When you start going down the path of making your home more energy efficient, the first thing that comes to mind is dollar signs. Not the dollar signs symbolizing the amount of money you’ll save, but the “How much will this cost me?” variety. Good news, though: low cost investments can make a world of difference.
Most electronics that are plugged in draw power even when not being used. The average US home has 40 “vampire”s drawing energy at any given time. Use power strips for all electronics that you are not using to prevent phantom power from being drawn. The average US household spends $100 per year powering items that are off or in “standby” mode. Purchase a “kill a watt” meter to see which of your appliances draws the most energy, and plug them into power strips.
If your water heater is older than your favorite sweater, then it is probably not energy efficient. Replacing it is always an option, but one quick fix is to insulate water heaters older than 7 years with blankets… and to get some pipe insulation from the hardware store to insulate the first three feet of pipe that extend from the water heater. These simple steps will keep the water heated by your water heater warmer for longer, saving you energy and money.
Save up to 20% on your total heating and cooling bill by ensuring that doors and windows in your home are well-insulated. Heating ducts too: ensure that they are properly sealed, because the typical house loses 20% of air moving through the duct system due to leaks and poor seals. Finally, your attic should have at least R-30 insulation. If not, add more insulation and save money on heating bills.
Temporary Window Insulation
Are your windows a little drafty? As a stop-gap measure before replacing them, you can use temporary insulation in winter. Caulking, weather-stripping, and applying plastic to windows in winter will help to keep heat in.
You have surely seen the “curly pig tail” light bulbs, and maybe you’ve heard some of the fuss about them. The fact is that “old” light bulbs (incandescent bulbs) are truly designed to be more efficient heaters than emitters of light. In fact, 90% of the energy used by traditional incandescent bulbs is emitted as heat, not light. The tungsten filament in an incandescent light bulb heats up to 5,400 degrees Fahrenheit: it’s no wonder that savvy inventors in the 1960s marketed a small oven powered only by a light bulb. Leave the ’60s behind and switch all of your bulbs to CFLs (compact fluorescent lights). They last up to ten times as long as an incandescent bulb, they cast the same light, they use a fraction of the electricity, and they are one of the biggest potential money-savers in your home. Click here to learn more about light bulbs.
If your home does not have ceiling fans, consider installing a few in some main rooms. Using a ceiling fan in concert with A/C allows you to raise the thermostat 4 degrees without a reduction in comfort.
Programmable thermostats may seem daunting, but truly they’re not. Your home may even already have a programmable thermostat, but maybe you haven’t employed it because it’s simpler to just set it at a number. Well, take a look at it: spend fifteen minutes thinking about how your home is used (when is everyone gone? when are you all sleeping?), and program your thermostat accordingly. This tiny step can save you $180 per year on heating and cooling costs.
Big Investment, Big Returns
Replace aging appliances with more energy efficient (ENERGY STAR) models:
1. Water heater – Switching to a more efficient model saves typical family more than $100 per year. Demand (otherwise known as tankless, or instantaneous) water heaters save the most money and energy, because you’re not expending energy heating water that’s destined to just sit there and never get used.
2. Refrigerator – Newer ENERGY STAR models of refrigerators require less energy than a 60 watt incandescent bulb.
3. Air Conditioner – If your a/c is more than 10 years old, replacing it with an ENERGY STAR model will save you up to $70 per year.
4. Washing machine – ENERGY STAR machines, whether front-loading or conventional, use 50% less water and 30% less energy than conventional washers – Typical households save $50 per year by switching
5. Windows and doors – Switching to ENERGY STAR windows and doors can save you 15% on your energy bill.
Other general investments that you can make to improve your energy bottom line include:
1. Computer – Switching from a desktop to a laptop can save you 50% in energy costs.
2. Dryer – Gas dryers save approximately 50% annually in energy costs over electric dryers.
3. Roof – Merely using light-colored shingles on your roof will save you 10% on annual cooling bill.
4. Windows – Switching from single pane to double pane windows (or adding storm windows) can cut down your energy bill by 10%.