Many suggested ways to save energy require a cash outlay for devices that will reduce energy use, such as programmable thermostats or low-flow shower heads. These appliances are useful in reducing overall energy consumption, but many people would like some simple and practical ways to cut their home energy bills without spending a dime.
Most residential energy costs are spent for heating and cooling. Adjusting the thermostat by only a few degrees can make a big difference in both winter and summer.
Cold Weather Adjustments
In cold weather, lower the thermostat setting to 70 or lower. Reducing the home temperature by a few degrees at a time in stages will give the family time to adjust to the new lower temperature. Dress for the new normal. Extra layers conserve body heat and make you feel more comfortable.
Open curtains on sunny days and allow the sunshine in to warm your home. At night, close the curtains to add a layer of insulation at the windows and keep cold air from the room. Lower the thermostat at night or during the day when everyone is away.
Hot Weather Adjustments
In hot weather, do the reverse—set the air conditioner thermostat at a higher setting. When you are away on vacation, raise the thermostat to 80 to 85 degrees.
Use ceiling fans or free-standing fans. Moving air makes you feel cooler. Draw curtains or close blinds on south and west facing windows to block sunlight, which raises interior temperatures significantly. On moderately warm days, open the windows and enjoy the fresh air.
Put a stop to losing the air that you’ve paid to either heat or cool. Locations where air can leak include electrical sockets on outside walls, around doors and windows, mail slots, and open fireplaces. Weather-stripping, caulking, and glass fireplace screens are ways to reduce this loss, but at a cost. The loss can also be addressed with old-fashioned methods, such as putting cloth “draft stoppers” along window ledges and under doors. Fabric tubes filled with batting or rice will work, but a rolled up towel will also serve. Covering windows and unused fireplace openings with plastic can also reduce the air exchange.
Choose pans that fit the burner size. Use lids while cooking to retain heat within the pot. Turn off electric burners just before the food is done and use the leftover burner heat to finish.
When practical, cook two or more items that require the same temperature in the oven at the same time. Convection ovens, which have fans to circulate hot air, cook more efficiently. If your oven has this option, learning to use it will pay off. Microwave ovens are also more energy efficient.
Plan to serve salads and other non-cooked dishes in summer as often as possible. When possible during the summer, cook earlier in the day to keep from adding more heat indoors during the hottest part of the day.
Use small appliances, such as slow cookers and electric skillets, to cook efficiently.
More Kitchen Tips
Run the dishwasher when it is full and use the short cycle when possible. Air drying also saves energy.
During hot weather, use the stove vent to draw hot air from the kitchen, but turn the vent off before it starts removing the air-conditioned air. In winter, conserve the heated air. Leave oven doors ajar after cooking to benefit from left over heat.
Use the lowest effective water temperature to wash. Most modern detergents clean well in cold water. Wash larger loads. An extra spin cycle for heaver fabrics will remove more water and allow a shorter drying cycle. Lighter weight fabrics will dry faster than heavier ones, so make dryer loads of similar fabric weight. Clean the dryer lint trap for each load to dry more effectively. Hang clothes outside to air dry when possible, with the added benefit of that sun-fresh smell.
Unplug unused appliances, including lamps. Most appliances draw current even when off. Turn lights off when not in use.
By implementing small ways to save energy, you can make a difference in your energy expenditure. It may take years to recoup the savings of large expenditures, such as for insulation, but the tips offered here cost nothing and can save you real money on energy bills.
Sam Jones writes about energy and environmental issues. He keeps a close eye on the energy suppliers and recommends that people use an energy comparison site to help move to a green or cheap gas and electric tariff