Have you ever stopped to think about how your energy consumption is impacting the environment? If so, the EPA has a great website with easy calculators to help you measure your impact. If you are not losing sleep over climate change, energy efficiency should at least be on your radar. The average household spends $2,200 annually on energy bills; being more energy-efficient means lower bills and less money going out the door (or window).
Check out the following energy hacks you can do over the weekend that will give you a great return on investment.
Energy Efficiency In the kitchen
Pack your freezer more tightly. When you open your freezer, all the freezing cold air is going to come out. That means when you close it the freezer has to produce more and that can get expensive over time. A way to prevent this is to pack your freezer full of stuff. You can do things like bags of ice or blue ice packs. When your freezer is packed, it keeps the cold air in. That means your freezer works less and uses less electricity. An added perk: in the even of a power outage, your freezer will stay cooler longer.
Replace your fridge with a newer energy efficient model. An older refrigerator uses nearly twice as much energy as a new ENERGY STAR refrigerator. You can save more than $300 over the next five years and reduce your carbon footprint by 9,000 pounds when replacing an older refrigerator with one that’s earned the ENERGY STAR.
Energy Efficiency Throughout the Home
Unplug appliances (computers, tvs, hair dryers). Even if your electronics are turned off, they’re still sapping energy. They’re called “vampire devices” because they keep a little bit of electricity going so they can respond more quickly to things like being turned back on. By turning off the power strip you effectively cut off all electricity to your electronics so they don’t use electricity without you knowing.
Turn down the thermostat / install a smart thermostat. Reduce energy costs with a smart thermometer – A smart thermostat helps you be more energy efficient without you even thinking about it. A smart thermostat learns your occupancy patterns to automatically adjust temperature settings. In-home sensors can sense when no one is at home and adjust the temperature to conserve energy and electricity while you’re away. While a smart thermostat can automatically adjust temperature settings, you are always in control.
Swap out fluorescent bulbs with LEDs. Switching your incandescent bulbs to LEDs may sound expensive, but when you think how much less electricity LED bulbs use compared to incandescent bulbs over the course of the lifetime of each, you’ll wonder why you ever had incandescents in the first place. Many LEDs can last an average of 25,000 hours, whereas incandescent bulbs last about 750 hours. This is because incandescent bulbs release 90% of their energy as heat (due to the metal filament inside becoming “white” hot, or is said to incandesce). Conversely, LEDs use heat sinks to absorb the heat produced by the LED and dissipate it into the space around it. This keeps LEDs from overheating an burning out. When considering how many incandescent bulbs you’d have to buy over the course of 25,000 hours, the cost of purchasing new incandescent bulbs alone is staggering. Added to that is the cost of electricity. It takes $240 to light an incandescent bulb for 25,000 hours as opposed to $40 for an LED. If you multiply all of that by the number of bulbs in your home, you can see how switching over to LED bulbs can potentially save you hundreds on your electric bill over the span of just a decade. Think you’ll be limited to 1 or 2 LED options? Think again, there are dozens of LED selections currently on the market (including edson and flood light style). Curious what other LED options are out there besides lightbulbs? Check out this bathroom remodel that features LED mirror lighting.
Seal Air Leaks. Aside from the usual sources of heat loss such as around doors and windows, you can use weather stripping and expandable insulating foam to seal up gaps and spaces around the house. Weather stripping comes in a variety of widths and depths, and its peel-away adhesive backing makes installation a breeze. Choose one that will be best suited for the job in terms of weather exposure, friction, temperature and daily wear and tear. To ensure you get enough material for the job, measure the entire perimeter of the area and add another 10% for any potential errors. It’s better to have a bit too much than not enough. Use expandable foam to fill small to large gaps both inside and outside the home. Look for potential air loss at these sites:
- Where phone lines and cables enter the home
- Around your clothes dryer and air vents
- Around plumbing, pipes and electrical boxes
- Over and under sill plates
- Around ceiling fixtures and fans
- Around door frames and window frames
- Where the foundation and siding meet
Install window coverings. Whether you like sheers, shades or shutters, window coverings can help keep the heat in and the cold out (or vice versa in the summer months). Companies like Hunter Douglas even provide window treatments with programmable motorization that automates the closing/opening of your shades (day or night) on a schedule you set, from the comfort of your tablet or mobile device–a feature that is especially convenient when you are away from your home.
Energy Efficiency in the Garage
Hot Water Tanks. If you’ve recently installed a new hot water tank, chances are it’s already insulated. But, if you have an older one, you can reduce standby heat loss by 25 – 40% according to the US Energy Department’s website, and enjoy savings of 4 – 9% annually. Additionally, you can lower the thermostat on your hot water tank from 140°F to 120°F. 120°F is perfectly adequate for showering, dishes, clothes washing, etc. Savings Tip: Call your local utility company to see if they offer insulating blankets for hot water tanks. Or, check if they offer a rebate on billing costs if you install one. Alternately, you can purchase insulating blankets for about $20 through plumbing and home improvement stores.
Energy Efficiency in the Laundry Room
When doing laundry, only run full loads, washing and rinsing them in cold water. 90% of the cost of washing a load of clothes comes from heating the water – and detergent works just as well in cold water. And in the summer months, when the Pacific Northwest is 80°+ consider hanging your clothes to dry. Dryers use a lot of energy (thanks to its heating element) as well as the motor that spins the drum. Save money and energy by putting up some clothes lines and hanging up wet clothes to dry.
Curious what other home improvements should be done to your home? Check out our free Ultimate Home Maintenance Guide here.