Energy Efficiency Tools & Resources
Making your home or business more efficient helps you conserve energy and water, protect our environment and save money on your utility bills. A great way to start is knowing how much electricity and water you are using in the first place.
To help you do this, see our online tools below. These make it easy to calculate your electricity and water use so you can make smart choices and save more money. The following sections also offer dozens of practical tips for reducing energy use and finding the most energy-efficient products and appliances.
- Online Tools for Calculating Electricity Use
The Energy Star Portfolio Manager helps businesses measure and track their power and water consumption against other similar businesses across the country. We are proud to partner with Energy Star to offer you this service. Learn more about this tool on our Portfolio Manager page.
This online tool estimates electricity use and costs for your heating, cooling, water heating, refrigeration, lighting and appliances. It also shows you ways to save money in each area.
This interactive tool offers practical ways to reduce electricity use in nearly every room of your home.
This appliance calculator details the operating costs of more than 50 common household appliances and electronic devices.
The lighting savings calculator compares the operating costs of standard incandescent, halogen, compact fluorescent and LED bulbs.
The calculator estimates the monthly cost of running your space heater.
This online tool compares the estimated annual cost of using six different types of water heaters.
This comprehensive tool offers conservation tips for every room in your home. It also includes the latest information on energy-efficient home design, construction, appliances, heating and cooling systems, insulation and much more.
The City of Tacoma EnviroHouse is a permanent model home showcasing sustainable building and natural landscape ideas, materials, products and techniques. It allows you to see and touch a wide variety of sustainable building products and high-efficiency appliances, windows and lighting. EnviroHouse also has workshops available to the public.
- Tips for Reducing Your Electric Bill
- Upgrade lighting with ENERGY STAR® rated LED bulbs and fixtures with our LED lighting rebates.
- Turn lights off in unoccupied rooms.
- Dust light bulbs and lampshades regularly to improve light output.
- Set your water heater temperature to 120° Fahrenheit.
- Install a foam pad under water heaters located on concrete or uninsulated floors.
- Insulate the first three feet of pipe going to and from the water heater.
- Repair plumbing leaks.
- Consider upgrading to a heat pump water heater and take advantage of our rebate.
- Install efficient showerheads.
- Install faucet aerators that use two gallons of water per minute or less.
Heating and Cooling Systems
- Change or clean your heating system’s filters regularly.
- Repair and seal ductwork with our duct sealing rebate program.
- Fill your attic with insulation that is 18-20 inches thick and use our insulation upgrade rebate.
- Remove dust from baseboard or wall heater grills at least once per year.
- Replace single-pane windows and double-pane metal windows with our energy-efficient windows rebate program.
- Turn down the thermostat and use space heaters to heat only the room you are in.
- Consider using our rebate programs to upgrade to a ductless heat pump or central heat pump.
- Keep room air filters and dehumidifiers away from corners and walls to ensure good airflow.
Refrigerators and Freezers
- Set your refrigerator thermostat temperature to 38° Fahrenheit and your freezer temperature to 0° Fahrenheit.
- Keep your refrigerator and freezer three-quarters full if possible because empty appliances use more energy.
- Vacuum or brush your refrigerator coils annually.
- Leave at least two inches of space between walls and the refrigerator and stove.
- If possible, replace your refrigerator or freezer if you have had it more than 10 years. An old unit can use twice as much energy as new, energy-efficient models.
Washing Machines, Dryers and Dishwashers
- Run your washing machine and dishwasher only when they are full.
- Wash clothes in cold water; detergents and the washing machine agitator clean clothes, not the water temperature.
- Use air-dry settings and other power-saving features on your dishwasher.
- Clean your dryer’s lint screen between every load.
- Check your dryer exhaust vent every six months to ensure unrestricted airflow.
- Upgrade to an energy-efficient dishwasher that uses 4.5 gallons of water per cycle compared with older models that can use up to 14 gallons per cycle.
- Upgrade to an energy-efficient washing machine that uses 10 gallons of water per load compared with older models that can use up to 40 gallons per load.
Many common electronic devices (including computers, laptops, monitors, stereos, printers and gaming systems) use energy even when they appear to be turned off. This is commonly called “phantom” or “vampire” power use. To eliminate phantom energy waste do the following:
- Unplug electrical devices when not in use.
- Plug home electronics into power strips, then turn the power strips off at night and when you are away from home.
- If available, turn on the power-saving feature on your electronics.
Exterior Doors and Walls
- Patch holes in exterior walls to prevent heat loss.
- Install weather-stripping on exterior doors to prevent cold-air drafts.
- Use expanding foam to fill holes in walls, floors and ceilings where plumbing pipes or wiring pass through.
- Install glass doors on your fireplace or a chimney top damper so warm air inside your home does not escape up the chimney.
Pools and Spas
- Cover pools and spas when not in use to prevent heat loss.
- Energy Use Monitor
This easy-to-use tool is available for free at any Pierce County or Tacoma public library. You can check it out the same way you would a book or other library item. The monitor gives you important and useful details including:
- How much electricity your appliances and electronics use
- Estimated cost of using these devices
- Environmental impact of your devices
- Total electricity use by day, week, month and year
- Total amount of “phantom” or “vampire” power use
The monitor includes user instructions. Please ask a librarian for details.
- Tips for Reducing Your Water Bill
The average American home wastes about 10,000 gallons of water per year, mostly due to small, and often unnoticed, leaks. That is enough to fill a backyard swimming pool! Fortunately, it is fairly easy to prevent most leaks,.
Tacoma Water customers can visit the main TPU administrative building at 3628 S. 35th St. to get efficient showerheads, faucet aerators, shower timers and leak detector dye tablets for your toilets — for free. We can also do a free inspection of your house and yard to look for active and potential leaks, and offer suggestions for fixing them. To learn more, contact us at (253) 502-8191 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below are tools, practical tips and rebates to help you use less water at your home or business and save money on your utility bills.
Install a Water-Efficient Showerhead
Look for a showerhead with a Tacoma Power sticker at any participating store and receive an instant $10 rebate at the time of purchase.
Install a Water-Efficient Toilet
High-efficiency toilets use 1.28 gallons of water per flush compared with older models that use 3.5-5 gallons per flush. Replacing your older toilet with an efficient model could save you up to 2,400 gallons of water per month and reduce your annual water bill by about $78. When shopping for a high-efficiency toilet, be sure to look for the WaterSense label.
Water Use Calculator
A water use calculator tells you approximately how much water you use each day. It also shows you which water uses in your home are efficient, and which are not, and offers practical tips for saving water and energy.
Use this drip calculator from the American Water Work Association to estimate your water waste and see how much you could be saving.
Know Your H2O Guide
This helpful publication from Tacoma Water offers a wealth of information including water use facts, conservation tips, resources and details about the most water-efficient appliances and products currently available.
Visit the City of Tacoma EnviroHouse
The City of Tacoma EnviroHouse is a permanent model home showcasing sustainable building and natural landscape ideas, materials and techniques. It offers hands-on ways to learn about a wide variety of sustainable building products and the latest in water saving devices, high-efficiency appliances, windows and lighting. EnviroHouse also has workshops available to the public.
- Outdoor Watering and Yard Care
Most people use more water — and pay higher water bills — during the summer months. Unfortunately, about half of it is wasted due to overwatering outdoors. To help reduce water waste, you may want to install an efficient sprinkler system.
To understand how much you could save, consider this: a 1,000-square-foot lawn that is overwatered for 30 minutes each day for one week can cost you an extra $13.82 per month. That same lawn watered with proper irrigation design will cost you just $6.41 per month total.
For practical tips on maintaining healthy lawns, shrubs and gardens, including how to properly install and use a sprinkler system, see the following resources:
- Finding and Fixing Water Leaks
Fixing common household water leaks can reduce your water bill by about 10% every year. Below are tools and tips for finding, preventing and fixing water leaks.
How to Test for Water Leaks
The best place to start testing for leaks is your water meter. Your meter is outside, but the location varies from house to house. Usually, it is in line with an outside hose bib. Once you locate your meter, follow these steps:
1. First, make sure all your faucets, outdoor sprinklers and water-using appliances (such as dishwashers and washing machines) are off.
2. Check the number on your water meter, write it down and wait one hour.
3. After an hour, if your meter number has changed, and the water has been off, then you probably have a leak.
4. If your meter has a low-flow indicator (a small, triangular gauge or wheel), see if it moves while your water is off. If it does, you have a leak.
An unexpected increase in your water bill, particularly after freezing weather, may also be a sign you have a leak.
How to Locate a Water Leak
Leaks can occur in many places in your home and yard, so it helps to know where to look. Below are some useful tips for spotting and stopping leaks. Also consult Tacoma Water’s guide to conservation tips for other helpful ideas.
- Watch for dripping faucets.
- Look for leaking showerheads or leaks where the showerhead connects to the pipe. These types of leaks can usually be easily fixed by using Teflon tape (or plumber’s tape) on the pipe threads and screwing the showerhead on tightly.
- Look under your sinks to see if water is on the outside of the faucet connections or pipe fittings.
- Listen for toilets running after you have flushed them and the tank has refilled. A silent toilet leak, often caused by a flapper that does not completely close, can waste 50 to 500 gallons of water per day. A silent toilet leak that wastes 250 gallons of water per day would cost you about $50 per month in water and sewer charges. To check your toilet for leaks, do the following:
- Take the lid off the back of your toilet, flush once and watch for the water to rise to the mark on the inside of the tank. This mark may be pressed into the ceramic itself.
- If water rises above this line, it will continuously overflow, and the water will run down the drain. To fix this, bend the float arm down so that the re-fill valve shuts off at the fill line. If it still leaks, you may need to replace this valve.
- Put several drops of food coloring into the water in the toilet tank. Then wait a several minutes to see if any colored water appears in the toilet bowl. If it does, the flapper valve at the bottom of the tank is likely leaking. This is usually caused by a worn-out flapper valve and should be replaced. This is an easy do-it-yourself fix using parts from most any hardware store. Just be sure to buy the right flapper size for your toilet.
- Look for leaks where your hose connects to the hose bib at your outdoor faucet or along your garden hose.
- If you have an automatic sprinkler system or drip irrigation system, look for soggy soil around sprinkler heads after running your sprinkler systems. Also look for water drops leaking from around your automatic control valves.
- Turn on your automatic irrigation system to check for broken sprinkler heads and pipes.
- To recognize issues and make simple repairs to your sprinkler system, view this online course.
- Consult this online guide to installing a drip irrigation system.
- How to Prevent Your Pipes from Freezing
Frozen pipes are a common cause of leaks. Since frozen water expands, improperly insulated pipes can crack and leak. Even worse, freezing can cause pipes to burst, which could lead to a major water leak inside your home or crawlspace.
If you have a water leak emergency, call us at (253) 502-8384.
Protect your plumbing and prevent frozen pipes by doing the following:
- Insulate exposed pipes, valves, and hose bibs (the outdoor water faucet where you attach your hose) located outdoors, in attics, crawl spaces, basements and garages. Pipe insulation and insulating material for hose bibs are available at most hardware stores.
- Shut off and drain outside faucets. If your hose bibs have individual shutoff valves, turn off the water supply and drain the faucets.
- Shut off and drain your outdoor irrigation system and other water fixtures.
- Disconnect your garden hoses from hose bibs during the winter months.
- Cover footing or foundation vents.
- Keep heat on and set your thermostat to no lower than 55° Fahrenheit while you are away from home.
- If you are leaving your house for an extended time, ask someone to check your home daily to ensure the heat is turning on and your pipes are not frozen.
- Locate your emergency shutoff and learn how to turn off your water supply. Note that not all homes have a shutoff valve. If you do, it may be in the garage, the basement, a hall closet or buried beneath your outside hose faucet.
- During extended freezes or when the temperature falls well below freezing, you may want to let water trickle from an indoor faucet. You can also open cabinet doors beneath your indoor sinks to allow warm air to circulate.