Taking action against air pollution and global warming involves not only federal and state-level initiatives but also the individual efforts made within the confines of your own home. Everyday habits, straightforward home improvements, and wise purchasing decisions can collectively result in significant energy savings. If you’re skeptical, try incorporating these suggestions into your routine and witness the impact on your energy bill, allowing the results to speak for themselves.
It’s not just about flipping the light switch when exiting a room (although that’s crucial). Ensure that your television, computer, video game consoles, cable boxes, and digital video recorders are turned off when not in use—or better yet, unplugged to eliminate any standby energy consumption. Even chargers for devices like cell phones and tablets draw small amounts of energy when not actively charging. Simplify the process by plugging regularly used items into a power strip, enabling you to switch them off collectively.
For computers, optimize energy usage by setting them to sleep or hibernate mode, consuming significantly less power than when in active operation. Configure automatic sleep mode activation after a period of inactivity, such as 10 to 15 minutes. Additionally, eliminate screen savers, as they are unnecessary for modern monitors; a more efficient approach is to set your monitor to turn off when idle, says George Alvarez, owner of Expert Epoxy Flooring.
Investing in smarter bulbs, such as LED light bulbs, can be a cost-effective choice. These bulbs, available for as low as $5 at home improvement stores, have the potential to save over $100 throughout their lifespan. LEDs outperform incandescent bulbs by using up to 85 percent less energy to produce the same level of illumination. They are versatile, coming in various shapes, colors, and intensities, and offer the added benefits of instant full brightness and compatibility with dimmer switches. Check with your local utility to see if they provide rebates for energy-efficient bulbs, further reducing their overall cost.
Conserve energy by avoiding unnecessary consumption. Refrain from running the dishwasher unless it’s fully loaded, set your washing machine to the appropriate water level, and opt for cold water when washing clothes, except for heavily soiled loads. Maintain your refrigerator and freezer at optimal temperatures (28-42 degrees Fahrenheit for the refrigerator and 0-5 degrees Fahrenheit for the freezer), ensuring tight seals. Check the door gaskets by placing a dollar bill; if it’s easy to pull out, consider replacing the gaskets.
Recognize that the clothes dryer is a significant energy consumer in the household, often rivaling the energy usage of a new refrigerator, dishwasher, and clothes washer combined. Whenever possible, air-dry clothing, and when using the dryer, clean the lint filter after each use, utilize the auto-dry or moisture-sensor setting, and avoid adding wet items to a load that’s partially dry, says Jeremy Lesher, Co-Owner & Product Manager of Bluegrass Foundation Repair.
While modern high-definition televisions are more energy-efficient, some Internet-ready models may consume unnecessary power after being turned off due to a “quick start” feature. Disable this option in your television’s settings. Additionally, check if your TV has an automatic brightness control (ABC) sensor, which adjusts the picture brightness based on the ambient light in the room. Given that most TV viewing occurs at night, this feature can significantly impact energy consumption.
For streaming purposes, consider investing in an Internet-ready television or a compact add-on device like Apple TV, Google Chromecast, or a Roku box, as they consume minimal power. Avoid streaming video through game consoles such as PlayStation or Xbox, as they can use up to 30 times more energy. If you regularly use a game console, ensure it is set to “auto power down” mode for energy conservation.
Utilize an electricity monitor meter, like the Kill A Watt Meter, to measure the energy consumption of each gadget in your home, both when active and supposedly turned off. These meters, available for less than $30 at home improvement stores, offer valuable insights. For instance, you may discover that your “turned off” DVR set-top box from the cable or satellite company is still drawing around 20 watts, even when you’re not watching or recording a show.
Address the gaps around windows and doors in your home, which collectively can be equivalent to a 3-foot by 3-foot hole in the wall. Use caulk and weather-stripping to seal these air leaks. Apply window putty to seal gaps around loose window panes. Prevent heated or cooled air from escaping under doors by attaching “sweeps” or “shoes” to the bottoms.
Consider enhancing insulation in key areas such as the attic, under floors, around the hot water heater and pipes, and in crawl spaces. Simple measures like replacing old windows or covering bare floors with rugs can also contribute to energy efficiency. Explore options for a free energy audit from your utility company, where professionals assess your home and offer improvement suggestions. Many energy-saving insulation upgrades are now more budget-friendly, says Ilia Mundut, Founder and CEO of HeftyBerry.
Option for modern appliances that use half the energy of those from two decades ago. When shopping, prioritize products with the Energy Star label, as they typically consume 10 to 40 percent less energy than other new models. Some electric companies and state governments offer rebates for Energy Star–rated appliances.
If considering a new computer, choose a laptop over a desktop, as laptops generally use significantly less energy. They can also be connected to external monitors and keyboards for a larger screen when needed. During bathroom remodeling, replace old showerheads with new low-flow designs to conserve hot water and reduce the energy required for heating.
If you have the flexibility to choose your energy supplier, opt for one that relies on renewable resources such as solar, wind, low-impact hydroelectric, or geothermal power. Some states offer the option to support renewable energy by paying a slight premium on your electric bill if you cannot choose a specific supplier. Consult your electricity provider to explore the available options for incorporating renewable energy into your plan.
When upgrading to new, energy-efficient appliances and electronics, it’s crucial to dispose of the old ones in an environmentally friendly manner. Pass down functioning devices like phones, laptops, or tablets to younger family members, or look for buy-back programs online. Major retailers like Best Buy and Staples have comprehensive in-store recycling initiatives for both working and nonworking devices, accepting most electronics for proper and free recycling, regardless of where you made the purchase, says Robert Fields, Owner of ATX Stained Concrete.
Even with the most efficient air conditioner, heater, or water heater, the energy savings heavily depend on the settings you choose. Assess whether you truly need your AC set to chilly temperatures. If you own your residence, consider investing in a programmable thermostat, which, costing $100 or less, can reduce energy consumption by 20 to 30 percent—equivalent to saving $180 annually—by adjusting the temperature based on your daily routine.
Examine the temperature settings on your gas or electric water heater as well. If the setting is higher than necessary, it’s working harder than needed, resulting in higher costs to ensure hot water is always readily available. If the hot water from your tap is excessively hot, lower the setting to save on energy and costs.