A Beginner’s Guide to Home Energy Conservation
by Marcy Tate
Energy conservation is not only good for the planet, it’s also good for your pocket. It’s pretty simple to conserve energy at home and you’ll notice the savings right away. Still, changing your energy habits isn’t easy for every homeowner. Start by picking a few energy conservation techniques and gradually add a few more each month. As you go along, remind yourself how much of a help your efforts are for the planet and how much lower your utility bills will be. That should give you the inspiration to turn your energy conservation habits into a way of life. The tips below do not involve high investments.
1. Light Bulbs
Those curly-shaped light bulbs, called compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs have been around for over a decade. If you haven’t replaced your energy wasting incandescent bulbs yet with CFL bulbs, then make this your first move in greening your energy spending habits. CFL bulbs last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. Here’s a chart from General Electric that will help you select your CFL bulbs:
Standard Bulb = CFL Bulb
40w = 10w
60w = 13w-15w
75w = 20w
100w = 26w-29w
150w = 38w-42w
250w-300w = 55w
Dimmers let you control the lighting in your home. When you need less lighting, you can easily dim the lights and save energy and money. Dimmers are inexpensive and can be used with most lighting fixtures, including pendant lights and recessed lighting. Dimming a light by just 10 percent more than doubles the bulb life.
3. Programmable Thermostats
A programmable thermostat is not only good for conserving energy, it’s extremely convenient. You won’t have to get out of bed if you have forgotten to lower your thermostat. Instead, you can program the thermostat to lower the temperature each night at a designated time. According to the US Department of Energy, you can save approximately 10% a year on your heating and cooling bills by turning your thermostat back 10°–15° for eight hours. Programmable thermostats give you the ability to do this easily.
4. Appliances & Electronics
Refrigerators account for about 20 percent of household electricity use. Raising the temperature in the refrigerator will help lower your electricity usage. Check the gaskets around your refrigerator and freezer doors to make sure they are clean and sealed tightly. If they are not clean, it will cause the refrigerator to work harder, wasting unnecessary energy.
Turning the water heater temperature down can also save energy. Many thermostats are set to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Lowering it by 20 degrees can save almost $100 a year.
Turn off your computer at night. According to the US Department of Energy, you can save an average of $90 a year. If you are in the market for a new computer, consider a laptop. They use less energy than desktop computers.
If you are in the market for new appliances, select energy-efficient models. Look for the Energy Star label on appliances. The label means that the product is an energy saving product.
5. Standby Power
Standby power, also known as vampire power, is the electric power consumed by electronic appliances while they are switched off or in a standby mode. Unplug appliances, power adapters and other electronic devices when not in use and you’ll save.
Microwaves, cell phone chargers, televisions, and power adapters for laptop computers should be un-plugged for optimal energy savings.
The little cracks and crevices around your home can cause hot or cool air to exit your home. Sealing the cracks and crevices can save you up to 15 percent in heating and cooling costs. Depending on where the draft is, you can use weather stripping or caulk to fill in the crack. Weather stripping is easy to install and your whole house can be weatherized in one day.
Do you find that you need to run your heating or air conditioning unit all the time to achieve a comfortable temperature? It could be that you do not have enough insulation in your attic. Improper amounts of insulation means that the hot or cool air is entering and exiting your home, causing your heating or air conditioning system to work harder. This is a waster of energy. Adding insulation will keep the cold or hot air in your home.
8. Hang-Dry Laundry
Gas and electric dryers use a lot of energy to dry your clothes. There are many inexpensive drying racks on the market that can hold an entire medium sized load. Alternatively, consider cutting back on your dryer usage. You can do this by drying the clothes on a lower temperature setting or drying them until they are half dry and then hanging them to dry.
On gas burners, the hottest part of the flame is right at the tip. If your flame has a larger diameter than the pot you are heating, you are wasting a lot of the heat produced by the flame. If the flame isn’t under the pot, it’s not working to heat it. Avoid producing unnecessary heat by using a burner that is the same size as the pot or pan.
10. Home-Energy Audit
A home-energy audit assesses how much energy your home consumes. It also evaluates what you can do to make your home more energy efficient. Many local utility companies offer low-cost audits. Contact your local utility company to see if they offer this service.