10 Ways to Conserve Energy and Reduce Personal Climate Impact in the Home
Climate. Change. It is a huge issue for us to get our minds around. We know that changes need to be made on both the corporate and personal scales. Many of us feel overwhelmed. Where do we start and what makes a difference? Below, we’ve compiled our top 10 tips on how we can reduce climate impact at home.
1. Adjust your day-to-day behaviors – Hone in on what you really need!
To reduce energy consumption in your home, you do not necessarily need to go out and purchase energy efficient products. Energy conservation can be as simple as turning off lights or appliances when you do not need them. You can also use energy-intensive appliances less by performing household tasks manually, such as hang-drying your clothes instead of putting them in the dryer, or washing dishes by hand. A home energy monitor can help you understand which appliances are using the most electricity on a day-to-day basis.
2. Replace your traditional light bulbs with efficient long-lasting bulbs
Traditional incandescent light bulbs consume an excessive amount of electricity and must be replaced more often than their energy efficient alternatives. Light-emitting diode bulbs (LEDs) use anywhere from 25-80% less electricity and last three to 25 times longer than traditional bulbs. This technology is always changing and advancing, so stay tuned! The longer service-life offsets the higher shelf-price.
3. Use smart power strips and stop wasting energy
“Phantom loads,” or the electricity used by electronics when they are turned off or in standby mode, are a major source of energy waste. In fact, it is estimated that 75% of the energy used to power household electronics is consumed when they are switched off, which can cost you up to $200 per year. Smart power strips, also known as advanced power strips, eliminate the problem of phantom loads by shutting off the power to electronics when they are not in use.
4. Install a programmable or smart thermostat and save what you won’t use
A programmable or smart thermostat can be set to automatically turn off or reduce heating and cooling during the times when you are asleep or away. When you install a programmable thermostat, you eliminate wasteful energy use from heating and cooling without upgrading your HVAC system or sacrificing any comfort. On average, a programmable thermostat can save you $180 per year.
5. Purchase energy efficient appliances and save
On average, appliances are responsible for roughly 13% of your total household energy use. When purchasing an appliance, you should pay attention to two numbers: the initial purchase price and the annual operating cost. Although energy efficient appliances usually have higher purchase prices, their operating costs are 9-25% lower than conventional models, again saving you money over the life of that appliance.
When purchasing an energy efficient appliance, you should look for appliances with the ENERGY STAR label, which is a federal guarantee that the appliance will consume less energy during use and when on standby than standard non-energy efficient models. Also, when you remodel – get rid of the old appliances. That 1980’s refrigerator in your garage is a real energy-hog!
6. Reduce your water heating expenses and be more efficient
Water heating is a major contributor to your total energy consumption. Other than purchasing an energy efficient water heater, there are three methods of reducing your water heating expenses: you can simply use less hot water, turn down the thermostat on your water heater, or insulate your water heater and the first six feet of hot and cold water pipes.
If you are considering replacing your water heater with an efficient model, you should keep in mind two factors: the type of water heater that meets your needs and the type of fuel it will use. Efficient water heaters can be anywhere between 8% and 300% more energy efficient than a conventional storage water heater and since they last for 10-15 years, they result in substantial savings over time.
7. Install energy efficient windows and keep your heat inside
Windows are significant source of energy waste, which can amount to 10-25% of your total heating bill. To prevent heat loss through your windows, you can replace single-pane windows with double-pane ones and don’t forget to look for that Energy-Star label.
For homes in cold regions, gas-filled windows with “low-e” coatings can significantly reduce your heating expenses. In addition, interior or exterior storm windows can reduce unnecessary heat loss by ten to 20 percent. You should especially consider storm windows if your region experiences frequent extreme weather events.
In warmer climates, heat gain through windows may be a problem. In addition to minimizing heat loss, low-e coatings on windows can reduce heat gain by reflecting more light and lowering the amount of thermal energy diffused into your home. Window shades, shutters, screens, and awnings can also provide an extra layer of insulation.
8. Upgrade your HVAC system to save energy and money
An HVAC system is composed of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment. Heating alone is responsible for more than 40% of home energy use. Because homes in Northern regions are exposed to much colder temperatures during the year, ENERGY STAR gas furnaces have different specifications in the northern and southern halves of the United States.
9. Weatherize your home
Weatherizing, or sealing air leaks around your home, is a great way to reduce your heating and cooling expenses. The most common sources of air leaks into your home are vents, windows, and doors. To prevent these leaks, you should ensure that there are no cracks or openings between the wall and vent, window, or doorframe.
To seal air leaks between stationary objects, such as the wall and window frame, you can apply caulk. For cracks between moving objects, such as operable windows and doors, you can apply weather stripping.
Air leaking out of your home is most often from the home interior into your attic through small openings. Whether it is through ducts, light fixtures, or the attic hatch, hot air will rise and escape through small openings. To reap the full savings from weatherization, you should consider fully insulating your home.
10. Insulate your home
Insulation plays a key role in lowering your utility bills through retaining heat during the winter and keeping heat out of your home during the summer. The recommended level of heat resistance, or “R-value,” for your insulation depends on where you live. In warmer climates, the recommended R-value is much lower than for buildings located in colder regions like the Northeast. Use the Home Energy Saver tool for recommendations based on the specifications of your home, or find general regional recommendations on the Department of Energy’s webpage on insulation.