In 2021, every single one of us needs to do everything possible to save energy. Climate change is happening now, and we simply cannot afford to wait any longer.
Fortunately, there are a number of simple changes we can all make to conserve energy in our daily routine, without impacting our quality of life.
In fact, following these tips will save you money on your electricity bill as well as doing your bit to save the planet.
I touched on energy conservation a while back in my Simple Tips To Lead a Greener Lifestyle article.
Today, I'm going to expand on that and give you even more tips that can make a real difference to your energy usage.
Energy conservation is the deliberate act of finding ways to use less energy to lower costs as a consumer and reduce our environmental impact.
Put another way; the less energy (gas, electricity, etc.) you buy from the utility company, the better it will be for your wallet AND the planet.
Energy conservation is an enormous topic. If I tried to cover every aspect of your life, this article would quickly become long and tedious.
So, I’ll concentrate on one area of your life where you should have the most control—home energy use.
If this article is well received, I will, at a later date, broaden out into energy conservation tips for work, school, travel, etc. Let me know if this is something you’d like to see in the future.
Leave your car at home and walk, cycle or take public transport as much as possible. The less you use your car, the less gas it will consume.
When you do use your car, ensure it’s as efficient as it possibly can be. Service it regularly and always keep the tires at the correct pressure.
Your outside lighting is probably used more than you realize.
Ensure that energy-efficient light fittings and bulbs are used.
If your current outside lighting is outdated and inefficient, maybe consider upgrading to motion sensor technology, so the lights only come on when they’re needed.
Power your house and all your appliances for free by harnessing solar energy.
A solar installation pays for itself (on average) after 8 years. After that, your electricity is basically free, and you can even sell your excess energy output back to the grid!
Steph has written an excellent article all about the pros and cons of solar energy.
It’s common to have excess moisture in the basement, so many U.S. homes will have a dehumidifier to eliminate condensation, musty smells, mold, mildew, rotting wood, etc.
Rather than running a dehumidifier 24/7, try these simple tips from ENERGY STAR.
If you decide that a dehumidifier is needed, then make sure you get the right size for your needs. ENERGY STAR again has you covered with this guide to dehumidifier basics.
The best tip here is a simple one; whenever possible, dry your clothes outside using the power of that big yellow thing in the sky.
If you have to use a clothes dryer, ensure that you use the correct setting and don’t over dry your laundry. It wastes electricity and damages your clothes.
Cleaning the lint trap is crucial to allow proper airflow.
ENERGY STAR estimates that around 50% of your household energy use is heating and cooling, so it’s essential to have a system that perfectly meets your needs.
Make sure you do your research and go for an energy-efficient unit that’s the correct size for your needs.
Bigger is not always better here.
A unit too big can become noisy. A unit too small might struggle to sufficiently heat/cool your home and fail too soon due to increased load.
Also, remember to clean and replace the air filter regularly to reduce your heating and cooling costs.
A regularly overlooked source of heat loss from your home is along the top of the basement wall, where it comes into contact with the wooden house frame. This is known as the 'rim joist' or 'band joist'.
Seal any gaps with expanding foam or caulk to prevent cold air from leaking from the basement into your house.
Only run the washer when it’s full and wash in cold water whenever possible. Washing full loads can save you more than 3,400 gallons of water each year.
When your old washing machine reaches the end of its life, ensure that the replacement appliance is as energy-efficient as it can be.
ENERGY STAR Certified washing machines use approximately 30% less energy and 50% less water than started washing machines.
Don’t forget the eco-friendly laundry detergent. It might not reduce your energy use, but it’s a simple swap to improve your health and the health of the planet.
Tankless water heaters can reduce your energy bills because they heat water on demand, so you don’t heat water that you’ll never use.
If you do go for a storage water heater, make sure it is energy efficient and well insulated. Again, looking for ENERGY STAR-approved water heaters is a great place to start.
Keep turning the water heater temperature down by one degree a day until you start to notice the difference. Then turn it back up one degree. That should give you the perfect temperature and reduce your water heating costs.
If you have an older water heater, you can improve its efficiency by popping on a water heater insulating jacket.
While you’re in insulating mode, why not also wrap the hot pipes leaving the water heater for extra savings? This is a simple but effective way to reduce energy waste, and can be done by even novice DIYers.
Remember to turn off your water heater when away from home for extended periods (holidays, etc.).
Save water by scraping plates and dishes, rather than rinsing, before you pop them in the dishwasher.
Only run the dishwasher when it's full and use the ‘eco’ setting if available.
Avoid any drying settings. Simply open your dishwasher once the cycle has completed and let the dishes air dry. The water will have been hot and will evaporate quickly. If the dishes don’t quite dry properly in the air, you can always wipe them with a dishtowel.
If you live on your own or have a small family, consider saving the dishwasher for parties, etc. and wash/dry your daily dishes by hand.
Repair all leaks (or have a plumber do it for you). The water heater will use less energy which will more than cover the cost of the repair.
According to ENERGY STAR, “hot water leaking at a rate of 1 drip per second can waste up to 1,661 gallons of water over the course of a year, and waste up to $35 in electricity or in natural gas”.
We have an aerator attached to our kitchen faucet to reduce the flow of water. It also makes the water light, directional, and dramatically reduces splashing.
When cooking or reheating small portions of food, try to use a microwave instead of a stove.
Not only will this initially conserve energy because your microwave is more efficient than your stove, but it will also potentially keep your kitchen cool and reduce your annual cooling costs.
Always use a pan that’s an appropriate size for the stove. A small pot on a large stove burner, for example, wastes energy.
Using a pan lid enables the contents to reach the correct temperature quicker and reduces energy use.
If you have a gas range, keep the burners clean to ensure maximum efficiency. A blue flame is a good sign. A yellow flame means the burner needs cleaning, or the stove in general needs servicing.
Go for an energy-efficient model. Preferably ENERGY STAR certified.
Look for the ENERGY STAR logo when purchasing a new refrigerator.
Many U.S. homes have a second refrigerator in the garage or basement. These are usually old, inefficient, and cost more to run than you think.
According to ENERGY STAR, you can save $300-$700 over five years by not running a second refrigerator. You will also prevent 5,500-20,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.
Just remember to recycle your old refrigerator responsibly.
Turn your refrigerator down a few degrees to save money. Try 37 degrees Fahrenheit for your fridge and 3 degrees Fahrenheit for your freezer. Your food will not spoil.
If your refrigerator is humming and struggling to keep things cool, you might have dirty coils (the black pipelike things found on the back or bottom of your refrigerator). Simply wiping off any dust and dirt could give its efficiency a real boost.
Used smartly, ceiling fans can help you save on your energy bills.
Most modern ceiling fans have an option to allow them to spin both ways.
In the summer, make sure your fan is blowing air downward to help you feel cooler.
In the winter, reverse the direction the blades are rotating to produce an updraft and force the warm air collecting near the ceiling down into the living space.
Ceiling fans only cool the individual sitting under them, not the room, so remember to turn them off when you leave the room.
During Winter, keep drapes and shade open during the day to capture as much heat from the sun as possible. Close them once the sun goes down to keep the heat in.
During Summer, keep drapes and shade closed to keep the sun out and the room cool.
Fireplaces are designed to suck the air out of a room and up the chimney.
Always fully close the damper when the fireplace is not in use to prevent hot air escaping in the winter and cold air escaping in the summer.
A shower uses significantly less water and energy than a bath.
According to HuffPost, “The average bath uses 36 gallons to fill a tub, while the average shower (without the water-saving device) uses five gallons of water per minute”.
So, a two-minute shower will use 10 gallons of water compared to 36 gallons for a bath.
If you switched to a water-efficient showerhead, you would be able to cut that down even further.
Taking a cooler shower also helps save energy by not using as much hot water. I love a cold shower in the morning. Really gets the blood pumping. I’m not quite Wim Hof just yet...but I’m working on it!
Use water-efficient toilets, faucets, etc. to bring down your water bill. Also, repair any leaks or drips.
A vent fan is essential in a bathroom to extract moisture from the air and control mold and mildew growth.
Go for an energy-efficient model, such as those that carry the ENERGY STAR eco-label.
If you need your bedroom at a specific temperature to get a good night’s sleep, you might consider a portable room air conditioner.
This is a great cost-effective option if you don’t have a HVAC system currently in place. Even if you do, running a small portable unit should use less electricity.
Take care to secure the exhaust hose properly to ensure no conditioned air is lost from your bedroom through your window.
Enable any available power-saving features, so these devices are as energy-efficient as possible.
Save energy, space, and money by using multi-function devices.
For example, rather than using a separate printer, photocopier, scanner, and fax machine, get a device that performs all four functions.
This will conserve energy and also cut down on harmful e-waste.
Plug all of your home office devices into a power strip. The use of power strips has two benefits:
Warm air from your home can leak into the attic through poorly insulated attic doors. Consider upgrading to a fully insulated attic door assembly.
Chimneys, and other flues that pass through your attic might have slight gaps that allow your warm home air to escape into the attic. Seal these gaps with a high-temperature sealant.
A typical home can lose up to 20% of the air in a HVAC system.
To reduce this, ensure that all ducts are free from holes and well insulted. Fix any holes you find with foil tape.
Plumbing stacks, electrical wires, ducts, vents, etc., running into your attic can often be surrounded by gaps that leak warm air from your home into the attic. Seal these gaps with insulating foam sealant.
Proper attic ventilation can reduce the reliance on an attic fan.
Regularly inspect and unblock soffit vents and gable vents to keep the natural air flowing.
Poor or loosely fitted air registers can cause air leaks and put extra strain on your HVAC system.
Use a high-quality silicone sealant to ensure that all registers and vents are securely fixed to floors, walls, and ceilings.
Also, be careful with placing furniture to ensure that airflow is not blocked by chairs, tables, rugs, etc.
Look for the ENERGY STAR logo when buying new electronic appliances (TVs, DVD players, laptops, etc.).
ENERGY STAR certified products consume less electricity without sacrificing performance.
Air leaks are a significant source of heat loss during the winter.
Install a door sweep on all external doors to keep the warm air in and the cold air out.
Also, consider the age and condition of your external doors. Are they ready to be replaced with shiny new super-insulated ones?
Whatever the condition of your doors, make sure you keep them closed to keep the heat in.
Install a programmable thermostat so you can predetermine the temperature settings for your home when you’re away on holiday or asleep, for example.
If you’re slightly more technically minded, you might want to consider a wifi-enabled thermostat that allows you to control your heating and cooling from your phone.
I use Nest and have it integrated with my phone and Alexa. This means I never heat the home when it’s empty or come home to cold water when I need a shower after a long hike.
Switch out your old, inefficient incandescent light bulbs for energy-efficient ones. Don’t forget things like bedside lamps, desk lamps, and vanity mirrors.
Energy-efficient light bulbs are more expensive to buy initially, but the savings over their lifetime far outweigh the initial cost.
Halogen bulbs, compact fluorescent lights, and LED light bulbs can use up to 80% less electricity and last up to 25 times longer than traditional bulbs.
Always turn off the lights in an empty room.
Don't get lazy with this. If you need motivation, just think about the size of your last utility bill. Trust me - these savings do add up!
Always unplug any chargers or power adapters when they’re not in use.
Install foil insulation behind any radiators to reflect the heat away from the wall and back into your home.
The exterior boundary of your home (walls, floor, windows, ceiling, etc.) is called the ‘envelope’ or ‘shell’.
Ensuring that these parts of your home are as insulated as possible could knock hundreds of dollars off your heating and cooling costs.
If your windows are old and drafty, consider upgrading to triple glazing.
If new windows are too expensive, you can use weather sealing tape to stop minor drafts.
I’ve mentioned ENERGY STAR quite a bit in this article, so I thought it might be a good idea to take a few minutes to explain who they are.
In their own words:
“ENERGY STAR is the government-backed symbol for energy efficiency, providing simple, credible, and unbiased information that consumers and businesses rely on to make well-informed decisions. Thousands of industrial, commercial, utility, state, and local organizations—including nearly 40% of the Fortune 500—partner with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to deliver cost-saving energy efficiency solutions that protect the climate while improving air quality and protecting public health. Since 1992, ENERGY STAR and its partners have helped American families and businesses save 5 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity, avoid more than $450 billion in energy costs, and achieve 4 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas reductions. Over the lifetime of the program, every dollar EPA has spent on ENERGY STAR resulted in $350 in energy cost savings for American business and households”.
“ENERGY STAR is the simple choice for energy efficiency, making it easy for consumers and businesses to purchase products that save them money and protect the environment. EPA ensures that each product that earns the label is independently certified to deliver the efficiency performance and savings that consumers have come to expect. It’s that integrity that led Americans to purchase more than 300 million ENERGY STAR certified products in 2019 and more than 300 million ENERGY STAR certified light bulbs, with a market value of more than $100 billion. In fact, an average of 800,000 ENERGY STAR certified products was sold every day in 2019, bringing the total to more than 7 billion products sold since 1992”.
In this article I wrote a while back, you can read more about ENERGY STAR and 177 other eco-labels.
According to GreenLogic, the top five energy users in your home are:
Yes, legitimate energy-saving devices do really work. ENERGY STAR certified products, for example, helped Americans save nearly 500 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and avoid $39 billion in energy costs in 2019 alone.
Turning your TVs off at the wall when not in use will definitely save electricity, although maybe not as much as you might think.
According to Verde Energy, most modern TVs consume less than 5 watts per year when in standby mode. This works out at only a few dollars.
However, if you have multiple TVs, it can soon add up.
I hope you found this article useful and managed to take away at least one nugget of information that will save you a few bucks...or more!
All these ways to conserve energy are simple to implement yourself.
However, If you’ve been inspired and want to save even more money, maybe consider a home energy audit and receive expert professional guidance on how to best save energy around the home.
I’ll leave you with one final thought.
Saving energy around the home is a great way to start reducing your energy bill.
To reduce your energy bill even further, you need to make sure you’re never paying more for your utilities than you need to do.
Entering your zip code into sites such as Choose Energy will give you the peace of mind that your energy bill is the lowest it can be.
These services are constantly expanding their reach, so I’d recommend checking back every few months if your zip code is currently not covered.
Got any tips I’ve missed? Drop me a line or hit me up on social media and tell me your top ways to conserve energy.