10 Steps You Can Take to Use Less Energy
When it comes to your home, going green is both socially and fiscally responsible. Most homeowners dread their monthly utility bills, knowing that they probably spend too much on water and electricity. Of course, you also don’t want to sacrifice on your daily convenience.
Fortunately, you can combine the two. With just a few moves, you can significantly reduce your monthly utility bills. Take these 10 steps to use less energy in your home, getting you closer to that goal of living in a solar powered net-zero home.
1) Start Using LED Light Bulbs
You might be surprised just how much electricity your lamps actually take up. Fortunately, it’s easy to reduce that cost. Replace your incandescent light bulbs with LED alternatives for significant savings.
Depending on the model you choose, this step can save up to 80 percent of electricity use. Even replacing your home’s five most frequently-used lighting fixtures with LED bulbs will save you an average of $75 per year. As an added bonus, LED bulbs last much longer, which means you won’t have to replace them very often.
You can find many great bulbs to choose from on Amazon. The latest innovation is “LED filament bulbs”. These look surprisingly like classic incandescents and are inexpensive. If there is a dimmer involved, make sure to select an LED bulb that is clearly listed as “dimmable”.
2) The Surprising Efficiency of Smart Power Strips
Naturally, your electronics and appliances need energy when they’re turned on. But you might not know that they actually require some power while in standby mode, too. Over time, that can add up to increase your utility bills.
Smart power strips are a solution to that problem. Basic ones have a master outlet, which when the device plugged in is turned on, the rest of the outlets turn on automatically. This would be good for an entertainment center where the other devices such as satellite receiver and amplifier only get power when the TV is on.
Some advanced models can be programmed to turn off during the night or work hours, when you know you won’t be needing your electronics. Additionally, some smart strips can be connected to WiFi for remote control. Considering that some models now cost less than $20, it’s well worth the investment for your TV and other frequently used electronics.
3) Fill the Holes Around Your Radiator Pipes
In older homes, your radiator pipes can lose a surprising amount of energy as they push heat through your home. That means you have to spend more money on the power needed to actually stay warm, especially during colder seasons in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Expanding foam can be a quick solution to that problem. Find the holes around your pipes, and fill them to increase their insulation. It’s a small job, typically takes no longer than a day or two, but can pay off significantly.
4) Recirculate the Air from Your Electric Dryer
Chances are you use a dryer for your clothes when doing laundry. But what happens with all that heat getting pushed around to make sure you don’t put on a wet shirt? Too often, it’s wasted as hot air blown outside the house. That doesn’t have to be the case.
The average dryer pushes out about 150 cubic feet of air per minute, at about 135 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s the equivalent of 2 baseboards in your home. With a dryer recirculation vent, you can redirect that warm, humid air into your home when the weather is cold, saving on your HVAC costs. A word of caution, however: do not use these on gas dryers, or gas fumes can be blown into the house.
5) Use Motion-Activated Lights
It’s too easy to leave lights on when you leave a room. That’s especially true for kids. Before you know it, the kitchen light stays on all night, or you forget to turn off the garage light after doing some work on the weekend. Outdoor lights are sometimes on light sensors and stay on all night.
A few motion sensors for your indoor and outdoor lights can solve that problem. It senses when everyone leaves the room, and takes care of the issue for you. Inside, install sensors in place of your regular light switches, and some of your energy usage will reduce automatically. Outdoor floodlights are one of the biggest energy hogs, as many are incandescents that don’t get noticed. A motion sensing LED fixture can save many dollars per year.
6) Take a Look at Your Water Heater
We all need hot water, but that hot water is also one of the largest energy users in the average home. A few fixes for your water heater can make a big difference on your monthly bills:
- Wrap your unit in a fiberglass ‘blanket,’ which can reduce energy usage up to 10%.
- Reduce your water temperature to avoid needless re-heats. Usually, 130 degrees Fahrenheit is more than enough.
- Install a heat pump water heater, which is the most efficient electric unit available
- Install a tankless water heater that operates only when needed
- Install a water heater timer, which heats water only when you use it most
7) Install a Programmable Thermostat
When possible, think about more than two desired temperatures for your home. Sure, you want it to be comfortable during the day, and cool during the night. But what about working hours, or the times when the family enjoys your kid’s soccer games?
On your own, it’s too complicated to keep resetting your temperature. A programmable thermostat makes that process much easier, both for your heat and air conditioning. A smart thermostat can help even more, learning your typical heating and cooling preferences and building an energy-efficient plan around that.
An important note for heat pump HVAC units: You generally do not want to raise the temperature by more than a degree at a time, or the auxiliary heat comes on which uses lots of energy. Modern smart thermostats have so called “recovery mode” which brings up the temperature slowly to avoid this. Discuss options with your local HVAC contractor.
8) Exchange Your Baseboard Units for Mini-Splits
Many older homes are heated by baseboards or radiators. Worse still, some of your rooms may need space heaters because their insulation is worse than others, or because the amount of base heaters simply isn’t enough. In each case, you actually waste significant energy.
The solution can be simple: installing heat-pump mini-splits instead. That installation can be somewhat costly, but will pay off in the long run. You won’t need to install duct work, but can still save up to 30 percent on your heating bill compared to baseboards.
9) Go For an Efficient Toilet
Did you know that according to the EPA, your toilet can use up to 30 percent of the water in your home during an average day? We all need it, and we all need to flush. Still, you have a significant energy-saving opportunity.
For instance, low-flow toilets have become relatively inexpensive. Still, they save up to 25 percent of your daily water usage. If your bathroom dates back to before 1992, that figure actually rises to 80 percent. You might need a plumber to install your new throne, but your water bills will thank you for this step.
10) Clean and Change Your HVAC Filters Regularly
Don’t underestimate the importance of regularly cleaning and potentially replacing your furnace and air conditioning filters. They naturally accumulate dirt over time. But the dirtier they are, the less air will flow through them.
At a certain point, that decreased air flow will actually make your HVAC unit(s) work harder to get your home to the desired temperature. The result is wasted energy, which can be solved easily through a cleaned or changed filter.
The most cost-effective filter is a washable electrostatic filter. This eliminates waste going into the landfill, and saves more money in the long run because you no longer have to buy disposable filters.
Some of these steps only take minutes. Others might require professional installation. All of them have one thing in common: they lower your energy usage, and as a result reduce your utility costs. Once you’ve made your home more efficient, you can further reduce or even eliminate your electric bill altogether with solar. Because you’ve made your home more efficient, the size and cost of the system you need will be lower.
Here at mtvSolar, we specialize in reducing utility costs via energy management and efficiency. Our consultants can make recommendations for energy efficiency upgrades while discussing your solar installation. Your wallet will thank you. To get started, fill out our simple form to get your free estimate today. mtvSolar is your local West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania contractor.