Published on July 8th, 2008 | by Stephanie Evans
Cost-Saving Home Energy Tips
Energy usage is a major player in the game of going green. When it comes to energy use in your home, there are many things you can do to cut costs and boost energy efficiency.
From calculating your energy expenditure to becoming educated about green home improvements, your energy consumption can change dramatically with just a few simple steps.
Calculating the Cost
There are many ways to cut down on energy use in your own home, starting with where energy is wasted. In order to know where energy can be saved, we first have to examine how we consume it.
Household energy data varies by geographical location, but the U.S Department of Energy reports national averages that pertain to our sources of fuel and our lifestyle choices:
- 34% of our household energy consumed goes to space heating
- 34% goes to lighting and other appliances
- 13% goes to heating water
- 11% goes to air conditioning
- 8% goes to refrigeration
Depending on where you live, fuel choices can create a significant environmental impact. While most Americans (49%) use natural gas, 39% use electricity as their main energy source, while propane and fuel oil make up the rest.
78% of single family homes have air conditioning (a central system, wall/window units, or both).
For general appliances:
- 95% have a clothes washer
- 90% have a clothes dryer
- 63% have a personal computer
In examining the ways we use energy, it’s shocking to note how dependent we are on appliances. Energy is a revolutionary advantage and comfort in the modern world, but the consequences of our energy consumption are apparent, not only to the environment but on our pocket books.
To calculate the energy use in your home visit the U.S. Department of Energy’s Consumer Resources Page.
There are several ways to go green with your energy use, starting with choosing the right kind of appliance. In response to the growing demand for more energy-efficient appliances and products in the home, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy formed Energy Star.
Energy Star-rated appliances use 10-50% less energy and water than standard models. Short of washing your clothes by hand, Energy Star-rated models are the next best cost-saving solution. If buying all new energy efficient appliances for your home is out of the question, there are several other ways to save money and reduce your home energy use…
Since heating and cooling account for 50 to 70% of the energy used in the home, there are many options to reduce your spending and increase your energy of efficiency.
Insulation is a favorite topic of energy conservationists for good reason. Inadequate insulation and air leakage account for most of the energy waste in your home, and insulation is an easy way to cool and heat your home more effectively.
Since insulation is the “shell” of your home, effective sealing and insulation can:
- Make your house more comfortable by helping to maintain a uniform temperature throughout the house
- Make walls, ceilings, and floors warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer
- Reduce your heating and cooling bill, if installed properly
Insulation is measured by its capacity to resist heat flow, called the “R factor”. Depending on where you live, different R factors, and different types of insulation are more appropriate for your home. While consulting a professional on how to best insulate your home is always an option, you can also visit Energy Star’s also Do-It-Yourself Guide.
Where to insulate?
Attic—If you have an attic, it is typically the easiest place to insulate (and save the most money). The recommended insulation level for most attics is about 12-15 inches, depending on the insulation type. For Energy Star recommended levels of insulation, visit their insulation guide.
Water Pipes—Insulating your hot water pipes reduces heat loss and can raise water temperature 2ºF–4ºF hotter than uninsulated pipes can deliver, allowing for a lower water temperature setting. You also won’t have to wait as long for hot water when you turn on a faucet or showerhead, which helps to conserve water.
Garage—Garage insulation is often overlooked, but can be an easy and cost-effective tool to combat unnecessary energy expenditure. Just as in any case with insulation, be careful to follow your building code.
Air sealing is another type of insulation that can greatly reduce your heating and cooling bill. Not only are drafts uncomfortable, but they bring moisture and heat into your house from the wrong direction.
Besides windows, chimneys, fireplace, and doors, air can escape or enter via these points:
- Any openings or cracks where two walls meet, where the wall meets the ceiling, or near interior door frames
- Gaps around electrical outlets, switch boxes, and recessed fixtures
- Gaps behind recessed cabinets, and furred or false ceilings such as kitchen or bathroom soffits
- Gaps around attic access hatches and pull-down stairs
- Behind bath tubs and shower stall units
- Through floor cavities of finished attics adjacent to unconditioned attic spaces
- Utility chaseways for ducts, etc.
- Plumbing and electrical wiring penetrations
Programmable thermostats are probably the easiest way to cut down on energy use and save money in your home. Energy Star-rated thermostats usually have pre-programmed settings to regulate your home’s temperature in both summer and winter, and during the night and day. By properly setting your thermostat, you can save about $180 a year.
To see the settings that are most comfortable for your family, visit the Energy Star Programmable Thermostat Setpoint table. For detailed information about programmable thermostats, visit EnergyBible.com.
A step beyond programmable thermostats is the automated home energy system, which provides a highly accessible form of remote temperature control for your home environment, allows you to monitor things while you’re on the go.
After heating and cooling, water heating is typically the largest energy user in the home because it is necessary for so many domestic activities. The good news is there are several ways to save money and reduce your energy consumption. For general information about water heating technologies, check out Solar Water Heating and Tankless Water Heating.
Washer and Dryers
While washers and dryers use a lot of energy and consume a lot of water, there’s no need to pull out the washboard—Energy Star has you covered. An Energy Star-qualified clothes washer can save you $550 in operating costs over its lifetime compared to a regular clothes washer. Energy Star models also lower energy use, thereby reducing water waste and pollution.
Unfortunately Energy Star does not rate dryers because all brands use similar amounts of energy. There are a few tips however, if line drying is not an option.
- Use the moisture sensor option on your dryer, which automatically shuts off the machine when the clothes are dry.
- If your clothes washer has spin options, choose a high spin speed or extended spin option to reduce the amount of remaining moisture, thus starting the drying process before you put your clothes in the dryer.
- Clean the lint filter in the dryer after every load to improve air circulation.
- Periodically inspect your dryer vent to ensure it is not blocked. This will save energy and may prevent a fire. Manufacturers recommend using rigid venting material, not plastic vents that may collapse and cause blockages.
- Dry towels and heavier cottons in a separate load from lighter-weight clothes.
Toilets account for one third of the water wasted in American homes every day. WaterSense toilets use 30% less water, and are tested for efficiency and performance. The average American flushes the toilet 5 times per day, and with a WaterSense labeled toilet, roughly 4,000 gallons of water annually can be saved as a result. Savings with a WaterSense toilet add up to about $90 a year, and provide an easy way to conserve water resources.
Adjusting your home energy use can involve a complete overhaul, or consist of little do-it-yourself projects. Something as easy as replacing a light bulb can help bring you closer to a cost effective way of doing your part for the environment.
With energy-awareness becoming such an emergent part of our culture, more and more resources are available for anyone out there wanting to get green and efficient.
For more tips and ideas on home energy consumption and ways to reduce expenditures, visit these great resource pages:
- Energy Star’s Home Tips
- The U.S. Department of Energy
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Use Page