50 days + 5 actions + 5% = $5 Million

We know that a two-year competition will take time and endurance, but we also know that it’s easier for a community to build momentum when they are already ahead of the competition. One of the main goals for Duluth is to increase the number of households that have completed home energy retrofits. This process takes time–there are multiple steps, including a home energy analysis, developing a scope of work, finding the right contractor, and acquiring financial assistance. Many actions, however, can start saving you money with just a little time and no or low investment.


Help Duluth by completing actions in each of these areas over the next 50 days.

If enough Duluthians complete just 5 of these easy actions, we’ll have a jump on the competition!


Check out Minnesota Power’s rebates on LED lighting and efficient lighting information or Minnesota’s Clean Energy Resource Teams’ Lighting Guide.

Still using the old incandescent light bulbs around the house?  Have the CFL bulb replacement options left you less than satisfied?  Well, do we have a deal for you!  While lighting accounts for 10% of home energy use, the world of lighting has been revolutionized in the past 5 years with affordable LED options.  LED lighting

  • They last for many years (2-3x longer than CFL, 25x longer than incandescent!)
  • They’re unaffected by cold air temperatures
  • They don’t contain mercury (like CFLs)
  • They have many quality options, including dimming and light color (similar to an incandescent)
  • They use 90% less energy than an incandescent, 30% less than a CFL.  Payback on an LED is usually less than a year when replacing an incandescent that is used frequently.

So save energy the easy way by replacing your light bulbs!  Our recommendations…

  • Replace incandescent bulbs that are used for more than 1 hour per day with LED or CFL options
  • Consider using LED bulbs in specialty applications where they have the biggest advantage over CFL bulbs, including all outdoor locations as well as dimmable, decorative and recessed lighting.
  • Consider replacing those twisty style CFL bulbs with LED options when they are used more than 8 hours a day.

Appliances and Electric Loads

The biggest consumers of electricity in your home are appliances with pumps, fans, compressors or heaters. Rarely used items can significantly increase your electric usage and add unneeded ware and tare.  Additionally, like a dripping faucet wastes water, any device with a charger, remote control or circuit board likely uses electricity even when turned off.

  • Plug it in only when needed
    • Don’t forget about the beverage fridge in the basement or air compressor in the garage.
    • Fill empty space in the refrigerators or freezers with water or ice storage (making sure to allow for air circulation.) This will increase the internal thermal mass resulting in reduced cycle frequency and run time.
    • Unplug devices like clocks and TVs in guest rooms and other spaces when not in use.
  • Keep them clean
    • Clutter, such as kid and pet toys, under the refrigerator can reduce air flow and therefore efficiency. Cleaning the coils and components of refrigerators and freezers will improve performance and save you money.
    • Anything that moves air could get clogged. Cleaning vent fan grills and the filters of heaters, AC units, dehumidifiers and clothes and hair dryers will improve effectiveness and reduce operation costs.
  • Don’t pay for it if you can get it free
    • Hang your wet clothes in the basement or outside and let the dry winter air do the work. The added moisture may also increase comfort in the home.  Note: Excessive indoor moisture levels can lead to creation of mildew, mold and rot.
    • New detergents get clothes clean in cold water. Only use warm or hot cycles when needed and maximize load size when doing so.
  • Adjust Settings
    • Measure temperatures of refrigerators and freezers. These areas should be set at 35o – 40oF and 0oF respectively.
    • Use the lowest clothes dryer temperature setting possible that will still get the job done. Note: a clogged filter, vent, or outside damper will greatly reduce effectiveness of the dryer.
  • Plug It In
    • Plug computer and entertainment systems into Smart Power Strips. These automatically send power to secondary devices, like computer speakers or a DVD player, when the primary device, like the TV or computer tower is turned on.
    • Plug devices that are used only during certain time periods into timers. Computer networking equipment and satellite/cable boxes use energy even when you’re sleeping or away.  Chargeable cordless devices like vacuums, tools, and yard equipment typically only need a few hours a day to maintain their charge.
    • If you are curious if a device has a stand-by load and how much it is, plug it in to an electric monitor. These can be purchased or loaned out from community organizations and public libraries.

For more information about appliances and other electric loads, check out the Appliances, Lighting, Electronics Guide from the State of Minnesota Department of Commerce.

Water Saving

Learn more about saving water and energy at the US EPA’s WaterSense Site and in the US Department of Energy article about Reducing Hot Water Use.


Water – Did you know water heating accounts for 15% of home energy use?  By taking some of the simple steps below, you can reduce both the water you use and the energy you use to heat it, multiplying your payback.  So read on, you contentious investor you!

  • Turn down the water heater to 120F – Check your water temperature, and if above 120F, turn down the setting on your water heater, and recheck the temperature the next day. A reduction of 10F can save you 2-5% of your water heating costs!
  • Fix water leaks – Have a drippy faucet or shower? One leak of just one drip per second can end up costing you $1/month! So save lots of water and energy by fixing those drips.
  • Wash with cold water – Doing laundry in cold water can save you as much as 90% of task energy per load, and can net you $60/year. Look for detergent marked for use in cold water, and your clothes will thank you as well! (Hot water can be damaging to fabric.)
  • Install a low flow showerhead – Over 20% of water use for a home occurs in the shower. You can take a shorter shower for free savings, or you can install a low flow showerhead that will pay itself off in water and energy savings in a year or less!  Add low-flow aerators for a few extra dollars per faucet and save even more!
  • Insulate your hot water pipes – By adding insulation to your exposed hot water pipes, you won’t have to wait as long for hot water and you’ll get 2-4% warmer water at the faucet so you can turn down the water heater temp even more, saving energy and water. Install foam insulation yourself (it’s a snap) and it will pay you back in less than 2 years.
  • Bonus – Is your water heater warm to the touch?  If so, consider installing an insulated blanket that can pay itself off in 1-2 years!

Lower Heating Bills

Heating our homes uses 55% of our total household energy dollars and therefore is the biggest opportunity for savings.

  • Turn Down The Thermostat
    • A 2-5o reduction is barely noticeable but can mean a 2-10% savings on your heating costs
  • Close doors and turn off heat to unused rooms
    • If the space is not being used, why spend money to heat it? Note: These spaces should be checked and opened from time to time to avoid stagnation.
  • Have your heating equipment serviced
    • Annual cleaning and tuning will ensure safe operation that is as efficient as it can be.
  • Keep vents/radiators clear, replace filters, seal ducts and clean/bleed radiators
    • Effective heat distribution will improve comfort, increase efficiency and save money.
  • Close window treatments at night and open them during the day
    • Whether they are new or old, much of our heating costs literally go out the window.
    • Closing shades at night will increase comfort and reduce heating costs.
    • Opening drapes during daylight hours will allow for solar heat gain and reduce lighting costs.
  • Bonus: Installing a programmable or smart thermostat will turn the temperature down automatically when you’re sleeping or away.

Check out the Energy Star Guide on heating and cooling.

Air Sealing - Plugging the Leaks

Bonus: More advanced work can be done within the area between the foundation walls and first level floor, called the rim joist, which can result in greatly improved comfort and reduced energy usage.


Air leakage can account for 20% or more of the heat loss in your home.  In many cases there is little to no cost for making noticeable improvements.  Typically, air sealing can be the most cost effective thing that can be done if you know where to look and what products to use.

  • Completely close and lock windows
    • Clean debris out of sills for the best possible seal.
    • The upper sash of double-hung windows can slip down so ensure it is all the way up prior to locking.
  • Install window plastic
    • When properly installed, this extra layer of protection will increase comfort and save money by reducing air leaks and convective and radiant heat losses.
  • Adjust/replace door weatherstripping and thresholds
    • In most cases minor adjustments are all that’s needed to stop the draft.
    • Replace damaged felt or foam products with more durable options for prolonged savings and performance.
  • Stop cold air from coming in the basement
    • Use expanding can foam around gaps created by plumbing, electrical and vent penetrations.
    • Use removable/replaceable caulk to seal gaps around window glass, sills and trim.
  • Seal the obvious openings
    • Install gaskets on outlets and switches along exterior walls.
    • Ensure exhaust fan and dryer vents have exterior hoods with dampers and they aren’t stuck open.
    • Install weatherstripping or magnetic strips on mail slots and pet doors.

Check out Minnesota’s Consumer Guide on Home Envelopes (ways to save energy by reducing air leaks).

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