Have you ever opened your electric bill and been horrified by the amount you owe? We’ve all been there. But experts estimate that 58% of the energy produced in the United States is wasted. Yikes! We’ve all heard of some ways to improve energy efficiency at home, but they can require a big up-front investment. Typical suggestions include buying new Energy Star appliances (which use less energy than older appliances) or replacing old windows with new, more efficient ones. However, there are simple (and free!) ways to lower your energy consumption. Everyone can lower their bills by identifying the ways they waste electricity (and therefore money) without even realizing it.
Check Your Thermostat
Heating and cooling account for 48% of energy usage, so saving money on electricity starts with your thermostat. First, consider raising your thermostat four degrees in the summer. Is your thermostat programmable? Even better. A programmable thermostat helps your HVAC system run more efficiently, adjusting the temperature to achieve maximum comfort during the hours you are home and awake. The new, smart thermostats do an even better job of controlling the energy used to cool or heat your home. Check with your local utility companies: Many offer rebates for upgrading your thermostat.
Watch Out for Vampires
That’s right: Vampires steal your electricity! And by vampires, we mean your smartphone, tablet, and television. Anything that you leave plugged in draws energy, even if you aren’t currently using the electronic device or appliance. These energy vampires account for up to 20% of the average residential power bill! So when your phone finishes charging, unplug it. Also unplug your hairdryer, toaster oven, microwave, and other household vampires. And consider investing in a smart power strip, which automatically turns off power to devices that aren’t currently charging or in use.
Use Ovens With Care
Electric ovens use a lot of energy, and they also heat your entire house, so while your oven is drawing power, your air conditioner is working harder to cool your house in the summer. Be strategic about your oven use. If you must use it, fill it up and cook a lot of food at once. Even if you can’t eat it all at one time, most of it can probably be reheated in the microwave and still be tasty. Another energy-saving hack is cooking during the cooler parts of the day. If you need to heat a slice of pizza or bake just one or two potatoes, consider using your microwave or toaster oven instead. Smaller kitchen appliances sip power instead of gulping it and don’t heat your house along with your food.
Be Efficient About Dishes
Your dishwasher is also a dish dryer. The drying cycle on your dishwasher gives you sparkling clean dishes but uses a lot of energy to dry your dishes. The heat of this cycle is the reason that your dishes are hot to the touch when your dishwasher first turns off. Most modern dishwashers let you skip the drying cycle, which saves energy and keeps that extra heat out of your kitchen. Newer dishwashers also usually have an air-dry option, which dries the dishes with room-temperature air. You can mimic an air-dry cycle by opening your dishwasher after the final rinse cycle and letting your dishes dry with the door open. Worried about spots on your glasses or china? Use a rinsing agent and achieve sparkling clean dishes without a high power bill. However, the most important energy-saving tip for dishwashers is to only run full loads and load your dishwasher according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Don’t Ruin Your Flow
Your HVAC system was carefully designed with the vents placed purposefully in your living space to maximize the flow of air. However, we are all guilty of putting furniture in front of a vent or accidentally closing a vent off. This blocks the optimal airflow our HVAC system needs to keep us comfortable. Check and make sure all vents can release unobstructed air into your space, so your HVAC system can work as intended. Remember also to check your furnace filter. A clean furnace filter helps your HVAC system work efficiently. Another easy way to cut down on HVAC energy usage is by hanging curtains. In the summer, they can keep the sun from heating up rooms, and in the winter, they help insulate your windows.
Stop Staring at Your Food
Who hasn’t stood in front of their refrigerator, staring at the contents and waiting for inspiration to strike? Sadly, this is a massive waste of electricity. Every time the door is open, your refrigerator has to work harder to keep your food cold, which results in the fridge drawing more power. Try keeping a list of the contents of the fridge on the refrigerator door so you can meditate on the contents without wasting power. Also, don’t overfill the freezer or refrigerator, and remember to clean the refrigerator coils regularly.
Laundry is a must-do, even though it uses both electricity and water. The best way to save money on laundry is to run full loads and use cold water instead of hot water. Heating water for hot cycles accounts for 90% of the energy used to wash a load of laundry. Turning your hot water down from 140 degrees Fahrenheit to 120 degrees Fahrenheit can save you 6-10% on your energy bill.
Be a Fan of Fans
A ceiling fan costs about a penny an hour to operate and will help keep you comfortable in hot weather. Remember the tip to set your thermostat four degrees higher in the summer? If you turn on a ceiling fan, you’ll detect no change in comfort. Ceiling fans cool people, not rooms, though, so remember to turn the ceiling fan off when you leave the room.
Does your ceiling fan make your room feel warmer instead of cooler? Try reversing the direction your fan rotates. There’s usually a switch on the motor casing that allows you to reverse the blade direction. In the winter, everyone should reverse the blade direction, as the fan will then act to redistribute warm air in the room and keep you warmer (and your heating bill lower!) all season long.