While making your home energy efficient is good for the environment, it’s also good for your wallet.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, consumers spend $241 billion annually on home energy and 1.2 billion tons of green-house emissions are released as a byproduct. The typical family spends $1,900 on home utility bills, and much of the energy isn’t used. It’s estimated that doing a few simple home improvements would cut the amount of carbon-dioxide released, as well as the amount of money spent on energy bills annually, in half. We dug up some things you can do around the house to help lower both greenhouse gases and your utilities.
Tip #1: Get rid of vampires or other phantom power suckers: This isn’t a reference to the blood-sucking villain or popular culture, but a term that’s used to refer to appliances that suck energy when not in use. Vampire energy, also known as phantom energy or standby power, accounts for 20 percent of home electricity use and 1 percent of carbon dioxide emissions.The biggest culprits are small appliances like coffee-makers, TVs, laptops, cell phone chargers, fans and hair dryers. You can cut back on standby power use by unplugging appliances after you use them or installing a power strip to easily turn several appliances off at once.
Estimated savings: It depends. Cornell University estimates that vampire power adds about $200 to residential energy bills annually.
Tip #2: Change your water heating: The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that water heating can account for 14 to 25 percent of energy use each month. The best way to save energy—and money—is to turn down your hot water heater down to 120 degrees. Most manufacturers set the temperature at 140 degrees which isn’t necessary in washing machines and most dish washers. Want further savings? Most clothing doesn’t need to be washed in hot water; warm to cold water works just as well, and cold water is always fine for rinsing. Consider investing in a front-loader machine which use less water, energy and can cut down on drying times.
Estimated savings: At a very minimum of 3 to 10 percent but a new washer could save you an additional $135 each year on your utility bills.
Tip #3: Change the light bulbs: You’re going to have to eventually change to florescent bulbs (CFLs) when the U.S. begins to phase out incandescent lighting, so might as well start the switch now. According to Energy Star, a program run by the Environmental Protection Agency, switching to CFLs saves “about $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevents 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year, equivalent to those from about 800,000 cars.”
Estimated savings: $57.55 over the life of a CFL bulb, according to a study done by Consumer Reports.
Tip #4: Heating and cooling: On average 43 percent of your utility bill goes toward heating or cooling. Heating and cooling systems also generate 12 percent of the nation’s sulfur dioxide and 4 percent of the nitrogen oxides—the two chief ingredients in acid rain. Whether its 10 or 110 degrees, there are several things you can do to significantly decrease heating and cooling costs.
- Turn down your thermostat—especially at night. If you turn the thermostat down by 1 degree for eight hours every night, you’ll use about 1 percent less energy.
- Clean or replace filters on furnaces once a month or as needed.
- During the heating season, keep the draperies and shades on your south-facing windows open during the day to allow the sunlight to enter your home and closed at night to reduce the chill.
- During the cooling season, close blinds and windows during the day to reduce solar gain through windows.
- Invest in energy-efficient products when you buy new heating and cooling equipment.
Estimated savings: 20 to 50 percent
Tip #5: Save water: According to the EPA, leaks account for 10,000 gallons of water wasted in the home each year on average. Fixing leaks can greatly reduce your water bill. Purchase low-flow faucet and shower heads, and if you are looking for a new toilet, invest in a low-flow toilet. Many of these will not perform any differently, but you’ll see significant reductions in your water usage. Lawn and garden watering makes up 40 percent of water use in the summer. Cut down on water costs by investing in a rain barrel to collect water from your roof. In times of drought this water can be used to wash your car or dog and water your garden or lawn. This not only reduces demand on municipal water—saving up to about 1,300 gallons of water during the peak summer months—but also reduces storm runoff.
Estimated savings: 25 to 60 percent off your annual water bill.