One Less – Energy Conservation
The amount of energy we use directly affects our wallets. Below are some great tips on how to conserve energy in our lives.
Depending on your local climate, home heating and cooling will account for roughly 50% of home energy use, with water heating taking another 15%, appliances 15% more, and lighting and electronics consuming the remaining 20%.
Thankfully, there are many relatively painless, free and low cost ways for you to save thousands of dollars this year and every year, merely by paring back your energy use. Even the more expensive fixes will often have a 3 to 5 year payback time, after which you get decades of what is, in effect, FREE MONEY!
Heating & Cooling
- Installing a programmable thermostat does wonders, continually saving energy by matching temperature to time of day. In winter, 65°-68°F is adequate during the day, with a sweater or long sleeved shirt providing added comfort. At night, use a heavy blanket and set the thermostat to 60°-63°F. When traveling or at work, a setting of 50°-55°F is fine. In summer, 78°-80°F is plenty comfortable (see ceiling fan tip below).
- Ceiling fans are your other great asset. Consuming less energy than a standard light bulb, ceiling fans make you feel 5 degrees cooler in summer, while they recycle rising warm air in the winter – just remember, switch the fan to counter-clockwise in summer and clockwise in winter.
- Stop drafts! Check for leaks around windows and doors and caulk or weather strip where needed.
- Open your curtains on sunny winter days and close them at night to keep heat in.
- Close unused central air vents as well as the fireplace damper when not in use.
- To keep your house cooler in summer, plant shade trees or install awnings on your south wall.
- If your home is older, consider increasing your wall and ceiling insulation – an improvement that provides benefits both in winter and summer.
- In summer, an attic exhaust fan is a great option, reducing AC use by venting hot air out of the attic.
- Water Heater – Lower its thermostat to 120°F, and turn the temp down even more when traveling.
- Replace your old fridge. By far, refrigerators use the most energy of any appliance.
Keep the fridge at 37°F and the freezer at 3°F, turning on any energy saver modes.
- A full freezer wastes less energy than an empty one — frozen foods help retain the cold after the door is opened. One trick, fill your freezer with containers of water.
- Save energy by defrosting foods prior to cooking and letting hot dishes cool before putting them in the fridge.
- Use cooler water for clothes and dishwashing [also follow all the hot water saving tips in my past two Green Blogs].
- Run your dishwasher when nearly full and avoid using the heat setting during the dry cycle, or let your dishes air dry.
- Using a slow cooker saves time, energy, and money, while also allowing you to buy less expensive cuts of meat.
- Turn off your oven or burners when food is almost ready and let existing heat finish the cooking for you.
- Match pot size to burner and use tight-fitting covers on pots to shorten cooking time.
Lighting and Electronics
- Replace your five or ten most frequently used light bulbs with LEDs or compact fluorescents – both of which consume a quarter of the electricity of regular bulbs and last up to 12 times longer. Plus they heat up much less, putting less burden on your AC system.
- Unplug idle electronics, many continue to use some electricity, even when off.
- Consider a laptop rather than a desktop computer – they use 1/3rd of the energy.
Set the laptop to sleep or hibernate mode.
- When buying an appliance or electronic device, look for highly efficient Energy Star rated models.
Next week: Vehicles.