Saving Energy — and Money

Home & Family, Living Green
on May 25, 2008

Reducing energy costs at home isnt that difficult. While it may require some minor changes in the way you do things, the payoffreduced energy consumption and lower utility billsis worth the effort. Here are some ways to improve your households energy efficiency and save money.

Lighten up, power down

  • Make the switch from traditional incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs. While compact fluorescent bulbs are more expensive than incandescent bulbs, they use only 25 percent of the electricity and last eight to 10 times longer. You dont have to change all the light bulbs in your home at once. Make it easy on your budget by replacing the most commonly used bulbs first; when the remaining bulbs go out, replace them with compact fluorescents.
  • Turn off lights and unplug electronic devices when no one is using them. In stand-by-mode, the TV, DVD player, kitchen appliances, cordless telephone and chargers for portable devices still use power. Notice that theyre warm to the touch? Thats wasted energy. Unplug them when theyre not in use. Use the sleep feature to lower a computers power consumption and use a power strip with a single on/off switch to turn off several devices in one easy step.

Keep cool and stay warm

  • In the summer, follow the sun around the house; before it heats up a room, pull down window shades to block its rays. When theres a cool breeze, open the windows to cool your homes interior.
  • Dont heat or cool an empty house. Use a programmable thermostat, which you can set to automatically lower the temperature in the winter and raise it in the summer when theres no one at home. According to the Alliance to Save Energy, this can reduce heating and cooling costs by about 10 percent. A programmable thermostat typically pays for itself within one season, and then yields home energy savings of about $150 a year.
  • Moving air feels cooler to the skin, so consider installing a ceiling fan. Because of the fans cooling effect, you can raise the thermostat a few degrees, reducing energy consumption and air conditioning costs.

Button up

Plug leaks in the exterior of your house. According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, small openings in the outer shell of a house account for nearly 30 percent of a homes total heat loss. Use caulk to seal cracks less than ¼-inch wide between door and window frames, openings on exterior walls, around pipes, or anywhere theres a draft. For larger cracks or difficult-to-reach areas, use an expanding foam sealant. Weather-stripping around doors and windows is another improvement that reduces air leaks.

Use appliances with energy in mind

  • Check with your local utility service and ask if they offer a lower rate at off peak times. If they do, operate your dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer at those times. Launder using cold water and wash only full loads.
  • When cooking, put a lid on the pan to reduce cooking times and always match the pan to the size of the burner. For small portions, consider using a microwave oven.

Avoid wasting water

  • Install water-saving showerheads and faucet aerators, inexpensive devices that restrict the flow of water.
  • Fix leaky faucets and dripping toilets to avoid wasting water.

Dont forget the yard and garden

  • Be aware of outdoor water usage. If you use a hose and sprinkler to water the lawn, set a timer as a reminder to move them around the yard. If you have an automatic watering system, make sure its set to turn on and off at the correct times.
  • If you have a small yard, consider using a manual push mower instead of a gas-powered mower. And instead of operating a noisy, powered leaf blower, try using a rake.
  • Save water by using a broom, not a hose, to clean off the driveway.

Be a savvy consumer

Look for the Energy Star label when youre buying appliances, home electronics, light fixtures and heating/cooling systems. These products, which meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the government, use less energy, save money and help protect the environment.