Energy consumption is related to the use of fossil fuels, which has a detrimental impact on our environment.
It is the largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and releases about two billion tons of CO2 into our atmosphere each year (1). It also emits air pollutants and creates wastes that are harmful to the human health and the environment (2).
Because 63% of the electricity generation still comes from fossil fuels, we can help protect our environment through simple energy conservation and efficiency actions at home (3). And of course, we can also benefit financially from the lower energy costs.
In this post, I want to share easy, cost-efficient, and affordable tips that has helped me conserve energy at home and save money on energy costs.
1. UNPLUG APPLIANCES THAT ARE NOT IN USE
Yes, we still pay for just having the iphone charger plugged in, even when the phone is not being charged!
This type of electricity consumption is known as “energy vampires.” Avoid paying for energy that is not being used by unplugging idle appliances.
According to a study conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), unused energy vampires add $165 to an average American household’s energy bill annually, which accumulates to $19 billion dollars nationally!
Check out this neat tool by Duke Energy to estimate how much money your household can save by unplugging unused appliances.
Unplugging every single appliance at home could be tedious, but if you pay attention and start small in the beginning, you can be on your way to having zero energy vampires at home.
If you are a beginner energy saver, I recommend to start with something that is used only once or twice a day. For example, unplug the coffee brewer after the morning coffee.
Second, do a routine check before bedtime or before leaving the house, to make sure unused appliances are unplugged.
2. AIR CONDITION FOR COOLING SHOULD BE LAST RESORT
I was born and raised in a natural resources scarce region (South Korea imports 98% of its fossil fuel from overseas).
Therefore, I have been trained to turn on the air conditioner only as last resort. My parents had tall air conditioner in our living room covered in a very beautiful sheet that almost looked like an art work because they rarely used it.
And having lived without air conditioning at home for many years of my life, it has become a habit for me to always exhaust the following steps before turning on the air conditioner:
OPEN WINDOWS FOR AIRFLOW.
My husband has a lot of heat in his body, and always lived with the air conditioner on before he met me. And now, he no longer sleeps with the air conditioner on. When he gets hot, the first thing he does is open the bedroom windows because he now knows how great the summer evening breeze feels.
DRESS IN BREATHABLE FABRIC.
Ditching the sweatpants and wearing breathable, light fabric (even if they are long sleeves and pants) at home helps cool the body.
EAT WATERMELON (OR ANYTHING ELSE COLD AND REFRESHING).
For me, watermelon is the most refreshing fruit to have during summertime. Not only does it work like a charm in cooling my body, it is almost zero calories. Talk about a win-win!
Of course, feel free to choose any other food or drink that is refreshing.
AVOID USING HEAT PRODUCING APPLIANCES MIDDAY.
Running heat producing appliances, such as your drier and dishwasher, may make your house hotter than normal. This blog post on saving summer energy costs suggests doing chores in the evening when outside temperature drops or using high-efficiency appliances that are built to help reduce the excess waste heat.
USE A FAN.
Fans cool people and not the space you are in. It also uses relatively less energy than air conditioners.
Ceiling fans are especially great because it raise the thermostat temperature by 4 degrees Fahrenheit and may even allow you to avoid using the air conditions (5). I personally also think ceiling fans can be decorative.
3. AIR DRY EVERYTHING
AIR DRY DISHES.
Using the heat dry function on the dishwasher uses 15 percent more energy compared to air drying them. Hundreds of dollars can be saved on energy by simply air-drying the dishes.
After running the dishes in the evening, leave the rack open overnight to air dry.
AIR DRY WASHED CLOTHES.
The same principle applies to laundry.
I often air dry my laundry, and only use the drier for towels and other thicker clothing.
When I do end up using the drier, I use the low heat option to help save energy and cut back on my energy bill.
Plus, by air drying, I don’t have to worry about shrinking or damaging my clothes from excessive heat.
4. USE A SMART POWER STRIP
Use a smart power strip to unplug as many appliances as possible.
I use a smart strip in my office, which is connected to my desktop PC, phone charger, laptop charger, and lamp.
At the end of the day, I can turn them off by simply flicking the switch on.
When I leave for vacation, I make sure to unplug the entire power strip to prevent energy vampires entirely.
5. DO THE DISHES AND LAUNDRY IN THE EVENING
Utility companies charge different rates during peak and off-peak hours.
Although it may vary from region to region, peak usage of electricity occurs on weekdays between noon and 7pm, where the demand for electricity is the highest. Off-peak hours are when electricity usage is the lowest and is typically between 7pm and noon, and on weekends and holidays.
If you know the local utility’s peak and off-peak hours, waiting to run the dishwasher or laundry during off-peak hours can help conserve energy at home and save costs on the energy bill.
6. RUN THE DISHWASHER THE EFFICIENT WAY
During graduate school, because my roommates and I didn’t have enough pantry space in our tiny New York City apartment, we used the dishwasher to store dishes and pans.
I won’t go as far as to recommend not using the dishwasher at all – as now I know how indispensable it is to the modern working women and men.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to save energy on the dishwasher.
RUN THE DISHWASHER ONLY WHEN IT’S FULL.
This can reduce the usage of the dishwasher from twice or more a day to just once a day.
USE THE LOWEST HEAT, OR LESS TIME CONSUMING WASHING CYCLE.
Every dishwasher has different features. If the dishwasher comes with an economical or energy-saving cycle, use that feature! If not, use the cycle that consumes the lowest heat or the least time.
For my Whirlpool Dishwasher, I use the “1-hour cycle” instead of the “normal cycle.” The normal cycle ran for about 3 hours! And guess what? I saw no difference in using the two different cycles and now only use the 1-hour cycle.
7. RUN LAUNDRY IN COLD WATER
Water heating accounts for 90% of energy used by washing machines.
Running the laundry in cold water can drastrically reduce the energy consumption of a washing machine, and also keep clothes from shrinking (we’ve all been there).
8. INSTALL A SMART THERMOSTAT
Heating and cooling accounts for half of the energy use at home.
A programmable thermostat can save energy consumption at home up to 10% annually. Moreover, the recommended temperature setting is 78ºF for the summer and 68ºF for the winter (6). Smart thermostats allow you to control your home’s cooling and heating even when you are not home!
9. INSULATE YOUR HOME
Proper insulation of your home is the best way to prevent unnecessary heat loss during winter. It also helps reduce outside noise from entering your home. And the simplest way to improve your home’s insulation, even if you are not a homeowner, is to install insulated curtains on your windows.
10. REACH OUT TO THE LOCAL UTILITY FOR MORE SAVINGS
Utilities can help better understanding the energy bill and also provide additional tips for saving energy at home. For example, Southern California Edison has an entire website dedicated to informing its customers on energy saving tips, rebates, and more!
Reach out to the local utility, and find out how to save more money from energy conservation actions at home.
What are some of the easiest ways that has helped you save energy at home? Please share with us in the comments.