Summer promises beach days, barbeques, banana splits, and … bigger energy bills. Huh? As temperatures rise, monthly energy bills tend to follow as we crank up the AC. But you can choose among energy-efficient behaviors, technologies, and programs that offer simple ways to keep energy expenses low – while being kind to the planet. Take on this summer energy challenge to see how much you can save.

For the next 8 weeks (July 1 through August 27), challenge yourself to try each of the eight energy-saving tips below. By the end of summer, you’ll be more than ready for Energy Efficiency Day 2021 on October 6. Tell us how these tips worked for you with the hashtags #EEDay2021 and #SummerEnergyChallenge. Happy savings! 

1. Week One: Save while you shower

Pumping, purifying, and heating water uses a lot of energy, so you can do double-duty and save two resources at once by being more conscious about your water use. This is especially true for showers, one of the largest drags on hot water heaters – which account for about 17% of home electricity use. During week two, try timing how long your average shower lasts. Then, for the rest of the week, see if you can shorten it by two minutes. Those minutes will add up: because each minute of showering uses about 2.5 gallons of water, two minutes a day is close to 1,000 gallons saved each year.

2. Week Two: Be a top-notch traveler

It costs most households around $2,000 each year to keep their car’s gas tank full. If you have a gas-powered car, try out some simple driving techniques that will make fuel go further: avoid rapid acceleration and braking, follow the speed limit, and turn off your car rather than idling – it only takes 10 seconds worth of fuel to restart your vehicle. These tips can improve your mileage by as much as 40%. And as always, remember to use a more efficient mode of travel when possible – such as public transit – or enjoy the summer weather by biking or walking to nearby locations. The EPA has found that if Americans chose to walk instead of drive for just half our car trips under one mile, the cumulative savings would be $575 million in fuel costs and 2 million metric tons of CO2 emissions per year – the equivalent of taking 400,000 cars off the road. 

3. Week Three: Lights, camera, action

Identify the three lights that you use the most in your home, and switch them out for LEDs. LED lights use about 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs, making them the ultimate low-cost, high-return efficiency purchase.

Pro tip: Check your local utility website to see if they offer incentives or rebates for energy-efficient purchases. Some utilities even operate marketplaces with discounted efficient products, or host giveaways with free items.

4. Week Four: Window dressing

Another affordable purchase that will quickly recuperate cost through energy savings is caulk and weatherstripping for windows. As much as one third of energy loss occurs through windows and doors, so set aside a few minutes for a DIY project this week and close up any leaks with your choice of sealing solution.

5. Week Five: Water week  

Saving water means saving energy. Take things to the next level by switching out your showerhead for one certified by EPA WaterSense. If everyone in the U.S. did this, we would collectively save $2.2 billion on water bills, $2.6 billion on energy bills, and 260 billion gallons of water each year.

Pro tip: Are you a renter? No problem! Most of these intermediate investments are renter-friendly. You can take an advanced power strip with you when you move, use temporary caulking that can be peeled off when no longer needed, and most landlords won’t mind tenants switching out lightbulbs or showerheads (but make sure to double check – and who knows, they may even offer you compensation!).

6. Week Six: Power on purposefully

Did you know that many of your electronics drain power from the wall even when they’re turned off? Keep these “vampires” in check with an advanced power strip, which automatically turns off the power supply to devices not in use. With models selling for as low as $10, these power strips can save up to $200 a year.

7. Week Seven: August audit

You’ve built some efficient habits and invested in basic household items that will quickly pay back with energy savings. Now it’s time to take things to the next level by scheduling a home energy audit to determine where your home is using the most energy. While professional audits can cost several hundred dollars, they will identify the highest impact steps you can take to permanently reduce your energy costs. Many utilities also offer audits for free or discounted, and you can find a trusted provider through your utility’s website or an ENERGY STAR search tool.

Low-cost option: Try a DIY home energy audit with tips from the Department of Energy.

8. Week Eight: Weatherize for winter

It may feel like those long summer nights will never end, but before we know it, days will be cooling down again. Get ahead of the curve by weatherizing your home this week. Particularly if your home audit found insulation to be a major concern, consider hiring a professional contractor to improve the building envelope. But even setting aside a few weekend hours to layer new insulation in your attic, around your water heater, and in your basement or crawl space can have a major impact. In fact, ENERGY STAR finds you can knock 10% off of your entire annual energy bills with these improvements. Check out ENERGY STAR’s tips to get started.

Low-cost option: A pre-cut “blanket” for your water heater can save up to 16% of your water heating bill for under $30.