Have you added up all your energy bills lately?
Between heating, air conditioning, hot showers, lighting, and our growing collections of appliances and electronics, the typical American family spends $2,000 a year, according to the US Department of Energy (DOE). That much energy use is hard on your wallet and on the planet.
You know that good insulation and super-efficient appliances are key to saving energy and reducing your carbon footprint. But there are lots of smaller, cheaper steps that are also important pieces of the energy-efficiency puzzle.
Here are just 10 simple yet meaningful to-dos that you can accomplish in an evening or a weekend, or just by being more mindful as you go about your day.
1. Install a programmable thermostat
If you’re like most people, space heating and AC take the biggest bite out of your energy budget. A programmable thermostat reduces those costs because you don’t forget to adjust the temp before you go to bed or leave for work. You might save 10 percent or more on your heating and cooling bills.
2. Work with the sun
Use curtains and blinds to keep the sun out when you don’t want heat and let it in when you do. Curtains and blinds also help insulate against heat loss, so close them up at night when it’s cold out.
3. Maintain heating and cooling systems
To keep your systems as efficient (and safe) as they can be, annual professional maintenance is a must. And be sure to replace the air filters regularly. What that means depends on your system, the type of filter, whether you have pets, and so on. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations and ask your pro.
4. Seal windows and doors
A typical home loses 25 percent of its heat through its windows. Winterize older ones with caulk and heat-shrink plastic. It can be worth putting plastic even on newer windows to add that extra pocket of air.
5. Reduce water heating
Water heating is right behind space heating and AC as a portion of total household energy usage. So lower the temp on your water heater to 120 and install low-flow showerheads. Most of the energy required to run a load of laundry is used to heat the water, so wash clothes in cold water (yes, cold water works). If you need hot water for an oily or germy load, be sure to use a cold-water rinse.
6. Use a clothesline
The dryer is one of the biggest energy hogs in your house, often using more energy than a newer refrigerator and dishwasher combined, according to the National Resources Defense Council. If you don’t have an outdoor line, fold-up indoor racks work too, if you have the space.
7. Dry smarter
When only a dryer will do, follow energy-saving practices. Number 1: Use the fastest spin cycle to get the max amount of water out of the clothes. Here’s a full 10 tips for energy-efficient drying.
8. Get LED bulbs
Replacing just 5 bulbs could cut $75 a year from your electric bill, according to the DOE. Plus, LEDs can last more than 20 years. Start with your most-used lights. Some states have programs that offer free bulbs or rebates. Check out the database at Dsire.org.
9. Use power strips for electronics
Some equipment and appliances use energy even when they’re “off” or in standby or sleep mode. Power strips let you group electronics and turn them all off-off with a single switch. Do make a habit of flipping that switch! The DOE says this can save some households as much as $100 a year.
10. Mind your devices
Turn off your computer when you’re not using it. A laptop uses a lot less energy than a desktop, so opt for that when you can. And don’t leave your laptop and other devices plugged into a charger after they’re charged; the charger keeps drawing energy.