How to Reduce Your Energy Usage Through Simple Lifestyle Changes

How to Reduce Your Energy Usage Through Simple Lifestyle Changes

How to Reduce Your Energy Usage Through Simple Lifestyle Changes

Audit Your Home’s Energy Use

The first step to reducing your home’s energy usage is to understand where you are using the most energy. Here are some tips for auditing your home’s energy use:

  • Examine your electricity bills to see when you use the most electricity. This can help identify major appliances or behaviors that lead to spikes in energy use.

  • Check appliance nameplates to find out how much energy each appliance consumes. Older appliances tend to use more energy than newer ENERGY STAR certified models.

  • Use an electricity usage monitor like the Kill A Watt meter to measure how much energy each appliance uses. You can identify energy hogs this way.

  • Inspect insulation and air sealing to see where conditioned air may be escaping from your home. Adding insulation and sealing air leaks can help reduce energy waste.

  • Have an energy audit performed by a professional auditor. They will do a thorough inspection and use equipment like blower doors to locate leaks.

Adjust Thermostat Settings

One of the easiest ways to use less energy at home is to modify your thermostat settings. Here are some thermostat tweaks that can reduce energy usage:

  • Lower your thermostat to 68°F in winter and raise it to 78°F in summer. Every degree lower/higher can save up to 5% on heating and cooling costs.

  • Install a programmable thermostat to automatically adjust temperatures when you are asleep or away from home. This prevents heating/cooling an empty house.

  • Make sure your thermostat is in a good location that will accurately sense room temperatures. Avoid placing it near windows, doors, or heat sources that may skew readings.

  • Clean your thermostat regularly to keep dust from impacting temperature sensors. Check that vents are not blocked so air can circulate properly.

  • Consider a smart thermostat that learns your schedule and preferences and optimizes heating/cooling based on your habits. They offer convenience and maximize energy savings.

Use Appliances More Efficiently

There are small adjustments you can make in how you use appliances and electronics that will reduce their energy consumption:

  • Wash clothes in cold water whenever possible. Heating water accounts for ~90% of a washer’s energy use. Front-loading washers are generally more efficient than top-loaders.

  • Only run dishwashers when fully loaded. Scrape rather than pre-rinse dishes. Choose the energy-saver dry cycle. Open the door after the final rinse to air-dry dishes.

  • Enable power management features on computers and electronics so they enter sleep mode when not in use. Turn items off rather than leaving them in standby.

  • Cook efficiently by matching pan size to burner, using lids, and cutting food into smaller pieces to reduce cooking time. Use a pressure cooker or microwave when possible.

  • Clean or replace AC filters regularly. A dirty filter will reduce airflow, putting more strain on the system.

Change Lighting

There are several easy lighting upgrades that can drastically trim your energy usage:

  • Switch out incandescent bulbs for LEDs which use ~75% less energy and last much longer. Focus first on the most used lights.

  • Use natural lighting whenever possible by opening blinds. Make sure rooms are properly lit so you do not need additional lights during the day.

  • Install dimmers, sensors, or timers on outdoor lighting and lamps so lights are only on when needed. Never leave lights on in unused spaces.

  • Dust light fixtures so bulbs are not covered in grime that blocks light. Clean windows and skylights regularly to maximize natural light.

  • Consider smart lighting like Philips Hue that allows control from your smartphone. You can automate and schedule lighting based on room usage and ambient light.

Modify Appliance Use Habits

Shifting when and how you use major appliances can also lead to energy savings:

  • Run dishwasher and washing machine at night during off-peak hours if your electric company offers time-of-use pricing. Overall grid demand is lower.

  • Rely more on microwaves, slow cookers, and toaster ovens rather than your full-sized oven/stove which uses far more energy.

  • Limit refrigerator door opening to reduce escaping cool air. Know what you need before opening doors and close promptly after.

  • Defrost freezer regularly so ice buildup does not impede performance. Just a quarter inch of frost can decrease efficiency.

  • Stop using heat-dry on your dishwasher and air-dry dishes instead. Heat dry can increase energy use by 20-50% per load.

Make Water Heating More Efficient

Saving energy used for water heating involves a few key strategies:

  • Set your water heater temperature to 120°F which is usually hot enough for most needs. This reduces heat loss from the tank.

  • Insulate exposed hot water pipes to limit heat loss as water travels to fixtures.

  • Install low-flow showerheads to reduce hot water usage without sacrificing shower pressure. Take shorter showers to conserve hot water.

  • Fix any leaky faucets which waste hot water and energy. A small drip can waste over 3 gallons per day.

  • Limit use of hot water for washing clothes by selecting cold wash and rinse cycles. Only do partial loads if you cannot wait for a full one.

  • Consider a tankless water heater which heats water on demand rather than maintaining a whole tank at temperature.

Weatherize and Insulate Your Home

One of the most impactful steps is weatherizing your home to minimize air leaks and insulate against heat transfer:

  • Caulk and weatherstrip around windows, doors, pipes, vents, and any gaps allowing air infiltration. This keeps conditioned air in and saves energy.

  • Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces that lack sufficient insulation. An insufficient R-value will lead to wasted energy.

  • Install storm windows if you have single pane windows or seal plastic window film kits to reduce heat loss through the glass.

  • Ensure attic access is covered and sealed. Consider an insulated cover or rigid foam board insulation for the attic hatch.

  • Check that insulation is not blocking soffit vents which allow proper attic ventilation and prevent moisture buildup.

Upgrade Old Appliances and Electronics

While sometimes costly upfront, replacing aging inefficient appliances with ENERGY STAR models can provide major long-term energy savings:

  • Prioritize replacements for the most used and energy intensive appliances like refrigerators, washing machines, and water heaters.

  • Ensure the new item is properly sized for your needs so you purchase an efficiently sized model. Oversized units use more energy.

  • Compare EnergyGuide labels to select the most efficient appliance in your price range. Higher initial cost may pay for itself over the appliance lifetime.

  • Recycle the old appliance properly so environmentally harmful materials like refrigerants, mercury and insulation chemicals are disposed of safely.

  • Buy advanced models with smart settings, sensors, and connectivity to better optimize energy use for your habits and needs.

  • Unplug infrequently used devices like old stereos and gaming consoles which still draw phantom load when plugged in.

Change Transportation and Driving Habits

Since transportation is a major household energy expense, optimizations here can provide energy and cost savings:

  • Drive less by walking, biking, carpooling or taking public transit whenever feasible. Combining trips also helps limit miles driven.

  • Remove excess weight and drag by cleaning out trunk, removing rooftop storage, and fixing car alignment to improve fuel economy.

  • Drive at optimal speeds, generally 35-50 mph. Excessive speeding lowers MPG more than slow driving in traffic.

  • Avoid jackrabbit starts and hard braking which greatly reduces fuel efficiency compared to smooth gradual acceleration and braking.

  • Use cruise control on highways to maintain a steady optimal speed and save gas.

  • When possible, avoid traffic congestion by shifting commute times or taking alternate routes. Frequent braking and idling in traffic burns more fuel.

  • Keep tires properly inflated to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended pressures to lower rolling resistance. Check monthly.

Conclusion

Implementing more of these tips will lead to measurable reductions in home energy usage and costs. The more actions you take, the greater the cumulative impact. Focus first on upgrades that are low-cost or no-cost, then consider larger investments that make sense for your home. Be sure to take advantage of any rebates or incentives offered by utilities, governments or manufacturers to further accelerate your savings. With some effort, you can painlessly change behaviors and make upgrades to live a more energy efficient lifestyle.