It seems like every new gadget that comes on the market these days promises to reduce your energy bills, but that’s after paying a few hundred dollars for the privilege. And while it’s true that energy efficient products will save you big bucks in the long run, they are not the only way to cut down those bills. So if your budget doesn’t quite stretch to the latest innovations in energy-reducing tech, and your non-Energy Star rated appliances are currently working just fine, then put away any eco-guilt you may have and follow these 6 simple steps to reduce your energy use at no cost to you.
- Light Responsibly
When your light bulbs burn out, replace them with LED bulbs. Yes, they’re more expensive up front, but they will save you money within the year (and not just because they use 84% less energy). That $25 bulb will last you about 25 years, compared to a $2 fluorescent that will burn out again in a year.
- Cook Consciously
Stovetops and ovens use a lot of electricity. Save yourself enough pennies to eat steak every night by doing the following:
- Always use the burner that is the closest in size to the pot you’re cooking with. This cuts back substantially on wasted heat.
- Cook with a lid to save three to four times as much energy.
- Switch off the stovetop/oven a few minutes before you’re done cooking, and let the process finish using the remaining heat.
- Dry Efficiently
Tumble dryers are such notorious energy hogs that they didn’t even qualify for Energy Star status until this year (the first one just came onto the market this summer). Until the Energy Star models become the standard, use these tricks to reduce drying up all that precious energy:
- Dry towels and heavier cottons in a separate load and put them in as the last load on laundry day to capitalize on remaining heat from the earlier cycles.
- Dry full loads when possible and dry multiple loads back to back.
- Clean the lint filter after each use — this improves air circulation so the dryer works more efficiently.
- For the same reason, make sure you clean the dryer exhaust venting system 2 to 4 times a year.
- Take advantage of sunny days and fresh air to dry your clothes the natural way. An indoor drying rack will save energy too.
- Cool Cleverly
If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, get one. The money you save in the first few months will easily make up for the extra $40 to $60. By setting your HVAC system to automatically turn up and down when necessary, rather than relying on your memory to adjust the temperature, you will not only save energy but you’ll be more comfortable.
- Fan Yourself
To help limit AC use in the summer (the largest use of energy in the standard household) use or install ceiling fans. But remember, ceiling fans cool people, not rooms, so turn them off when you leave the room. Also, ceiling fans aren’t just for summer: in the winter, reverse the motor (there’s normally a switch on the unit) and operate the ceiling fan at low speed in the clockwise direction. This produces a gentle updraft, which forces warm air near the ceiling down into the room.
- Cut Back on Hot Water
This one is so simple it’s almost silly. Reduce the temperature of your water heater from the standard 140 degrees to 120 and shave 15% of your energy bill.
Do you have any simple energy saving tips to share? Please add your thoughts in the comments!
Jennifer Tuohy writes on green homes and sustainability issues for Home Depot. Jennifer’s advice on energy savings ranges from tips on using LED bulbs in lighting to cutting heating costs for major home appliances. A selection of Home Depot lighting options that can incorporate LED bulbs can be found on the Home Depot website.