According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 115 million households in America are responsible for consuming about 22.5% of the country’s total energy every year. The average American household spends around $2,200 per year on utilities, but this cost could be reduced by up to 25% for households that make an improved effort to conserve energy.
Space heating takes up the most energy. Improperly using a thermostat, using the wrong heating appliances, and ineffectively insulating are the three most common mistakes you can make. Here’s how you can lower costs in all three sub-categories:
If your thermostat isn’t automatic, manually set it to 68-70 degrees during the day and 65-68 degrees during the night. This should keep your home comfortable, and the closer your thermostat temperature is to the weather outside, the less energy your thermostat will consume.
Lower your thermostat temperature every time you leave the house, especially for vacations when you should set it to 60 degrees. But don’t completely turn off your heat; it takes much more energy to completely reheat your home when you get back, and you run the risk of freezing pipes.
While plug-in portable space heaters are good for spot heating, they use a lot of electricity, especially when plugged in for an extended period of time. So, use the most natural heating appliance – the sun – to your advantage. Open up your blinds to let the natural warmth heat your rooms. You might also want to consider replacing your existing heating system with a solar-powered system.
Cover bare floors with a rug to increase heat retention, especially if the floor is thin with little insulation. Close your chimney flue and consider investing in a glass fireplace door to prevent warm air from escaping. Leave air vents unblocked and replace the filter on your heating system once a month to ensure peak performance.
While cooling only makes up for 6% of average household energy use, improving in this category can add noticeable comfort to your home. Many of the tips for heating and cooling are similar: ensuring tight insulation, keeping your thermostat closer to the outside temperature, and upkeeping the cooling system with regular filter checks. These other tips are unique to cooling:
- Hang light-colored curtains that allow sunlight to enter a room while blocking heat rays and use light-colored wall paint to reflect heat.
- Plant trees that can naturally shade your house from the summer sun.
- Open up interior doors to allow cool air to circulate throughout your home.
Water heating is the second most energy-consuming category in American households. Hot water is an easy resource to waste if you don’t make efforts to limit the amounts you use. Reduce your water use and lower water heating bills by:
- Installing aerating low-flow faucets and shower heads that use less hot water and shorten the length of showers.
- Washing clothes and dishes only when the load is full and using cold water whenever possible.
- Inspecting your pipes and faucets for costly leaks regularly.
Lighting and Electronics
Lighting and electronics may be one of the easiest categories to improve upon in the average household.
Replace all halogen bulbs with compact fluorescents. Halogen’s energy created is only 10% light and 90% heat which make them a fire hazard. Also, consider purchasing motion sensors that automatically turn lights off when you leave home.
Plug electronics into a power strip that you turn off when not in use. Some electronics, especially battery chargers, pull energy when plugged directly into a wall, whether they’re in use or not. Consider purchasing a more energy-efficient laptop over a desktop computer and set it to sleep mode instead of using a screensaver.
Appliances include the 5% refrigeration section of the above graph as well as some of the 24% other section, making them a substantial point of emphasis. Here’s a tip for each major appliance:
Set your refrigerator between 30 and 42 degrees and repair door seals if you feel cold air escaping or see moisture collecting.
A full freezer uses less energy than an empty one. Storing gallon containers of water in the freezer can maximize savings.
Wash several loads consecutively so the dryer isn’t completely cooled down before heating up for the next load.
Vent your dryer to the outside, so your air conditioner doesn’t have to battle the dryer’s warm air.
Keep the oven door closed while cooking. Each time you open the door, the temperature can drop by as much as 25 degrees that your oven has to use energy to raise again.
Match your pot size to the burner to avoid heat loss from small pots on large burners.
In order to save energy, think of your home as one unit with several interdependent parts. For example, reflective and insulated windows can prevent heat accumulation, saving the air conditioner from working too hard, and reducing the need for energy-consuming cooling appliances and fans. With a home-wide emphasis on energy conservation, you can begin to enjoy substantial savings and increased comfort.