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Want To Save the Planet and Cut Costs? 10 Tips for Reducing Electricity Output at Home

Nadav Shemer
Want To Save the Planet and Cut Costs? 10 Tips for Reducing Electricity Output at Home
Each of us can make our own personal contribution to the environment through personal change, such as cutting back on energy usage.

That’s because reducing how much energy you use at home reduces the amount of electricity generated by power plants. In turn, this reduces the amount of carbon from fossil fuels, which account for 63% of electricity generation in the U.S., that goes into the atmosphere.

The great thing about saving energy is there’s something else in it for you besides just helping the environment: it will lower your electricity costs. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average American household pays around $118 per month for electricity. If you could even manage to reduce your bill by 10%, that would translate to around $120 in savings each year.

There are countless steps you can take to reduce your energy consumption at home. We know you probably don’t have time for all of them, so we picked out the top 10 things you can do to cut back on electricity. Most of these steps are things that can be done quickly and easily. Some of the steps will set you back a few dollars, but you should see a return on your investment pretty quickly – and your contribution to the environment will begin right away.

1. Do an energy audit

Every home is different, so before anything else, you should find out where you personally can save on electricity. You can pay for a professional home energy audit or you can go for the DIY option (which is actually much easier than it sounds).

The U.S. Department of Energy recommends including the following in your DIY home energy audit:

Locate air leaks, such as gaps along the baseboard or edge of the flooring and at junctures of the walls and ceiling. You can seal any leaks with caulking or weatherstripping.

Check insulation in the attic, particularly if you have an older home. Again, you can seal any gaps with caulking or weatherstripping.

Inspect heating and cooling equipment, lighting, appliances and electronics. If needed, replace older products with newer, more energy-efficient products.

2. Get an annual HVAC maintenance inspection

On average, HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems account for around 46% of household electricity costs. Therefore, a regular HVAC check-up is absolutely essential to cutting your electricity usage. 

A typical HVAC inspection by a contractor should include:

  • Equipment wear and tear (which will help identify parts that are wasting energy)
  • Parts to be cleaned, replaced or lubricated
  • Motors and controls
  • Condition of electrical connections and voltage
  • Coil temperature

3. Clean HVAC filters

While we’re on the subject of HVAC, something you can do yourself – even before booking an inspection – is cleaning your HVAC filters. This is actually something you should be doing every couple of months. Not only will this improve the efficiency of your HVAC system, but it will also extend the life of your unit and ensure you have cleaner air circulating in your home.

The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors provides this useful guide to cleaning HVAC filters.

4. Install a smart or programmable thermostat

Thanks to technology, you no longer have to worry about remembering to turn off the air conditioner when leaving home.

Programmable thermostats are thermostats that allow you to schedule when your heating and/or air conditioning turns on.

Smart thermostats similarly allow you to control your home’s temperature, but also contain additional Wi-Fi-enabled capabilities – such as the ability to set the temperature remotely and receive alerts when there is a maintenance issue.

5. Install a smart water heater or timer

Water heaters are the second-biggest contributor to electricity bills in the home, behind heating/cooling systems. They too can become less expensive by utilizing technology. 

A water timer allows you to schedule when your water heater turns on, rather than having the heater on all the time or controlling the heater manually.

Like a smart thermostat, a smart water heater has Wi-Fi connectivity, sensors, and features that promote even greater energy efficiency.

6. Only do full loads of laundry

One of the easiest ways to cut back on electricity costs is to only turn on the washing machine when it’s full or close to full. Think about it: four quarter-full loads and one full load achieve the same result, except that the four quarter-full loads use four times as much energy!

One word of warning: avoid being over-eager to save money. Filling your washing machine past the maximum recommended capacity is a sure-fire way to shorten its lifespan.

7. Hang laundry on the line

No one in their right mind would want to wash all their clothes by hand, but drying is another matter. When the sun’s out, why not hang your clothes up on the line? 

Line drying doesn’t use any energy aside from the natural (and free) heat provided by our friend, the sun. It’s also much better for sensitive fabrics than drying, which means your clothes will last longer – saving you money and cutting down on waste.

8. Buy energy-efficient appliances

Going out and replacing all your appliances right now will cost you a fortune and contribute to more environmental waste. However, when your appliances eventually do break down (which all of them eventually do), then you can replace them with energy-efficient alternatives.

Technology is constantly improving the efficiency of electrical appliances, and costs of energy-efficient appliances are becoming ever-more affordable. When one of your appliances dies, don’t see it as an unnecessary expense; see it as an opportunity to save on future electricity costs while also doing your bit for the environment. 

9. Install LED lighting

Speaking of technology, LED light bulbs (named that way because they use light emitting diodes) use at least 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than regular incandescent light bulbs.

According to the Department of Energy, you can reduce your electricity bill by $75 each year just by replacing your home’s five most frequently used light fixtures or bulbs with models carrying the Energy Star label.

10. Unplug appliances that aren’t in use

Our final tip is actually the simplest: unplugging appliances from the power source when they aren’t in use. Phantom power (also known as standby power or vampire power) is the energy your appliances use when they are turned off but still plugged into the power outlet. Obviously, there are some appliances you may want to keep plugged in at all times – like the fridge. But unplugging other electronic products – like TVs, small fans, and coffeemakers – can save you money.

Take care of your systems and appliances

As we have seen, paying attention to your systems, appliances, and electronics is key to reducing your carbon footprint. Take care of your systems and appliances and they’ll take better care of you. They will perform more efficiently and use up less energy – saving you money and imposing less of a burden on the environment. 

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Nadav Shemer
Nadav Shemer specializes in business, tech, and energy, with a background in financial journalism, hi-tech and startups. He enjoys writing about the latest innovations in financial services and products.