By Janelle Dianne Jundt
It has never been more important to take care of our planet and find ways to save money. As we try to navigate new normals, a struggling economy, and an uncertain climate, reducing our utility bills and carbon footprint can help bring a feeling of accomplishment and security in a difficult time. Here are a few ways to save energy in your home.
Low to No Cost Ideas
Save money while doing your laundry. Laundry can be a huge energy expense and 90 percent of the energy your washer uses in a cycle is to heat water. If you run every load on the cold water cycle you can greatly reduce your energy expenditure. It’s also better for the longevity of your clothes because it maintains the colors and is better for removing stains.
When you use cold water you don’t need to sort your clothes as much since the colors won’t run. This can reduce the amount of loads you do. While you’re at it, air dry your clothes when the weather is right. This will give your dryer a break — and the smell of fresh linens hanging on a line is magical.
Reduce that pesky electric bill. Electricity bills can quickly add up in a home and there are many simple ways to alleviate some of these costs. Start by turning off anything that you aren’t using. Unplug computers, chargers, etc. when not in use. Try to use natural light as much as possible instead of turning on lights. You can turn off the heated dry setting on your dishwasher as it eats up a lot of energy. You can also make sure to only open the fridge or freezer as long as you need to. Use the grill in the summer instead of the stove and if you are using the stove only open it when you need to so you don’t let the heat out.
Lower your water bill and save our most precious resource. There are simple ways to save on water. Take shorter showers. Turn the water off in between when you are brushing your teeth or washing dishes. Fix leaky faucets or hoses so they aren’t leaking out money. Set up barrels under rain gutters so you can catch water to use in your garden. There are so many simple ways to save on water usage.
Save on heat costs. There are many ways to save on heating that cost little to no money. One very easy way is to lower your thermostat. If you can reduce it even by 5 degrees in the winter and up by that much in the summer you will see a difference in your heating and cooling costs. Put plastic on old windows so they aren’t letting that precious heat out. Close off sections of your house you aren’t using.
Small Budget Changes
If you have a little money to spend on improvements, here are some bigger ideas with bigger savings to match.
Install low-flow shower heads and faucets. Typical shower heads release water at a rate of two gallons per minute. The average shower is seven minutes long — but we all know it can go longer. Installing low-flow shower heads and sink faucets can greatly reduce your water usage.
Seal up windows and cracks. This is an inexpensive solution but it can be time consuming and difficult to find every nook and crack to fill. If you can do it, it will make a huge impact on the amount of heat you are losing in your home which makes it a worthwhile endeavor. This is especially true if you live in an older home. As houses age these little unwanted airways become more common and can greatly increase a heat bill.
Replace those bulbs with LED lights. LED lights are far more efficient than the traditional light bulbs and these changes throughout your home will have a big impact on your electric bill. You can do this all at once or wait until you need to replace your bulbs so you aren’t wasting light bulbs that still work.
Big Ticket Items
Here are some projects that will require significant time and money but have a big impact.
Replace old appliances. You can replace all those old energy zapping appliances with Energy Star rated newer models. Older appliances can be a major contributor to your energy usage as they just weren’t made with those concerns in mind. While truly energy efficient appliances do have a higher price tag up front, they will last longer and save you money in the long run. Make sure to keep up with maintenance as this impacts their energy efficiency as well.
Install solar panels. You can have solar panels installed. There are many companies who will come and do a free quote on what this would cost for your home and let you know if your house is a good location for solar energy. This is a huge investment up front but if you plan to stay in your house for a long time it will pay you back in dividends and add a ton of value to your home. There are also often tax breaks and rebates available for those willing to make the investment in a healthier earth.
Add heat pumps. Heat pumps can greatly reduce your oil usage and provide a much lower cost air conditioner in the summer. In the summer, heat pumps only add about 6 or 7 dollars to your electricity bill per month, and one unit can air condition multiple rooms in your home. On a personal note, my family saved $800 dollars this year alone by installing a heat pump without noticeable changes to our energy bill.
Up the insulation. You can insulate or re-insulate areas of your home, specifically the attic, to avoid heat escaping up. If you notice certain rooms are quite drafty it may be an insulation issue. Have a professional help you decide the best ways to maximize your investment when insulating.
Replace old windows. Do your research but windows now are made to last a very long time and be extremely effective in reducing those monthly energy costs. Old windows are one of the largest contributors to extra costs on your heating and cooling as all the work your heating system is doing is lost through cracks in the windows.
Install a tankless water heater. The amount of energy used to keep a tank of water hot and ready for when you need it is far greater than a tankless system that just heats the water on demand. Changing out this system can save a lot of money in your heating costs. This is especially true if your oil furnace is your hot water heater. There are propane, gas, and electric options for tankless water heaters and they even have heat pump hot water heaters now. This is definitely worth researching, particularly if your family is using a lot of hot water on a daily basis.
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