Summer and Winter Home Energy Saving Tips


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

Energy_HierarchyGet 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…

Tips to Save Energy for Renters


Whether you’re finally escaping the parents’ abode or moving into your third rental home, you’re undoubtedly keen to find some ways to reduce the hefty load of daily living expenses.


Best ways renters can lower energy bill

Your energy usage in your apartment is a natural place to start. But it isn’t so easy to reduce those energy bills if you can’t make any structural changes to your home. Renters face unique circumstances when trying to save energy when renting a home or renting an apartment. Its not easy to make energy efficient changes when you do not own the place! Below are some energy saving tips for apartments for people who rent them.


Learn Apartment Energy Savings Tips

While added insulation and solar panels are an obvious way to go to reduce the costs of your energy usage, it’s not the only way, by any means. There are plenty of energy saving tips renters can work on to reduce their bills. It’s all about changing your habits rather than your house. This is what renters need to focus on when trying to save energy costs since they often cannot physically change where they are living.

Here are some hassle-free ways to cull your energy usage when renting – and in the process, see a happy decline in those quarterly utilities bills that you are also paying as a renter.


Compare energy suppliers before you commit

Today we couldn’t fathom living without electricity or gas. But in many parts of the world at least, there are a huge range of gas and electricity suppliers to choose from. So it’s natural you might not be getting the best deal you could have. It can be tiresome toiling through every single energy supplier in your area to work out their plans and decide on the best one for your needs. But it can also be well worth it. Having options to pick who supplies your energy as a renter can be a sure way to make sure that you are getting the lowest rates.

Thankfully, there are useful tools online that compile all the relevant companies into one place so you don’t need to do the hard work. Whether you’re just curious or ready for a switch, you need only type in your postcode to see the full range of plans and options out there for you – and to learn what you may have been missing out on in the meantime. However, this is not available in all markets. In many cities, there is one big utility company who controls the market and you will have to buy electricity or gas through them.

It makes sense to shop around for an energy provider. Depending on where you live, you may be able to get a cheap/free energy audit through your utility company at your apartment/house. It is definitely worthwhile to check out the gas, electric, and water companies’ web sites to see if this benefit is available in your area. As an added bonus, very often, the energy company auditors will give you things like free CFL light bulbs, weather-stripping, efficient shower heads or faucet aerators, etc. as part of the energy audit.

In addition, they may pass out some coupons after the energy audit. You may also have access to discounts on things like light bulbs. For example, coupons for a bunch of LED and CFL bulbs and lamps through my utility’s deal with an online retailer.


Obliterate vampire power

It sounds so easy, so why so few people switch their appliances off at the wall eludes me. All the time your devices – the TV, your state-of-the-art stereo system, that second-hand microwave – are plugged in and on standby, they’re draining power. In fact, they could be draining power to the amount of more than $100 each year.

To eliminate appliances/items sucking power, it might be helpful to connect certain devices to a power strip and turn it off every day before you leave for work. Some devices are known as “vampires” because they’re continually sucking power even when turned off. TVs are an example. Though they are off, they are constantly scanning for a signal from the remote. Computers also continually suck power, even when turned off. When you leave for the day, turn your thermostat down into the 60°F range. Of course, if you have pets or other humans that stay at home, that may not be possible

Using a power board is a simple way to turn off all your devices in one go, ensuring you’ll conserve energy and power. If you have access to your electrical meter, turn off all of the circuits in the apartment using the breaker/fuse panel, then verify that the meter is no longer registering any electricity usage. It’s not uncommon for apartments to be miswired such that your neighbor may be using some of your electrical power.

Mobile technology is another energy vampire, only charging your laptops, mobile phones, tablets etc. when the batteries are nearly flat and then taking them off charge when they are done, rather than leaving them on not only increase the battery life but also saves a lot of energy. Really anything with a LED screen or clock that does not need to be on all of the time can be switched off when not in use, it is amazing how quickly you notice it on your energy bills when you start doing it.

In short, to save energy costs as a renter, plug all of your phone chargers, TVs, satellite/cable TV boxes, and other electronic items into a power strip that has an on/off switch. Turn it off when you’re not home and save energy in your apartment!


Big Apartment Energy Saving Tips: Change your lights

You might not be able to touch your light fittings as a renter, but you can at least swap over the light bulbs to more energy efficient alternatives. These alternatives are typically LED or CFL globes. This alone is the most important thing in my opinion. It reduces the energy usage of the bulbs by a very large percentage. I would recommend LED. They can get more expensive, but they WILL pay for themselves. Any place you are concerned about heat (as a safety issue) or need directional lighting they are likely better than CFLs. They will likely not save you money

Once you’ve made the switch, you could further reduce your bills by turning off those lights in unoccupied rooms so your building isn’t lit up like a Los Vegas strip.


Layer up before you crank the thermostat

Some of those older inner-city rental homes can be nastily cool, especially in the depths of winter. So we understand the temptation to crank the heat and transform your refrigerator into an oven (who doesn’t love the heat?). Heating and cooling because these are the biggest energy suckers. If you have a really old and inefficient system you might qualify for rebate or tax breaks through your electric company or government.

Your heating and A/C are going to use most of the energy so do what you can to retain heat or keep it out (when appropriate). If you’re not going to open the windows for a few months apply some silicon around the edges. It peels off pretty easily for when you need to open them. You can also get some rubber seals to put around the door that aren’t too expensive. Getting a bit crazier you also lose heat around outlets and light switches. There’s special backing to put behind those but that’s not as cost effective. You can just put some regular glue around the edges though. Otherwise try to heat/cool only the rooms that you’re in by using space heaters or fans. Check your blower unit as well for proper sealing

But the next time you go to spin the dial, think about the impact it could have on your next bill. The Australian Bureau of Statistics found that heating and cooling systems contribute to more than 40% of your home’s annual energy usage.

We’re used to the convenience of heating and cooling, but there are other ways to control your internal temperature. You can put on a few extra layers of clothing, brew yourself a warm drink, and throw over a rug before you settle into the couch in winter. When you do go to raise the thermostat, keeping it at a lower temperature can add up quickly.

And in summer, if you’re lucky enough to have air con in your rental home, consider first closing the blinds or curtains over the window so your house doesn’t heat up as quickly before you turn on that blessed system.


Find out about off-peak pricing

If you’re a student or a natural late-night owl, you’ll be used to staying up late and sleeping in. This could work to your benefit if you want to reduce your energy costs, thanks to many electricity supplier’s cheaper rates in off-peak periods.

A lot of energy retailers have off-peak pricing, offering a cheaper rate during quieter hours (typically between 10pm and 7am). Keep that excessive study on your laptop or procrastinate with your Xbox and sound system between these hours and you could enjoy greater energy savings on your bills.

Find out if your energy company provides this service – or which ones do if you’re interested in changing suppliers – and keep those activities requiring high energy consumption (washing your clothes and dishes, for example) to off-peak times to make the most of these energy savings in an apartment. This can be one of the biggest apartment energy savings tips for renters because it is within their control if they are paying the electric bill.


Buy energy efficient appliances

When you’re moving to your new rental home, you’re naturally going to think about buying or upgrading your appliances. These days, most appliances come with an Energy Rating label that shows how energy efficient the appliance is. The more stars your appliance rating has, the less energy your appliance needs to run.

Appliances with a higher energy efficiency rating (typically about 4 stars or more) will probably cost more at the outset, but over time they should prove their worth as you find them cheaper to run than their less efficient alternatives. If there are any appliances in your apartment that need replacing (washer, dishwasher, fridge), encourage your landlord to purchase Energy Star products as replacements – sometimes there is even a rebate available to the purchaser, which may be an incentive for your landlord.

I could go on, but don’t want to overwhelm you. You’ll find plenty of useful resources online to help you reduce your energy usage and lower your electricity and gas bills. But reducing your energy bills ultimately comes down to you and your proactive, mindful approach to your own energy usage.


Double Check Windows, Heating, and A/C to Save Money

Your heating and A/C are going to use most of the energy so do what you can to retain heat or keep it out (when appropriate). If you’re not going to open the windows for a few months apply some silicon around the edges. It peels off pretty easily for when you need to open them. You can also get some rubber seals to put around the door that aren’t too expensive. Getting a bit crazier you also lose heat around outlets and light switches. There’s special backing to put behind those but that’s not as cost effective. You can just put some regular glue around the edges though. Otherwise try to heat/cool only the rooms that you’re in by using space heaters or fans. Check your blower unit as well for proper sealing. My unit in my old apartment had so much air leaking it was amazing I could even feel it coming from the vents.