Of all the goals you can make to better your life and save a bit of money, actively trying to use less energy in your home is a pretty decent one to take on. Modern homes are full of products that require a lot of energy to function. Electricity use in U.S. homes was 13 times greater in 2017 than it was in 1950, for reasons that aren’t too hard to deduce.
Our homes are running smarter than ever, but they’re not always running in the most efficient way possible. And while it’s not realistic (or even warranted) that you completely slash your home’s energy usage, taking steps to use less energy is a noble and productive way to make the world just a little bit better.
Why use less energy?
Unlike water or coal, energy isn’t a finite resource. That being said, there’s still a strong connection between energy and the environment. The production of energy requires the use of power plants, and power plants release toxic fumes into the air. Though the Clean Air Act regulates emissions of pollutants from power plants, it’s impossible to completely erase their impact. When you use less energy, you help conserve resources otherwise burned for that energy consumption in a plant. Using less energy also saves you money. Something as small as turning off lights in rooms you’re not currently using can save you more than $270 a year; here are some simple tips and tricks for keeping your energy bills down.
Beware the vampires
Energy vampires are sneaky power-suckers that utilize energy even when you think they’re not. Examples are things like plugged in cords that aren’t currently charging anything and even the coffee pot you leave plugged in when you only make coffee once a day. And their energy use adds up, accounting for as much as 20 percent of your monthly electricity bill. Garlic won’t help you eliminate these vampires, but smart thinking will. Plug your cords into power strips, which can be easily switched off when not in use. And if it’s an item you don’t use frequently—say, that once-a-day coffee maker—keep it unplugged except when you actually need to use it.
Today’s washing machines are much more energy-efficient than they used to be, but making some small changes in how you wash your clothes can make a big difference in your home’s energy consumption. Wash and dry full loads instead of small loads, and wash on cold instead of hot. About 80 to 90 percent of the energy used by washing machines is for heating water. A load of clothes washed on the hot/warm setting will set you back about $0.68, while a load on cold/cold will set you back just $0.04.
Replace your light bulbs with LEDs
If your home doesn’t already use LED bulbs, now is the time to swap them in. LED lighting might cost you a bit more up front than halogen incandescent bulbs or fluorescent bulbs, but you can save $45 a year just switching out five older bulbs with LEDs. The more bulbs you switch to LED, the more money you’ll save. In addition to requiring less energy to emit light (about 90 percent of the energy used by incandescent bulbs goes toward heat—not light), they’ll last you longer, too. A high-efficiency LED bulb should last you at least a decade.
Install a smart thermostat
Chances are you’re wasting a lot of energy heating or cooling rooms that aren’t used very often. With Alarm.com, a remote thermostat and complete security system are just a call away. Select plans even offer a smart thermostat for FREE. This level of control won't just save you energy and money, the integrated security system will also protect your home.
Upgrade your water heater
If you’re serious about trying to use less energy in your home, you can’t ignore the major impact of your water heater. Just like with washing machines, heating water throughout your home requires a ton of power. If you have an older water heater, you may be able to save a lot of money by switching to an energy-efficient one.If the up-front cost of upgrading your water heater is too high, you’re not out of luck. Reduce hot water usage in other ways, such as investing in low-flow shower heads and faucets and using cold water for things like brushing your teeth and washing your face. Just turning the temperature down on your existing water heater can be a big help as well. You can save anywhere from $12 to $30 annually for every 10 degrees you lower your water heater. Keep it at 120 degrees for maximum efficiency.
Seal any air leaks
Energy efficient windows are one of the gold standards for using less energy at home, but it’s not always financially viable to completely replace all of your windows. Instead, you can still make an impact by air sealing your home with either caulking or weatherstripping (or better: both!). Leaking air allows heat to escape in the winter and cool air to escape in the summer, meaning your home has to work harder to maintain the temp you want.Go on a hunt for air leaks in your house, and then seal them up. Leaks often happen around doors and windows, as well as around outlets and in areas where wiring, plumbing, or duct work come in.
Replace your furnace filters
Set a reminder on your calendar to replace your furnace filters every three months. Dirty filters make it harder for heat to travel through them, requiring your system to use more power. This simple step can save you anywhere from five to 15 percent on your yearly utility costs.
Use alternative heating and cooling sources
Central air and heat are great, but they use a ton of power. Fortunately, there are other ways to stay comfortable without relying on your HVAC system all of the time. Space heaters, ceiling fans, and standing fans can all help you regulate temperatures in your home without having to turn on the thermostat. If the climate you live in makes it impossible to consider going without central heating and cooling throughout the year, try to make small changes where you can. If you have an attic, use a fan up there instead of directing central air—you could save about 10 percent on air conditioning costs alone. And in the winter, sleep under a heated blanket instead of cranking the heat in your bedroom (just be sure to turn the blanket off when not in use). These tiny changes can really add up.
Alternate peak energy-use times
As you might assume, your home uses more energy during the day when you’re up and utilizing lights and appliances than it does while you’re asleep. Do your part to reduce the strain on the power grid during daytime hours by waiting until right before bed to run certain appliances, such as your dishwasher and dryer. Try to avoid running these appliances during peak energy use time, which is from 4pm to 6pm.
Put your computer to sleep
There’s no reason your computer has to be on and running when you’re not actively using it. Computers are a huge source of phantom energy, utilizing power even when they’re just sitting there. To lessen this impact, put your computer in sleep mode (sometimes called “hibernate” mode) when it’s not in use. A laptop in sleep mode will use only about two watts of power, versus 15-60 watts when in use. For a desktop with a monitor, it’s about 5-10 watts when in sleep mode versus 65 to 220 watts when in use. In addition to utilizing your laptop’s sleep option, remember that there’s no need to charge it when you’re not using it. Chances are you’ll fill up your battery long before you remember to finally unplug it.
Saving energy is great, but turning it on has never been easier. Be sure to speak with Direct Home Connect to turn on your power, cable, water, internet, gas and home security. Click Chat with us to learn more.