Saving Money & Energy

Posted May 4th, 2012
by Isabell Davila (no comments)

Waste accounts for a huge fraction of most residential electricity and water bills. In some cases, nearly 50 percent of all the electricity use in a residence can be accounted for by inefficient appliances, power-hogging standby modes, and other wasteful circumstances. Since electricity is expensive, conservation can lead directly to some pretty substantial savings. However, precious nonrenewable resources are also saved whenever you successfully cut back on energy usage. Unless your home runs exclusively on wind, solar, and hydroelectric power, wasting energy is the same as needlessly burning fossil fuels.

It’s vital to conserve water for many of the same reasons, and most homes waste just as much water as electricity. The bathroom is the biggest culprit, and about 75 percent of all residential water usage is accounted for by flushing the toilet and taking either showers or baths. Conserving water is especially important in rural areas because flushing excess water into a septic system can cause it to overflow. The same is true of municipal sewer systems, and excess sewage is sometimes dumped directly into rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water.

No-cost Ways to Save Energy

Some of the most effective energy-saving measures won’t cost you any money at all. In fact, you’ll actually save money when your next electricity bill arrives. One easy way to reduce your residential power consumption is to simply shut off the lights whenever you leave a room. Depending on factors like the number of lights you have and the local cost of electricity, shutting off unused lights might save you a few dollars each day.

Another easy way to save energy is to use your heating and cooling systems more efficiently. Replacing old windows can result in a huge savings, but simply covering inefficient windows with heavy drapes can help keep the heat in. If you have some mastic laying around, you can also reduce your heating and cooling costs by sealing up the joints of your heating ducts. Landscaping can also play a role in energy efficiency, and planting the right bushes and shrubs around your house will lead to a reduction in heating and cooling costs.

The biggest energy savings may come from shutting off appliances and electronics that have standby modes. When you shut off most modern electronics, they don’t actually turn all the way off. If a red light turns on when you shut an appliance down, it’s a pretty safe bet that it has entered into a standby mode. You may find more than 40 different appliances around your house that use some type of standby mode, and that can account for 10 percent of all the electricity used in your home. If you install power strips that allow you to cut off electricity to those items, you can avoid paying for all that wasted energy.

Low-cost Ways to Save Energy

If you make a small initial investment, it’s possible to decrease your energy bills even further. The cheapest way to reduce your energy usage is to switch from incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs. CFL bulbs cost more than regular incandescent bulbs, but they last about 10 times longer. That means you’ll reduce landfill waste in addition to saving money on energy.

You can also save both money and water by installing low-flow shower heads. These fixtures use about half the water that regular shower heads do, and that can dramatically reduce your water bill. If you like to take hot showers, less heated water also means lower electricity or gas bills. While you’re at it, you can also check to see if your water heater is properly insulated. It takes a great deal of energy to heat such a large volume of water, so improper insulation leads to energy inefficiency.

Another way to save a great deal of energy is to switch to energy star appliances. These appliances are typically around 30 percent more efficient than regular appliances, but the cost of upgrading can be daunting. Since energy star appliances will save you money in the long run, it’s a good idea to focus on buying them when your old units break. If you can’t afford to retrofit your entire household, just make sure that you don’t purchase any more inefficient units.

Installing an energy star compliant heater or air conditioning unit is a great way to save money, but it’s also important to make sure your heating and cooling system is properly maintained. If your heating or air conditioning filter gets clogged up, the efficiency of the system will drop. You can also use a lot of unnecessary energy if your house isn’t properly insulated. The biggest cause of heat loss is a poorly insulated attic, but you can also check the crawl space and the sill plates of your entry doors. If you can feel a draft at your sill plates, you’re wasting money every time you heat or cool your home.

Money-saving Checklist

If you want to eliminate your personal electricity waste, you can:

  • Weatherize and insulate your house.
  • Replace single-pane windows with double-pane windows.
  • Seal the joints in your heating ducts.
  • Maintain your heating and cooling systems.
  • Tailor your landscaping to reduce heating and cooling costs.
  • Consider a whole-house fan instead of central A/C.
  • Install a programmable setback thermostat.
  • Turn off the lights when you leave a room.
  • Use power strips to eliminate appliance standby modes.
  • Replace indoor lightbulbs with CFL bulbs.
  • Replace outdoor lighting with energy efficient LEDs.
  • Purchase energy star appliances.
  • Switch some appliances from electricity to natural gas.
  • Install faucet aerators and low-flow shower heads.
  • Wash clothes in cold water.

Adding It All Up

The specific amount you save will depend on the number of appliances you have, where you live, and how much electricity costs in your area, but every act of electricity conservation you engage in will result in a monthly savings on your electric bill. If you shut off appliances and electronics with power strips, that can save you 10 percent right off the top of your monthly bill. Switching over to energy star appliances can save you another 30 percent, and properly insulating your house might save you over $200 every year. A programmable setback thermostat can save you about $120 each year, and washing your clothes in cold water will net you about $50 in yearly savings. You will have to spend some money to see the highest level of savings, but there are often federal and local government incentive programs that can help defray the costs.

Categories: Green Living

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