10 Easy Ways to Save on Energy at Home
Want to cut energy cost at home? follow these simple tips:
1. Minimize Phantom Loads
The term “phantom load” refers to the energy that an appliance or electronic device consumes when it is not actually turned on. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), “In the average home, 75 percent of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off.” A report from the University of California Berkeley says that phantom loads account for about 6 percent of all national residential electricity consumption. You can eliminate phantom loads by unplugging appliances and electronics when you are not using them, or by plugging them into a power strip, and turning the strip off when they are not in use. For more information, see Save Energy, Eliminate Phantom Loads.
2. Use More Energy-efficient Appliances
If you are shopping for new appliances, make sure to look for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star label before making a purchase. Energy Star appliances use between 10 and 50 percent less energy and water than their conventional counterparts. They may cost more than appliances without the Energy Star designation, but in most cases they will more than make up that additional cost through energy savings.
3. Change Your Light Bulbs
One of the least expensive and most effective changes you can make in your home is replacing your light bulbs. According to Energy Star, one of its qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL), which cost just a few dollars, “will save about $30 over its lifetime and pay for itself in about 6 months. It uses 75 percent less energy and lasts about 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb.” Although some people are concerned because CFLs contain mercury, Energy Star says that CFLs do not release any mercury when in use, and actually reduce mercury emissions because they lessen the need for electricity from power plants that emit mercury. Learn more at Energy Star’s CFLs and Mercury page. For more energy-efficient lighting, see Bright Ideas for Home Lighting.
4. Install a Programmable Thermostat
Programmable thermostats work by automatically adjusting your home’s temperature to your schedule, keeping it comfortable only when you need it to be. If you don’t already adjust your thermostat throughout the day, a programmable thermostat could save you as much as 15 percent on heating and cooling costs. For more information on programmable thermostats, including a step-by-step guide to installing one, check out How to Install a Programmable Thermostat.
5. Use Fans for Cooling
In the summer, use stationary, ceiling and whole-house fans to cool your home, reducing the need for air conditioning. Simple Ways to Cool Your Home and Save Big explains that for every degree you raise your thermostat, you reduce your cooling costs between 7 and 10 percent.
6. Seal Air Leaks
In addition to thinking about whether your home has enough insulation, you should also look for any small cracks and gaps where air is leaking into and out of your home. Energy Star says that between improving insulation and sealing leaks, homeowners could potentially save 10 percent on their annual energy bill. The article Leak-Proof Your House and Save suggests that the first step in sealing a house is to tackle windows and doors. If searching for leaks sounds like a daunting task, you can hire an energy auditor to assess your house and find problem areas. Read more in Energy Audits: What Homeowners Need to Know.
7. Make Windows More Efficient
Even if you seal windows well, window glass is a thin barrier against outside temperatures. If you can afford it, install new storm windows in your home. How to Make Your Home Energy Efficient explains that storm windows reduce temperature loss by sealing leaks and creating a dead airspace between window panes. Though installation is expensive ($8,000 to $10,000 or more, depending on a variety of factors), storm windows have a relatively short return on (about 10 years).
If you can’t install new storm windows, there are other simple and inexpensive ways to improve the energy efficiency of your windows. You can cover windows with transparent material to improve insulation. Energy guru Gary Reysa recommends using bubble wrap for this, and estimates that it can reduce heat loss from a window by half. Check out Save Energy with Winter Window Treatments for other ways to make your windows more efficient, including using insulated shades and window quilts.