Home & Garden

Your "Call TO Duty"

If you are like the average college male, you likely own a gaming console.

Did you know: Gaming coonsoles consume nearly as much power when they are left idle as they do when you are playing them? Remember to turn it off when you are not using it!

Winter Energy Tips

According to the Department of Energy, many homes have the potential to eliminate 50% of their annual energy use. One way to do this, when it comes to heating, is to seal air leaks. Fixing these leaks can save 40% of your heating energy. Usually, the largest sources of leakage are the rim joint areas at the top of the basement foundation or holes in the attic.

Weatherization 101: Caulk Your Windows Correctly!

A tiny crack around a window may not seem like a big deal; however, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, a 1/16" crack is like leaving the window open 3" all year long!

Water Heater Smarts

Your water heater can be a source of wasted energy. By insulating your hot water pipes, you can avoid heat loss when the water is traveling. Additionally, setting a water heater limit – 140 degrees is the maximum needed, even for your dishwasher – can lower water costs. Lastly, before leaving for vacation, remember to unplug large appliances, and don't forget to turn down (or off) your water heater!

Watch the Wattage

An easy way to increase energy savings is to use fluorescent bulbs when possible. Make sure you are using the correct wattage, and keep your light bulbs clean (dirt absorbs light)!

Did you know: If everyone in Ames replaced five incandescent bulbs with CFLs, 40 million pounds of CO2 could be eliminated from the atmosphere!

Try Solar Outdoor Lights

Light your landscape, sans energy costs, with solar outdoor lighting. Solar lights collect energy from the sun during the day to provide illumination at night.

Switch Off Properly

Televisions, DVD players, and other electronic equipment can use nearly as much energy when left on standby as when they're in use.  To avoid wasting energy, unplug equipment when you're not using it. To make things as easy as possible, plug multiple devices into a power strip, which you can switch on and off at once. 

Stay Cool

The best time to buy an air conditioner is (surprise, surprise) after the hot season! When shopping for an air conditioner, be sure to look for ENERGY STAR models!

Sometimes Snow Stinks

The most environmentally thoughtful way to remove snow is with a good-old shovel. If you are clearing a manageable area, try to avoid using a snow blower!

Soaker Hose

Soaker hoses water more efficiently by sending moisture straight into the ground, near plants' roots, rather than into the air, where water is lost to evaporation.

Skimping on Professional Installation May Cost More in the Long Run!

Did you know: An improperly installed furnace can be 30% less efficient than one that is properly installed!

Set Your Temp Back!

Did you know: You could lower your heating and cooling bills by up to $180 per year by setting the temperature cooler in the winter (or warmer during the summer) by 10 degrees for 8 hours each day!

Save on the Flush

Consider installing a water-efficient toilet to save water!

Replace Old Windows

By replacing single-paned windows with double-paned ENERGY STAR windows, you can reduce your heating and cooling costs! Note, the U-Factor (found on the label) should be .3 or less.

Reduce Rinsing

According to Consumer Reports, prerinsing dishes before you put them in the dishwasher wastes up to 20 gallons of water per load, and doesn't get them any cleaner! 

Rain, Rain, Don't Go Away!

Set up a rain barrel to catch rainwater from the gutters of your home or apartment to use for watering plants, flowers, gardens, and washing cars. Try an inexpensive food-grade drum (which you could get from a drum and barrel supplier for around $10). Make sure your container doesn't let in light, though, because clear barrels can speed the growth of algae in the water.

Proper CFL Use

If you turn a CFL on and off frequently, it will not meet its rated life expectancy. CFLs work best if they are left on for at least 15 minutes each time they are illuminated.

Power Tools

Get your workout in when you are improving the home by using hand tools in the place of power tools whenever possible. For those jobs that require power tools, make sure to keep your power tools in tip-top shape for efficiency!

Plant Trees to Save Money

Consider planting shade trees on the south and west sides of your home to cool during summer and protect during the winter. You can also plant shrubs around your foundation.

Online Energy Audit

Visit MidAmerican Energy online (www.midamericanenergy.com/homeaudit) and complete a home energy audit. Compare your home with similar homes in your area. You will also receive recommendations that can make your home more energy-efficient.

No Mo' Draino'

Save money and the earth by avoiding harsh chemical drain openers. Use this recipe instead: pour 1/4 cup baking soda down the drain, then add 1 cup vinegar. Cover for 15 minutes. Then rinse the drain with boiling water (and repeat if necessary). A plunger may be beneficial for a serious clog.

Myth Buster: Wintertime Dilemmas

MYTH: If I turn down the heat while I'm gone, it will cost more than I save to warm the house back up when I get home.

FACT: The longer your house remains at a lower temperature, the more energy you save! If you have a programmable thermostat, set it to turn back when you leave and to warm up 30 minutes before you come home.

Myth Buster: Space Heaters

MYTH: Use space heaters to lower your heating bill – they use the same amount of energy as a coffee maker.

FACT: A space heater and coffee maker do draw a similar current, but remember a coffee maker is only on for a short period, while a space heater will be used for consecutive hours.

Myth Buster: Gas Fireplaces

MYTH: A gas fire in the fireplace will help warm my house and reduce my overall gas usage.

FACT: Through a study by the Gas Technology Institute, gas fireplaces actually increase gas usage in most homes. Gas fireplaces range from 5-60% efficiency and gas furnaces have 80-90% efficiency.

Keep Your Kitchen Costs Down!

Try out these kitchen-friendly tips to increase energy-efficiency:

  • Cook with small appliances
  • Avoid pre-heating your oven unless it is a short baking job
  • Use the oven more when it is cold outside

Keep Your Fridge Tidy and Save Money!

Keep your fridge tidy so that you can find what you’'re looking for quickly. Up to 30% of the cold air held within the fridge escapes each time you open the door, so the quicker you grab and close the door, the better.  

Keep the Pavement Clean

Sustainable landscaping can be more important than you may realize. Anything that washes off your driveway or street (like lawn fertilizer, eroded soil, pet waste, and leaves) runs directly into storm drains and then into our streams, ponds, and lakes. Consider sweeping your grass clippings, leaves, and fertilizer away from driveways and streets to prevent this type of runoff.

Keep It Clear

Make sure heating registers and radiators are not blocked by furniture, drapes, or other objects!

Install an Energy-Efficient Furnace

In the market for a new furnace? Install an Energy-Efficient Furnace (92% AFUE or higher). They run about $6,000 but can save you up to 20% of your heating costs.

Install a Time-Programmable Thermostat

When looking into a programmable thermostat, check into one that offers pre-programmed settings, such as "wake," "day," "evening," and "sleep." This way, you have to set the temperature only once, instead of having to remember to reset it multiple times per day.

Identify Your Priorities

It may not be feasible to replace all your incandescent bulbs at once, so prioritize the rooms with the greatest lighting usage.

Ice Ain't Nice

Especially when it's covering your sidewalk! But ,there are two ways to be more environmentally friendly when removing ice from your sidewalks: First, you can chop it manually with your shovel. Second you can find environmentally friendly de-icing salt.

Holiday Living Trees

Instead of getting a large tree that has been grown and cut down, try getting a smaller, potted Christmas tree. Store it on a porch or garage, and when the ground warms up, plant it! Don't forget to plant trees on the south and west sides of your property to act as wind blockers!

Handwash Carefully

If done properly, washing dishes by hand tends to be more energy-efficient than using a dishwasher,– especially for small volumes of dishes. Instead of washing under a running faucet, put a plug in the sink, or use a large, plastic bowl. And to minimize the amount of water used when rinsing, install a low-flow aerator on your kitchen sink faucets. When washing dishes by hand, minimize the number of times you need to change the water by washing the least-dirty items first. 

Garden Goodness

Plant a garden of yummy foods this year, or join a community garden if you don't have land to plant your own garden. Do some research on what will grow best in your area and be on the lookout for other gardening tips!


Defrosting your refrigerator before it's plagued with ice can help your fridge run more efficiently! Remember to check the temperature to make sure the fridge is set between 37-40 degrees and the freezer between 0-10 degrees.

Find Money in Your Washer and Dryer!

Find some proverbial money in your pocket with these energy-efficient laundry tips:

  • Dry clothes only as long as necessary, instead of the whole cycle
  • Hang your clothes to dry
  • Remove and fold clothes immediately to avoid ironing
  • Keep your lint tray clean
  • Use only the recommended amount of soap (too much soap makes your washer work harder)
  • Use cold water
  • Dry in consecutive loads, while the dryer is still warm

Do You Need a New Furnace?

Not sure if you need a new furnace? You can save money by upgrading your furnace to an energy-efficient model. Does your furnace fit into one of these categories? (1) Is more than 15 years old; (2) Needs frequent repairs; (3) Creates uneven temperatures (some rooms too cold and some too hot); (4) Creates humidity problems. If so, you may want to consider your options!

Consider Native Turf

Sustainable landscaping can prevent a plethora of adverse consequences. Anything that washes off your yard and street (like lawn fertilizer, eroded soil, pet waste, and leaves) runs directly into storm drains and then into our streams, ponds, and lakes. Try to select deep-rooted native grasses for your lawn. Minimal watering and fertilization is needed after planting these.

City Programs

Determine if your city has a program you can participate in to help reduce the demand for power in prime times of the day, especially during the summer.

Chemical-Free Gardening

Commercial pesticides and herbicides can cause harm to human neurological, reproductive, and integumentary systems. Instead of buying commercial chemicals, consider creating your own blend using 1 garlic bulb, 1 medium onion, and 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper mixed into a quart of water. Use this blend as a spray to send away insects and slugs from your garden.

Ceiling Fan Smarts

Did you know: Your ceiling fan has a switch that helps the fan cool or heat, depending on the direction it is switched to! In the summer make sure your ceiling fan is pushing air downward, and in the winter the fan should be pulling air upward.

Buy an Energy-Efficient Home

In the market for a new home? Opt for one with passive solar features or one that has possibilities for home improvements with energy savings in mind.

Bigger Isn't Always Better

A furnace that is too large for your space doesn't necessarily heat your home any better, but it does drive up your heating bill! When shopping for a new furnace, buy one that is appropriate size for the size of your home.

Be Shade Smart

On sunny days during the cool months, keep draperies and shades open on the south side of the house. Close them at dusk. During warm months, keep shades closed!

Avoid "Shock and Withdrawal"

Do you find it hard to turn your heat down to the recommended temperature all at once? Try turning it down a bit more each week and adding blankets and sweaters as you go!

Alliant Energy: Time of Day Pricing

If you are an Alliant Energy Customer, consider signing up for the Time of Day Pricing Program. This program helps customers reduce their electric bills by choosing off-peak hours to perform their electricity heavy chores, such as water heating, space heating, air conditioning, washing clothes, and running the dishwasher.