There are so many good reasons to want to save energy at home. It will save you money on your monthly energy bills, and as energy prices keep increasing, that’s very important. You’re helping the environment, especially if your utility uses fossil fuels in order to provide you with electricity. Depending on where you live, there may even be government incentives for keeping your energy consumption low. There are a number of different ways to make your home more energy efficient, ranging from simple and low-cost to more complex and expensive; every step you take is an improvement.
Beware of Vampires
One of the biggest sources of unnecessary power usage comes from standby power, sometimes called vampire power. The monstrous nickname comes from the way standby power sucks energy for appliances that aren’t even being utilized.
What exactly is standby power? Appliances that aren’t actively in use will still often draw power in order to execute passive tasks. Your microwave, for example, probably has a clock on it that tells the time, even when the microwave isn’t in use – this means the appliance is drawing power 24/7. In a similar way, your television is using standby power in order to detect when a remote control is being pushed to power it on.
The best way of dealing with standby power is to have all of your appliances plugged into power bars that you can turn on and off. When you turn the power bar off, power is cut to all the appliances on that bar so no standby power can be drawn. You can even get power bars with timers so that at a certain time of day, they’ll shut off automatically.
Use Your Powerful Mind
Energy consumption is happening all around you, all the time. By making yourself aware of this, you can begin to make conscious decisions and lower your power bill. These decisions can be quite simple. Do you take long showers? Try showering for less time or lowering the temperature of the water you shower with to reduce power used by your hot water heater.
Turn off the lights when you leave a room. Turn the temperature down one or two degrees in the wintertime and turn it up a bit in the summertime. Dress appropriately for the weather so you won’t need to adjust the thermostat as much. Get out of the house more often and make sure you power down your home when you do. Making small, conscientious choices to reduce your energy consumption can help a great deal. Any one of these actions alone might save you less than a nickel, but doing them all over the course of weeks will save you a lot of money.
It’s easy to forget to close all the lights or adjust the thermostat before you leave for work. Fortunately, technology can help you be consistent. Smart homes are a wonderful way of conserving energy. You can buy smart lights that automatically turn off at certain times of day. Some of these lights can even learn to predict your patterns and change their schedules appropriately and you can always check the status of your smart lights on your phone. That way, you can turn them off remotely if you forgot to program them to turn off.
Smart thermostats are particularly handy because they’ll often give you a breakdown of how much energy you’re using to heat or cool your home. This means you can quite literally calculate the value of changing the temperature a degree or two, then evaluate whether or not the change in comfort is worth it for you. These devices, like the lights, can also be programmed, can learn your schedule, and can be adjusted from your phone.
Don’t Hesitate to Insulate
Heating and cooling are two of the most important energy expenses you’ll incur, especially if you live in a climate with very cold winters and very hot summers. Energy efficient insulation will help keep those costs low. Insulation is so effective, in fact, that many places have government or utility subsidized insulation programs in order to reduce energy consumption.
Why is insulation so effective? The answer has to do with how heat moves. When a space is warmer than an adjacent space, the heat from that space will always move towards the cooler space until the temperatures even out (this is a very basic explanation of the concept). Insulation acts as a barrier to this movement, so in the wintertime the hot air won’t leak outside and in the summertime, hot air won’t leak in. Different insulation will have different R-values and the recommended R-value for insulators will vary depending on where you live – milder climates require lower R-values. Keep in mind that windows and doors have R-values as well and are an important part of your home’s overall insulation.
Give Your Appliances an Upgrade
Are you still using appliances from the ‘90s or the early 2000s? You’re probably wasting a lot of energy. New appliances are much more energy efficient thanks to numerous upgrades to their technologies. Also, the older an appliance is, the less energy efficient it becomes because of wear and tear.
You’ll want to upgrade your heating system for sure if you’re in a climate with cold winters, and your cooling system if you have hot summers. Furnaces and air conditioners have become much more efficient over the years. You can tell how efficient a heating system is by its annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE), and how efficient a cooling system is by its seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). In both cases, the higher the number, the more efficient the unit. You should consult with an HVAC expert, however, because the most efficient unit isn’t always necessary. Depending on your climate, you could end up spending a lot more for little return with some of the hyper-efficient units.
You should also consider replacing your water heater. Old boilers are very inefficient; they tend not to be well insulated (so heat escapes) and require a lot of energy to keep water warm. What’s more, once you run out of hot water, it takes a lot of time to heat more. There are new water heaters that are tankless; they heat water up on demand and in many cases take up a lot less energy. In circumstances where tankless heaters won’t do, there are new high efficiency boilers on the market as well.