How to save energy
The average American homeowner spends $1800 a year on energy costs and has no idea where it goes. Luckily, you have plenty of options to reduce energy usage and save money.
- Replace appliances, windows, heat/air units with Energy Star rated products
- Get a home energy audit to detect air leaks and insulation gaps
- Buy an energy-efficient new home
- Move to a moderate climate
- Live simply, without modern conveniences
If moving or giving up A/C seems extreme, why not invest in new technology? Recent innovations allow you to passively save money, while reducing your energy usage and help the environment. Plus, you get a bunch of cool new gadgets. Start with appliances, electronics and lighting which use 30% of your energy consumption.
Stop Energy Vampires
Even in standby mode, appliances can suck up 10% of your energy bill. This phantom energy loss isn’t just being wasted on TV's and computers, it’s also sucking power to keep coffee maker clocks and digital picture frames on the ready. The simplest solution is to unplug electronics when not in use, but how realistic is that?
The Modlet lets you see how much energy you are using in real-time, set schedules to turn off devices, and track savings. Just plug the Modlet into your outlet and connect two appliances. It’s web-based, so you can control it from any computer or your smart phone, plus it works with power strips, and you can network up to 100 units through one USB receiver.
- $60 2 plug Modlet + receiver
- $55 Additional Modlets
The MeterPlug also sends real time consumption use for an appliance directly to your smart phone. It uses Bluetooth, so you have to be in the home to use some of the functions, but you can program it to turn an appliance off when you walk away and turn back on when you return.
Cost: $50 single plug
For a more affordable option, consider a smarter power strip. Belkin offers a surge protector power strip with remote control that allow you to cut off all power to the TV, cable box and speakers with one button. There are also smart strips that can be programmed by time and ones that shut off accessories when a main device is turned off, great for home computer setups.
Phone chargers suck up incredible amounts of power long after the device is already charged. Check out Bracketron’s chargers which automatically shut off when your battery hits 100%. Simply plug it into the wall, and plug in a USB cable.
You’ve heard it a million times, a single LED bulb uses 75% less energy than an incandescent, plus it shines brighter and lasts longer. Sure, they cost more, but you can save $70 a year in energy costs by switching out five of your most frequently used bulbs.
Smart LED Light Bulbs are the new generation, with tons of great features that can be controlled by your smartphone. Check out the newest LED’s like Phillips Hue, LIFX, and soon iLumi that let you adjust the intensity and color remotely. Connect wirelessly to a bridge, then use an app to control your home’s entire lighting system.
Cost: $200 Bridge + 3 bulbs
A cheaper option is INSTEON’s LED Bulb. It boasts a 52,000 hour life span, can be accessed remotely and offers many of the color changing features of the most expensive models. The best part is, you can add one bulb at a time without a costly bridge setup.
Cost: $30 a bulb
Lighting accounts for about 12% of your monthly energy usage, so the easiest way to save is simply to shut off the lights. Instead of flipping each switch when you leave the room, you could also outfit your home with a Isolé IDP-3050 power strip. It comes with a sensor that will turn everything off when you leave the room.
Heating and cooling use a combined 45% of the energy in your home, so it’s a great place to save money. Change your air filters regularly and keep a close eye on the temperature. You’ll save 3-5% off your electric bill for every degree you raise the thermostat in the summer. Here’s a good target:
- 78ºF/ 25.6º C - when home
- 85ºF/ 29.4º C - when away
The guy who invented the iPod created an easier way to save energy - let the Nest do all the work. This innovative thermostat remembers your habits; when you leave, when you return, when you go to sleep - and then it adjusts the temperature automatically to save you money. Plus, you can control it from your smartphone, chart energy savings and install it in less than thirty minutes.
Cost: $250 2nd Generation/ $230 1st Generation
There are plenty of traditional programmable thermostats on the market that can save you nearly $200 a year on energy costs - but only if you use them correctly. You can also go old school and adjust the air flow in your home for natural ventilation. Turn off the A/C at night and open the windows to let the cool air in. When you wake up, shut the windows and the blinds to capture cooler air. Fans help too, just remember - fans cool people, not the air - so turn them off when you leave the room.
Many energy savings blogs suggest reducing the temperature of your water heater. While you will save energy, turning it below 140ºF/60ºC encourages growth of dangerous microorganisms, including the deadly Legionnaires’ disease bacteria. Instead, consider a newer hot water system and better daily habits.
A tankless water heater only heats the water as it is needed, so you don’t waste energy heating water you don’t use. The tankless models are 30% more energy efficient than conventional storage tank heaters, but your household water usage may require you to buy more than one.
Other options include hybrid electric heaters. They work with a heat pump to use 60% less energy than standard electric tanks, but need a lot more room. Solar water heaters use natural energy, but require an expensive setup. Geothermal heat pump or natural gas systems may also be an option depending on where you live, so make sure you do your homework.
It’s so easy to save energy by simply reducing your use of hot water. Take shorter showers, use cooler water, install a low-flow shower head, and replace the aerator on your faucets. Check all your faucets and pipes for leaks and wrap old water heaters with an insulation wrap. It won’t cost you much to make small changes that really add up over time.
Your energy usage will depend on the machines, but you can be more efficient by using cold water and lower dryer settings. Plus, avoid washing clothes in peak times. To really save energy, you’ll want to trade up for an Energy Star rated washing machine which uses 20% less energy and 35% less water.
The Samsung WF457 washer was the darling of the 2012 Consumer Electronic Show due to its touchscreen and smartphone enabled controls. It claims to cut the wash cycle by 15 minutes, has a bigger load capacity and uses 70% less water with PowerFoam. The matching dryer has similar control functions and Steam Dry so you can skip the dry cleaner. If you can live without the touchscreen, you can save a lot of money - so do your homework.
Cost: $1500 each
Dryer vents/ducts can easily clog, reducing efficiency and creating a fire hazard. If it takes more than a cycle to dry your clothes, there could be too much lint built up in the duct leading to the outside. A handyman can clean it in about a half hour and give you peace of mind. Another solution? Simply line dry clothes using solar energy.
Cost: About $100
You can save energy by taking a close look at your windows. Homeowners lose an estimated 30% of their energy dollars as heat transfers through the single pane glass and air leaks around the frame.
Replacing your windows to double or even triple panes will significantly improve your energy efficiency all year round. Insulating gasses and special coatings can save you big bucks. It’s a big investment that will pay off for the life of the home, and help you attract buyers when it is time to sell.
DIYers may consider installing a laminate window tint over your East and West facing windows. The tinted film blocks light, solar energy and UV rays at fraction of the cost of new windows. You can even buy pre-cut pieces that use static cling for easy installation.
Cost: $12 a window
No matter what steps you take to be more energy efficient, you will be reducing your energy usage and cutting your power bills. Some of the suggestions listed here could also earn you rebates and tax credits from utility companies and the government, so be sure to keep track of your efforts. Remember, even small changes like turning off a fan when you leave the room will help you save energy and money.