Wasting electricity is so easy you don’t even know you’re doing it. Here’s how to reverse the damage with energy-saving tips from top home maintenance pros.
Almost 50% of your energy bill comes from heating and cooling your home. Keep your air conditioning and heating bills down by making sure none of that energy is wasted. Add door seals, caulk your windows (or install dual-pane windows) and upgrade your attic insulation to prevent temperature leaks.
Another good option is to install a programmable thermostat that will keep your house as warm or as cool as you like it, but ease up on the energy use while you’re away from home or in rooms you don’t spend as much time in.
The next biggest energy costs in your house often come from heating water and running your washer and dryer. So you could take fewer showers and never wash your clothes … or you could get better appliances. That said, it’s also a waste of energy to replace appliances before you need to (and it could get as expensive as your short-term energy bills).
If you need a quick fix, try changing the temperature settings on your existing appliances. Your dishes should get clean anywhere above 120° F, so make sure the temp isn’t set insanely high. Your freezer doesn’t need to be that much colder than 0° F. And almost every load of laundry can be washed as well in cold water as in hot water.
When it’s time to buy new appliances, look for units with an Energy Star sticker on them. For example, Energy Star certified refrigerators are approximately 9 percent more energy efficient than other models that meet the federal minimum energy efficiency standard. And Energy Star-approved washing machines use 25% less energy and 33% less water than regular washers.
Household appliances that are always plugged in — electric kettles, coffee makers, toaster ovens — draw a small amount of electricity even when they’re not on. Pros call this a “ghost” or “vampire” draw.
But the worst offenders are in the office and media rooms: your TV, gaming consoles, computer and media system. The “vampire load” from these electronics can add up to almost 10% of your energy bill each month.
You can make a dent in your electricity bill just by switching to energy-efficient power strips that keep these electronics from drawing power when they’re not on.
The incandescent bulbs on sale today are distant cousins of the light bulbs you grew up with. Those bulbs didn’t just look warm — they would actually burn your fingers if you touched them by accident. That’s because the electricity they used didn’t just generate light, it made a lot of (unnecessary) heat.
Today, you can get incandescent bulbs that actually use halogen, so you get the same warm glow without the wasted heat. But while halogen and compact fluorescents (CFLs) are better than yesterday’s bulbs, LED bulbs are today’s standard for energy efficiency.
There are ways to get warm when you’re cold and cool down when it’s hot that don’t involve blasting air through your house.
In the summer, keep your cooling costs down by opening the windows to let in cool air at night when the temperature drops, and then closing them first thing in the morning. Draw the blinds so that strong sunlight doesn’t turn your home into an oven. Then, keep a breeze going indoors with ceiling fans instead of air conditioning.
If you’re running central air, close up the vents in rooms you’re not spending time in (and close the doors). And not to be your dad, but would it kill you to throw on a sweater and slippers in the winter instead of blasting the heater in every single room? Your heating bill will thank you.
You’ll waste electricity and water fast if you’re not cleaning on the right schedule. If you have dishes to hand wash, take care of them right away or you’ll have to use more water and soap to get them clean. You don’t have to pre-rinse your dishes in the sink — just scrape off the food and drop them in the dishwasher. And run your dishwasher only when it’s full (same goes for your laundry).
Finally, if you have a manual clean freezer, make sure you defrost it regularly, or it’ll use more electricity.
Remember, you can’t do this alone — you’ll need to hassle your family members to get on board.
The easiest way to save electricity is not to need as much of it. If you’re in the mood to invest in some home upgrades, look for improvements that help with temperature control and add natural lighting to your house.
Front landscaping updates can add curb appeal that improves your home value while shielding your house from direct sunlight, so you can spend less on air conditioning.
If you have access to ceilings in rooms you spend a lot of time in during the day — like kitchens, bathrooms and living rooms — consider adding a skylight. Not only is it a great way to make a small room feel bigger, it also means you don’t need to turn on the lights in the first place.
Making your home more energy efficient can mean everything from changing your daily habits to updating appliances and making home renovations.
A good way to start is setting up consultation with a home energy auditor, who will do a walkthrough looking for common problems that drive up heating and cooling costs, including drafty doors, leaky windows, insufficient insulation and misconfigured ducts. Some audits include an analysis of utility bills. More extensive audits might include an in-depth inspection of each room, the attic and the crawl space of a home.
For more, see “How much does a home energy audit cost?”
Minor home repairs can make a big change in your electricity bill. Here’s who to hire to help upgrade your insulation, address energy leaks and even switch to renewable energy:
Tell us what you’re looking for and we’ll show you pros right for the job, with prices.