Reducing your energy consumption can seem daunting, especially if you don’t want to make major lifestyle changes. However, there are many simple and effective ways to drastically cut your energy use without overhauling your daily habits. In this comprehensive guide, I will provide tips across all areas of your home and life to significantly reduce your energy footprint.
Perform an Energy Audit
The first step is doing an energy audit to identify areas for improvement.
Examine Your Utility Bills
- Carefully review electricity, gas, and water bills to spot usage patterns over time.
- Compare seasonal differences in energy consumption. The summer and winter often have spikes due to cooling and heating needs.
- Calculate the energy efficiency of appliances by dividing their wattage by their frequency of use. Prioritize upgrades based on the least efficient models.
Inspect Your Home
- Check insulation levels in the attic, walls, and floors. Insufficient insulation leads to wasted energy through heat transfer.
- Inspect windows and doors for air leaks indicated by drafts. Seal leaks with caulk or weatherstripping to prevent cooled or heated air from escaping.
- Examine the age and condition of appliances, HVAC systems, water heaters, and electronics. Older models tend to be far less energy efficient.
Consider an Audit by a Professional
- An energy professional can perform more rigorous tests to pinpoint energy waste and determine where you’ll get the most bang for your buck on upgrades.
- Audits may be fully or partially covered by your utility company or state energy efficiency programs.
Lighting accounts for 12% of household electricity use.
Switch to LED Light Bulbs
- Replace incandescent and CFL bulbs with LEDs which use at least 75% less energy. They last years longer too.
- Prioritize high use fixtures like kitchen, porch, and outdoor lighting.
Install Dimmers, Sensors, and Smart Lighting
- Dimmers allow adjustable light levels so you only use what you need.
- Occupancy sensors turn lights on and off automatically when you enter or leave a room.
- Smart lighting systems let you control lights remotely via a smartphone, optimizing usage.
Let in Natural Light
- Open curtains and blinds during the day to maximize natural light.
- Cut back overgrown trees/shrubs blocking sunlight from reaching your home.
- Paint walls and ceilings light colors to brightness rooms without artificial lights.
Adjust the Thermostat Strategically
Heating and cooling accounts for a whopping 43% of a home’s energy consumption.
Update Your Thermostat
- Replace old thermostats with programmable or smart thermostats. This allows customizing temperatures for certain times of day.
- Install a smart thermostat to control temperatures remotely via smartphone. Smart thermostats also learn your habits and preferences to optimize heating and cooling.
Adjust the Temperature
- Keep the thermostat at 78°F in summer and 68°F in winter. Every degree higher or lower boosts energy use significantly.
- Use a fan along with AC to allow raising the temperature a few degrees without sacrificing comfort.
- Turn down the heat at night and when away using a programmable thermostat.
Utilize Zone Heating/Cooling
- Only heat/cool occupied parts of your home using zone control systems. No need to adjust temps in unused rooms.
- Use a space heater or window AC unit in a frequently used room rather than central heating/air.
Seal Air Leaks
Air leaks can increase heating and cooling costs 10-40%.
Perform a Leak Audit
- On windy days, carefully run your hands or a smoke pencil along walls, windows, doors, electrical outlets, plumbing, fans, vents, etc. to locate drafts.
- Caulk cracks and gaps around windows, doors, pipes, outlets, and wiring penetrations.
- Weatherstrip doors and windows that leak air. Quality materials compress tightly to block air flow.
- Increase attic insulation to at least R-38. Well insulated attics can reduce heating/cooling costs by up to 30%.
- Insulate exterior walls whenever siding or drywall is removed for renovations or repairs.
- Ensure insulation in crawl spaces and basements meets recommended values.
Upgrade Major Appliances
Appliances account for about 20% of household energy bills.
Replace Old Appliances
- When replacing outdated appliances, look for ENERGY STAR certified models.
- Upgrade your refrigerator if it is over 10 years old. Newer models use 40-50% less power.
- Swap electric appliances like stoves, dryers, and water heaters with gas-powered versions.
Adjust Usage Habits
- Only run dishwasher and washing machine with full loads. Short cycles and air drying also minimize machine energy use.
- Enable the energy saver setting for refrigerators and freezers. This optimizes compressor use while maintaining proper temperatures.
- Defrost refrigerators and freezers regularly to maintain efficiency.
- Microwave when possible to cut stove and oven use.
Adopt Water Conservation Tactics
Heating water accounts for 12% of home energy consumption.
Install Efficient Fixtures
- Replace old showerheads with <1.5 GPM (gallons per minute) models.
- Swap out standard faucet aerators for <1 GPM models.
- Upgrade to an energy efficient tankless water heater that uses 30-50% less energy by only heating water on demand.
Adjust Water Use Habits
- Take 5 minute (or less) showers instead of baths which use 2-4x more water.
- Turn off water when brushing teeth, shaving, washing dishes, etc.
- Only run full loads in clothes washers and dishwashers. Use short cycles.
- Immediately repair any drips or leaks. A faucet drip wastes several gallons daily.
Improve Electronics Efficiency
Electronics and appliances comprise over 15% of household electric use.
Automate Power Management
- Use power strips to cut phantom load waste, manually turning off strips when not needed.
- Enable energy saving modes on computers, monitors, and printers to automatically minimize consumption when idle.
- Unplug battery chargers when not in use. Chargers use energy even when disconnected from devices.
Adjust Usage Habits
- Turn off lights, TVs, computers, and other products when not in use. This saves more energy than sleep/standby modes.
- Air dry laundry instead of using electric dryers.
- Cook multiple meals at once in the oven then reheat later in the microwave which uses less energy.
With some diligence, it is entirely possible to drastically reduce home energy consumption without overhauling your lifestyle. Performing an audit, upgrading lighting, adjusting thermostats strategically, sealing air leaks, upgrading appliances, conserving water, and improving electronics efficiency can lead to major energy savings. Small steps make a cumulative difference, saving you money while also helping the environment.