Three Easy Ways to Save Energy at Home
This week, a cold winter blast is making it's way across the majority of the United States (unless you're in places like CA, AZ, or FL, you lucky ducks!), creating an extra strain on electrical grids across the country. Solar and Wind probably aren't generating much during this time, yet people are cranking up the heat. What's worse, I've heard from friends in commercial real estate that many office buildings still keep their heat on when the office isn't occupied! I mean, it's bad enough that they leave so many lights on for "security", and now during a time when many are working from home, and it's the weekend, they have the heat on?? Eh, I digress. If you want to save yourself from an unpleasant surprise each month when the electric bill comes, follow these super-duper simple steps. We talk a lot in Financial Fives about curbing your impulse spending and not wasting money on material things, but what about things you rarely think about but have to pay? Enter electricity bills. If you save $30 per month following these tips over the course of a year, that’s a plane ticket to go somewhere you really love! Why spend more on energy when it doesn’t give you direct joy? You could install solar panels, but here are some easier options.
1) Use LED Bulbs: Chances are, you’ve already updated your bulbs to CFLs, those spiral-looking bulbs. Changing light bulbs is one of the easiest ways to save energy. LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights are very efficient. You’ve probably seen them on everything from Christmas lights to vehicle turn signals. Don’t just look at the lights on your ceiling fans and lamps. These super bulbs can be placed in oven lights, microwave lights, refrigerators, outdoor fixtures, garages and even nightlights. They last longer and use less energy. Some utility companies and municipalities may give them to you for free, so check with yours. Yet another example of going green and saving green!
2) Use a Power Strip: Did you know that even if turned off, many appliances still plugged into an outlet are using energy? Why waste money on your cell phone charger or toaster if it's not being used 95% of the day? You don’t have to go wild with these--just focus on the areas where you have a lot of electrical cords, such as entertainment centers (TV, DVR [if you still have those dinosaurs], stereo system) or your desk (lamp cord, cell phone charger, laptop charger, -- and now these days add external camera and docking station to the list). Then, once they are all plugged in, just press the switch to turn them off when you’re not using them. Power Strips can also reduce the risk of damage to appliances in the event of a power surge (make sure they are identified as surge protectors) and may reduce the risk of fire, as well. Be sure to always check the EnergyStar Ratings before buying appliances as well.
3) Check Your Insulation: According to the US Energy Information Administration, heating and cooling a home accounts for almost half of the home’s total energy use. Half! Now, if you rent your home, there is not much you can do other than ask the landlord or management company to make changes. In your own home, having proper insulation is key to maximizing the consistency of the home’s temperature. Don’t just think about the stuff behind your walls--there are other easy fixes, too. Look at the siding along your doors, the caulking along windows, as well as fireplaces and exhaust fans. Some energy/utility companies will come to your home for free or a nominal charge to perform an Energy Audit, informing you of all the ways you can save energy throughout your home. They might even give you freebies like LED bulbs and Power strips (see a connection here?) There are even some nonprofits that do this to help ease the strain on the grid and carbon emissions, a simple Google search will find one in your area.