Straight Talk Articles

Get Efficient in the New Year
January, 2021

Dear Pat and Brad:

Last year I wasn’t very organized with making sure my home was energy-efficient. Any ideas how to start the year off right? – Amy

Dear Amy: You bet! Here are a few simple ways to get organized and get started on a more efficient path. We’ve put the ideas in three categories:  information gathering, planning and taking action.


Begin by looking over your energy bills from last year. Knowing what energy you use and when you use it can help you decide how ambitious your plan should be. You can learn more about analyzing your energy bills from our July 2018 article on the energy tips website.

Next, visit your electric co-op’s website to see how they can help with energy improvement rebates, audit assistance or other programs.

Finally, the most important step is to get an energy audit, or do a self-audit.   If you plan to live in your house for many years to come, hiring an energy auditor may be the best investment you can make, because the auditor can tell you which energy efficiency actions will save you the most money or provide the biggest improvement in comfort.  Your electric co-op should be able to help you find an energy auditor.  If you don’t hire an energy auditor you can find information online to help you do a rudimentary audit yourself.


Now that you’ve gathered the information you need you can develop your plan.  It can be simple or more comprehensive.  If your priority is cutting your energy costs you can select the measure that will deliver the most savings.  Maybe you’re planning to do other work on your home, such as roofing or renovating, and you can incorporate some energy efficiency strategies into that project.  To complete your plan you might need to check with contractors or suppliers about costs.


Now that your planning is done, it’s time to get going.  If you’re taking on any major energy efficiency measures you will need to hire a contractor or purchase materials.  There are a few simple maintenance measures that should also be part of your plan.

Furnace filter replacement. A clean filter can improve the performance of your heating and cooling system, and reduce the electricity needed to pump air through your ductwork.   Replace the filter now if it’s been a while, then set a reminder on your phone, online calendar or paper calendar for the next replacement. Filters should be replaced every month if you’re using a cheap filter, or every three months if you’re using one that’s higher quality. A better filter will do a better job and last longer.

Program your thermostat. Heating and cooling your home is the largest energy user,  so setting your thermostat to match your lifestyle can make a major difference.  To learn more, check out the January 2018 article on the Energy Tips website.  If you don’t have a programmable or smart thermostat, it’s time to head to the hardware store or do some on-line shopping!

Label the circuits in your breaker box. It may not cut down on your energy use, but it can save a lot of headaches down the line!

And last, buy the necessary supplies so they’re there when you need them, including a few furnace filters, a programmable thermostat and tape for labelling your breakers.

Hopefully, a few hours spent taking these steps will set you on the path to an energy-efficient 2021!


This column was co-written by Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen of Collaborative Efficiency. For more information on getting efficient in the new year, go to the January 2021 More Information Page.


Skylights can be a beautiful feature on a home, but are often a source of heat loss.  Photo Credit: Darien and Neil,