Tips for saving energy and money in your home
When you think of frugal energy use, do you think of sitting on the couch bundled up in your winter clothes so you don't have to turn on the heat and eating by candlelight to avoid turning on the lights? Well that's not frugal energy use - that's just crazy talk!
You can reduce your energy use and still live comfortably with some simple changes.
Replace your lightbulbs. If you're still using traditional incandescent bulbs, switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). When CFLs first came on the market, they tended to emit an orange light that some consumers didn't like. But today's CFLs put out the same kind of soft white glow as an incandescent bulb, while using only about a third as much energy. They still cost a little more than incandescent bulbs, but they can last up to 10 times longer, making them a bargain in the long run.
Use ceiling fans. Ceiling fans go a long way toward keeping you comfortable at a fraction of the cost of running your air conditioner or heater. Did I just say heater? Yes, I did! Ceiling fans can be used in both winter and summer to reduce energy costs. See my page about saving with ceiling fans to learn tips for using ceiling fans to save both energy and money.
Air dry your clothes. The good old clothes line is back! Clothes dryers are convenient, but they are energy hogs, and on particularly hot summer days, they don't dry a load of clothes that much faster than air drying. Line-drying is the ultimate in frugal energy use since it doesn't use any (except your own)!
But what if you like the fluffy, dryer-sheet feel and smell of laundry? Try air drying your clothes most of the way, then putting them in the dryer for the last 5 or 10 minutes to fluff them up. You'll get the soft texture you want for a lot less energy. Just make sure the dryer filter is free of lint. The California Energy Commission reports that a dirty filter can reduce energy efficiency by as much as 30 percent.
Buy Energy Star appliances. Energy Star appliances are more energy efficient than other models. Energy Star is a government-backed rating indicating that a product has met a series of energy efficiency requirements. A wide variety of products are available with Energy Star certifications. They can be more expensive up front, but they are still frugal energy recommendations since they can save you money in the long run by reducing energy use.
Cook with gas. The Department of Energy estimates that gas stoves cost about half as much as electric stoves to operate. Gas models can cost more up front, but if gas is an option where you live, you could save in the long-run with lower utility costs. Visit my Saving Energy in the Kitchen page for more kitchen-related energy-saving tips!
Place furniture and appliances strategically. Make sure that your furniture doesn't block vents or radiators, and don't place lamps or TVs near your air conditioner thermostat. The heat generated from those types of appliances can trick your thermostat into thinking the room is warmer than it is, causing the air conditioner to run more than necessary.
Take advantage of rebates and tax credits. Governments at all levels want to encourage frugal energy practices, so many cities offer rebates for residents who make energy-efficient upgrades to their homes. In addition, the U.S. Department of Energy has a number of approved energy efficient rebate programs throughout the United States. Check with your local government to see if there are rebates available to you, and don't forget to take advantage of any tax credits available to you for purchasing energy-efficient products.
Install solar screens. Solar screens are an easy home improvement that can have an immediate impact on your energy bill. Solar screens replace your regular window screens with a material that blocks a much greater amount of sun light and heat than regular screening material. We installed solar screens on our home during the summer, and from the moment we installed them, we could feel the temperature drop in the rooms that get the most light. Our air conditioner went from running full-time during the hottest part of the summer to cycling on and off, saving us money from the day we installed them.
Use rechargeable batteries. Rechargeable batteries work just like traditional batteries in all your devices, but instead of throwing them away when they lose their juice, you simply re-charge them and pop them back into your devices. Anything reusable is a good example of frugal energy - better for both the environment and your bottom line.
Winterize. Preparing your home for winter weather can save you both hassles and dollars. DIY-HQ.net lists 10 tips for winterizing your home that can help you make sure your home's systems, such as the furnace and water pipes, are ready for cold temperatures so you avoid costly repairs and inefficient operation that can waste energy and money.
Wash in cold water. A few years ago, I had a washer repairman tell me that the temperature difference between cold and warm on my washing machine was barely noticeable, particularly in terms of making a difference to cleaning my clothes. I live in the South, and since the ground here doesn't get that cold, neither does the water. I switched to cold for most loads. I started saving energy from the first load and my clothes got just as clean. Washing machines use a lot of water, so if you can avoid spending money to heat that water unnecessarily, that can make a real difference to your energy bill.
Turn down your water heater. Your water heater burns energy to keep the water in its tank heated at all times. It will heat the water to the temperature that you select. If you don't generally use the water in your house at its hottest setting, then you don't need it to even reach that temperature. You're paying to heat water to a temperature you don't even use. So, set the dial back to a more appropriate temperature (120 degrees is recommended by most energy experts). You'll see immediate savings.
You can also turn your water heater off all together when you go out of town for long periods. There's no need to heat water that no one will be using! The most frugal energy is energy not used.
Unplug unused appliances. We all have appliances that we don't use very frequently, but we keep them plugged in and ready to go on a moment's notice. That's not frugal energy use. Anything that is plugged in is drawing power, even if it's not in use. It makes sense to keep things you use on a daily or regular basis revved and ready, but unplug those idle devices that you don't use very often.
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Tips from other readers on saving energy
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Saving Energy in the Kitchen
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