Electricity isn’t cheap.
With energy prices rising and salaries staying stubbornly stagnant, many people are seeking out ways to reduce their usage without getting left in the dark — literally.
But before you instate a “no lights on past 9 p.m. rule” and resort to candlelit evenings, try some of these easy, effective ways to cut your energy consumption without cramping your lifestyle.
1. Take the time to unplug your energy vampires
Europeans have these handy little devices called outlet switches that cut the power when the appliance isn’t in use. Here in the United States, we have to physically unplug each item to halt its electrical consumption.
They’re called energy vampires. Common household items such as microwaves, toasters, televisions, and computers all suck power even when they’re not actively in use. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that vampire energy usage can contribute as much as 10% to your monthly electric bill.
The best way to kill these vampires, or dollar suckers, is to unplug them when they’re not in use. This small extra step could save you money.
Next: This simple washing machine adjustment can save you tons.
2. Wash clothes in cold water
There’s a common misconception that hot water means cleaner clothes. But it turns out that’s simply not the case.
Your laundry detergent is the main component that’s getting your clothing clean, not your water temperature. Advancements in washing machine technology means that you don’t need to set your washer to hot or even warm anymore. And since heating the water in the washer accounts for 90% of the power usage, switching to cold water washing means a lot of energy savings. The average household will save $40 per year by switching their loads to cold water.
Try an experiment and switch to cold water for a few months and see if you notice a difference. Chances are you won’t, and you’ll save a bunch of money and wasted energy by reducing hot water usage.
Next: This quick switch can save you $75 per year
3. Upgrade your lighting
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, switching to energy-efficient lighting could save you up to $75 per year.
Those new light bulbs may be more expensive up front, but in the long run that investment definitely pays off. Traditional incandescent bulbs mostly aren’t manufactured anymore because 90% of the energy is given off as heat, not light, which means it all goes to waste. Meanwhile, energy-efficient bulbs work differently and last longer.
This goes for holiday lights, too. It’s time to put away those old light strands and upgrade to LED.
Next: Reduce your heating and cooling costs up to 30%.
4. Upgrade your thermostat
That ancient thermostat that came with the house may work fine, but a programmable version can save you up to 30% on heating and cooling costs.
A lot of energy gets wasted heating and cooling unoccupied spaces, like when your air conditioning runs all day long while you’re at work. A programmable thermostat reduces that waste significantly because it allows you to account for those times when no one will be home, and to keep your house a little warmer or cooler at night while everyone’s sleeping.
Next: Turn down the temperature here for big dollar savings.
5. Reduce your water heat
Turning down the temperature on your water heater has two benefits — first, it prevents you or a child or elderly person from getting scalded. Second, it saves on energy.
If you’re used to keeping the water at 140 degrees, try turning it down to 130 degrees and see if you’re still comfortable. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends keeping your water temperature set at 120 degrees. This can save you up to 22% on energy costs and doesn’t cost any money to accomplish.
Next: This hard-working appliance could use a little help.
6. Insulate your hot water heater
Heating water accounts for about 13% of your total energy costs, second only to heating and cooling. To help your water heater work more efficiently, try wrapping it in special insulation to retain some heat that’s lost while it’s working.
Next: That 1950s stove probably isn’t efficient.
7. Replace old appliances
You’re not actually saving money by still using your Great Aunt Edna’s old dishwasher.
New appliances are designed to be energy efficient, and Energy Star certified products often have two price tags: the purchase price and the cost of operating the appliance over its lifetime. Instead of using your tax refund money on a new flatscreen TV, consider upgrading one of your old appliances instead. The cost savings over time will be worth it (so you’ll be able to afford the new TV later).
Next: Make this quick switch on your dishwasher settings.
8. Skip heat drying your dishes
You may need hot water to get your dishes clean, but the heated drying setting is unnecessary. Save on energy when you turn off this setting on your dishwasher. Your dishes will still get dry, and you’ll enjoy some savings. It’s a win-win.
Next: Leaving this door open wastes tons of energy.
9. Stop leaving the fridge door open
It’s true what your mom told you — standing in front of the fridge with the door open wastes a lot of energy.
That’s because the longer you leave the door open, the more the contents heat up. Then your fridge has to work harder to cool itself down, resulting in wasted energy. Keep your fridge organized and make sure everything is labeled to avoid wasting time digging around.
Next: It may be cheaper to use electricity at these times.
10. Take advantage of power hours
This tip won’t save any energy, but it will cut down on your electric bill.
Check with your electric provider to see if they offer “power hours.” These are off-peak times where energy consumption is offered at a reduced rate, such as from 8PM to 7AM. Start planning your routine within these hours, throwing in a load of wash right or starting the dishwasher after dinner instead of midday.
Next: This basic maintenance step can save you cash.
11. Change your air filters
Filthy filters in your furnace can block airflow and make the system work harder to provide heating or cooling. A filter is a relatively inexpensive thing that some people forget to replace, and that’s a real waste.
Set a reminder for yourself to check your filters every six months at least, and more often if you have pets or excessive pollutants in the air.
Next: Those drafts are costing you.
12. Seal up leaks
That drafty door could be costing you a pretty penny.
Invest in a fancy draft blocker that’s specially designed to go under the door or roll up an old blanket or towel to achieve the same effect. The less cold air you have coming in, the less you’ll spend on keeping your house warm in the winter.
Next: Try to find cheaper energy sources.
13. Buy renewable energy
Some utility companies offer the option to purchase renewable energy that’s generated from solar, wind, hydropower, biomass, or geothermal. These programs are often offered at a discount compared to traditional pricing. Check with your utility company or their competitors to see if it’s available for you.
Next: Make sure your heat isn’t escaping out the doors.
14. Add insulation
Older homes often don’t have insulation because there was a time when it was more expensive to add it than it was to buy oil (seriously). Exterior walls that don’t have insulation are a huge drain on energy and cause you to spend a lot of money unnecessarily keeping your house warm or cool.
It’s worth looking into having insulation added. There are a few different types — loose fill, rigid foam, and insulation blankets. Get a price quote for all the options before proceeding.
Next: Figure out exactly where and how you’re wasting money.
15. Do an energy audit
The only way to know where you’re wasting money in your own home is to do a whole house energy audit to figure it out. You can hire a professional for the task, or do it yourself instead. Then address the biggest problems for your unique circumstance to save the most money.
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