Whether it’s staying cool in the summer, or toasty in the winter; being frugal about our energy usage is a necessity. Saving on energy is something that renters and home owners can both easily do to save money. Oftentimes, many of these energy savings tips will just require you to make small changes to your behavior.
Ways to Conserve Energy at Home
Below are several tips on things you can improve around your house to save money on your utility bills by using less electricity and gas. Many of these home energy saving tips will hold true in the summer and the winter.
Blackout Curtains Saving Energy
Blackout curtains can trap heat in during the winter and keep light and heat out during the summer. 10-25% of thermal energy loss goes out the windows. Blackout curtains can curtail this loss by a 25%, reducing your utility bills and greenhouse gases. High-end blackout curtains can be expensive, somewhere in the $100+ area. However, you can find blackout curtains for less than twenty dollars at many different stores.. You can buy blackout curtains at almost any major retailer. For example, Walmart sells the Eclipse brand that was mentioned earlier. Some companies make their blackout curtains with vinyl, a material that has health risks associated with it. There are plenty of non-vinyl curtains to choose from, so be sure to avoid PVC in your blackout curtains.
Clean Your Air Conditioner
Dirty air conditioners could be wasting lots of energy. Cleaning your air conditioner is one easy way to save some electricity in the summer. First, put a nozzle on your water hose and spray it into the vents that are on the side of the outside unit. Dirt builds up and lowers the efficiency significantly of the air conditioner. You might be shocked at how much dirt and dead grass washed out of it. Be careful though while washing your air conditioner to save energy costs – those vents are radiator fins, and you don’t want them to bend. The unit could fry itself or crack if more than 50% of the fins are bent out of place.
There are plug insulators, for the electrical sockets in your house too. Sometimes a breeze can come through them. It iss basically foam that goes around it to seal it in. I would seal up the windows as much as possible too.
Using a Pressure Cooker Saves Energy
Using a pressure cooker to cook meals saves lots of energy considering how efficient they are at cooking. A pressure cooker cooks food in 70% less time than non-pressurized methods which translated to 70% less energy used. Countries with spotty power systems have a long history of using pressure cookers because of their energy efficiency.
Modern versions are so efficient that they lose very little liquid through steam. This means you don’t have to have to add a ton of water before cooking. That means you don’t end up with soggy, water logged foods. It also means your water soluble vitamins are retained more.
You can use a pressure cooker to make all sorts of food that requires a moist cooking environment. Soups, stews, pot roast, corned beef, potatoes, steamed vegetables etc. It is also perfect for egg dishes that need a water bath to insulate them. This means cheesecake, custards like creme brulee are perfect in the pressure cooker.
Canning Foods is an Energy Saving Tip
It is nice to have shelf stable foods without having to store them in a freezer or worry about defrosting. I know many freezers are very energy efficient, but you always run the risk of losing all your food due to power outage. You also have to worry about defrosting your food. It’s not hard of course but requires deciding ahead of time what you want to eat. You then have to remember to put the food in the fridge the night before. Otherwise you are using energy to store the food and to defrost it and to cook it.
Water Heater Blanket
Get a water heater blanket. These are basically a big blanket of insulation (usually fiberglass and mylar IIRC?) you wrap around a water heater’s tank to increase the insulation value. They are under $20 (you’ll probably need the dimensions of your water heater) at major home improvements stores. A water heater blanket takes 10 minutes to install, and will save up to 10% on your water heating costs. Also insulate the hot water pipes if they are not already insulated within your residence.
Heating water is about 20% of most homes energy usage. A $20 R-8 blanket, some new pipe insulation, and turning the water heater thermostat from 140 to 120 might save about $30 on a monthly gas bill. If your heater is electric, you can also insulate the top and bottom to improve the efficiency (don’t do this on a gas heater, huge fire hazard), but it will still be less efficient than a gas water heater.
While you’re dialing back the temperature a bit on the hot water tank, the effective water temperature at the shower could stay the same (or even be hotter than before) due to less heat loss while going through the pipes. Dialing back the hot water temp a few degrees: less heating to try and keep the volume of water in the tank at a higher temp.
Instead of a Refrigerator, Use a Freezer…
Instead of a refrigerator, use a chest freezer with a Johnson Controls freezer temperature controller, which overrides the internal thermostat and allows me to keep it at refrigerator temperatures. Freezers are much better insulated, and it also helps that they open from the top. In some circumstances, a chest fridge uses about 0.25 kwh/day in winter, and about 0.45 in summer. To keep stuff organized, make sure you get one with a lot of baskets!
Plant Shade Trees
Planting large deciduous shade trees around the south & west sides of the house could keep some heat off your home during a hot summer day. In the summer they have leaves, so keep the area cooler. In winter they shed their leaves so more sun can get through to keep things warmer. Trees can also be used in colder climates as a wind-break.
You can make this part of a strategy for shade trees. Quick growers tend to be short-lived, but they can provide a stop-gap for slower-growing, longer lived trees you plant around the same time. By the time the quick-growers are ready to come down, the long-lasters are reaching sufficient size to take over shading duties. Evergreen trees to the north and west can help block chilling winter winds, too.
Big Energy Saving Tips: Set Your Thermostat Correctly to Save Money
An easy way to save money on your power bill is setting your thermostat correctly. You might even want to use a smart thermostat such as a Nest. Your local utility company should have recommendations on energy-saving settings. Using a programmable thermostat to raise the cooling set point when you’re out of the house and lowering it when you’re home also helps a lot.
Also, do not set the temperature really low when you’re hot. I see so many people set the temperature in frustration to 60 when they’re hot. Truth is, this will cost you a lot more money in the long run and will not cool any faster. It will just have to work a lot longer before it can maintain. Beyond that, absolutely check for leaks, especially around windows, recessed can lights, doors, crown molding, etc. Check your attic and/or crawlspace for insulation. If there are any significant gaps (more than 1% of the surface area of the insulated ceiling or floor) then you might as well not have insulation.
Use Rechargeable Batteries When Possible
Rechargeable batteries can save you a deal of money and they’re better environment. They may cost 4x more, but they can be recharged ~1500 times. For anyone interested in rechargeable batteries, the Sanyo Eneloop batteries with the Sony Cycle Energy BCG34HRE4KN recharger are recommended. Most rechargeable batteries are notorious for slow drain even when they aren’t being used. These Eneloop batteries hold charge very well as time goes on. The charger is at a good price/performance point. It doesn’t stress the batteries with a quick charge, and it has a refresh function which can bring old life back into the batteries. There are nicer chargers out there, but they can get pretty pricey.
Use a Wooden Fireplace to Save Money
If you are lucky enough to have a wooden fireplace. Use it! Light up when you get home from work, dry socks and underwear next to it instead of tumble drying them. I know that for those rural folk amongst us it isn’t hard to get hold of a trailer load of wood from the local farmer or landowner. Many would be glad to get rid of some of their excess. Instead of a family sitting in separate rooms. Sit together in a room instead of heating lots of other rooms.
Unplug Electronics You are Not Using
Unplug everything you don’t use. Use switches for your TV cabinet and everything within it. Under certain circumstances, you might find that some appliances using 10 Watts when ‘off’ (not even standby). Also, find your switchboard and look for the circuit breakers that are for your fridge/freezer/alarm and mark them. Next time you go out of the house for a somewhat longer period, just switch off all the rest.
Lights off all power off when you leave (your router, computer, et cetera completely off and/or unplugged). Only use the electricity at off peak hours?
Solar Thermal Water Heating
Solar Thermal Water Heating. If you know how to work copper tubing, this is easy enough… black ABS in a clear enclosure on the roof (like solar panels, kinda), run a pipe w/ a bypass valve to the hot water heater. BAM. Free hot water. Only works well during the summer, unless you’re crafty enough to program an Arduino or something to open and close a valve based on outdoor air temp…