15 ways to save energy (and money)

February 6, 2010 at 6:46 am Leave a comment

One of the best parts about saving energy is it save you money. It also reduces the demand for fossil fuels including coal, oil, and natural gas, none of which we have endless supplies so it makes sense to use it wisely. Reduced usage and burning of these fuels also means less carbon dioxide emissions which is the primary contributor to global warming and other pollutants. Saving doesn’t mean you have to go without. There are several energy efficient choices for things including appliances and light bulbs. Consumers have real choices and the power to change their energy usage.

Here are 15 things you can do to save energy:


1. Clean or replace air filters in your furnace as recommended. Clean filters let the appliance work more effectively and efficiently. Filters generally last no more than 90 days when used normally. Cleaning a dirty air conditioner filter can save 5 percent of the energy used.

2. Make sure your dishwasher is full when you run it and use the energy saving setting, if available, to allow the dishes to air dry. You can also turn off the drying cycle manually.

3. Turn down your water heater thermostat. Thermostats are often set to 140 degrees F when 120 is usually fine. By reducing the temperature of your water heater by 10 degrees Fahrenheit, you can save between 3 to 5 percent in energy costs. If every household turned its water heater thermostat down 20 degrees, we could prevent more than 45 million tons of annual CO2 emissions – the same amount emitted by the entire nations of Kuwait or Libya.

4. Set your clothes washer to the warm or better yet cold water setting, instead of hot. Over 90 percent of the energy use of a washing machine comes from heating the water..

5. Use the energy-saving settings on existing major appliances and select the most energy-efficient models when you replace your old appliances. Look for the Energy Star Label. They’re up to 40% more efficient than other models. You can even find rebates online with the Energy Star rebate finder. Buy the product that is sized to your typical needs – not the biggest one available. Front loading washing machines will usually cut hot water use by 60 to 70% compared to typical machines.

6. Buy energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs for your most-used lights. Although they cost more initially, they cut energy costs by 75 percent saving money in the long run and last 8-12 times longer. They provide an equivalent amount of bright, light. Only 10% of the energy consumed by an incandescent light bulb generates light. The rest just makes the bulb hot. If every American household replaced one of its standard light bulbs with an energy efficient compact fluorescent bulb, we would eliminate the equivalent of the emissions created by one million cars.
7. Weatherize your home or apartment, using caulk and weather stripping to plug air leaks around doors and windows. Windows that leak allow cold or hot air to escape from the house. This makes your furnace and air conditioner work harder to keep the home at the desired temperature. Caulking costs less than $1 per window, and weather stripping is under $10 per door. To test for air leaks around windows, light an incense stick and pass it over the window seams. If the smoke travels horizontally, there is a leak. Ask your utility company for a home energy audit to find out where your home is poorly insulated or energy inefficient. This service may be provided free or at low cost. Make sure it includes a check of your furnace and air conditioning. There are also many private companies that you can schedule a more thorough home energy audit. (see x section for more information and my experience during my energy audit.
8. Properly insulate your home. You can check how much insulation you have by measuring the depth with a ruler. 7 inches of fiber glass or rock wool or 6 inches of cellulose mean you have a level of R-22. If you have less than this level, it would be good to add more insulation. This can save 5 to 25% on your heating and cooling costs.
9. Don’t overheat or overcool rooms. In the winter, set your thermostat at 68 degrees in daytime, and 55 degrees at night. In the summer, keep it at 78. Lowering your thermostat just two degrees during winter saves 6 percent of heating-related CO2 emissions. If you leave the house for a prolonged period of time in the winter, turn the thermostat down more. This can save you between $10 and $30 per month on your heating bill. If you have an air-conditioning system, turn your thermostat up in summer (78 degrees when you’re home, 85 when you’re not). Install a programmable thermostat to schedule changes in temperature according to your schedule. These can save up to $115 annually on your energy bills.
10. Install low-flow showerheads, faucet aerators, and high efficiency toilets. This will of course save water, but it will also save energy in the pumping, transporting, and treating of your water.
11. Close your curtains or window shades during the night to keep in heat and open them during the day to let the sun warm your room and reduce heating needs. In the winter, opening curtains and shades in the day can let in sunshine and heat up your home. Closing curtains at night will prevent some heat from escaping and will reduce the chill from windows. In the summer, keep curtains and shades closed in the day to prevent unnecessary heat gain, especially if you are not at home.
12. Turn off lights when you leave a room. Turn off lights that you don’t need. For example, if you are sitting at a desk reading, use a desk lamp instead of the overhead light.
13. Unplug electronics and battery chargers when you are not using them. Even when these items are turned off, they still draw electricity.
14. If your heating equipment is more than 15 years old, try Energy Star furnaces, boilers, etc. New furnaces are generally 15% more efficient than older models. Getting properly sized equipment is also crucial.
15. Consider installing high efficiency windows. These windows, such as those with double panes of high performance glass, are 40% more efficient than standard windows. If your windows are operable, make sure you know how to use them properly for natural ventilation. . If you have a yard, and your windows face south, consider planting a leafy tree. During hot seasons the leaves will provide shade and help keep your house cooler. During the winter (if you live far enough north), the tree will drop its leaves and let in the light – keeping your house warmer. You might be surprised by how much money you’ll save on heating/cooling costs just by providing a little shade for your house.

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