There are lots of big ideas out there about how humanity can reduce its energy demands in order to conserve our precious resources. Things like switching to solar energy, driving hybrid cars, installing mag-rail public transportation systems in cities, and building high rise agriculture operations. But one of the most impactful things we can each do individually to lower our energy usage is to make simple, inexpensive changes to the way we do things around the house.
These ten tips will not only help reduce your carbon footprint, they’ll also save you lots of money over time on your energy bills, AND extend the life of some of your most used appliances.
- Air dry your clothes. Air drying your clothes can help you save on energy costs year-round by reducing your dryer use, but in the hot summer months it saves you even more. Large appliances like dryers are a major source of heat in your home, and running them while the air conditioning is on makes the AC work harder to cool your home, thereby increasing your electric bill. You can dry clothes outside in your yard or on a balcony with a clothesline, of course, but if the weather is wet, or if you just don’t have the outdoor space, you can always hang clothes from hangers on your shower curtain rod, or invest in a small wooden clothes drying rack for indoor use.
- Seal drafts. Your heating and cooling systems work hard to keep your house at a comfortable temperature year round. Help them out by keeping that heated or cooled air inside! Use caulk or insulating tape to seal drafts around doors, windows, and vents. If your windows are extra drafty, cover them with clear plastic in the winter. You’ll save a lot of money, and the planet will thank you for your effort!
- Switch to LED light bulbs. Replacing just one incandescent bulb with an LED can save you around $4-5 per year. Replace every bulb in your house, and—well, you can do the math. LEDs are inexpensive to buy, so you can make your money back in a year or less with those electric bill savings.
- Insulate your water heater. Especially if your water heater is older, insulating it can really help cut down on energy costs. Blankets made especially for water heater insulation can be purchased inexpensively at any hardware or home improvement store.
- Keep your vents clean. It’s not something you often think about, since many heating and cooling vents are situated out of sight in your home. But all those dust bunnies collecting on those hidden vent covers are blocking the warm or cool air, making your heating and cooling systems struggle harder to deliver comfortable temperatures. So add it to your monthly cleaning list: vacuum or dust the vent covers and the inside of the vents.
- Be efficient with your clothes and dish washing. Laundry and dishes have to be cleaned several times a week in most homes, if not daily. But the way you load your machines can have a big impact on how much energy you’re using in the process. If you want to save on energy costs, try to always run full loads in both the clothes washer and the dishwasher. Wear items like jeans and jackets multiple times before washing. And figure out how to load your dishwasher so that the hot water can reach every item, thereby avoiding having to wash things twice.
- Reduce phantom loads. Many household electronic devices pull power from the grid even when they’re not in use. Things like computers, video game consoles, stereos, coffee makers, etc. will suck up energy unless they are turned off. It can be a pain to remember to turn every single device off whenever you’re not using it, though. A good idea is to plug as many devices as possible into one power strip, and turn the power strip off when you leave the room.
- Use the microwave or toaster oven. Full size ovens use a lot of power. Unless you’re making a huge casserole, a pizza, a cake, or a Thanksgiving turkey, chances are you can fit whatever you’re cooking into a toaster oven or microwave. These small appliances use much less energy than your oven. Crock pots are also great for saving on cooking-related energy costs.
- Plant trees. If you own your home, it can be a great idea to plant deciduous trees around your yard in strategic places. As they grow bigger, they will shield your windows from the hot summer sun, but in the winter, their bare branches will allow the warming rays through.
- Clean your refrigerator coils. Just like heating and cooling vents, refrigerator coils can gather a lot of dust without anyone ever noticing. And that’s not good for your electric bill, or your carbon footprint. Clean your refrigerator coils (located on the bottom or back of the appliance) once a month to every two months. You’ll reduce your bill and extend the life of your refrigerator while you’re at it!