33 Tips for Increasing Energy Efficiency at Home
Increasing energy efficiency at home has become a higher priority for many people today for several reasons. Improved energy efficiency naturally translates into lower monthly utility bills, but it also means less wear and tear — and therefore less repair and maintenance — on home HVAC systems or heating and cooling equipment.
Additionally, living a more energy-efficient life has become important since we have developed a heightened awareness of the negative impact we’ve had on our planet and its resources. While increasing energy efficiency at home is a small attack on a global issue, any effort, no matter how small, is never wasted.
As a homeowner or renter, there are several changes you can make to help your home be more energy efficient and to reduce your electrical and heating and cooling consumption and expenses. Most of these changes require little in the way of effort, time investment, or out-of-pocket cost, and they can be implemented without outside assistance.
Here is a list of 33 things you can do to reduce your energy use, decrease your monthly utility bills, and make your carbon footprint smaller through energy-efficient lifestyle choices and greener living:
Set your thermostat to a warmer temperature in the summer and cooler one in the winter. Your “comfortable” temperature may not be the most efficient setting for your HVAC system, and it likely isn’t comfortable for your energy bill.
Turn your desktop computer off when it is not in use. Hibernating computers (in sleep mode) still use electricity, which adds to your energy use and utility expenses. Even if you are running a program in the background, such as an anti-virus scan or software update, turn the monitor off to save as much energy as possible.
Run your ceiling fans counter-clockwise in the summer and clockwise in the winter. This will help move air more effectively and reduce the need to keep adjusting your thermostat.
Always keep doors and windows closed when you have the heat or air conditioning turned on.
Don’t operate the kitchen or bathroom exhaust fans unless it is absolutely necessary.
Unplug all your electrical devices and gadgets when they are not in use. A plugged-in charger, even with no device attached, still uses a trickle of energy.
Check and clean or change your furnace, HVAC, or air conditioning filters at least once every 30 days to make sure they are clean and free of dust and debris. Even a small coating of dust can cause a significant decrease in the operating efficiency of your heating and cooling system.
Have your HVAC unit inspected to ensure that it is the right size for your living space. A unit that is oversized will turn on and off more often, while smaller units tend to work constantly. Either scenario means more work for the unit, which leads to increased wear and tear, a reduction in efficiency and effectiveness, and the eventual need for premature and costly repairs or unit replacement.
Never set your thermostat’s fan to “on.” This setting will cause the system to circulate the air continuously. The “auto” setting, on the other hand, turns the unit on and off when the temperature needs to be adjusted to maintain the desired setting.
Invest in water-saving features for your bathrooms, such as low-flow showerheads and faucets. A low-flow showerhead uses less water while still giving you adequate pressure, and some of them even come with the option to “pause” the water flow while you are shaving, shampooing, or lathering.
Keep the sun from turning the inside of your home into a hot box by installing light-blocking blinds, shades, or drapes. You can also install awnings above exterior windows or plant trees or high shrubbery to prevent direct sunlight from entering – and heating up – your home’s interior.
Invest in ceiling fans if you don’t have them, or select highly efficient high-volume, low-speed (HVLS) fans to minimize stagnant pockets of air, create better air circulation, and lower the need for your air conditioner to operate more frequently. HVLS fans are ideal for circulating air in large spaces such as barns, conference rooms, warehouses, and other locations where there is a lot of open space with no vertical barriers or room divisions.
Turn off your ceiling fans when you leave the room or your house. Contrary to popular belief, ceiling fans cool you — not the room they are installed in.
Don’t close off rooms in your home if you have the heat or air conditioning running, because the closed doors prevent air from passing freely throughout the house. The only time you should do this is if you are completely closing the room off for the season and are also shutting the ducts or vents in the room, as well.)
Never let your car sit idling in your driveway or garage. Not only is a garaged idling car dangerous due to carbon monoxide fumes, but Americans waste over $1 billion a year in gasoline simply by letting their cars sit and idle.
Check the ductwork and vents in your home to make sure they are free of debris and damage. Invisible air loss can occur through gaps, cracks, or damage to vents and vent shafts, which in turn can lead to higher energy use and utility bills.
Stop using traditional, incandescent light bulbs and switch over to compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or LED lighting. LED and CFL options use much less energy than incandescent bulbs, and they also last a lot longer.
Whenever possible, use a convection or microwave oven, rather than a conventional one, when preparing and cooking food. They both use less energy than a conventional oven and cook faster, which means there is a decreased accumulation of heat in the kitchen.
Check your home for air leaks and plug them with weather stripping, caulk, foam insulation, or another type of repair option. Some of the most common locations in a home where air leaks occur are around window frames and door jambs, along the chimney, and wherever there is an opening from the interior of the home to the outside, like electrical or plumbing conduits or outlets.
Inspect the insulation in your attic, basement, crawlspaces, and sub-floor, and replace it if needed.
Most clothing can be properly cleaned in cold water, which uses no energy for heating, so do your laundry in cold water unless you absolutely can’t avoid it. When you do wash clothes, don’t wash half-loads, needlessly using the washing machine more often. Wash full loads only and make sure your machine is adjusted to the most efficient settings.
When you are shopping for new appliances, fixtures, electronic devices, or light bulbs, make sure you purchase Energy Star-certified items.
Check your home’s plumbing, inside and out, on a periodic basis to make sure it isn’t leaking. A faucet, hose, or other plumbing fixture or pipe that has sprung a leak can translate to wasted water and increased utility bills.
Raise the temperature setting on your thermostat by a few degrees in the summer and lower it a few degrees in the winter. You can implement other tips and tricks to keep your home’s interior temperature comfortable, and these minor adjustments to the thermostat’s settings can make a big difference in the amount of energy you use and pay for.
Keep furniture, drapes, and other items from blocking your HVAC vents and air returns. Blocking or obstructing air flow can increase the workload on your HVAC system and make it harder for the unit to maintain a comfortable — and affordable — atmosphere for you and your family.
If your home has hardwood, tile, or laminate flooring, add a few rugs or runners in the winter. This will make your feet feel less cold when you patter around the house barefoot, and it can also help retain heat if your floor insulation is insufficient or nonexistent.
If your home has a fireplace, keep the flue closed to prevent air loss when it is not in use. You should also invest in an attractive glass door ensemble for the front of your fireplace to aid in minimizing air loss.
Don’t use portable, or space, heaters unless it’s absolutely necessary. This type of heater uses an extraordinary amount of energy and they can also be quite dangerous if left unattended.
Change out your dark lampshades with light-colored ones. Dark shades do not allow light to pass through easily, which means you’ll be turning on more lights to illuminate a room. Lighter shades allow more light, which means less electricity usage.
Lower the temperature on your water heater to around 120 degrees. Most are set by the factory or installation technician to 140 degrees, which is excessive. A water heater set at 120 degrees will still provide you with all the hot water you need for showering, cleaning, laundry, and other tasks or chores.
Keep the coils of your refrigerator clean and free of debris.
Don’t use your dishwasher unless you have a full load, and let your dishes air dry whenever possible.
Avoid using heat-generating appliances during the warmer parts of the day.
This list of tips to reduce your energy use is certainly not all-inclusive, but it will put you on the right path toward living a greener and more efficient lifestyle. Being smart about your energy use has a variety of benefits and no drawbacks, so isn’t it time you started doing your small part? You’ll soon be on your way to living a more comfortable, eco-friendly, energy-efficient, and less-expensive life in no time!