According to a report from the U.S. Department of Energy, the typical American family spends $2,000 per year on utility bills. That’s a lot of cash, but the good news is, you can lower this amount by up to 25% with a few energy efficiency tweaks.
No doubt you’ve seen commercials for energy efficient washers, dryers and dishwashers – but investing in green appliances is just one of the ways to reduce energy costs. There are a variety of simple tricks you can do yourself to maximize efficiency and minimize waste.
HEATING & COOLING
According to the Department of Energy, heating and cooling costs typically make up about 54% of your utility bills. There are a number of tricks you can use to reduce these costs without suffering through hot summers or cold winters.
Stop air leaks
The US Department of Energy recommends sealing as a way to prevent energy waste. Start by caulking any seams, cracks or gaps that allow heated or cooled air to escape. You can also install inexpensive weather-stripping around doors and thresholds. When the weather starts to get cold, take a walk around your home to see if you can spot steam coming out of gaps that may be allowing heat to escape your home.
If you have a hard time keeping your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer, you could benefit from an insulation upgrade. The best type of insulation for your home depends on your climate, layout and budget. A home improvement store associate can help you select the right material for your needs.
Use a programmed or smart thermostat
Why heat or cool your home when you’re not around? Programmed thermostat allows you to set the temperature for different times of the day. In addition, so-called “smart thermostats” actually learn the temperatures you like and when you need them, so that your heat goes on when you need it and off when you don’t. And both types of thermostats allow you to manually override the settings whenever you want.
Depending on where you live, making the switch to water-saving fixtures can save your family up to $100 or more each year in utility bills. Here are a few ideas on where and how to reduce your water use at home.
“One of the best ways to save water and money around the home is in the bathroom,” says Lisa Malvin of Niagara Conservation, a manufacturer of high-efficiency water and energy saving products. “An easy way to reduce daily water consumption is by replacing your shower head, since nearly 17% of a family’s total indoor water consumption results from shower use according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Standard shower heads and faucets flow at a rate of 5-6 gallons per minute – this means a 10 minute shower consumes 50-60 gallons of water.” There are a number of conservation-minded showerheads on the market, and according to Malvin, these products can save you anywhere form $80 – $100 per year on utility bills.
When it comes to toilets, it’s important to avoid flushing too much water away with waste. Believe it or not, there are a number of innovative toilet designs on the market these days that can reduce your home’s water waste. Check out the low-flow and dual-flush options at your local home improvement retailer.
Collect rain barrels
If you’re big on gardening, you know how much water goes toward hydrating your lawn and flowerbeds. To avoid tapping out your home’s water supply in hot summer months, try setting up your own rain barrel collection system. It takes a bit of investment and craftsmanship, but many gardeners swear by it. The city of Portland put together this thorough set of instructions to get you started.
APPLIANCES & ELECTRONICS
According to the Department of Energy, about 13% of the average household’s energy costs go toward powering appliances. There are two primary options for cutting these costs: invest in an energy efficient model, or take the time to power them down when not in use.
Upgrade to Energy-Efficient Appliances
When you’re shopping for a new dishwasher, washing machine, dryer or refrigerator, look for the EngergyGuide label. Manufacturers are now required by law to place this label on all appliances, which will tell you the estimated yearly operating cost for that model. If you see the ENERGY STAR logo, it means that this model meets strict criteria for energy efficiency.
Use Smart Power Strips
To minimize “vampire power” (energy that is wasted when appliances are not in use or even turned off but still plugged in), always unplug appliances when you’re not using them. To make this process easier, invest in smart power strips, which can turn off your electronics completely with the flip of a switch.
The Department of Energy reports that 6% of the average household energy budget goes to lighting. Here are a few ways to get more out of your lighting costs.
Use LED light bulbs
Switching to energy-efficient light bulbs is an easy and affordable move that not only reduces electricity costs, but also heat emissions. The next time you’re replacing light bulbs, look for ENERGY STAR-qualified halogen incandescent bulbs, CFLs or LEDs.