One of the easiest ways to lower your personal expenses is to address energy waste at home. Most of us use electricity or fuel without considering how efficiently it’s being used. According to the US Department of Energy, Americans waste nearly 30% of the power they demand.
Here are some areas where you can lower your energy costs:
- Purchase a programmable thermostat (many are less than $100) to keep your home environment at a steady level. Plus, some can be programmed to fire up the furnace before you arrive, making your house cozy when you get there.
- Lower the setting on your thermostat each time you are leaving for at least four hours; if the thermostat is not located near the door you enter and exit, put a reminder nearby that you’ll see as you leave.
- Resist the urge to constantly adjust the temperature – maintaining a constant heating or cooling level will use less energy.
- Raise the thermostat setting by 2° over normal setting to reduce the number of times the unit starts.
- Check, clean and replace filters regularly. Clogged or broken filters lower the unit’s effectiveness, and cause it to run more frequently. Some brands have a function which alerts users to failing filters, but it is best to set your own schedule because waiting for the alert could be costing you money.
- If you have a storage tank, make sure it is wrapped with insulation to prevent heat loss. The longer the tank holds normal water temperature, the less often fuel will be used to heat the stored water.
- If possible, change from a stored system to a tank-less system. Some units cost less than $500 installed, and can save hundreds per year in fuel costs. Be sure to purchase the appropriate size for your family’s usage.
- Check and adjust your refrigerator settings. Optimal temperature for refrigeration is 35° to 38°F, but safe up to 40°; for freezing, the setting should be at 3̊ to 4°F.
- Reduce oven preheat times by one minute. If it usually takes 2-3 minutes to warm up the chamber, wait until the food is prepared then allow one minute to preheat. These few minutes saved each time a meal is prepared can save up to $100 per year electricity costs.
- Use a toaster oven or microwave for smaller dishes and for reheating food. Heating time is reduced usually saving up to 10¢ per meal.
- Unless absolutely necessary, don’t use your microwave to defrost frozen items. Remove tonight’s meal in the morning and allow it to thaw at room temperature throughout the day. This requires no electricity.
- When using a dishwasher, make sure it is full before it is run. And use the energy saving setting, which uses less hot water and no heat to dry your dishes.
- When purchasing new appliances, furnaces or other fuel/electric-driven devices, look for Energy Star®-approved units. Some equipment will be sold as Energy Star®-compliant, which means they claim to use less energy than traditional units, but they have not been actually tested by the Department of Energy (DOE).
- Examine your home’s exterior. Are there gaps, cracks or holes in the structure or foundation? If there are, you could be lowering the efficiency of your heating or cooling system. Seal openings and install weatherstipping around doors and windows.
- If possible, update your insulation. Add a layer of rolled insulation where accessible or consider blown-in product. Check the DOE or industry websites for appropriate R-values.
With some minor investments of time or money, you can improve your home’s energy use. This could mean hundreds – maybe thousands – of dollars each year back into your pocket. There are more opportunities to save at home, so do your homework: research efficient technologies and examine your use of standby modes, how you cook, bathe, etc. You can use the dollars you save today to make a better financial future.