What have you done to save energy lately?
If you've been a little careless about leaving lights on and letting the tap water run, October is the month to turn over a new leaf. This is Energy Awareness Month, which aims to educate consumers about reducing their energy footprint. Here are energy-saving tips that will also help keep your utility bills low.
Heating and Cooling Energy Saving Tips
- Install a programmable thermostat: If you're always messing with the temperature, a programmable thermostat can yield big savings. Use the pre-sets to regulate the heat throughout the fall and winter. The temperature will rise and fall as needed to keep your home warm enough and avoid the more extreme (and costly) swings that often come with manual adjustments. Programmable thermostats can shave about 10 percent off your heating bill.
- Seal and insulate ducts: Heating ducts should be properly sealed and well insulated. You'll save money even with an old heating system if the distribution channels are leak-free.
- Clean air ducts: This is one of the simplest energy-saving tips because a clogged air duct won't let heat in or out.
- Buy a reusable furnace filter: Furnace filters should be changed regularly because a dirty filter blocks the flow of heat. Opt for a reusable filter instead of the regular kind despite the higher price. Reusable filters last longer and give more bang for the buck. Wash it off at the beginning of each heating season, put it back in place, and you're good to go.
- Insulate the attic: Heat could be escaping from the upper-most floor of the house. At least six inches of insulating material between heated and unheated areas of your home will keep you warmer and your bills lower.
- Use higher-density insulation for outer walls: Insulation like rigid foam boards for exterior walls or cathedral ceilings are a worthwhile energy-saving investment.
- Seal drafts: Patch up problem spots (windows, doors, and anything that lets in air from the inside, like dryer vents) with caulk and weather stripping. Silicone caulk is less prone to cracking and battering by the elements than acrylic caulk. Cover single-pane windows with plastic.
- Remove or cover air conditioners: Pull air conditioners out of the window or tightly cover the front of the units. Leaving them in place or without protection is an open invitation to a cold air invasion.
- Shut the fireplace: Make sure the flue is closed. If you have a glass screen, close that, as well. Open fireplaces allow heat to escape.
- Don't block vents: Objects placed in front of, or over, a vent get in the way of hot air. Use the opportunity to rearrange the furniture.
- Let in the sun: Open the shades even on chilly days to let natural sunlight warm the rooms in your home. This is a free energy-saving tip and one of the easiest to follow.
- Lower the hot water setting: Hot water heaters can account for 25 percent of your utility bill. Set the temperature to 120 degrees to save money all year.
- Turn down at night: Lower the thermostat at night and heat up with blankets.
- Winter-proof in the fall: Some energy-saving tips involve doing things earlier in the year. Sealing windows and leaks during the fall lets the savings begin before the cold sets in.
- Insulate pipes: Pipes protected from the cold and wind are much less likely to freeze. Frozen pipes often crack, and that's a very costly repair.
- Double-check your bill: The billing department at the utility company can make mistakes. Question any strange numbers and make sure the meter matches up with the usage posted on the bill.
- Keep electronics away from the AC: Air conditioners respond to heat, and heat-emitting TVs, lamps, desktop computers, and the like can make the AC overtime. Find other locations for these devices.
- Hang white curtains or shades: When the summer rolls around, white window coverings will block the sun and reflect away its hot rays.
- Sleep naked and crack the window: Another free energy-saving tip that can cut air conditioning time, and maybe even the fan.
Washers and Dryers Energy Saving Tips
- Let the laundry pile up: Washers use the same amount of energy regardless how much you stuff in. It's more energy-efficient to do big loads than small loads
- Don't stuff the dryers: The energy-saving tip for dryers is opposite that for washers. The less inside, the less juice you'll use.
- Add less laundry soap: You don't need as much detergent as you think for the typical load. If an item is really filthy, soak it in the sink first. Using less detergent puts less strain on your washer and your wallet
- Spin it again: If clothes are still soaked, run another spin cycle to cut the time needed in the dryer.
- Dry with a towel: A clean, dry towel added to a wet load will absorb moisture and decrease drying time by 25 percent.
- Pick permanent press: This is the dryer setting that uses the least amount of energy. It's intended for thinner or more delicate fabrics but might be adequate for small loads.
- Dry light clothes first: This tactic helps build up the heat in the dryer for heavier fabrics.
- Clean the lint filter: Do this after every load. Too much built-up fuzz slows down the dryer.
- Use the elements: Air-dry washables on a clothes line or drying rack set in a warm room or outdoors.
Kitchen Energy Saving Tips
- Get hot fast: Start stove-top cooking at high heat, then lower the flame or electric setting to finish the job.
- Cover boiling pots: The water in a covered pot heats faster and uses less energy.
- Just cover the top: Use only enough water to reach the top of vegetables or other foods being cooked.
- Cook with clean pans: Lots of black stuff on the outside surface of pots and pans blocks heat from reaching the food inside, so cooking time is longer. Scour and scrub after each use.
- Choose simple cookware: Oddly-shaped or lidless cookware means longer cook times. Good energy-saving tips for the stovetop include flat-bottomed pans and skillets with straight sides and lids.
- Use the appropriate burner: Put smaller pans on small burners and bigger pans on big burners to save energy.
- Keep the oven closed: Every time you open the door, 30 degrees of heat waft out.
- Love your toaster and microwave: Cooking or heating up food with a toaster or microwave saves more energy than warming on the stove or in the oven.
- Set the right temperature: Among the good energy-saving tips are keeping the fresh food section of the refrigerator set between 37 and 40 degrees F and the freezer section at 5 degrees F.
- Cover food and liquid: Items stored in the refrigerator should always be covered. Failing to do so releases moisture and causes the compressor to work overtime.
- Leave room in the fridge: The refrigerator and freezer are at their best when not crammed with food. Also be sure there's enough clearance in the back of the appliance to let air circulate.
- Don't clean dishes: It's hard to resist the urge to rinse off the last bits of spaghetti before loading the dishwasher, but trust the machine. The no-rinse strategy can save up to 55,000 gallons of water over the course of a dishwasher's lifetime.
- Go cold for quick rinses: Using hot water even for a short time causes the water heater to work harder and use more energy.
- Wash at odd times: Avoid the after-dinner rush to the dishwasher and let it run late at night or mid-day. There's no direct energy saving for you, but the system as a whole benefits because peak demand is less.
- Fit it all in: Play Tetris with your dishwasher and cram in as many items as possible. It's sort of like the washing machine rule -- energy used is the same regardless of load size, so you might as well pile it on.
- Dry the natural way: There might be a setting for this on your dishwasher. If not, just open the door and let the air take over or move the dishes to a dryer rack.
Electricity and Water Energy Saving Tips
- Use power strips: It's easy to forget to turn off electrical devices when leaving the house, never mind unplugging them. One of the best energy-saving tips is to plug items like TVs and radios into a power strip so you can shut off several devices at once.
- Turn off at bedtime: Remember to turn off electricity-eating devices at night, especially "vampire" appliances like computer monitors.
- Unplug battery chargers: Chargers continue to draw energy even when the gadget is fully charged.
- Use compact fluorescent light bulbs: Kiss incandescent bulbs goodbye and welcome their compact fluorescent replacements. Although the light cast is harsher and greener, fluorescent bulbs are more energy efficient and longer-lasting.
- Take quick, warm showers: Long, hot showers use more water and more energy. Save on both by jumping in and soon thereafter, jumping out.
- Brush teeth dry: Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth. This is one of the simplest water-related energy-saving tips.
- Wash hair every other day: Cut down on shower time and water usage by washing your hair less frequently -- unless it gets greasy quickly, that is.
- Shave your legs outside the shower: Trust us, you can do this. And think of all the water you'll be saving.
- Fill a sink to wash: Whether washing dishes or hand-laundering delicates, fill the sink with water to lather up instead of running the tap.
- Catch cold water: While waiting for the water to warm for a shower, collect the cool flow in a bottle or pail for chores like watering plants.
For more energy-saving tips, check out Cheapism guides to energy-saving products like space heaters and furnaces and our previous energy-saving blog posts.