These days, it seems everyone’s thinking green. The urge to conserve is upon us. Where once eco-friendly was all about saving the planet, today, it’s just as likely to be about leaving a little more green in your jeans and finding a way to put a bite into soaring energy costs.
Thankfully, energy-proofing your home need not be an expensive proposition. With a few simple steps, it’s possible to lower your monthly utility bills and save the planet too—a win-win if there ever was one.
Keep an Eye on the Thermostat
Setting the temperature just a few degrees higher in the summer, or lower during the winter, will significantly reduce your energy usage. With a programmable thermostat, you can lessen the variance in temperature between the interior and exterior of your home, as well as decrease your demands on the grid during those times when you are not at home.
Potential savings can equal $5 to $10 per month.
Ceiling fans are a very efficient means of circulating air throughout the house and reducing your need for wallet draining central air. During the summer, they should be set to spin counter-clockwise, to draw the hot air upwards. Simply reverse the spin through the winter. In addition, a rotating fan will let you cool rooms in use, allowing you to turn off the A/C in those parts of the house you’re not occupying.
Potential savings total $5 to $10 per month.
Upgrade the Appliances
Obviously, few of us can afford to replace all of our appliances, but when you do find yourself in need of a new fridge or decide it’s time to retire the old washer-dryer, taking the time to do your homework and selecting the most energy-efficient appliance your budget will allow is a must. While more expensive, ENERGY STAR labelled appliances will earn you back in savings the extra bit you might pay out when purchasing them.
For an average household, energy savings should be about 30 percent annually.
Tame the Surge
Studies have showed that large LCD and plasma TVs can consume up to 400 watts of energy when in use, and even when idle will continue to draw a small amount of power. The same holds true for your other home electronics. Using a surge suppressor, or simply unplugging them when not in use, will lower your usage.
Potential savings: a few dollars a year.
Who left the lights on?
Easily one of the easiest ways to reduce your energy footprint is to simply replace those watt-hogging 60-watt incandescent bulbs with some energy-efficient compact fluorescents. A 13-watt compact fluorescent light bulb uses two-thirds less energy while lasting on average up to 10 times longer. In addition, installing automatic timers in those lesser-used areas of the house—laundry rooms, basements and garages—will minimize the lost pennies when you forget to switch off the lights.
Potential savings equal $1 to $2 per month.
Drip, drip, drip
By now, it should be becoming clear—the easiest way to save on your energy costs is to simply get in the habit of using less. Low flow fixtures on your showers, faucets and toilets are easy to install—not to mention inexpensive—upgrades that will save you a bundle, as much as 70 percent less usage according to some industry estimates. In addition, look to switch to a tankless water heater that only heats water when needed. Take a bath or a cold shower, believe me, they’re shorter. And when you brush your teeth, do you really need to leave the tap running? Go back to washing the dishes by hand, it’s cheaper and can double as a family powwow. Finally, try doing your laundry late at night or early in the morning during off peak hours, in cold water.
Potential savings can total 50 percent or more in your usage.
Heed your furnace
While proper maintenance of your furnace is best left to the experts, a little bit of preventive care in between cleanings can do wonders for its efficiency. Manufacturers recommend changing filters on your furnace quarterly or even monthly.
Were you born in a barn?
Remember your mother’s admonition. Closing exterior doors quickly and completely when entering or leaving the house prevents energy transfer. Likewise, closing fireplace dampers when not in use will reduce the chances for heat loss. Drawing your curtains, especially during the summer months, will keep the house cooler in the mornings and save on air conditioning. Finally, try deciding what you want for that late night snack before you get to the refrigerator.
Do some gardening
Did you know that well-planned landscaping will not only add to your property’s overall value, it can also help you to save on your monthly utility costs? Strategically placed trees can be of tremendous benefit to the heating and cooling of your house. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, properly placed deciduous trees can save you as much as 25 percent on your cooling costs when correctly placed to the south and west sides of the house, providing shade to hard surfaces like driveways and patios during the summer months. Planting evergreens on the north side will shield against the harsher winter winds. Of course, trees take time to grow, so in the meantime, try installing an awning on the front and back of your house to achieve some of the same effects.
All in all, conservation doesn’t require huge expenditures, or oodles of time. Once you’ve mastered the habits of saving, small steps can definitely bring about some significant savings.