Let’s start with some facts about energy consumption. It’s estimated that 1/2 of the energy consumed in an average home comes from heating and cooling. When left open without a fire, a fireplace flue damper wastes about 8% of furnace heat straight up the chimney. Another 6% of total home energy is used by refrigerators and freezers alone. Conserving energy means conserving dollars.
Electric, propane or natural gas
These are the most commonly used energy sources so let’s start here.
We all know about turning off lights when not in a room, but we can also use energy efficient bulbs to save energy. Currently the most popular bulbs are incandescent bulbs. Compact fluorescent light bulbs may cost more but only use ¼ the energy used by incandescent bulbs. As an example, if we replace all bulbs in the house we save 75% more energy, which translates into a smaller electric bill. It won’t take long for the savings to catch up to cover the higher costs of the compact fluorescent bulbs, then it’s all savings from then on – and CF bulbs last much longer than incandescents. The Department of Energy estimates that replacing incandescent bulbs with LEDs could potentially save 190 terawatt-hours annually – the equivalent of lighting over 95 million homes.
Matt’s note: Betsy and I don’t use CF bulbs because we don’t like the half spectrum lighting and aren’t crazy about their high levels of mercury, but if this doesn’t bother you… go for it. It is also commonly known that CF bulbs lose brightness over time and rarely live up to manufacturer claims of long life. As a safer and better lit alternative try LED bulbs but be aware they are also half spectrum lights.
Ever heard of phantom power? Even when turned off certain electronics and appliances still use energy just by being plugged in. Common culprits of phantom power are microwaves, toasters, TVs, computers, and even mobile (cell) phones. To reduce phantom power you can unplug these power hogs when not in use. One easy way to do this is to have them plugged in to a power strip so you can power them all off with the flip of one switch. Look for power strips that double as surge protectors to further protect your electronic assets.
Matt’s note: I once had a power surge blow up my cable modem, television, and Xbox! I now use surge protectors all over the house.
It is also recommended that pipe insulation be placed on water pipes leading into and from water heaters. The insulated pipes keep cold water cold and hot water hot longer making the water heater more efficient. Water heaters are also preset when first installed at 140 degree temperature settings. Consider lower the heat setting to 120 to save energy and as a preventative measure to protect children and the elderly from being scalded.
Matt’s note: We installed pipe insulation on all accessible water pipes. We also covered our water heater in an insulation blanket to help keep water hot longer.
You should also check into different types of energy sources available in your area that may be less costly than what you’re currently using. Investigate the possibilities and change if it makes sense. Many utility companies employ programs encouraging people to use ‘greener’ energy sources like wind or solar. They may offer discounts for such alternative energy plans so it’s worth checking into.
Windows, doors and appliances
Drafty homes leak heating and cooling energy year around. Use caulks and sponge sealers around doors and windows to seal the drafts. You can also use plastic to cover windows.
There are tax breaks, or possibly even home assistance programs, for buying energy efficient windows and doors that help to conserve energy. There are also many programs and energy companies offering assistance for updating to energy efficient stoves, refrigerators, freezers, washers, and dryers. The energy supplier in my area will pick up old appliances (even if they’re no longer working) and offer a rebate on our energy bill if we replace them with a new energy efficient model.
There are even web sites that base possible energy reduction tactics specifically for the area or time zone where you live. This can include sun angles, average wind directions for windbreaks to be used, and landscaping tactics providing shade or encouraging natural sun warmth for energy efficiency.
In conclusion, there are many, many ways to save energy and keep more money in your pocket. Don’t be afraid to type “energy saving” into your favorite search engine for extra tips and ideas.
Make it like a game with your family by having everyone look around for energy saving ideas and reward those with good ideas. You can also propose a contest to neighbors to see who can get to the lowest energy costs per square foot. Be creative and get started!
By themselves these tips are infinitesimal but taken together they add up to a considerable monthly savings.