There are plenty of energy-saving tips that anyone can use at home. Reducing the amount of energy that you use not only lowers your bills, but it also makes your carbon footprint smaller. That means you get short-term and long-term advantages just by making a few adjustments to your home and lifestyle.
Tip #1: Reduce Air Leaks and Improve Insulation
The average homeowner devotes 45 percent of his or her energy usage to heating. You can dramatically reduce the amount of energy that you use heating your home by sealing leaks and adding insulation.
Air leaks commonly occur in:
• dropped ceilings
• recessed lights
• sill plates
• water and furnace flues
• door frames
• window frames
• plumbing and utility access panels
Check these areas to make sure they're properly sealed so they don't let warm air leak out of your house or cold air sneak into your home.
Adding insulation to your attic and under your floors can also prevent energy exchange between the interior and exterior of your home. Spending a little money on improved insulation now could save you money for decades to come.
Photo by Fotolia/Elenathewise
Tip #2: Unplug Electronics When You're Not Using Them
Your TV, computer, and other electronics draw small amounts of energy throughout the day, even when you don't have them turned on. You could save about $10 a month just by unplugging your:
• phone charger
Setting your computer to "hibernate" can also reduce the amount of energy that your home uses unnecessarily. You can learn more about saving money and reducing your carbon footprint checking out this calculator tool.
If you don't want to spend time plugging and unplugging small appliances, consider buying more power strips. That way, you can just turn the power strip off. It won't drain energy like the appliances do.
Tip #3: Adjust Your Home When You Go on Vacation
If you plan to leave your home for several days or weeks, then it makes sense to do a few things that'll reduce your house's energy consumption. After all, you can't even use the energy while you're gone.
Some of the easiest things you can do include:
• Turning down your hot water heater's temperature (120 degree should meet the needs of most families)
• Turning off your thermostat
• Unplugging unnecessary appliances (you'll obviously want to leave the refrigerator on!)
When you come back, you'll have a lower energy bill because you made a small decision to conserve energy while you're away from home.
Tip #4: Change Your Furnace's Filter Monthly
A clogged air filter forces your heater to work harder than usual just to keep your home warm. Replacing the filter monthly will allow your HVAC system to do its job without using more energy than necessary.
During some months, you might not use your HVAC system enough to make the filter dirty. If you suspect that this is the case, remove the filter and look for signs of dirt. If it's still fairly white, you can put it back for a few more weeks. If it has turned gray, it's time to replace it.
The small amount that you spend replacing the furnace's filter will actually help you save a lot of money on energy usage.
Tip #5: Use Ceiling Fans
Most ceiling fans have switches that'll make them turn clockwise or counterclockwise. This comes in handy during hot summers and cold winters.
During the summer, switch your ceiling fans so that they turn turns counterclockwise. This will circulate the air so that it lowers the temperature and helps sweat evaporate from your skin quickly.
During winter, set your fans to turn clockwise. It'll circulate the air so that your furnace doesn't have to work so hard. Some studies have shown that using ceiling fans reduce heating and cooling costs by up to 15 percent.
Tip #6: Repaint, Refinish, Reupholster
One often overlooked way to cut down carbon emissions and save some cash is to take on DIY projects around the house. Sure, most people know value of switching to CFL light bulbs, but did you know that the color of your walls can affect your home’s energy efficiency? By using pale colors that make the most out of a room’s natural lighting, you can save money during the daytime by reducing your watt usage. If you’re going to be laying down some fresh coats, be sure to make sure you’re using eco-friendly paint that is free of harmful VOCs (volatile organic compounds).
Recycling and/or refinishing old chairs and couches is also a great way to save on buying new furniture and reduce the amount of carbon energy produced by landfills. There are many fun ways to reupholster an old chair. Take a look at some of these sustainable and eco-friendly textiles to use before you get started. Whether you have the upholstery professionally done or do it yourself, this fun project is sure to become a conversation piece in your living room.
What energy-saving strategies do you use to save money and reduce negative effects on the environment? Have you found that some work better than others?
Miles Young is a freelance writer, designer and outdoorsman. He’s worked as a roof contractor and part-time engine mechanic. He spends his free time fishing and tinkering in his garage. You can follow him on Twitter @MrMilesYoung.