Everyone wants to save energy these days. Whether it’s to protect the environment — or just protect your wallet — residents of all income levels are looking for ways to enjoy lower utility bills.
Here’s a look at where your money goes when you pay your energy bill, and your Power 5 priorities for minimizing your costs.
#1: Heating and Cooling
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heating chews up about 29% of your annual energy costs, while cooling takes another 13%.
What can you do to stay comfortable year round and reduce your electric bill?
- Change filters. Dirty filters restrict the flow of air and exacerbate indoor pollution. Changing them monthly is good for your lungs and your budget!
- Keep vents open. Want a simple and easy energy saving tip? Open your vents! This helps the air flow more freely and easily, reducing the strain on your system.
- Be fan-smart! Fans don’t actually change the temperature of the room, but they regulate the flow of air for greater comfort. This lets you set your thermostat a little higher in the summer and a little lower in the winter. Just remember to turn all fans off when a room is unoccupied!
- Be leak-wise! Air that escapes through doorframes, window sills, and other openings reduces energy efficiency. Sealing leaks alone can reduce energy costs by 15% to 30%. Apply weather stripping or caulk around doors and windows, and close the damper to prevent air from escaping through the chimney.
- Be proactive about maintenance. Don’t wait until you hear creepy noises coming from the utility closet. Have your system inspected once a year to identify problems before they cause an even bigger — and more expensive — headache.
- Watch those windows. Energy efficient windows save electricity by protecting your home from overheating in the summer and prevent warmth from escaping in the winter. Keep your blinds and shades closed to reduce the strain on your AC. Open windows briefly during the early morning to let in a little cool air.
- Plant green to save green. Trees and shrubs absorb excess energy from the sun, keeping it away from your house. By planting them near windows, you can shade your home from the heat, stay comfortable indoors, and lower your energy bill.
- Why heat or cool an empty house? Don’t turn the system completely off, but raising your AC or turning down the heat when you’re not home can yield substantial energy savings. Get a programmable thermostat to automatically raise and lower the temperature at the appropriate times.
#2: Home Electronics
Home electronics include television sets and DVRs, power adapters for phones and other devices, computers and other home office equipment, and small appliances like hair dryers.
But while you’re mindlessly enjoying these modern conveniences, did you know they’re gobbling up an average of 21% of your energy costs?
- One of the best ways to save energy is to always turn off appliances when they’re not in use.
- Whenever practical, unplug them so you don’t waste money on “phantom” energy that you’re not even using.
- Use a power strip for multiple appliances that tend to be used together — such as your computer and peripheral devices. That makes it easier to turn off and unplug them all at once when you’re done using them.
#3: Water Heating
Who doesn’t love a long, steamy shower or bath?
Keep in mind that hot water accounts for about 13% of home energy costs, so don’t let all those relaxing showers leave you stressed out when your electricity bill comes.
- Check your hot water thermostat. Limiting the temperature to no higher than 120 degrees will protect you from scalding and can save 6% to 10% on your energy costs.
- Insulate your hot water heater to help it do its job more easily and efficiently.
- Wash clothes in cold water. That could save you up to $152 per year on hot water costs.
#4: Heat-Generating Appliances
About 12% of home energy costs go to large appliances that generate heat, but there are several ways to save electricity when using them:
- Washer and dryer. Optimize load sizes so that the machine is about 75% full. Leave your dryer 25% unfilled to maximize its effectiveness. Do your laundry after sundown during the summer, and air dry your clothes when possible.
- Dishwasher. As with your laundry, load the dishwasher efficiently to optimize energy usage. To boost your savings even more, forego the heated drying feature and let your dishes air dry.
- Cooking appliances. Your microwave uses as much as 90% less energy than the stove, depending on the model you use. Crock pots and toaster ovens are also more efficient than the stove. Pay attention to your cooking technique:
- Thaw frozen food to save cooking time
- Eat foods that don’t have to be cooked — like sandwiches, salads, nuts, and raw fruits and veggies — to use your kitchen appliances less
- When cooking on the stove, put the lid on the pan. That keeps heat from escaping and lets the food cook faster.
- Refrigerators and freezers. It may seem strange that an appliance whose job is to keep stuff cold can generate so much heat! Keep your refrigerator temperature between 37 and 40 degrees and your freezer at about 5 degrees for optimal efficiency. Check your refrigerator on a regular basis to make sure it’s in good working condition.
Use heat-generating appliances at night as much as possible to control cooling costs.
Finally, choose appliances with the ENERGY STAR label to save on energy bills. Here are some average energy savings from typical energy-efficient appliances:
- $80 per year for a refrigerator
- $110 per year to run washing machine
- $30 per year on a dishwasher
Lighting takes up about 12% of your energy bill. Here are some ideas for saving money without sitting in the dark:
- Choose energy efficient bulbs. Many people resist the so-called “green” light bulbs because they cost more at the store. But just one traditional incandescent light bulb costs as much to operate as 6 to 10 compact fluorescents. Still think the green bulbs are too expensive? Think of them as an investment that will help you save money on electricity.
- Use dimmer switches. This gives you the flexibility to use only the light required for a task or aesthetic effect, without spending money on lighting you don’t need.
- Turn off the lights! This is another insanely easy way to lower your electric bills. Just like with fans, leaving the lights on in an unoccupied room or house is an inexcusable waste of energy. If you’re afraid you might forget, invest in motion detectors to automatically turn them off, or timers to turn lights on and off when you’re on vacation.
Do you have questions about your residential energy efficiency? Need to schedule an electrical inspection or repairs?
Contact us at Complete Electrical Solutions. We’re here to help you get more mileage out of your home energy dollar.