter.
  • If you have a heat pump, do not increase the thermostat setting by more than two degrees at a time to avoid wasting energy. Install a “smart” thermostat that will warm the house back up gradually before you return.
  • Open window shades that receive direct sunlight during the day. Close window shades at night.
  • Wear layers of clothing and use extra blankets.
  • Replace your furnace with a new unit with an AFUE rating of 95 percent or higher.

Summer Energy Efficiency Tips

  • Set the thermostat at 78 degrees (or as high as possible), while maintaining reasonable comfort levels. If you will be away for four hours or more, change the thermostat to 84. Install a programmable thermostat to automatically adjust your thermostat.
  • Leave window shades down that receive direct sunlight during the day.
  • When your heat pump is operating in the cooling mode, you can adjust your thermostat setting up or down without worrying about additional systems coming on.
  • Have the refrigerant charge of your air conditioning unit checked annually by a qualified HVAC contractor.
  • Replace your air conditioning unit with a new unit with a SEER rating of 14 or higher.
  • Remove weeds, grass, bushes, and other obstructions from around the condensing unit (the outdoor unit).
  • Plant deciduous shade trees on the south and west side of your house to keep your house cool.
  • Try to use the oven, dishwasher and other appliances that produce heat during the late evening and early morning.

Home Weatherization Tips

Sealing air leaks

  • Install foam gaskets behind outlet and switch plates on exterior walls.
  • Cover your kitchen exhaust fan to stop air leaks when not in use.
  • Seal holes in the exterior walls where air conditioning and plumbing pipes penetrate.
  • Seal holes around plumbing pipes where they pass into the crawl space or attic with spray foam sealant.
  • Close off openings between a masonry chimney and surrounding wood framing in the attic with sheet metal or foil-faced foam board insulation.
  • Seal openings in the floor around bathtub drains.
  • Install weatherstripping around the perimeter of attic access hatches and pull-down stairs.
  • Close fireplace damper when not in use.
woman using a match to check for air leaks

Test your home for air tightness

On a windy day, carefully hold a lit incense stick or a smoke pen next to your windows, doors, electrical boxes, plumbing fixtures, electrical outlets, ceiling fixtures, attic hatches, and other places where air may leak. If the smoke stream travels horizontally, you have located an air leak that may need caulking, sealing, or weatherstripping.

Windows and doors

  • Replace weatherstripping and caulk around exterior doors and windows.
  • Install new door sweeps or bottom seals.
  • Install storm windows and doors or use plastic sheeting.
  • Replace missing window putty or glazing as needed.
  • Replace your old, leaky windows with new, energy-efficient double-pane windows.
  • Check door bottoms and thresholds to make sure air is not escaping. Replace when necessary.
white residential window with cat peering at window

What is air leakage?

Air leakage occurs when outside air enters your home and conditioned air leaves your home through its: 

  • Floors, walls, ceilings (31%);
  • Ductwork (15%);
  • Fireplace (14%);
  • Plumbing penetrations (13%);
  • Doors (11%);
  • Windows (10%);
  • Fans and vents (4%); and
  • Electric outlets (2%).

Air Distribution Efficiency Tips

  • Don’t block vents and radiators with furniture, curtains or rugs.
  • Seal leaky duct connections with duct sealing mastic. Do not use duct tape, as it will dry out and come loose.
  • Undercut interior doors to allow air to return to the air handling unit freely.
  • Maintain your heating and cooling system by replacing air filters every two to three months and doing regular maintenance.

Water Heater Efficiency Tips

  • Set your water heater to 120 degrees.
  • Insulate the hot water tank and hot water pipes where they are exposed.


  • Insulate. Check the attic and outside walls or those next to unheated areas, floors above unheated areas and foundation walls. Participate in the Attic Plus Program and receive rebates up to $450 (for eligible customers).
  • Inspect dirty spots in your insulation for air leaks and mold. Seal leaks with low-expansion spray foam made for this purpose and install house flashing if needed.
  • Follow these specifications for your insulation:

Attic insulation: R-50
Floor: R-19 above unheated areas
Crawl space wall insulation: R-10 with a vapor barrier
Duct insulation: R-13 in unheated areas
Rim-joist insulation: R-13

Appliance Efficiency Tips


  • Clean the coils on the bottom or the back of your refrigerator regularly.
  • Test your refrigerator gaskets by closing the door over a piece of paper. If you can easily remove it with the door closed, consider replacing either the gaskets or the appliance.
  • The recommended temperature for your refrigerator is 37 to 40 degrees and 5 degrees for the freezer.
  • When replacing appliances, purchase opens in a new windowEnergy Star qualified models.

Clothes dryer

  • Inspect and clean your dryer vent tube periodically. Built-up lent can lead to longer drying times and can be a fire hazard.
  • Run clothes washer and dryer only when you have full loads.
  • When replacing appliances, purchase opens in a new windowEnergy Star qualified models.


  • Use the air-dry setting on your dishwasher.
  • Run your dishwasher only when you have full loads.
  • Scrape your dishes, rather than rinsing them, before putting them in the dishwasher.
  • When replacing appliances, purchase opens in a new windowEnergy Star qualified models.

Electronics Efficiency Tips

  • Set your computer to hibernate or standby mode after 30 minutes of inactivity.
  • Set your computer monitor to enter sleep mode after 5 minutes of inactivity. Screen savers generally do not save energy. Some graphic-intense screen savers burn twice as much energy than normal use.
  • Unplug laptops or cell phone chargers when not in use. They can draw power even when they are not in use.
  • Don’t leave televisions on in an empty room.
  • Since some appliances use electricity all the time, plug them into a power-saving electric strip or turn a regular strip off when the appliances are not in use.

Lighting Efficiency Tips

  • Replace frequently used incandescent lamps or compact fluorescent lamps with LED lamps.
  • Don’t leave lights on in an empty room.
  • Install timers, photocells or motion switches on exterior lighting fixtures.

Learn more about energy-efficient lighting.

City of Columbia Water & Light employee conducting residential energy audit

Looking for more ways to be energy efficient?

Our staff can help you with an  opens in a new windowenergy audit. Complete an  opens in a new windowonline energy audit form, or call 573-874-7325 for more information. Download the  opens in a new windowU.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Savers Guide.

Contact Utility Services


701 E Broadway, Columbia, MO 65205




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