What You Can Do To Save Energy
Here's a simple checklist of actions you can take to reduce your energy use at home. The source of some of these tips is the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. The list gives you an idea of the things you can learn about in ACEEE's Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings:
- Close blinds during summer or use strategic shading with trees or awnings to block the sun's hot rays; at night, open the windows rather than turning on the A/C.
- Set your hot water heater to 120 degrees.
- Turn off your TV when you’re not watching it. Or read more, or make your own music!
- Lower your thermostat in the winter by 2 degrees from the temperature you usually set.
- Lower the thermostat at night or when leaving home. Set programmable thermostats to the lowest setting you use, then use the temporary “step up” function only when you want heat.
- Always turn off lights when you leave a room. Think about how many lights you really need on when you are in the room .
- Don’t leave water running if you don't have to.
- Unplug appliances that you are not using (many draw electricity even when not in use).
- Turn off your computer if you will be away from it for more than an hour. Set the default settings to go to sleep or standby when you have not touched the computer for a few minutes.
- Set electronic games to energy saving defaults, too. See “Gaming Your Energy Use” on p. 2 of this newsletter.
- Don't open the refrigerator unless you know what you want.
- Keep drapes or blinds on windows closed at night in winter and during the day in summer to reduce heating and cooling costs.
- Set the air conditioner to 78-83 degrees in the summer
- Or turn the A/C off completely and open windows to create a natural ventilation system. This will allow warm air to escape at night.Vacuum dust from refrigerator coils (every 4-6 months).
- Wash your clothes in cold water, consider a clothesline for drying.
- Use energy-saving settings on refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines, and clothes dryers.
- Plug all electronics into power strips and switch off everything, including those “vampire” loads, which suck energy even when the gadget is off.
- Collect your utility bills. Separate electricity and fuel bills. Target the biggest bill for energy conservation remedies.
- Take Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory’s online home energy audit at www.hes.lbl.gov. You can find similar online audits on your utility's web site.
- Get a homeenergy audit. See our "Resources" link for details.
By simply adopting these free and easy measures you can save $200 per year or more.
Efficiency on the Cheap
These tips may cost a few dollars, but save you money within a few days, weeks or months:
- Switch from incandescent to compact fluorescent light bulbs.
- Install low-flow showerheads, toilets and faucet aerators.
- Add storm windows in the winter to keep heat in (if you have them, make sure to close them).
- Caulk cracks around windows/doors to reduce drafts and maintain indoor temperature in any season. Seal up the largest air leaks in your house: the ones that whistle on windy days, or feel drafty. The worst culprits are usually not windows and doors, but utility cut-throughs for pipes ("plumbing penetrations"), gaps around chimneys and recessed lights in insulated ceilings, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets. Better yet, hire an energy auditor with a blower door to point out where the worst cracks are. All the little, invisible cracks and holes may add up to as much as an open window or door, without you ever knowing it!
- Get your heating system tuned up annually to make it run more efficiently.
- Buy a programmable thermostat and set it as low as you can comfortably adapt to in winter, for example, 65-68 degrees during the day and 50-60 degrees at night.
- Seal and insulate heating ducts.
- Insulate hot water pipes.
- If you do not have storm windows, install plastic interior film on windows as a low-cost way to keep the heat in during the winter.
- Plant trees around your house.
- Install or reflective shades or awnings to block sun in summer and reduce heat gain.
- Check if your water heater has an insulating blanket. An insulating blanket will pay for itself in one year or less!
- Insulate hot water delivery pipes.
- Add timers to electric hot water heaters after consultation with local energy providers to determine the most efficient, cost-effective time of day to heat the water in the tank rather than running your hot water heater 24 hours a day.
- Clean or replace furnace, air-conditioner, and heat-pump filters.
- When replacing old, inefficient appliances, be sure to buy EnergyStar rated products, with the best EnergyGuide label rating. Efficiency ratings can be found on the EnergyStar and Consumer Reports websites.
Most lighting in U.S. homes is produced by inefficient incandescent light bulbs or moderately efficient fluorescents. A switch from incandescents to compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs can result in up to a 75% decrease in energy use. A typical CFL will save over $50 in replacement bulb and electricity costs over its lifetime.
The best targets for conversion to CFLs are 60-100W bulbs used several hours a day. In addition, CFLs eliminate the cost of buying and installing at least a dozen ordinary bulbs. CFL bulbs now come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes, making it possible to replace almost any incandescent bulb. Some newer CFLs are also capable of producing a warmer light which is closer to the light produced by incandescents than that produced by some earlier CFLs.
Each CFL can prevent the emission of between 1,000-2,000 lbs. of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, and between 8-16 lbs. of sulfur dioxide (the cause of acid rain). CFLs run cooler than incandescents and halogens, minimizing fire hazards and reducing the cost of cooling in summer. CFLs also last up to seven years, which saves you the expense and hassle of frequent light bulb replacements.
Compact fluorescent bulbs are widely available and can be purchased at many retail stores (where rebates and/or coupons are often available). LED (light emitting diodes) lightbulbs are even more efficient than CFLs, but they cost more and make the most economic sense where you have a light on for many hours per year.
In order to further maximize savings on lighting, make sure that lights are turned off when not in use. While this sounds simple, it can be difficult to manage. Therefore, you should consider installing motion sensors (activated only when someone is in a room), dimmers and timers on lights.
Leaving computers and monitors on when not in use wastes energy and money. Using energy saver computer software downloaded for free from the Department of Energy after registration (e.g., EZSave, EZ Wizard) can result in significant savings. These savings can be calculated for individual organizations using www.energystar.gov/powermanagement software.
Power management does not have a negative effect on the useful life of today’s computers and monitors. On the contrary; when equipment powers down, it generates less heat, collects less dust, reduces mechanical stress and promotes a longer and more reliable life for the computer and monitors. Its not a problem to shut off computers using DSL connections, but leaving computers on 24 hours every day wastes electricity and increases utility costs. For the greatest savings, monitors and computers should be turned completely off when not in use, including the power strip button.
Screen savers, meanwhile, do not save electricity, but were only intended to eliminate permanent lines etched into cathode ray display screens when left on and idle with one image on them for long periods of time. In contrast, when a computer is on, switching to a system that puts the screen into sleep mode after it has been idle for several minutes will save money and the screen, as well as carbon dioxide emissions. An additional benefit of turning computers completely off when not in use is increased security, since files and emails cannot be accessed. If purchasing new or replacement computers, consider buying efficient flat screens and laptops bearing the Energy Star label. See www.tufts.edu/tci for more facts and ideas on computer use and energy.
The EPA has been working with appliance manufacturers to develop more energy-efficient Energy Star labeled appliances. Analysts at the national Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory have estimated that if everyone adopted Energy Star products for appliances commonly found in the home or in a typical small business, the nation would save $100 billion on electricity over the next 15 years. Examples of Energy Star products include front-load washers, dryers, dishwashers, heat pumps, water heaters, boilers, furnaces, TVs, air conditioners, ceiling fans, refrigerators, freezers, computers, laserjet printers, copiers – durable white goods requiring fewer repairs and providinggreater efficiency. More information may be found at www.energystar.gov, or take Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory’s online home energy audit at hes.lbl.gov. Make sure to always ask for products with the Energy Star label when shopping for appliaces.
Reducing, Recycling, Buying Recycled
Reducing and reusing items as much as possible indirectly decreases energy use. Recycling saves existing resources while simultaneously reducing waste streams and conserving 70-90% of the energy needed to produce products from virgin materials. In general, purchases should be targeted when possible to items using little or no packaging. For those items with packaging, look for those that are biodegradable, made of recycled materials, or harvested in ways that are of minimal impact to the environment. More information on energy reduction strategies can be found at www.energystar.gov.
Trees are useful in the landscape design for heating and cooling buildings. Trees provide evaporative cooling in the vicinity where they are located (a difference of 3-5 degrees F) and much-needed shade in the summer. Strategically planted trees and shrubs can significantly reduce energy bills and fossil fuel use by providing shade in summer, while allowing sun through and providing wind barriers in winter. Trees add beauty and value to almost any property and store carbon, the main ingredient in carbon dioxide. Each tree can absorb 3-15 lbs. of carbon dioxide. Trees also enhance local landscaping in ways that might encourage more pedestrian traffic in city centers and other main roadways. A local arborist or urban forester can be a valuable source of information about strategic tree planting on private property and public areas.