Do Your Part
Adjust Your Thermostat
Using a programmable air-conditioning thermostat or simply adjusting your thermostat during overnight hours or when no one is at home can reduce your cooling and heating costs. To reduce energy consumption, set the thermostat at 78 degrees or higher in the summer, and at 68 degrees or lower in the winter. When used properly, a programmable thermostat with four temperature settings save the average household up to $180 per year in energy costs. If all Texas households reduced their energy consumption by using a programmable thermostat, Texans could collectively save over $1.5 billion annually while reducing energy consumption and air emissions.
Buy Recycled-Content Products
Buy products made from or packaged in recycled materials. Buy recycled office supplies for home and work. Buying items made from recycled content means fewer virgin materials were used to manufacture the product. You can usually spot products made from recycled paper, plastic, and other materials by reading the labels.
Use Compact Fluorescent Lights
Compact fluorescent lightbulbs use up to 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs and can last up to 10 times longer, with a lifespan of up to 10,000 hours per bulb. Replacing the incandescent bulbs in your five most frequently used light fixtures with compact fluorescent can save you more than $65 a year in electricity. If every Texas household replaced one light with a compact fluorescent, we could reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by over 900 tons statewide.
Properly Insulate Attic
Proper insulation in an attic can keep the temperature of your house uniform and increase comfort. Adding insulation can lower your heating, cooling, and energy needs. A quick way to determine whether you have enough insulation is to look across your uncovered attic floor. If your insulation is level with or below the attic floor, you could benefit by adding more. When your home is properly insulated it will feel cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
Recycle Electronics and Batteries
Electronic waste makes up approximately 2% of the municipal solid waste stream, and is steadily increasing. The average household has approximately 24 electronic products, and we depend on six wireless products daily. You can help by reusing, donating, and recycling your electronics. Most rechargeable batteries can be recharged up to 1,000 times, but when they no longer hold a charge—recycle them. If every Texas household recycled five rechargeable batteries a year, we could keep more than 39 million batteries out of landfills. Find a battery drop-off site near you.
Turn Off the Lights
Lighting accounts for approximately 12% of a household's annual electricity bill. By turning off lights when not needed, you can reduce your energy consumption and help reduce air emissions. Turning off just one 60-watt incandescent bulb that would otherwise burn eight hours a day can save you about $15 a year.
Upgrade Your Home Cooling and Heating
In Texas, cooling and heating accounts for as much as 50% of annual home energy expenses. By using a properly sized ENERGY STAR® cooling and heating system, you can save up to 20% on energy costs and help improve air quality. Collectively, we could reduce energy consumption throughout Texas by more than 16 billion kWh if all Texas households replaced their heating and cooling systems with ENERGY STAR HVAC systems.
Unplug Electronics, Use a Power Strip, and Upgrade to ENERGY STAR Electronics
Many home electronics cannot be switched off completely without being unplugged. In other words, they use energy even when turned off. Some home electronics use only a few watts of power when turned off while others use as much as 20 to 40 watts. We call this power consumption “standby power.” Unplugging or turning off at a power strip allows you to eliminate the energy used for standby power. When you replace electronics, look for the ENERGY STAR label. Home electronics account for approximately 4% of household electricity use. Electronics that have earned the ENERGY STAR label save energy without sacrificing quality or performance.
Weatherize Your House
Using proper insulation in your home and sealing off air leaks will help maintain a comfortable indoor temperature, while reducing energy consumption and saving money. Weatherizing by using caulk and weather-stripping for seams, cracks, and openings to the outside of your home, can save you 10% on your energy bill. Properly insulating your home, in addition to weatherizing, can reduce heating and cooling costs up to 20%.
Drive a Clean Machine
To help replace older, more polluting vehicles from Texas roadways in counties with high ground-level ozone, and reduce emissions from vehicles that are already on the road, the TCEQ offers assistance to help replace and repair vehicles through the AirCheckTexas Drive a Clean Machine Program. Eligible individuals in 16 Texas counties can receive financial assistance to replace vehicles that are more than 10 years old, or to help repair vehicles that have failed an emissions test. Find out more about how you might qualify.
To reduce vehicle air emissions, you can carpool with a coworker, use public transit, or simply combine errands when possible. By ride-sharing every day, commuters can save up to $3,000 a year on gas, insurance, parking, and wear and tear on their cars. One Texan using mass transit for one year can keep an average of 4.9 pounds of nitrogen oxides from being discharged into the air.
Drive the Speed Limit
By slowing down and avoiding aggressive driving, you can improve your fuel economy by 5% if driving in town, or by up to 33% on the highway. Slowing down and keeping to the speed limit also helps to reduce air emissions. Typically for every 5 MPH you drive over 60 MPH, it’s like paying an additional $0.20 per gallon of gas you use. If you have a 13-gallon fuel tank, you can save $2.60 per tank just by driving the speed limit.
Lighten the Load
By removing unnecessary items from your vehicle, you can reduce the amount of weight it carries and help improve fuel economy. Even an extra 100 pounds in your vehicle could reduce your fuel mileage. In addition to saving you money at the fuel pump, this improvement in fuel economy can also help reduce emissions from your vehicle.
Avoid Overfilling the Tank
Try to fill up your vehicle’s gas tank in the evening to help prevent emissions from building up to form smog during the day. Also, don’t top off the tank, which allows fuel to escape as vapor and also increases the chance for spilling gas. Finally, after you finish filling up, make sure you properly tighten the gas cap; otherwise, gas will evaporate from your car’s tank.
Pay Attention to the "Check Engine" Light
If your “check engine” light is on, get your vehicle checked out as soon as possible. By keeping your engine tuned, you can reduce emissions, as well as help increase gas mileage. Repairing even a minor problem can improve a vehicle’s gas mileage by as much as 4%. Fixing a serious maintenance problem, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve your mileage by as much as 40%.
Check Tire Pressure
To improve fuel economy and reduce emissions from your vehicle, keep your tires properly inflated. By keeping your tires at their maximum recommended pressure, they’ll last longer, they’ll deliver better gas mileage, and you’ll be safer on the road.
Replace Air Filters
Check the air filter in your vehicle and replace it regularly. Clogged air filters cause engines to work harder, which requires more fuel. Replacing a clogged air filter can improve your vehicle’s fuel economy by as much as 10%. And you’ll lower your fuel costs, protect your engine, and reduce emissions from your vehicle.
If you expect to idle for more than 30 seconds, park your vehicle, turn it off, and go inside. Unnecessary idling wastes fuel and creates more emissions than restarting the engine. Whether you’re at a restaurant, a bank, or anywhere else you might wait in line, avoid unnecessary idling by parking and turning off your vehicle. You’ll dramatically reduce your fuel costs and help improve air quality.
Maintain Your Vehicle
With proper maintenance, such as changing your oil, checking your tire pressure, and replacing filters, you can reduce your car’s emissions and improve gas mileage up to 5%, which can save you up to $0.24 per gallon of fuel used. A poorly maintained vehicle can release as much as 10 times the emissions of a well-maintained one. Follow the manufacturer's instructions on routine maintenance. If you drive a well-maintained car with a 13-gallon gas tank and fill your tank once a week, you could save $3.12 a week.
Recycle Used Motor Oil
Two gallons of recycled motor oil can produce enough energy to power the average Texas home for one day, cook 36 meals in a microwave oven, blow-dry your hair at least 215 times, vacuum a house for 15 months, or watch television for 7½ days straight! Whenever you change your oil or other vehicle fluids at home, make sure you recycle them. And NEVER pour used motor oil down storm drains, because the drains will carry the oil directly to Texas waterways. The used oil from one oil change can contaminate 1 million gallons of fresh water—a year's supply for 50 people. Find a recycling center near you.
Check Toilets for Leaks
Did you know 25% of all toilets leak? Check your toilet by using a leak-detection dye tablet; otherwise you could be wasting about 200 gallons of water a day—that’s 73,000 gallons a year!
Dry Clothes Efficiently
If your machine has a moisture sensor, use it to avoid over-drying your clothes. Dryers that operate an extra 15 minutes per load can cost you up to $34 each year. Cleaning the lint filter after each cycle improves air circulation and can save you $34 each year. Also consider air-drying clothes on clotheslines or drying racks.
Check your faucets, and fix any leak you find. A faucet leaking at a rate of one drop per second can waste up to 3,000 gallons of water per year. Fixing hot-water leaks can save up to $35 per year in utility bills. If every household fixed just one leaky faucet, we could reduce water use in Texas by over 13 billion gallons a year.
Use Water-Efficient Plumbing Fixtures
The shower is the largest single user of hot water in the home, accounting for 17% of total indoor water use. By installing a water-efficient showerhead, you can reduce water consumption by 25% to 60% and save energy, too. In addition, bathroom sink faucets account for more than 15% of indoor household water use. Installing aerators on your water faucets will cut the amount of water used by each faucet in half. Installing water-efficient showerheads can save you $145 on your utility bill.
Install Water-Efficient Toilets
Toilets are by far the main source of water use in the home, accounting for approximately 30% of residential indoor water consumption. Replacing older toilets with water-efficient toilets can save 4,000 gallons of water a year. If 25% of all Texas households reduced their water consumption by replacing one older toilet with a 1.6-gallon-per-flush toilet, it would reduce water consumption throughout Texas by 19 billion gallons annually.
Use Less Toxic Cleaning Products
Using fewer toxic cleaning products can reduce pollutants in both the air and water, and help improve the air quality in your house. Use baking soda as a deodorizer and prevent the use of aerosols. Dissolve 4 tablespoons of baking soda in 1 quart of water for an all-purpose cleaner and use vinegar to dissolve mineral deposits and remove soap scum and mildew. To open clogs, try a plunger first. If that doesn’t work, pour ½ cup baking soda down the drain, add ½ cup white vinegar, and cover the drain.
Lower the Thermostat on Your Water Heater
Water heating is the third-largest energy expense in your home. For maximum efficiency, use an ENERGY STAR water heater, set your water heater's thermostat to 120 degrees, and wrap it with an insulating jacket to reduce heat loss. For each 10-degree reduction in water temperature, you can save between 3% to 5% in energy costs.
Turn Off Exhaust Fans
If you use a bathroom exhaust fan, run it for up to 15 minutes after showering to control moisture, reducing your use of heating and cooling energy. When replacing exhaust fans, install a properly sized ENERGY STAR-rated fan; these are much quieter than standard models and use less energy.
Use Less Water
One easy step is to take shorter showers. Also, instead of letting the water run while brushing your teeth, run it just to wet and rinse your toothbrush. Turning off the water can save up to 3,000 gallons of water a year for a family of four.
Wash Full Loads and Use Cold Water
Washing full loads as opposed to partial loads of laundry can save an average household more than 3,400 gallons of water each year. If all Texas households washed only full loads of laundry, it would reduce water consumption throughout Texas by more than 27 billion gallons each year. Using cold water for laundry instead of hot or warm water can save the average household more than $30 annually.
Adjust the Setting on Your Refrigerator
Of all household appliances, refrigerators consume the most electricity, accounting for 9% of an average home’s total energy consumption. To save money and energy, and improve air quality, keep your refrigerator’s thermostat set between 37 and 40 degrees.
Buying locally grown food supports the local economy, reduces refrigeration and transportation emissions, and lessens the need for packing materials. Buy Texas organic products that are produced by a farming system that relies on maintaining and replenishing the soil to grow crops without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers. Most farmers’ markets and pick-your-own locations offer organic products. You might even discover a few fruits or vegetables you didn't even know were Texas grown. Find Texas products, businesses, and restaurants.
Collect Food Scraps, Oil, and Grease
A clogged drain at home can be a real nuisance. Clogged sewer lines can cause overflows that pollute nearby creeks and streams. By using strainers to catch food scraps and collecting cooking grease in a container for disposal, you can keep fats, oils, and grease from clogging up your home’s drain pipes or the city’s sewer line. By properly disposing of your food scraps and cooking grease in the trash can, you can reduce plumbing costs. The cost of an average plumber's visit is $250. Learn more about reducing fats, oils, and grease in your home or apartment.
Texans can help reduce energy consumption and air emissions by making sure that their pots and pans are not smaller in diameter than their stove’s burners. A 6-inch pot on an 8-inch burner wastes over 40% of the burner’s heat, as well as the energy it takes to produce that heat. Using an appropriately sized pot on stove burners can save about $36 each year for an electric range, or $18 per year for a gas range. Keeping a gas range’s burners clean can also ensure that the gas is burning efficiency.
Trade Up to ENERGY STAR Appliances
Installing a more efficient dishwasher reduces both water and energy consumption in your home. An ENERGY STAR dishwasher is about 10% more efficient than a conventional dishwasher, and will save about 5,000 gallons of water a year over handwashing. Additionally, ENERGY STAR dishwashers use internal water heaters that can reduce household water heating costs by 10%.
Recycling paper products—including newspapers, food packaging, cardboard boxes, junk mail, and office paper—saves money. That’s because recycling paper fiber is cheaper than growing, harvesting, and processing trees. Texans dispose of enough trash every two weeks to fill the Astrodome. Recycling 1 ton of paper saves the equivalent of up to 17 trees and uses 50% less water.
Replace Your Older Refrigerator
Choosing an ENERGY STAR model can reduce energy bills by as much as $14 per month, or $165 per year. It’s important to select the appropriate size of refrigerator for your household’s needs. Side-by-side styles use 10 to 25% more energy. Automatic ice makers and through-the-door dispensers increase energy use by 14 to 20% and increase the purchase price by $75 to $250.
Safely Dispose of Hazardous Household Waste
Hazardous household waste (HHW) includes consumer products containing chemicals that can present concerns if improperly used or disposed. Almost all can be safely and legally disposed in landfills that can accept regular trash. However, community collection programs offer a better disposal option for collecting, sharing, and safely disposing of HHW. Find collection centers or events in your area.
Use the Dishwasher Wisely
Operating automatic dishwashers with a full load can help you save water. Also, you can use your dishwasher's air-dry option or prop the door open after the final rinse to air-dry dishes naturally. Using the heat-dry, rinse-hold, and pre-rinse features sparingly helps you save money. Using a "light wash" feature conserves water. Use detergents without phosphates.
Avoid Over-Watering Your Lawn
Watering too heavily or too often weakens your lawn and causes erosion and runoff pollution. When needed, water one inch, once a week. To measure, place an empty 6-ounce tuna can on your lawn and stop watering when it is full. Watering in the morning will save water from being evaporated by the midday heat. That will save you money on your water bill, too!
Collect and Use Rainwater
Lawn and garden watering make up nearly 40% of total household water use during the summer. Collecting rainwater for landscape use is not only great for the plants, but can save you water and money. By collecting rainwater from just 10% of the residential roof area in Texas, we could conserve 27 billion gallons of water annually.
Leave Grass Clippings on the Lawn
Allow grass clippings to remain on the yard after mowing; they can act as a slow-release fertilizer to your lawn while helping to retain moisture in the soil. This reduces the need for watering and could eliminate the need for fertilizer. Plus, it helps keep fertilizers out of storm drains and as a result, out of rivers, lakes, and bays.
Maintain Your Equipment
Help reduce air-pollutant emissions from your lawn mower or leaf blower by maintaining your equipment properly. Change the oil, clean or replace air filters, maintain the mower’s blades, and keep the underside of the mower’s deck clean. Make sure you recycle your used oil at a collection center. Find a recycling center near you.
Plant Shade Trees
Planting deciduous trees on the south and west sides of your house and around your air conditioner will help save you energy by keeping your home shady and cool in the summer, yet allow the sun to shine through windows to warm your home in the winter. Carefully positioned trees can save a household up to 25% in heating and cooling costs.
Yard trimmings make up 20% of the waste generated by Texans each year. Instead of throwing them out with the garbage, you can recycle these materials by composting them. Compost can serve as a soil conditioner that will help improve your garden and reduce your water usage. By using mulch and compost on lawns and gardens, Texans could reduce the need for outdoor watering by 30% to 60%.
Use Fewer and Better Pesticides and Fertilizers
Surprising as it may seem, residential users apply more pounds per acre of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers than farmers. This often results from the assumption that more is better. The truth is that routine watering or a rainstorm can wash away the chemical excess—wasting your money and endangering nearby waterways. Less toxic, equally effective substitutes exist. It is very important to your health and the environment to always apply pesticides and fertilizers according to the label's directions, and to use only the recommended amount.
Use Native Plants
Plants that are native to Texas aren't only beautiful; they typically require less water, pesticides, fertilizers, and maintenance—saving you time and money! The deep root systems of many native plants also increase the soil's capacity to store water and reduce runoff. Native plants also attract a variety of birds, and butterflies, by providing diverse habitats and food sources.
Click on the links above to learn simple steps you can take at home to help conserve water and energy, keep the air clean, and save a little money in the process. For a text-only version, and to learn how to do your part at work, follow the links below.