With a growing world population, the need for energy also continues to grow. That is why it is so important for us to save energy within our homes, at work, and at school whenever possible. Energy conservation also cuts down on greenhouse gases that can contribute to climate change, and reduces pollution in general. Even the simplest actions can have a big effect. We introduce some tips and tricks to start conserving energy today.
Common Ways to Save Energy at Home
There are multiple ways you can save energy at home. Read on to learn about them.
Improve Heating and Cooling Efficiency
Whether living in a cold or hot environment, we all use some form of heating and cooling in our homes. Our homes are in constant need of maintenance to continue to be or become energy efficient and save money.
Some tips suggested by the University of Georgia are:
- Have a professional contractor conduct an inspection once a year in your home.
- Replace and clean filters every three months.
- Keep units clean and free of debris.
- Check home insulation.
- Check the condition of air ducts.
- Properly care for any window unit air conditioners.
For more tips and information about how to properly care for and maintain your heating and cooling units, please visit the government website Energy or the Federal Trade Commission at Heating and Cooling Your Home for Less.
Buying Energy Star Labeled Products
Energy Star is a voluntary program by the Environmental Protection Agency that assists consumers in saving money and energy in the home and office. Nowadays, you can find energy-star labeled products in most appliance stores. These products are built to be energy efficient and save money for the homeowner. For example, an energy-star clothes dryers use 20% less energy than one that is not certified by Energy Star. This is amazing efficiency since clothes dryers are the one appliance that uses the most energy in your home. Energy Star has a catalog and information about its top energy saving products, like refrigerators and washing machines.
To learn more, visit:
- Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute: Energy Star
- National Fenestration Rating Council: Energy Performance Label Ratings
Proper Appliance Usage
Not only is it important to start with energy efficient appliances, but it is also even more important that we learn how to properly use appliances to maximize the energy benefits. The National Resources Defense Council talks about “vampires” of the electronics world. These are devices that continue to use energy even if they are off or in sleep mode. By just being plugged in, appliances use about 23% of a household's energy consumption.
Some tips to decrease energy usage from “vampires” include using a power strip, use of timers for certain appliances, turning off the quick start option, and contacting the utility company to determine your energy usage. You can also unplug devices you are not using to save energy.
For more tips on how to properly use appliances on and off, please visit the David Suzuki Foundation.
Energy Efficient Lighting
The National Conference of State Legislatures states that Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act, which included high standards for light bulbs. Most incandescent light bulbs use heat to light a filament inside the glass bulb. Most of the heat used to light the bulb is lost, making it inefficient. It is recommended that consumers replace traditional incandescent bulbs with energy-saving compact fluorescent lamps and LED bulbs for great energy efficiency.
Some states also offer tax incentive programs for homeowners, businesses, and utilities. For example, Hawaii offers an in-store rebate when purchasing CFL bulbs and Maine provides rebates of $1.25 a bulb for homeowners wishing to upgrade to energy efficient lighting.
If you would like to know more about the energy-efficient bulbs on the market, have a look at Consumer Reports. To learn more, you can also visit the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions at Lighting Efficiency.
Did you know that even air leaks in the home can be energy inefficient? Energy Informative states that 10-30% of energy is wasted because of air leaks that are not taken care of in the home. Air leaks can occur in windows, under doorways, and in roofing. Simple caulking or weather-stripping can remedy most air leaks and can be done on your own. Sealed air leaks can also prevent insects from entering your home as well as reducing noise.
You can detect leaks by following a few simple steps:
- Close all windows and doors.
- Turn off all furnace and air conditioner units.
- Turn on fans that take air out of the building.
Next, you can do one of three options for detecting air leaks:
- Take incense and hold it close to any area you suspect to have a leak.
- Place paper between the door and floor. If you open the door without ripping the paper, you most likely have air leaking out.
- You can also detect air leaks at night with a helper. Shine a flashlight on areas of suspected air leakage and see if the light can be seen from under the door or between window panes.
To learn more, visit North Carolina State University: Air Leaks.
Properly insulating your home can keep heat and cool air from escaping, thus reducing your need to constantly run heating and cooling units. The University of Wisconsin has an informative report on how insulating curtains and shades on windows can reduce the need for heating and cool units. Even with weather-stripping and caulking, it cannot guarantee complete reduced energy costs, which make using proper window coverings important. While replacing windows with insulation is an option, it can be costly. Using energy efficient shades and curtains to reduce energy costs is an affordable option.
The University of Albany also suggests checking the insulation in roofing, using an insulated attic hatch, placing foam at the roof/wall area (icicles are evidence of an air leak), and installing insulated electric plates on exterior walls to prevent air from escaping or entering.
For more information, go to Green Home Guide: Choosing the Best Insulation Delivers Energy Savings.
Smart thermostats learn or understand a household's patterns and adjust heating and cooling based on several factors. They can also be timed so that heating and cooling units are off during peak energy usage hours, according to an article at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. A study showed that smart thermostats reduced energy by 8-15%. Commonwealth Edison of Illinois has incentives to switch customers to smart thermostats to reduce energy usage and save money. Nevada Energy is also encouraging customers to switch to smart thermostats with several incentives in place.
If you cannot afford a smart thermostat, you can also set your normal thermostat to not go over a certain temperature thus keeping your cooling or heating unit from running constantly.
For more information, go to:
Sustainable energy is, as defined by the National Science Foundation, the energy that every human can use without damage to the environment around them. Sustainable energy includes energy efficient products and renewable energy. These types of energy can be used over and over again and can never be depleted. This kind of energy also reduces the need for fossil fuels and betters the environment for future generations.
Solar energy is the most well-known type of sustainable energy. Other types of sustainable energy include wind, water, geothermal, and bioenergy. These energy sources can also be renewable energy. All these sources can be reused and will never be depleted, which means they can meet our needs now as well as in the future.
Renewable Energy Texas gives some ways we can harness renewable and sustainable energy at home:
- Passive solar energy which can mean opening your shades to have the sun heat your home.
- Create a thermal chimney in your home. Open the first-floor windows and a window at the top of stairs to create amazing ventilation.
- Use the wind to dry clothing on a line.
For more information, go to:
Shades and Shrubs
You can also use plants to reduce energy use in your home. Landscape for Life states that using shrubbery and trees can cut energy usage up to 40% and it helps with reducing greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. They give a map of the different climate zones and suggest what types of foliage will best suit your needs for your home. If you use air-conditioning, using trees and shrubs to shade the unit will reduce energy usage. Vines are great for the sides of your house that receive a lot of sun. In winter months, planting evergreen trees and shrubs can protect the home from cold winds.
To learn more, go to:
Another energy we use and need to reduce, especially in some states, is water. Reducing our water usage saves water and also saves us money in the long term. Here are some tips from Home Water Works:
- Always wash full loads of laundry. If you are washing less than a full load, adjust the water level to specifically meet your needs.
- When washing dishes, fill the sink with water instead of letting the tap run.
- Fix all leaking faucets.
- If your shower takes a while to warm up, collect the cool water for another use.
- Replace toilets installed before 1994.
- Compost food instead of using the garbage disposal.
- If you have a pool, use a cover to prevent water loss.
For more ways to conserve water, check out the Department of Ecology of Washington State.
Conduct Recommended Maintenance
While it is wise to replace all energy inefficient appliances and fixtures, it is also important to continue to have them maintained during their lifetime. Proper maintenance ensures they remain energy efficient and working correctly. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has a fact sheet listing the recommended maintenance schedule during a product's lifespan.
For more information, you can also visit American Public Power Association: Steam Upgrade Boilers.
Additional Ways to Be More Green
There are numerous ways to be more green and environmentally friendly within your home. Along with purchasing energy-efficient products, be sure to recycle old appliances properly. Green America gives advice on when to replace and how to recycle most appliances.
The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors also has some tips that go beyond heating and cooling. Cooking smarter can also be better for the environment:
- Using a convection oven can use 20% less energy than a conventional oven.
- Using your microwave oven less and your oven more saves energy too. These appliances use 80% more energy than an oven.
- Place pans on the correctly sized heating element.
- Use lids on pots and pans to heat food quicker.
- Use the top rack in a conventional oven as this is the hottest place inside it.
To learn more, you can also visit Columbia University: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
How to Find Out if Your Home is Energy Efficient
There are many ways to find out if your home is energy efficient so you can begin to take the proper steps to make it so. Cellulose Insulation Manufacturers Association has a calculator for anyone to use to find out how much insulation they will need to be replaced and what different choices may save you.
You can hire a home contractor to inspect your home. However, that can be costly. Linn-Benton Community College has an amazing do-it-yourself guide and checklist for you to inspect your own home for energy efficiency.
Teaching Kids About Energy Conservation
Teaching your children how to be energy efficient creates environmental friendly adults. NEED has a guide for students on energy conservation at home and at school. Talk to your children about what energy is, what uses it, and how it's our job to conserve as much as possible. Show your children how to do laundry using water efficiently. You can also take them with you when purchasing a new, energy-efficient product. Be sure also to enforce Reduce, Reuse, Recycle into everyone's routine.
Government Programs for Homeowners
Government programs exist to create an incentive for consumers to purchase or upgrade to energy efficient products. Benefits gives a comprehensive list of states that have government incentives for households and businesses that upgrade to energy efficient products and actions.
Check your state energy department for programs and how-to guides for moving towards an energy efficient home. You can find examples at the California Energy Programs website.
For more information, go to the Small Business Administration: Local and State Energy Efficiency Programs.
Energy Saving Outside the Home
While the best place to save energy is in your home, it's important not to forget about saving energy at school and work. If your child's school is not energy-efficient yet, approach them about ways you'd like to help them to become so. You can also introduce energy-efficient programs at the office on your own or in a meeting. You can find examples of how to be more energy efficient outside the home at the World Wildlife Federation. You can switch the light bulbs at the office, reuse paper for scrap, print double sided, get a laptop computer if possible, and insulate doorways and windows that have air leaks.
For more tips, visit Alliance to Save Energy.