Published on 02/17/16

From programmable thermostats to HVAC checkups, UGA Extension offers energy-saving tips

By Keishon Thomas

Winter is notorious for high energy usage. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, December, January and February account for America’s highest energy consumption of any consecutive three-month period. Remember the days of 80 degrees Fahrenheit in November and December?

Heating and cooling a home uses more energy and costs more money than any other home system, typically making up about 46 percent – almost half – of the utility bill, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

No matter what kind of heating and cooling system you have, you can save money and increase your comfort. With extreme temperatures come high energy bills, but you'd be surprised how easy it is to decrease energy consumption. Start by following these tips from University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.

You probably change the oil in your car more than once a year; you should also have your heating and cooling system inspected by a qualified heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) professional. Regular checkups and maintenance help ensure the unit is safe and works effectively and efficiently.

Install a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat allows you to automatically adjust the temperature in your home. You can set the time to turn on and off the heating or air conditioning according to a pre-set schedule. Programmable thermostats can store and repeat multiple daily settings.

In our home, the temperature adjusts before work and school and at night before bedtime.

Change is good, so change the air filter every few months. If you are an allergy sufferer, you may want to change the air filter more frequently. A dirty air filter makes the heating system work harder, which uses more energy.

The second largest area of energy consumption in homes is lighting, household appliances and electronics. We all remember our parents’ admonishments to “turn off the lights.” While they were right, you can usually save much more by changing standard, incandescent lightbulbs to more efficient models. Compact fluorescent lightbulbs provide more light for less money. Fluorescent bulbs may be more expensive initially, but they are worth the investment.

According to the Berkley National Laboratory, most homes have at least 40 household devices drawing power. Just looking in one room in my home led me to believe that they are right, and it enlightened me as to how much electricity my family uses.

UGA Extension offers these quick tips to reduce wasted energy:

  • Turn off appliances, lights and equipment when not in use.
  • Unplug electronic devices and chargers when not in use. Most new electronics use electricity even when switched off. Turn computers and printers off at the power strip.
  • Curb idle time in devices such as computers and video game consoles. Simply set your computer to sleep mode or save a game and power down instead of leaving it paused for a prolonged period.
  • Use power strips. Power strips allow you to power devices completely on and off. This will allow you to control the power usage of clusters of devices, so that they’re not consuming electricity when you’re not around.
  • When it comes time to send your old devices to the graveyard, consider replacing them with Energy Star devices. They have a lower standby consumption than average devices and generally use less energy, a savings you should take into account when comparing similar products.

Learn more at or visit the UGA GreenWay News blog.

Keishon Thomas is the University of Georgia Extension family and consumer sciences agent in Bibb County.