Beyond turning off the lights, there are several ways to effectively save energy:
1. Request a free energy audit.
Did you know that many local utility companies offer free energy audits? Getting a complimentary assessment, if available, can tell you exactly where energy is being wasted. Poor insulation, inefficient water heating, and leaky windows are some examples. If your local provider doesn’t offer free audits, you could opt to pay for this service, starting at around $100.
2. Get new lightbulbs.
The lightbulbs you choose have the potential to save you money. On average, lighting accounts for around 15 percent of a home’s electricity use. Switching to energy-efficient LED bulbs could save the average household $225 a year. When shopping, seek out the ENERGY STAR label to cut costs, help your lightbulbs last longer, and save energy.
3. Seal up cracks.
Heat leakage may be an issue in the winter, especially if you have an older house. Fortunately, caulking and weatherstripping can be used to seal gaps and cracks in areas where you suspect a leak. Paying special attention to windows—and replacing drafty windows where needed—could help to mitigate an estimated 25 to 30 percent of heating and cooling loss.
4. Use the dishwasher.
Believe it or not, running the dishwasher is a better way to save energy than washing by hand. Today’s dishwashers are more efficient. An ENERGY STAR dishwasher typically consumes $55 per year in electricity and may save roughly 3,850 gallons of water within its lifetime. To conserve even more energy, refrain from using the heat cycle, open the dishwasher, and let dishes air dry.
5. Cold wash clothes.
Reducing hot water usage can also help to save energy. When washing a load of laundry, try to use cold or warm water whenever possible. The washing machine itself doesn’t consume much electricity, but the water heater does. According to GE, modern washers are designed to be used with cold water, and many detergents wash in temperatures as low as 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
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6. Replace furnace filters.
It might come as a surprise to hear that furnace filters need to be changed every three months. Regularly replacing this filter can reduce energy use, improve air quality, and help keep your furnace in good shape. When a furnace filter is clogged, air can’t move through it freely. This causes more work for the HVAC system, requiring it to consume added energy.
7. Use a smart thermostat.
When a smart thermostat is ENERGY STAR certified, it meets the criteria of reducing heating/cooling bills by 8 percent, or about $50, per year. To get the most out of your thermostat, program it to decrease your home’s temperature in the winter at least 30 minutes before bed. You can also lower or increase temps (depending on the season) when at work or on vacation.
8. Look for energy vampires.
No, not the people who drain you (though that can be useful too). Energy vampires around the house are those appliances passively draining energy, like computers, televisions, coffee makers, and more. Here’s a list of the worst offenders. Once identified, you can unplug these appliances manually or plug them into a power strip that you turn off when the “vampires” aren’t in use.
9. Upgrade to energy-efficient appliances.
While upgrading does have an upfront cost, switching to ENERGY STAR appliances can save energy and cash. ENERGY STAR appliances include washers, dryers, refrigerators, dishwashers, water heaters, and much more. Rebates and tax credits may be available. You can use this tool to search for local government rebates. Also, check to see if your utility provider offers a rebate for recycling old appliances.
10. Rely on the sun and use fans.
To save energy, it helps to work with the sun and not against it. This means opening curtains on south-facing windows in cold weather to welcome in the sun’s natural heat. Closing curtains can help keep heat out and reduce air conditioner use in the summer. Fans can also help cool, consuming minimal energy compared to running an AC.
11. Lower the temperature on the water heater.
Your water heater’s temperature may not be something you give much thought to. But reduce it a bit and see how much you could save. Energy.gov suggests decreasing water heater temps to around 20 degrees less than the manufacturer setting. Having your water heater set too high could cost you as much as $61 a year in passive heat loss.