The news offers lots of reasons for skyrocketing energy costs. This article shows you the actions you can take to lower your energy usage which in turn will lower your electric bill. This isn't wishful thinking. It's possible with simple, mostly free, changes to how you use energy at home.
- Electric Bill Shows You Can Lower Energy Usage
- Understanding Your Home's Electric Bill
- Reducing Heating & Cooling Energy Costs
- How to Reduce Outdoor Energy Usage
- Ways to Lower Lighting Energy Usage
- Lower the Energy Usage in Your Kitchen
- Stop Wasting Energy Doing Laundry
- How Electronics Use More Energy Than Necessary
- Home Office Tips to Lower Energy Usage
Electric Bill Shows You Can Lower Energy Usage
Here's my electric bill illustrating lower energy usage so far … with more changes planned. As background, I live in Florida where your summer electric bills peak when your HVAC system runs longer to keep your home comfortable.
Knowing that an HVAC system is the biggest energy guzzler in most houses, I started here. When my sons kept adjusting the temperature down, I finally resorted to flipping the breakers. The funny part … they never figured out what I'd done. If the house got too cold, I'd flip the breakers on for a few hours and got my electric bill for December down.
Other things I've started doing: taking shorter showers, waiting to run the dishwasher, washing machine and dryer when they're full. I've already replaced all the builder light bulbs with LED bulbs and I'm trying to learn to turn off my laptop each night. It's a start and I'll share my future plans below.
Understanding Your Home's Electric Bill
Once you understand where a majority of your energy consumption is going, it's easier to prioritize changes. Heating and cooling represent roughly 50 percent of your energy usage (less if you use natural gas or oil for heating). Next is the hot water heater, followed by kitchen and laundry room appliances.
These changes aren't expensive but will take some time and money to implement. Some changes are straightforward while others will require more thought. For example, I have a scanner, 2 printers and 2 external monitors. I'm never going to turn them all off at night … unless I plug them into one power strip and that's all I have to turn off/on.
Reducing Heating & Cooling Energy Costs
With roughly half your electric bill going to heat and cool your home, here are the most important ways you can reduce your electric bill.
- Use fans, either ceiling or floor fans, They can help reduce your use of heating and air conditioning. Learn how ceiling fans can be used year-round.
- Install a programmable or smart thermostat, to help you reduce energy usage.
- Clean or replace filters on furnaces and air conditioners once a month or as recommended by the manufacturer (read: Best Merv Ratings for HVAC Filters that Keep Your Home Healthy & Save You Money).
- In the summer, set your temperature higher than usual (I raise mine by 3 degrees). During the winter, save money by turning your thermostat down a few degrees. These changes can save you “… as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling) according to the Department of Energy.
- Using a timer is another way to lower your energy usage. You can set the time for sleep mode overnight and have it come back on an hour before you get up. While each system will work differently, here's An Easy Guide on How to Use Air Conditioner Timers.
- Use caulking and weatherstripping to seal leaky windows that let in cold air during the winter and allow cool to escape in summer. Learn all the places you can use weatherstripping to save you money.
- Also consider insulation and/or caulking where you have air leaks that weatherstripping won't work, like cold basement walls or around light fixtures adjacent to the attic. One of our most popular articles is Caulking Tools, Tips & Tricks.
- Close the chimney flue when it's not being used, to keep cold air out.
- Window treatments provide more than privacy.
- In winter, keep drapes and shades on south-facing windows open during the day for sunlight warmth. Close them at night to keep out the cold.
- In summer, close window coverings during the day to block the sun’s heat.
How to Reduce Outdoor Energy Usage
- Use motion sensing security lights and timed sensors for outdoor lighting.
- For landscape lighting, use solar lights for safety and to showcase special features.
- Replace older holiday decorations with LED lighting and put them on timers.
Ways to Lower Lighting Energy Usage
- Choose the right light. LED bulbs are more energy efficient, using 75% less electricity than incandescent bulbs and … they last 25 times longer. Your existing light fixtures will use LED light bulbs and then you can explore the surprising ways LEDs are changing the lighting landscape.
- Turn your lights off when leaving a room or hallway. Yes, this can be challenging especially with children. My solution was to put motion sensor switches in the rooms where I don't want lights left on – the pantry, laundry room and closets.
- Use natural light because it's free … and who doesn't like things that are free.
- Replace old holiday lights with new, energy efficient LED lighting.
Lower the Energy Usage in Your Kitchen
- Buy ENERGY STAR appliances guaranteed to use less energy. This means your dishwasher and refrigerator which uses 9% less than a conventional refrigerator. They'll use up to 50% less than your old refrigerator so and please don't move it to your garage (read: Researching Refrigerator Brands, Styles & More).
- Wait to run your dishwasher when it's full … washing dishes by hand at least of the time.
- Open the refrigerator or oven door only when necessary to reduce air escaping. Your appliances will also last longer when they don't have to work extra hard to do their job.
- Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator to help keep the fridge cold.
- Thaw meats and casseroles completely before cooking to reduce cooking time.
- Wait until hot foods cool before placing them in the fridge. This will keep the refrigerator from having to work overtime to keep its contents cool.
- Match the size of your cooking pot to the size of the burner. Using too large a burner allows heat to escape into the room.
- Use a lid on pots so the contents can cook or boil quicker, using less energy.
- Cook foods in larger quantities than you need that day; eat the leftovers the next day.
- Only buy the appliances you really need, not just want. In fact, I found that many of my favorite kitchen gadgets don't use electricity at all.
- Purchase the smallest size appliance you need. For example, only large families need a toaster that browns four slices at once.
- Invest in an Instant Pot that cooks food in about one-third the time of the oven or stovetop with fewer dishes to wash. Make large quantities of soups or stews for the freezer.
Stop Wasting Energy Doing Laundry
- Buy energy efficient appliances. ENERGY STAR clothes washers consume 25% less energy and 45% less water than conventional ones.
- Hang clothes to air dry (at least sometimes) instead of using a clothes dryer.
- Only wash full loads of laundry and use cold water whenever possible.
How Electronics Use More Energy Than Necessary
- Unplug electronics because even when off, TVs, microwaves, scanners and printers use standby power. Learn how to tame these energy vampires.
- Make it easy to turn off electronics by using power strips. By plugging multiple devices into one power strip, you only have to turn the strip
- Unplug chargers because some still pull small amounts of energy when left plugged in. If it feels warm even when not charging a device, it’s using energy.
Home Office Tips to Lower Energy Usage
- Reduce paper waste and energy use by limiting what you print out at work and at home.
- Even when working at home, use turning off the lights and computer to end your work day.
- Use a power strip for all your home office devices, making it easier to turn them on and off together. When buying power strips, remember:
- Never plug one power strip into another power strip which can potentially cause a strip to fail or even catch fire.
- Only buy power strips that include a surge protector for added protection.
- Consider how to arrange your devices and how long the cord needs to be. Get one with extra outlets (widely spaced) plus USB charging ports.
- Ready for a smart power strip? Kasa's Smart Plug power strip allows you to control outlets individually with Alexa or Google Home.