How to Improve a Rating

Get an Energy Audit

First and foremost, have an energy audit done on your home. These audits are free and can have a significant impact on your utility bills, with an audited home saving an average of 15% – 20% on energy costs. If you live in Massachusetts, an audit can be scheduled via the Mass Save program or through a Mass Save approved energy audit company.

Energy auditors will likely install free CFL (Compact Fluorescent) or LED (Light Emitting Diode) light bulbs (insist on LED if you can) along with low-flow aerators and showerheads. They will also assess insulation levels in your home along with the efficiency and safety of HVAC equipment. If needed, additional insulation and/or air sealing work can be scheduled — often at subsidized costs. There is no obligation to spend money, but you should seriously consider taking advantage of subsidized air sealing and insulation work if it's available. These investments will quickly pay for themselves in savings on your utility bills. The audits are absolutely free for most Massachusetts utility customers (the program is funded through charges on your utility bills), but municipal electric companies do not participate in the program. You can check the Mass Save website to determine if you are eligible.

You can find more information about professional energy audits (including how to locate a qualified auditor) from the U.S. Department of Energy.

You can also take this brief Home Energy Quiz from the Building Performance Institute. It only takes a minute and will provide suggestions for improving the efficiency of your home with estimated annual savings.

Kill The Vampire

Many of the appliances in our homes use energy even when they are not in use. This is called “vampire” energy and can add up to a great deal of wasted electricity over the course of a year. The Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) estimates this wasted energy costs U.S. consumers 19 billion dollars a year. Televisions and any appliance with a digital display are good examples. You can use a simple energy monitor like the Kill A Watt to determine how much energy these appliances are wasting when not in use.

Vampire energy can be eliminated by unplugging appliances when not in use (a simple powerstrip can help here). Some appliances such as your television can be plugged into a smart powerstrip that will automatically shut off power to the device (and any peripheral devices) when the device is powered off.

Switch to LED Bulbs

If you are not able to get an energy audit for any reason, consider replacing incandescent bulbs with LED. If you have existing CFL bulbs, replace them with LED when they expire. Why? LED bulbs have the least environmental impact and are most efficient. They may cost a bit more, but are worth the investment.

Bulb Type Energy Savings
(compared to Incandescent)
Approximate Bulb Life
Incandescent 0 1,000
Energy Saving Incandescent 25% 1,000 - 3,000
CFL 75% 10,000
LED 75%-80% 25,000

Other Simple Steps

There are a variety of steps you can take to manage and lower the amount of energy used in your home. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Turn down the temperature setting on your hot water tank. Try to find an ideal setting that is as low as possible while still providing water at a temperature that meets your needs.

  • Consider hanging some or all of your clothes to dry. If you use the dryer, choose the lowest temperature setting, which will protect your clothes and save energy.

  • Wash your clothes in cold water. This will save energy and money (Consumer reports estimates savings of $60 per year) and your clothes will last longer.

  • Install a programmable thermostat. These save energy by automatically lowering temperature settings when heat is not required (e.g. while sleeping or during the day if you are away). A little setup work is required to program the schedule, but they are fairly intuitive. Installation is not usually difficult and can be done by most homeowners. Many modern thermostats allow you to change temperature settings remotely from a browser or a smartphone.

You Can Make a Difference!

These are a just a few of the actions you can take to lower your utility bills, reduce carbon emissions and improve your OPEN ratings. You do not need to spend a lot of money to have an impact when it comes to efficiency!