9 Tips for Saving Energy

I admit it — I dread the arrival of those chirpy newsletters from my electric company, advising me how to save money by doing a few simple things to reduce energy consumption in my home. A disconcerting feature was recently added: a graph comparing my energy usage to that of my neighbors — a sort of “keeping up with the Joneses” in reverse.

While I may not respond well to peer pressure, there are plenty of simple steps all of us can take to reduce our energy consumption. Here are some of my favorites:

Replace incandescent bulbs with CFLs or LEDs.
Compact fluorescent lamps are now available in a variety of sconce- and lamp-friendly shapes, and prices for both types of bulbs have come down dramatically in recent years. You can save $30–$40 or more in electricity costs over the lifetime of each bulb, as compared with incandescents.

Turn down the thermostat.
Keep the temperature at 68 degrees when you’re awake and lower when you’re asleep or at work. Reducing the temperature 10–15 degrees for eight hours can shave 5–15 percent off your heating bill.

Use laptops instead of desktops.
A desktop PC can use up to 250 watts per hour, while a laptop might use less than 100 watts per hour. According to a 2011 Stanford University report, replacing a desktop with a laptop can save an average of $300 over three years. For additional savings, remember to put your computer on “sleep” mode when it’s not in use.

Wash your clothes in cold water.
Use warm water only if necessary for truly soiled garments. Hot water is almost never needed and — in addition to using more energy — diminishes the life span of your clothing.

Use mirrors to multiply light.
By placing mirrors behind a lamp or kitty-corner in an area that receives a lot of natural light, you can illuminate a room exponentially and create a beautiful ambience.

Use a clothesline.
Clothes dryers are among the biggest energy hogs in the home. Dry your clothes outside, instead. And when you do use your dryer, remember to clean the lint trap frequently to speed up drying and reduce the danger of fire.

Use fans instead of air conditioners.
Control the flow of cool air through your house with strategically placed ceiling, floor or personal fans, and you can turn off your air conditioner for a good part of the day. Experiment until you find a configuration that works!

Lower the temperature on your hot water heater.
According to the U.S. Dept of Energy, water heating typically accounts for about 18 percent of your utility bill. They recommend setting the temperature at 120 degrees. If there are only one or two people living in your home, you can probably get away with 115 degrees.

Unplug appliances when not in use.
Devices like televisions, computers and coffeemakers draw electricity even when they’re not in use, sapping 5–10 percent of a home’s electrical power. Consider placing individual items on timers, or plugging several into power strips that can be turned off when not in use. Is it time to replace an old appliance with a more efficient model? Find out what it’s costing to run that energy hog at Energy Miser 101.