Conserve Energy at Home
Making your home more energy efficient can help to reduce high energy bills, improve comfort, and reduce your impact on the environment. And there are lots of ways to do it. Don't be overwhelmed by the number of different ways to save energy around your home. Try taking the steps one at a time and before long your home will be humming along at maximum efficiency.
Heating and Cooling
As much as half of the energy used in your home goes to keeping it warm in the winter and cool in the summer. So making smart decisions about your home's heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) system can have a big effect on your utility bills and your family's comfort. Take these steps to improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system.
Control your temp. Two-thirds of your home's energy consumption is used to keep you warm and another big chunk is used to keep you cool. Even a minor adjustment in your thermostat can slash your energy use. During the summer months, bump up the thermostat to 78°F and open the windows when there is a fresh breeze. In the winter, set it to around 68°F and turn it down even more (try 55°F) when you go to sleep or are away for the day.
Adjust your drapes. In the summer, keep the drapes closed over sunny windows to reduce heat from the sun. If you live in a warm climate, take advantage of drapes with an insulating lining that will keep the sun's rays from heating your home. In the winter, take advantage of the sun's energy by leaving shades and blinds open on sunny days, and then closing them at night to reduce heat loss.
Close it off. Cut your energy costs further by making sure the hot (or cold) air stays where you need it. If you have rooms in your house that you rarely go into, keep them sealed off by closing doors and air vents.
Insulate yourself. Simple steps like insulating and weather stripping can reduce your energy use by 20 to 30 percent. Caulk and weather-strip around doors and windows to stop air leaks. Door sweeps are an easy cheap solution for drafty doors. Storm windows and doors can reduce heat loss by 30 percent.
Be sure to install appropriate insulation in your walls and ceiling for the climate in your area to improve your home's energy efficiency. You don't even have to tear down walls to add insulation. Contractors can pump foam insulation into a one-inch hole in your wall, insulating the whole house in just a few hours.
Clean the filters on heating and air conditioning units to keep them operating efficiently. Dirty filters make your air conditioners and hotair furnaces work harder and use more energy. Cleaning a dirty air conditioner filter can reduce energy use by 5 percent.
Most Americans are fortunate enough to have an ample supply of clean, hot water available directly from the tap. Unfortunately, this easy access sometimes leads to a tremendous amount of waste. Hot water accounts for almost 15 percent of your home's annual energy bill.
Turn it down. The easiest way to save money on water heating is to turn the temperature on your water heater down to 120°F. The lower temperature will protect your new baby from scalding at the tap while saving you energy and money.
Bundle up. If you have an older water heater, keep it bundled up with a blanket or insulating jacket to trap heat inside the tank. Be sure to leave openings around electrical connections, thermostats, heating elements, and drain valves.
Go tankless. Tankless water heaters, also called instantaneous or demand water heaters, provide hot water only as it is needed. Traditional storage water heaters produce standby energy losses that cost you money. Tankless water heaters, on the other hand, heat water only when there is a need, saving you energy.
When buying an appliance, remember that it has two price tags: what you pay to take it home and what you pay for the energy and water it uses. Energy Star certified appliances use 10 to 50 percent less energy and water than standard models. The money you save on your utility bills can more than make up for the cost of a more expensive but more efficient Energy Star model.
Put your fridge on a diet. If your refrigerator is equipped with a power-saving feature, use it. Set your refrigerator temperature at 38° to 42°F; your freezer should be set between 0° to 5°F. Keep an eye on the items in your refrigerator or freezer any time you change the temperature, to be sure that nothing spoils prematurely (especially if you have an older unit that may not be as precise on the temperature gauge, or as efficient as a newer model). If you have an extra refrigerator that you are not using, unplug it. Keep your refrigerator full but don't overfill it. Air needs room to circulate around food. Keep the freezer full as well to maximize efficiency.
Test the gaskets around your fridge to make sure they are clean and tight to lock in cold air. Close a dollar bill in the refrigerator door with part of it sticking out. If it is difficult to pull out, the gaskets are sealing properly. If it pulls out easily, it is time to replace them.
Also, be sure to clean the vacuum the coils on the back of your refrigerator twice a year to maximize efficiency and make sure there is a space between your fridge and the wall behind it to allow air to circulate freely and eliminate the buildup of heat.
Cook up some energy savings. When cooking, use the right size pot for the job. The larger the pot, the more energy it will require to heat up. Use a pot with a flat bottom that completely covers the burner and put a lid on it to keep heat from escaping (this will also cook your food more quickly). Since your food may heat up quickly when covered, keep a close eye on your pots and pans during cooking. If you have a gas range, lower the flame if it is burning around the side of your pot or pan.
Take a few minutes to clean and maintain your oven and you can greatly improve its energy efficiency. A dirty oven does not reflect heat as well as a clean one. That means it will have to use more energy to heat up and stay warm. Also, check the seal on your oven door to make sure all of that heat is staying inside.
Be on the lookout for phantom energy users! Even when appliances are off, they are still draining energy in standby mode. Use a power strip to turn off televisions, stereos, and computer systems when you are not using them and unplug appliances such as phone chargers, extra refrigerators, and printers until you need them.
When you are baking, skip the preheating step if possible. Only the most delicate recipes require that the oven be at a pre-set temperature before cooking begins. And resist the temptation to peek inside your oven any more than necessary, even opening the door just once can cause the temperature inside to drop considerably.
Green dishes? Don't run your dishwasher unless it is full. When you do run it, set it to the shortest setting for all but the dirtiest dishes. Avoid using energy sucking options such as heat-dry, rinse-hold, and pre-rinse features. If you have time, let your dishes air-dry to reduce your dish-washer's total energy use by as much as 20 percent.
For cooking or reheating small items, microwave foods instead of heating them in the stove or oven. This can reduce energy use by as much as 75 percent.
Green washing. Wash your clothes in cold water whenever practical and make sure your machine is set to always rinse in cold. Set your washer to the appropriate water level for the size of your load. When you are in the market for a new machine, consider a front loading washer that cuts hot water use by 60 to 70 percent.
Clean the lint filter in your dryer after each use to keep it running efficiently. Cut energy use by drying clothes under the automatic, instead of the timed, setting. Better yet, install a clothesline in your backyard and dry your clothes for free!
Compute the savings. Power down your computer any time you will be away from it for a period of an hour or more. For short breaks, use the sleep or hibernate modes to reduce energy use and save the time it takes to reboot.
The types and amount of lighting in your home can significantly affect the amount of energy you use each month. Use these tips to save energy with the flick of a switch.
Install CFLs. Consider swapping out regular light bulbs for energy-saving, long-lasting compact fluorescents (CFLs) to save both energy and cash. CFLs cost a few cents more than standard bulbs, but they require about one-quarter of the energy to produce the same amount and quality of light, and they last ten times as long (saving you money down the road). They are also cooler to operate, making them safer for homes with little fingers. For lights you use regularly, install dimmers to save energy and extend the life of your bulbs.
The lights are on and nobody's home. Don't overlook the obvious: turn off lights when you leave a room. Use the minimum amount of outdoor security lights and be sure they are set on a timer or motion sensor so that they turn off during the day. Occupancy sensors are great indoors for rooms, like bathrooms, that see a lot of in and out traffic.
Clean and bright. Dirty bulbs don't give off as much light as clean ones. So get out that dust rag and clean them off. Your bulbs will give off more light and you will use less energy because you won't have to have as many lights on!