“Are you coming in or staying out? Don’t just stand there! Make up your mind!”

Remember these admonitions from childhood? You straddled an open door mindlessly, while the adults around you saw only air-conditioned air escaping into the steamy outdoors.

It turns out they were right. Too many of us are complacent about electricity, assuming that whenever we flip a switch or touch a button, this valuable resource is at our command.

Electricity is indeed at our beck and call, but it’s still important to use it wisely. With great power consumption, comes great monthly utility bills. That’s why we can all benefit from a quick course in energy efficiency.

Energy Efficiency 101

Energy efficiency involves embracing new technologies and new attitudes that can reduce waste and lower your utility costs. Are you ready? Class is now in session …

Technology That Saves

Smart meters. They can display your home energy use and help you save energy and money. Some even allow you to adjust your thermostat or turn appliances on and off from your computer or smartphone. These state-of-the-art metering systems are combined with web-based tools or devices provided by a utility that are installed in your home. OUC has upgraded our entire service area to digital electric and water meters.

Efficient light bulbs. Compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs last about 10 times longer, use about one-fourth the energy of traditional incandescent bulbs, and pay for themselves in less than nine months, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Many LED bulbs use only about 25 percent of the energy and can last up to 25 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. Some are dimmable or offer convenient features such as daylight and motion sensors. A few can even be controlled from your smartphone over Wi-Fi or via the Internet.

Programmable thermostats. According to the Alliance to Save Energy, upgrading your thermostat to a newer programmable model can save you up to 10 percent on heating and cooling costs.

Occupancy sensors. Switch plate occupancy sensors automatically turn lights on when people are present and off when they leave a room.

energy_star_promo_markENERGY STAR® appliances. The federal government’s ENERGY STAR program independently certifies products that save energy without sacrificing features or functionality. Savings can be significant with appliances such as clothes washers and dryers, water heaters, refrigerators and freezers, which traditionally consume the lion’s share of household utility budgets.

Adjust Your Attitude, Adjust Your Energy Bill

Spend a little to save a lot. The U.S. Small Business Administration suggests signing up for an annual maintenance contract with an HVAC service. These companies make sure your heating, ventilating and air-conditioning systems are kept in tip-top shape. Even new a HVAC system that has earned the ENERGY STAR certification will decline in performance without regular maintenance, the SBA advises.

Be a fan boy (or fan girl). Think of when you can spare the air conditioner. Sometimes, a simple, low-energy ceiling fan can move enough air to keep you comfortable.

Save with the seasons. Most of us know that setting a thermostat to 68 degrees or slightly lower can translate into wintertime energy savings. But it’s a good idea to make a similar change during the summer, too. Cooling your home can amount to almost half of your power consumption. Try setting the thermostat to 78 degrees. This small tweak can lead to big savings.

Turn off lights, appliances and electronics when not in use. Many appliances continue to consume a small amount of electricity even when switched off — TVs, stereos, computers and kitchen appliances are the usual suspects. According to the SBA, 75 percent of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are switched off. So, unplug appliances and electronics when not in use or plug them into a power strip that you can switch off when necessary.

Wash clothes in cold water and hang them to dry. According to the Alliance to Save Energy, heating the water in your washing machine accounts for 90 percent of the energy used to wash that load. ENERGY STAR guidelines estimate that the average household can save $30 to $40 a year by washing their clothes in cold water. The Department of Energy also suggests waiting to wash until you have a full load. Then, think about saving 100 percent of the cost of tumble-drying your clothes by hanging them to dry instead.