Energy costs money, but it costs the environment so much more. Renewable energy is growing in popularity, and it’s an enormous step up from fossil fuels in terms of environmental impact, but it’s far from perfect. Reducing how much energy you use is more important than the kind of energy you use. Here are 10 inexpensive and sometimes free things you can do to save big.
1. Mind your thermostat.
If you’re like the average American household, heating and cooling accounts for almost 50% of your total energy use. Because of this, minor adjustments to your thermostat can reap huge rewards. In the summer, the DOE recommends keeping your air conditioner set to 74 degrees. In the winter, keep your thermostat at 68 degrees.
A programmable thermostat is an excellent investment as well. It allows you to set your home to a less comfortable temperature when you aren’t home. Doing this can cut up to 10% off your heating and cooling costs.
2. Look for energy star appliances.
Energy Star is an excellent program. It helps consumers identify more energy efficient appliances, like refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, and even computers. When shopping for new appliances, look for the Energy Star label.
3. Invest in ceiling fans.
Ceiling fans are awesome for cooling off your home in the summer without using nearly as much energy as an air conditioner. In the summer, set your fan to spin counter-clockwise. This pulls hot air up toward the ceiling and away from your living space on the ground. Reverse in the winter to push hot air from the ceiling towards the floor.
4. Unplug your electronics.
We all know that our electronics can use a lot of juice while we’re using them, but did you know that they can continue to draw power, even when they’re turned off? It’s called phantom electric draw, and you can beat it by plugging your devices into a powerstrip that can be easily unplugged from the wall when not in use.
5. Switch to energy-efficient lighting.
Lighting uses a lot less power than larger appliances, but if your home has a lot of light bulbs in it that you frequently use, it can really start to add up. One of the first things I consider is, “do I really need all this lighting?” For example, I once lived in a house where the bathroom vanity had 10 light sockets. But did I need 10 light bulbs? Hardly. I removed all but 3.
Switching from a 60 watt incandescent bulb to a 13 watt compact fluorescent bulb saves you about $30 over the life of the bulb, according to General Electric. You get even bigger savings when switching to an LED light bulb. They use slightly less power than a compact fluorescent bulb but last considerably longer (up to 100,000 hours!)
6. Use a dimmer switch.
If CFLs and LEDs are outside your price range, a dimmer switch can greatly reduce the cost of running inefficient incandescent light bulbs. The switch itself is cheap and easy to install.
7. Save water.
Installing water saving retrofits like pressure-compensating lower flow showerheads and faucet aerators gives you some of the greatest bang for your buck of all energy-efficient devices. A faucet aerator, for example, costs only a few dollars but can save $100 a year as well as 18,000 gallons of water for the average family of four. Much of the savings comes in the form of energy used to make hot water. It’s a win-win. You use water and energy more efficiently.
8. Shut your doors.
In my home, I have one bedroom that isn’t used for anything. So I covered up the vent and keep the door closed. This keeps my furnace and air conditioner from working to heat and cool a room no one actively uses.
9. Seal up cracks and insulate.
It’s incredible how much more energy it takes to heat and cool a drafty home. Using weather stripping on doors and sealing up cracks in old windows can have a huge impact on your bill. Investing in a good set of cellular shades can have a pretty significant impact as well.
10. Plant a tree.
We’re tentree, how could we not suggest planting trees?! Trees are amazing because they can provide shade and a wind-break, sometimes cutting 25% off your heating and cooling bills according to the DOE. Plant deciduous trees on the south and west side of your home to shade your house from the ceiling. Evergreen trees should be planted on the north side of the home to help shield you from the wind.
11. Change your furnace filter.
It’s easy to forget to do, but your furnace filter can get blocked up pretty quickly. Some suggest changing every 6 weeks, but I switch mine out every month. The older your furnace filter, the less efficient your furnace becomes. Change it at least every winter!