Although most homeowners would like to be more energy efficient and save money, the effort feels overwhelming because many people don’t know where to start. How can the average family use less energy, lower their utility bill and still meet their daily energy needs? To get started, it is useful to identify the top energy users in your home.
The top five energy users in U.S. homes are, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration:
1. Space cooling—13 percent
2. Lighting—11 percent
3. Space heating—9 percent
4. Water heating—9 percent
5. Refrigeration—7 percent
Together, these five constitute almost half the American homeowner’s energy bill every month. By adjusting household habits around each energy user, you can start conserving electricity and saving money.
Adjust the Temperature
Combined, home heating and cooling use the most energy and take the biggest bite out of your energy budget. You can achieve at least 10 percent savings by taking a few simple, low-cost steps.
- During cold weather, set your thermostat to 68 degrees.
- During warm weather, set it to 78 degrees.
- Clean the filters of your HVAC system to cut costs between 5 and 15 percent.
- Clean refrigerator and electric baseboard heater coils to maintain maximum efficiency.
- Caulk and weatherstrip around windows and doors to prevent indoor air from escaping to the outdoors.
No matter what the climate or time of year, proper use of a programmable thermostat can save you 10 percent on your monthly utility bill.
Shine the Light on Savings
Take a fresh look at the lighting in your home. If you still use incandescent lighting, your lightbulbs are operating at only 25 percent energy efficiency. Replacing your home’s five most frequently used bulbs with Energy Star-certified light-emitting diodes can save you $75 per year. Another easy way to save is to always turn lights off in rooms that are not being used.
Just as it is energy-wise to insulate your roof, walls or floors, it also pays to wrap your water heater with an insulating blanket. Doing this is all the more critical if you have an older unit. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. For additional efficiency and savings, insulate exposed hot water lines and drain 1–2 gallons of water from the bottom of your tank annually to prevent sediment buildup.
Cold Cash Back in Your Wallet
If your refrigerator was purchased before 2001, chances are it uses 40 percent more energy than a new model. If you are considering an appliance update, a new Energy Star-certified refrigerator uses at least 15 percent less energy than noncertified models and 20 percent less energy than required by federal standards.
Regardless of the age of your fridge, there are additional steps you can take to save energy and money. For example, don’t keep your refrigerator too cold. The Department of Energy recommends temperatures of 35–38 degrees for the refrigeration compartments and zero degrees for freezers.
By understanding how your home uses energy, you can determine the best ways to modify energy use and keep more money in your wallet.