Some people will argue the only things you need in life are the simple ones. However, that’s not the reality of American consumerism. When it comes to saving money, despite whatever financial shape you may be in, it’s easiest to start with the simple things.
Disclaimer: Some of these may be the words of badgering (I mean frugal) parents, like “money doesn’t grow on trees”.
Unplugging the unnecessary:
There’s a pretty good chance you’ve never heard of “phantom loads”. Basically, it’s the amount of electricity used when a device is turned off. Wait a sec, it’s off so it can’t be using energy! Well that’s not the case. Many appliances and electronics throughout the house carry phantom loads and it’s not enough to just turn them off. For example, when you shut off the TV and turn it back on, it’s on the channel and volume you left it at, but if you unplugged it the TV would reset and you’d be channel surfing. Your TV was never really off, rather it was in standby mode consuming enough electricity so that it could store your settings. This hidden electrical consumption makes up about 6% of the energy used nationally. So if it doesn’t need to be plugged in all the time, unplug it or use a power strip, that way it’ll cut the power to all plugged devices and save on your phantom workload. For appliances that need to be plugged in all the time (i.e. refrigerators, ovens, etc.) use Energy Star appliances to reduce the phantom load.
Heating the homestead:
Having heat in the house isn’t a necessity, it’s a luxury and a costly one at that. Whether your household abides by the never touch the thermostat rule (which in most cases is hovering around 60* F) or there’s a central heating system in place, the need for programmable thermostats is a must. Lucky for you, the next generation in thermostats has arrived via The Nest. Simply remove that old turn-dial, install the nest and watch it program itself. No need to heat the entire house anymore. The nest, which can be controlled right from your mobile device, can be set on a timer, remembers when you'll be up, shuts off when you're out. That's a temperature control device that never stops learning and as a result conserves energy. If you stick to other programmable thermostats, raise the temperature in areas of the house your family frequents and lower it in rooms that they don’t. For those rooms that have hardwood or tiles, throw down an area rug to keep feet warm. Don’t forget, if the fireplace is roasting, no need to have the heat on too. Upfront this fix will cost money, but in the long run you’ll be saving more and keeping the family from freezing into popsicles.
Cooling la casa:
Air conditioners are wonderful, but they are big electricity spenders, so much so, that it’s not uncommon to blow a fuse when running an A/C on top of everything else shooting out wattage. The smaller the area, the quicker you’ll have a cooler room. Try limiting the space you’re trying to cool down and make sure to close off the area, that means all windows and doors shut, otherwise that A/C may need to run a few minutes to a couple hours longer to cool off a larger space. Any cracks or inlets for air to sneak in/out is counterproductive towards the desired temperature. Just because that giant ice box is making a lot of noise doesn’t mean it’s working to maximum efficiency. At night time, use fans to circulate the cold air already trapped inside the house, this will eliminate the need to run the A/C overnight. Lastly, clean any vents or filters every couple of months, be sure the unit fits and is sealed inside the window firmly, and remove the cooling units during the colder months.
Insulating the Interior:
If you find your house always filled with a chilly draft then it may just be time to reinforce the insulation. Adding insulation to the attic, basement, walls, floors, and crawl spaces will increase your home’s energy efficiency. The Department of Energy has a detailed plan of how best to accomplish such a task. In the meantime, double check all windows and doors are shut and sealed off when heating or cooling your house. It’s not a “professional fix” but try plugging big cracks under doors with a towel, it’ll make a big difference. If you haven’t already made the switch to double pane storm windows, do a little bit of research and check them out. Nearly ⅕ of energy loss in homes is through windows but if you’re sticking with the traditional windows, it wouldn’t hurt to seal them up or tape them off during the winter.
Lightening the load:
This tip is almost unavoidable. With the new legislation concerning the use of traditional light bulbs, the switch to energy saving bulbs will soon take over households. Over 90% of the energy given off by older light bulbs is heat and all that lost energy is money being thrown away. Newer bulbs, while more efficient, also come in different colors and light levels to fit the room. Between energy saving incandescents, CFL’s, and LED’s, potential savings could range from 25%-75%. The newer, more efficient, and longer lasting bulbs will virtually pay for themselves in a few months time.
Sitting in the shade:
Plant trees. Simple as that. Maybe there’s a side of the house that is flooded with sunlight. In the summer those rays of light add to the heat your A/C is trying to combat. Blinds might block out the light but heat still gets through. Combining shades with a shady fixture will help keep cost low and even add to the exterior aesthetic look. Plant over driveways, patios, and A/C units, focusing on the east and west sides of the house. Not only will you use less energy but you will lower your carbon footprint as well.
Withdraw from wasting water:
Water is one of the world’s most valuable and abundant resource. And that’s exactly why we’re so quick to waste it. Cutting down the cost of the water bill is a lot easier than most people think. We all know we should limit the duration we spend showering, but did you know you can limit the amount of water used with shower heads and faucets that don’t infringe on water pressure? Try shutting off the water while brushing your teeth or wait to turn the dishwasher on until there’s a full load. Maybe that’s stuff you already do. What about watering the garden or lawn during cooler hours to reduce water use? Maintaining a pool’s evaporation rate by putting a cover on it? Even getting familiar with your home’s water meter can go a long way.
If the safe route feels best, getting a full home audit will cover all your bases and help you tie up any loose ends that are still strangling precious pennies away from your hard earned bank account.
It’s our world people and we’re living in it. These tips are just a start to the many ways to reduce the energy used and save on the monthly bills. It’s the simple things we take for granted and overlook, but those simple things have a way of adding up and paying off long term.