When it comes to saving energy, big conservation methods and subsequent money savings are hard to come by and most often involve large upfront expenditures on the consumer's part. If you have the available land in the appropriate location, you could install a wind turbine or solar panels, convert wind and solar energy into electricity, and sell it back to the power company. Or, you could buy a new hybrid or E85 alternative fuel vehicle, which uses a fuel blend of 85% ethanol produced from renewable resources such as corn. All are great ways to decrease your dependence on energy and save money for your family but all have very significant upfront costs of acquisition, which is quite a deterrent for a family-based budget.
There are, however, a number of things that can be done around your home to make things more efficient. Your small changes will add a few extra dollars to your family budget—and that's always a welcome addition!
According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the typical U.S. family spends more than $1,600 per year on home utility bills. With just a few simple modifications or changes in your daily routine, you'll be able to conserve water, electricity, and natural gas and begin to bring that yearly expenditure down. Just a few of the many options for becoming more efficient and conserving around your house include:
- The DOE notes that 75% of electricity used to operate home electronics is consumed while the product is turned off since most continue to draw a small amount of power when they are turned off. Unplug the appliance or use a power strip and use the power strip switch to cut all power to the device.
- When shopping for new appliances (both electronics and kitchen appliances), look for the ENERGY STAR label. ENERGY STAR appliances typically exceed minimum federal standards by a substantial amount and the ENERGY STAR label provides helpful information on an appliance's estimated energy consumption. For example, the DOE states that an ENERGY STAR designated computer uses 70% less electricity that non-designated computers.
- Match your pan size to the size of the heating element on your range.
- If you use a gas range, look for a blue flame—a yellow flame indicates the gas is burning inefficiently and may need to be adjusted by a professional.
- If you are purchasing a new gas range, choose one with an automatic, electric ignition system, which saves gas by not requiring a continuously burning pilot light.
- When buying a new refrigerator, top freezer models are more efficient than side-by-side models.
- Only run your dishwasher with a full load.
- Using the "rinse hold" option on your dishwasher uses 3 to 7 gallons of hot water each time it's used.
- Allow your dishes to air dry. Some machines have an "air-dry" switch. If not, turn your machine off after the final rinse and prop the door open a little so the dishes will dry faster.
- Replace incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent bulbs. The DOE states that using new lighting technology can reduce lighting energy use in your home by 50% to 75%. In addition, fluorescent bulbs last up to 10 times longer than standard incandescent bulbs so you'll buy fewer bulbs. Today's fluorescent bulbs offer comparable brightness and color rendition making the change nearly imperceptible.
- Take short showers instead of baths. Bathing is the primary use of hot water in a household.
- Install low-flow, aerating shower and faucet heads that incorporate air into the water flow and significantly reduce the amount of water usage.
- Use cold water when washing laundry. Most detergents made today are formulated to wash as effectively in cold water. In addition, choose the proper load size setting on your washing machine to avoid wasting excessive amounts of water.
- Clean the dryer's lint filter after every load to improve air circulation.
- When and if possible, air-dry clothes on drying racks or clotheslines.
- As cozy as they are, fireplaces are terribly inefficient in your home. The DOE states that a roaring fire can exhaust as much as 24,000 cubic feet of air per hour to the outside which must be replaced by cold air coming into your home from outside. Your home heating system must then heat that air, which, in turn, goes back out the open chimney.
- Keep the fireplace damper closed unless a fire is burning. An open damper is equivalent to an open window and allows the warm air in your home to go straight up the chimney. If you never use your fireplace, consider plugging and sealing the chimney.
When it comes to saving energy (and your money), every little bit helps. Start with a few changes and make additional adjustments over time. Remember, your little part saves you money now and adds to the greater nationwide effort made by other energy and cost conscious consumers. So grab a fluorescent bulb and make the first step toward an efficient and money-saving future!
United States Department of Energy—www.doe.gov