A recent road trip through California really brought to light the devastating effect of the ongoing drought there. Dried up river beds, farmers struggling to produce crops, large groves of failing trees. It was kind of creepy – like the desert is purposefully taking back the land. It made me aware of how much water I mindlessly waste, and it got me looking for ways to cut back on usage. Coming up with ways to reuse and cut back on water has led to some decent savings for me in hydro-electric power costs. Not a huge amount, but noticeable.
Here are eight of the best energy-saving hacks you can put into practice right now, and enjoy reduced costs while having a gentler impact on the environment.
8 Energy (and Money) Saving Hacks You Can Do Right Now…
1. Hot Water Costs
Having an abundance of clean, hot water is something many of us in Western cultures expect, and take for granted. And we use this precious commodity as though there’s a never-ending supply to meet our needs.
Heating water is one of the greatest drains on household power, but there are a few simple tweaks that will help to reduce consumption — and costs.
- Wash and rinse clothes in cold water. 90% of the cost of washing a load of clothes comes from heating the water – and detergent works just as well in cold.
- Install low-flow faucets and shower heads that have greater aeration capacity, and shorten time spent in the shower.
- Lower the thermostat on your hot water tank from 140°F to 120°F. 120°F is perfectly adequate for showering, dishes, clothes washing, etc.
2. Keep the Old Hot Water Tank Cozy
If you’ve recently installed a new hot water tank, chances are it’s already insulated. But, if you have an older one, you can reduce standby heat loss by 25 – 40% according to the US Energy Department’s web site, and enjoy savings of 4 – 9% annually.
- Call your local utility company to see if they offer insulating blankets for hot water tanks. Or, check if they offer a rebate on billing costs if you install one.
- Alternately, you can purchase insulating blankets for about $20 through plumbing and home improvement stores. (For the DIY enthusiast, the Dept. of Energy has step-by-step instructions on how to make your own in about 1.5 hours.)
3. Become a Fan of Fans
When summer is well underway, A/C units are working hard to keep us cool. But, they also draw a lot of energy, and are expensive to operate. However, you can use fans to help with cooling, and give the air conditioner a break.
- A ceiling fan will use no more electricity than a regular light bulb, and the breeze will help you feel cooler by 3 or 4 degrees.
- You can raise the thermostat by those same 3 or 4 degrees to reduce A/C costs, and still maintain the same level of comfort.
- Turn off fans when you leave — They don’t actually cool the room, only the bodies in the room.
4. Get Unplugged
You can further reduce energy used by home electronics with the following tips:
- Use a power bar for clusters of electronics, then simply flip the switch on the bar to turn everything off when not in use. Even when turned off, many home electronics consume energy while in standby mode to power clocks and display information.
- A laptop uses less energy than a desktop computer, so the next time you’re in the market for a new computer, consider the smaller, more energy-efficient version. And set it to sleep or hibernate mode rather than setting your screen saver to draw less electricity when inactive.
- Unplug battery chargers when batteries are fully charged, or not in use. Most chargers will draw a continuous supply of power even when there’s nothing being charged.
5. Ways with Windows
Windows are another household feature that can be a big source of energy leakage. They can let in too much cold air in the winter and too much heat in the summer.
- Reduce and eliminate hot areas in your home by using window films, solar screens, blinds and high-performance windows to help keep rooms cool.
- If replacing windows, look for double-glazed windows with light spectrum coatings to block heat and harmful UV rays.
6. Use Insulating Window Treatments
Heat flies right out of windows, whether they’re open or not. This is particularly true in older homes that may not have high-performance windows installed.
To prevent heat loss of up to 40% in older homes, a relatively easy and economical solution is to use insulated window treatments. Carefully selected, they can reduce heat gain in the summer and heat loss in winter.
Look for window coverings that will not only complement your décor, but also save you money.
- Use reflective interior blinds to reduce heat gain by about 45%.
- Roller exterior blinds will also provide interior shade, and can be adjusted to regulate light and air flow.
- In winter, close draperies at night for a 10% savings on heat loss. Add a liner to existing draperies for a tighter air space. The room-side of the drapery will stay closer to room temperature, which means greater comfort.
- If looking for new window coverings, consider pleated or cellular shades and Roman blinds. They’ve been designed with dead air spaces to increase their insulating capacity.
- For attics or unused rooms, insulated panels that fit snugly to the sill can be installed for increased energy savings.
7. Seal Air Leaks
Aside from the usual sources of heat loss such as around doors and windows, you can use weather stripping and expandable insulating foam to seal up gaps and spaces around the house.
Weather stripping comes in a variety of widths and depths, and its peel-away adhesive backing makes installation a breeze. Choose one that will be best suited for the job in terms of weather exposure, friction, temperature and daily wear and tear.
To ensure you get enough material for the job, measure the entire perimeter of the area and add another 10% for any potential errors. It’s better to have a bit too much than not enough.
Use expandable foam to fill small to large gaps both inside and outside the home. Look for potential air loss at these sites:
- Where phone lines and cables enter the home
- Around your clothes dryer and air vents
- Around plumbing, pipes and electrical boxes
- Over and under sill plates
- Around ceiling fixtures and fans
- Around door frames and window frames
- Where the foundation and siding meet
8. In The Kitchen
The kitchen is a great place to reduce energy consumption.
- In the summer, grill outdoors more often so that the kitchen stays cooler.
- Stop peeking in the oven. Each time the oven door is opened, the oven’s temperature can drop by as much as 25°F, which then has to be recovered.
- Use the ‘Quick’ or ‘Fast Wash’ cycle and ‘Air Dry’ feature on the dishwasher to cut back on energy consumption, and reduce heating in the kitchen.
Bonus tip: Whenever you’re in the market for new appliances or electronics, look for the EPA’s Energy Star Certification — what you buy might cost a bit more initially, but you’ll quickly make up the extra cost in energy savings.
That wraps up our look at the eight energy saving hacks you can perform right now to reduce consumption and costs – and leave a smaller carbon footprint for future generations. Not a bad payoff for a few simple adjustments.
Lorna enjoys writing on contemporary lifestyle issues that brings a bit more joy into our daily lives – like healthy habits, and saving time and money. You can connect with Lorna on Twitter, or read some of her posts over at Foodal.