In today’s information age, improving our energy consumption is important in relation to sustainability. To begin with, improving energy efficiency saves money on utility bills by utilizing less energy provided by the utility grids. The average home in the United States can save 25% on utility bills with energy efficiency measures. That is an average of over $2,200 annually!
When it comes to the environment, energy generated by power plants burn carbon fuels that produce large amounts of carbon dioxide, which causes climate change. Using less power from the grid helps to combat this act and protect the environment. When our homes use less electricity, it also improves our local economy as well. Instead of importing natural gas and electricity from outside your community, domestic and local companies can provide more energy efficiency services and equipment.
Looking for ways to be more efficient? Try implementing some best practices to decrease your energy usage, carbon footprint, and utility bills. Here’s what you can do:
1. Replace incandescent lights – newer lighting technologies such as LEDs and CFLs can reduce the energy use required by lighting by 50% - 75%. Smart lighting controls offer further energy savings by reducing the amount of time that lights are on but not used. Traditional incandescent lights convert only 10% of the energy they consume into light, while the rest becomes heat.
2. Use appliances and electronics responsibly – appliances and electronics account for about 20% of household energy bills in a typical home. Tips to reduce the energy required to power appliances and electronics:
- Refrigerators and freezers should not be located near stoves, dishwashers, heat vents, or exposed to direct sunlight. Exposure to warm areas will force them to use more energy by working harder to stay cool.
- Turn off the computer when it is not in use. If the unattended computer must stay on, turn off the monitor. Also, enable power management functions.
- When choosing a computer to purchase, note that laptops consume considerably a lot less energy than desktops.
- Unplug chargers when electronics are not connected. They are still using power even when nothing is connected and charging.
- Use smart power strips designed to monitor and control power, improve energy efficiency and prevent household electronics from wasting power.
- When shopping for appliances, consider the Energy Star-rated appliances. They are approved by the U.S Department of Energy and The Environmental Protection Agency.
3. Install efficient showerheads and toilets – systems that conserve water usage in the home:
- Low-flow showerheads
- Low-flow sink aerators
- Low-flow toilets
- Vacuum-assisted toilets
- Dual-flush toilets
4. Use daylight as an alternative to electrical lighting whenever possible – using natural light in your home or place of business not only saves money but has great health benefits according to scientific studies.
5. Practice good energy-efficient laundry habits –
- Wash when you have a full load of clothes and avoid medium settings.
- Avoid washing on high-temperature settings when clothes are not very soiled. Water at 140F uses far more energy than 103F for the warm setting, and 140F isn’t that much more effective for cleaning clothes.
- Clean the lint trap before every use to lessen the time it takes to dry clothes and also to avoid a fire.
- Air dry clothes on lines and racks whenever possible.
- Spin-dry clothes before putting them in the dryer.
6. Seal your home – a tightly sealed home can improve comfort and the air quality indoors while reducing the electric bill. Use materials like caulk, weather stripping, foam sealant or foam board to seal common places where leaks may occur in the home such as:
- Window frames
- Door frames
- Electrical outlets
- Mail slots
- Wall or window-mounted air conditioners
- Attic hatches
- Cracked or loose fireplace mortar (use fireplace quality mortar/cement caulk only)
- Gaps around wiring or plumbing penetrations
- HVAC ductwork
- Cracks in building wood or stone
- Replace broken windows and change single-pane windows to storm windows
7. Insulate your home – increasing your home’s insulation is the fastest and most cost-effective way to reduce energy waste. Add insulation to the attic, crawl space, basement, and exterior walls to keep the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
8. Better ways to heat and cool the home:
- Install and use ceiling fans in place of air conditioners that require a large amount of energy.
- Periodically change air filters in air conditioners and heaters.
- Set thermostats at reasonable temperatures. For example, set the thermostat at 70F vs 75F to save an average of 10% on heating cost.
- Turn down the thermostat at night and during times when no one is home.
- Install programmable thermostats that allow heating and cooling systems to be turned down automatically when no one is home.
- Install a wood or pellet stove. These are more efficient sources of heat than furnaces.
- Use curtains to cover windows and insulate the room.
9. Install a tank-less water heater – demand-type water heaters (tankless or instantaneous) provide hot water only as needed. They do not produce the standby energy losses associated with traditional storage water heaters, which will save on energy costs. You also don’t need to wait for the storage tank to fill up with enough hot water.
10. Install solar power – if your home’s orientation is suitable for solar with the roof having southern exposure, in good condition and free of obstructions, you may want to consider adding solar panels. In reference to energy efficiency, here are the benefits of solar:
- Produces 100% clean, renewable energy.
- Reduces the reliance on oil, coal, and natural gases for electricity production.
- The average home will save around $400 per kW annually. For example, a 5kW system will save an average of $2,000 a year.
Energy audits are a good place to begin and identify areas of the house that need insulation and sealing. You will also be provided with suggestions (and sometimes rebates) on easy energy-efficient upgrades that can be made around the home. As electricity rates continue to go up, having an energy-efficient or green home can save you big time. It will also increase its energy rating and value. Homebuyers today take the Home Energy Rating System (HERS) score into much consideration when purchasing a house. A home with a low energy efficiency score would mean expensive energy costs for the homeowner. Lastly, there is also the feel-good factor knowing that you are doing something positive to sustain and preserve our environment. In our technology-driven world, we should always be on the lookout for ways to improve our quality of life. It starts in the home!