Cutting energy use not only saves money, but it also has environmental and even national security benefits. This makes looking for ways to save energy one of the most common sense things anyone can do. Examine the following ways to save energy and implement whichever ones are practical.
Saving energy around the home can start with making good habits that will not cost anything but immediately help save money. Most people are very poor at keeping electronics turned off when they are not in use. Get in the habit of shutting down the computer if it is not going to be used in the next hour or so (this does not harm the computer and can actually reduce the danger of it overheating or being exposed to hackers). At the same time, start a habit of hitting the light switch whenever leaving a room.
Using curtains in the right way also makes a difference. On cold, cloudy days, keeping the curtains closed can keep cold air out and warm air in. On hot days, keeping them closed will have the same benefits in keeping the house cool. On cool nights, they should also be closed to help keep warm air in and cold out. Of course, curtains should be open to let in light and warming rays from the sun on the right days.
Settings & appliance usage
Wash clothes in cold or warm water, and wash them, as well as the dishes, only when there is a full load. Most clothes do not need hot water washing and will last longer when washed in cooler water. In addition, just hang the clothes up to dry rather than using a dryer. Here too, keeping the clothes away from the stresses of a dryer will help them last longer. Besides, many people find hang drying to be easier once they get used to it.
Turn down the thermostat at night and when away. The hot water heater should also be kept as low as possible (120 degrees Fahrenheit or 50 Celsius is sufficient or a tankless model is another option). It is a good idea to invest in a programmable thermostat to do this automatically at night and when one is at work. Keep in mind that too much air conditioning can be unhealthy, and that wearing heavier or lighter clothes indoors as the season dictates is a much better way to stay comfortable.
General heating and air conditioning guidelines are as follows, but many people can do better.
- Air conditioning 77°F (25°C) while at home. Turn it off completely, or set it at 84°F (28°C), when away.
- Heating at 68°F (20°C) when home and 64°F (18°C) overnight.
If the home has a fireplace, close the damper in the winter when it is not in use to keep warm air in. In the summer, open it to allow warm air out.
Never forget that the refrigerator is an energy hog using roughly 20% of the electricity used in a typical home. More than any other appliance, it will be worth it to spend extra to get an efficient unit if that is what it takes (see the Energy Star label discussed below), and that old, inefficient one should be unplugged. Whatever the model, setting it at a higher temperature will make a significant difference. Roughly 37 degrees (3 Celsius) for the refrigerator and 3 degrees (-16 Celsius) for the freezer are sufficient. In addition, make sure the seals are kept clean and in good condition so cool air does not easily escape. The fridge interior should be big enough so that the air can circulate and cool things properly, but not so big that there is wasted space, which needs to be cooled constantly.
As with many things, the top returns can be found by first putting some money down. The best ways to save energy often require some investments, but these will pay for themselves and then offer a real return over time.
The Energy Star label is part of a government program to help consumers find products that offer the best energy efficiency. Although energy efficient products do not necessarily cost more, they may. Think long term and take the energy cost savings into account (not to mention the other benefits of conservation) when purchasing products that use energy.
One of the most obvious purchases to make is compact fluorescent or LED bulbs. While they are costly in comparison to other bulbs, these kinds of bulbs will more than pay for themselves over time since they can offer energy savings of up to 90%, last a lot longer and can even reduce cooling costs.
Another place where a lot of energy is needlessly lost is through the windows. Modern windows do a much better job of keeping warm or cool air in and outside temperatures out. Replacing single-glazed windows with double glazed ones and other new technology windows (look for the Energy Star label) can make a huge difference.
Insulation is another great investment. From wrapping the water heater in an insulating jacket to weather stripping doors and windows, there is lots of insulating that can be done on most homes. Many of these insulating steps are very inexpensive and all of them will pay for themselves over time.
Consider replacing the furnace if it is over 15 years old. This is also a good time to have any additional work needed on ducts, wiring, etc. done.
For those unsure of what insulation and other steps to take, a home energy audit is a great idea. It is often possible to get one from utility companies or other sources for free, and these audits are virtually certain to find steps that can be taken to save energy.
Many people are not aware that electric devices often continue to draw power when they are turned off but in standby mode. To prevent this needless energy wastage, plug these devices into power strips and turn the switches off when they are not in use. Better yet, smart power strips can do this automatically.
Gas appliances are more efficient than electric and should be used when practical.
To go past saving power to actually producing it, install solar photovoltaic (PV) panels. It may even be possible to make money off of power.
Basic upkeep is also a good way to save energy.
- Furnace filters should be changed every month and heating and air conditioning systems inspected and serviced regularly.
- The registers and vents should be kept clean and free of obstructions.
- Ducts should be kept as thoroughly insulated as possible and be inspected every couple of years.
- Periodically check the check the chalking and weather stripping around windows and doors for cracking or peeling.
Reducing water use
While many people do not equate saving water with energy, since pumping water takes a lot of energy, cutting water use will save energy and on utilities. Some ways to save water include:
- Take showers (preferably short ones) instead of baths and install low-flow shower heads.
- Install low flush toilets.
- Fix leaky faucets and pipes immediately.
- Never leave the water running when brushing teeth or doing other activities that only require water intermediately.
- When doing dishes, the way that uses the least water is to fill the sink and wash them in the pool of water. This is followed by using a dishwasher. The most wasteful way is to wash dishes with the water running.
Ways to conserve water covers different water saving techniques in more detail.
People use the most energy when they are going from place to place alone in their cars. If at all possible, combine going somewhere with exercise by walking or biking. When driving, regularly check the tire pressure and remove things that are not in use such as roof racks. Take advantage of public transportation or car pooling and leave the driving to others. Furthermore, if the job allows, look into telecommuting to work at least some days of the week. It goes without saying that a more energy efficient car will also make a huge difference.
Use these and any other ways to save money to live a more efficient lifestyle that will save on both finances and the environment.
Other investments and planning
The following steps that homeowners can implement will take more time or resources, but they will bring good benefits over time.
Evergreen trees planted on the north side of a house will protect it from winter winds. Deciduous trees (those with leaves that fall off seasonally) on the south side will provide shade during the summer while allowing sun in the winter.
Two-thirds or more of the energy needed to heat a home can be supplied by a heat pump. With an energy-efficient home, solar panels on the roof may actually supply more power than the home needs, and this power can be sold back to the grid.