We have all heard that planet Earth is struggling to keep up with human demands. The pressure on Earth’s resources and habitats is ever-increasing and is leading us into ecosystem collapse and possible climatic catastrophe.
Our energy consumption is a big part of that picture – in 2018, electric energy production accounted for 26.9 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.
At the same time, many people are struggling to make ends meet, especially in times of a looming economic crisis.
However, many are not aware that they could save some money by making their homes as energy-efficient as possible.
Although increasing energy efficiency does require initial spending, it quickly pays off through the savings you will make on your bills.
In this article, first, we will have an overview of household energy-saving tips by analyzing the groups of home elements and appliances, their role in using up energy, and the ways to lessen their energy footprint.
Then, we are going virtually through the entire house to share additional room-specific tips for energy saving.
Air Conditioning regulates heating and cooling of your home. In the times of climate change and weather turbulences, it may be tempting to use it more.
The other thing might be that we got a bit spoiled. In the United Kingdom, it is estimated that today, homes are heated to at least 4 degrees C warmer than in the 1970s, which adds up to a massive energy use increase. We seem to be keener to spend the winter in short sleeves than get a sweater and save some energy.
The International Energy Agency assessed that the increasing global use of air conditioners in homes and offices is becoming and will be one of the main drivers of the increasing global electricity use in the next three decades.
Fortunately, the AC is easily controlled via the thermostat – the only thing that matters is how we set it. The recommended heating and cooling scheme goes like this:
- In the winter, 68F, or 20-21 degrees Celsius is considered an optimal temperature.
- When you are away from home or sleeping, you can set it to an even lower temperature of between 60 and 68F (15-19°C).
- Besides saving energy, cooler bedrooms in the winter can be beneficial for your health and can even help people beat insomnia.
- During the summer, there are two recommendations. One is to keep the indoor temperature no more than 3-4 degrees C cooler than outside. That is the best way to save your cardiovascular system from shock when moving from outside to inside the environment and vice-versa.
- However, in extreme heat, that last piece of advice is not really practical. Then it is recommended to set the thermostat to 78°F (26°C) – or as high as comfortable.
- Controlling humidity is also beneficial if possible since high humidity makes it harder for the body to cool off naturally.
- In the summer, in the time of day when the sun is hitting your windows directly, pull the blinds down.
- Keep the AC on only when you are at home. Programmable thermometers allow you to set the cooling or heating to turn on just prior to your arrival to your house instead of keeping it on the whole day.
- Consider turning on a simple fan instead of the AC when the temperatures are not too high, but you need just a little bit of cooling and air circulation to get comfortable.
- The energy efficiency of the AC system itself is also important. Look to replace the old AC systems with newer ones with a favorable Energy Star or comparable efficiency rating.
When looking at those tiny light bulbs, it is hard to imagine how lighting can eat up energy in a household.
If we look at the statistics, lighting accounts for 5 percent of household energy use. That may not seem like much, but it is more than freezers, cooking, clothes washers, and dishwashers combined!
When the incandescent and halogen bulbs dominated our homes, it was quite challenging to curb the lighting energy use. However, things have changed massively with compact fluorescents, and especially with LED lighting becoming widely available
LED lights use 75 percent less energy than incandescent lights, which is quite impressive. In other words (and units), to create the light output of a 50-watt incandescent, you need a LED bulb that uses only 11-12 watts.
While the first days of LED lighting were not all glory, because of the unnatural bluish hue emitted by LEDs, things have changed considerably. Now you can easily find LED lights that are within the warm light spectrum, similar to incandescents.
Here are concrete tips to reduce lighting expenses.
- Switch to LED lighting. Immediately! While your budget will feel the initial investment, it will pay off very quickly through the reduced energy bills.
- Make maximal use of natural lighting. In the morning, raise all the blinds instead of impulsively turning on the lights.
- Remember to turn the lights off when you are not around.
- If you are really forgetful about lights, you can install movement sensors where applicable, to turn the lights on and off as you leave or enter the room.
- Consider installing light dimmers where practical. This will help you save energy by decreasing the output (and therefore energy consumption) of your light bulbs. Besides, being able to control the brightness can be really satisfying and increase the quality of your indoor time – especially if you get frustrated by bright lights.
- Do not leave the light on your porch turned on all night by default. By doing this, not only do you save energy, but you reduce light pollution, saving many insects from death, and also saving astronomy enthusiasts from annoyance. Perhaps someone in the next yard is trying to do some stargazing, and your porch light is killing his view.
Laundry Washing Machine
The laundry-washing machine is a modern necessity and one invention that has immensely increased the quality of life for people, and especially women. However, it adds to the overall energy consumption in a household – it participates with about one percent, although this figure can vary.
Fortunately, there are ways to cut the energy consumption of a washing machine.
- Make sure you are always washing a full machine. This includes some planning regarding what clothes you will need to wash and when.
- Use lower washing temperatures. The modern formulas of laundry detergents have enabled good washing results with lower washing temperatures – these days there is rarely a need to wash anything beyond 40-60 degrees C.
- Use quick washing programs– with a quality detergent, most clothes that are not exceptionally dirty do not require more than that anyway.
- Use slower spin cycles. Decreasing the number of spins will save energy and help your clothes last longer. However, this may not be the best solution if you are using a dryer afterward (see below).
- Use the washing machine at night. In many countries, electric power is cheaper during the night, so you can use this option to save additional money.
- Use Energy Star certified washers which use 25% less energy than the non-certified models.
As we have learned, a laundry washing machine accounts for one percent of your overall household energy consumption. However, the laundry dryer accounts for the entire 4 percent of used power – as much as the refrigerator, stove, laundry washer, and dishwasher combined. And unlike the washing machine – it is not always a necessity.
- Do not use the dryer if you don’t have to. If you have the possibility of drying the laundry outside, air-dry your clothes whenever the weather allows it.
- Use a high-speed spin cycle in the washer. While this contradicts the recommendation for washer energy saving, it is still more efficient to use a high spin cycle if you are using a dryer, since it will take less heat to dry the laundry where water has already been squeezed out.
- Clean the lint filter. Once a month, use an old toothbrush to scrub the filter and remove the film that may reduce air circulation.
- Add a new load while the dryer is still warm from the previous one. The remaining heat will be used by the dryer for the new cycle and it will spend less energy on heating up.
- Use wool or rubber dryer balls which will help get more air into the clothes by mechanically separating them, thereby shortening the drying time. Also, wool additionally absorbs moisture.
- Use Energy Star certified dryers, which use 20% less energy than the non-certified models.
- Check the energy efficiency of your stove. Look for the Energy Star certificate or a comparable rating system. However, the smart use of your stove can compensate for a less efficient appliance.
- Consider using energy-efficient water boilers or thermo-pots instead of boiling water on the stove.
- Always use the right-size pot for a certain stove – it should fit precisely or have a diameter a bit bigger than the diameter of the stove – never the other way around.
- Using a pressure-cooker decreases cooking time, and therefore energy use.
You will find more cooking-related advice in our Energy-Efficient Kitchen section.
Refrigerators and Freezers
The energy efficiency rating for refrigerators and freezers is especially important since these appliances are working non-stop.
- Check the energy efficiency of your refrigerator and freezer. Look for the Energy Star certificate and know that appliances produced before the 1990s can be real energy hogs.
- When the weather is hot, open your freezer and refrigerator only briefly.
- Keep your freezer always full. Freezers that are half-empty use much more energy than well-stocked freezers.
Water heating accounts for an impressive 12-18 percent of your household energy use. That is why it is worth investing in an energy-saving water heater.
- The first and simplest thing you can do is to lower the water heating temperature. Unless you have compromised immunity or a dishwasher that doesn’t have its own water heater (in which case you need the water to be hot), you can lower the temperature from standard 140F (60 degrees C) to120F (49 degrees C).
- Insulating hot water pipes and water heater tanks is also a great energy-saving upgrade.
- Drain-water heat recovery is a superb patent that draws the heat out of your drain water and returns it to the hot water tank.
- If you are getting a new heater, consider its energy rating and get an appropriately-sized tank for your household so you don’t have to overwork it.
- If you are lucky enough to be able to use geothermal energy, consider installing a heat pump water heater.
- Where applicable, consider installing a solar water heater.
Unlike appliances, windows, and doors do not use power, however, they are the key factor in keeping your home well insulated. About 25-30 percent of heating and cooling energy is lost through doors and windows! That means that having good windows and doors is a great way to save some energy.
- The type of windows is crucial – air-tight, well-insulated windows are what you need.
- If you have old windows, you don’t need to think about getting rid of them right away – refurbished old windows can be surprisingly airtight, and simply fixing them can have a great impact on insulation.
- Get insulating window shades– cellular “honeycomb” shades that can be raised or lowered are ideal.
- Window attachments also have their energy rating, so it could be worth paying attention to it.
- Install storm windows, or fix and weather-proof the existing ones. Install weatherstripping on all their joints. Depending on your windows, the storm windows can save you 12%–33% on heating and cooling costs.
- Modern types of glass can deflect the sun’s heat. It is called a solar control glass. If you are planning on new windows, ask about this option.
- Shades, drapes, and/or blinds are a must so you can control the amount of sun (and consequently heat that enters your home). This is not important for North-facing windows, but it is for all others, and especially the South-facing ones. Awnings can also help reduce heat from south- and west-facing windows.
Extra: Room-Specific Energy-Saving Tips For Your Home
A key to energy efficiency is not only making good “Energy Star” consumer choices but also adjusting our own behavior.
I hope that this part of the guide will help you identify some of the habits that lead to a waste of energy – and help you deal with them.
To make it more systematic, I am going to address the energy-saving issues of each room of an average household.
The Energy- Efficient Kitchen
Due to the extensive use of heating and cooling appliances, kitchens are a place when a lot of energy can be wasted – but it also means that a lot can be saved, usually just by changing your habits.
- If you are not aware of the need to save energy, you may accidentally waste plenty of power out of simple forgetfulness. Always remember to turn off your stove in time, or for example, if you are boiling water, turn it off as soon as the first bubbles appear.
- Pay attention to the temperatures on your stove and in your ovens – always work with the lowest temperatures possible.
- Using pressure cookers will save you both the time and the energy when preparing slow-cooking meals such as soups or cooked beans. Plan meals so you can make them in the pressure cooker.
- If you are baking a few dishes (e.g., lunch and a cake), always prepare them so you can put one after the other in the oven, with no lag or pause between.
- During the hottest weather, consider preparing cool meals such as gazpacho; also, there are plenty of no-bake cakes ideal for the summer heat. This way you are saving power, and reducing the need for AC cooling.
Cooling and Storage
- Plan your supplies so you can keep your freezer always full – as we mentioned previously, half-empty freezers use much more energy than full freezers.
- To avoid keeping your refrigerator open for a prolonged time – especially during hot weather – avoid browsing or looking around the fridge. Know what you need beforehand and make a list of the groceries in the fridge if needed.
- Check periodically if refrigerator or freezer doors are properly closed– especially if you numerous families with children and/or seniors.
The Energy-Efficient Bathroom
- Showering instead of filling a bathtub whenever you can. This saves both water and the energy required to heat it. This is especially true for wintertime when the water in the tub will get cold quickly, plus you will probably require additional heating of the bathroom space.
- If you are addicted to showering with hot water – try to ditch the habit. Besides saving energy, showering with lukewarm water is much healthier for you – and especially your blood vessels.
- Don’t let the water run when you are brushing teeth – and especially not warm water.
The Energy Efficient Living Room
- Be mindful of ambient lights and install power-saving LED bulbs and dimmers, if possible.
- Use energy-saving power strips wherever you can (and not only in the living room). The energy-saving features and standby modes can detect wattage and switch off the entire strip when the plugged-in appliances go into a standby mode.
- The same advice applies to the bedroom.
The Energy-Efficient Children’s Room
- The advice for the living room applies here as well, with a few extras.
- Kids tend to be forgetful, so pay attention to their use of devices.
- Teach them to be mindful of how much they charge their tablets and phones and warn them not to leave the chargers in the eclectic sockets when they are turning off. This is not just a matter of saving energy, but of safety – freak accidents like device explosions while charging or chargers catching on fire are rare but have happened before.
- Teach them that instead of just unplugging the device, they unplug the charger first.
- Warn them not to leave their computers or TV sets on at night. Don’t expect too much – instead, check periodically if everything is off.
The Energy-Efficient Entrance hall and hallways
- Hallways and entrance halls are always susceptible to increased air circulation and can be places where a lot of warmth is being lost through the draft.
- Good insulation of doors and windows in these parts of your home is critical to prevent wasting energy.
The Energy-Efficient Garden
In your garden, there are also potential energy-wasters – water pumps, lawn sprayers, and garden lights.
- Swamp the regular electric garden lamps for solar lamps, which are cheap and easily available.
- Alternatively, you can install timers on your existing electric lights. That way you won’t leave them on by accident throughout the night.
- Installing lights with movement sensors is an even better option, as they will be exclusively on when someone is in the garden.
- Timers are also excellent solutions for sprinklers and irrigation pumps– it is better for your plants too to have regular watering at a suitable time of the day.
To Take Away
Although it takes some initial spending, by saving energy, you are saving our planet and resources – and also your home budget.
However, it is also important to change our habits, rather than just secure the funds for energy-efficient upgrades. In fact, your habits can nullify much of your effort made through upgrades. That is why it is just as important to notice and change our behavioral patterns which lead to being wasteful instead of mindful about energy use.
I hope our energy-saving guide has been helpful to you. What is the single greatest change you’ve done to curb your energy footprint? Let us know in the comments!