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How to Minimize Energy Use at Home

Your home relies on energy for heating and cooling, lighting, powering all of your electronics, and heating your water. Conserving energy is important, especially in today’s world, where there is an environmental crisis going on. If you are like many other people, you are searching for ways to reduce energy use at home without having to spend thousands of dollars on energy savings improvements. The good news is there are a number of ways to save the earth and save energy while lowering your energy use. In most situations, simply combining inexpensive improvements and adopting better habits will help to reduce energy use. Here are some easy and effective ways to minimize energy use at home.

Maintain and Audit

One of the best ways to minimize energy use at home is with routine maintenance and professional audits. Many utility companies offer energy audits free of charge, which can be beneficial in determining how much energy your house uses and recommendations for ways to increase efficiency. Contact the utility company that provides your electrical services to schedule an audit of your home’s energy use, and before you know it, you’ll be saving 5 to 30 percent on utility bills. Routine maintenance isn’t only beneficial for reducing energy, but it is an excellent way of troubleshooting potential problems that may end up costing you thousands of dollars in repairs. Maintaining your large appliances, such as the HVAC unit, washer and dryer, and the refrigerator will help reduce their need to work harder, which can lead to higher than usual energy bills.

Adjust the Thermostat

If you are searching for a way to minimize energy use at home and reduce the cost of your heating oil, a great place to start is with your thermostat. Many homes save as much as 10 percent a year on their heating and cooling costs by simply turning the thermostat down by seven degrees for eight hours. This can be the time when you are away from home or sleeping. For an average-sized home, setting the thermostat at 68 degrees instead of 72 during the winter and 75 degrees instead of 72 in the summer may save you 12-16 percent annually on your heating and cooling costs. Another easy way to reduce the amount of heating oil your home uses is to take advantage of the sunlight. During the daytime, if you have a window that gets direct sunlight for a few hours each day, you can use the sunlight to warm your home, just remember to close the drapes before the sun goes down to help retain the heat.

Give Your Water Heater a Jacket

An inexpensive way to minimize your energy use at home is to give your electric water heater a jacket. A jacket designed to wrap around and insulate an electric water heater will usually cost under $30 and the installation is a simple DIY project that you can do in an hour or less. Studies have shown that insulating an electric water heater tank may save as much as 16 percent per year. So, if it typically costs around $440 per year to operate the water heater, an insulating jacket can help save about $70 per year. For even more savings, you may want to consider replacing your electric water heater with a heat pump water heater. You can also reduce energy use by reducing the water heater thermostat to 140 degrees, which is the minimum needed to prevent bacterial growth while providing you with water that is hot enough for cleaning and bathing.

Switch to Energy Saving Light Bulbs

Most people aren’t aware of how much of a difference something as small as switching out their light bulbs can have on their energy costs. Whether you are using electric generators to light up your home or traditional power, switching to energy-efficient bulbs can help to reduce your energy costs by as much as $4 per bulb. It would also be wise to have emergency generators on standby if your power to go out. Replacing your incandescent bulbs with CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs) is one of the easiest and quickest ways to minimize energy use at home. CFLs also typically last up to 10 times longer than traditional bulbs, which will help save additional costs in electricity use.

Eliminate Energy Vampires

If you have been diligent about turning off lights as you leave a room, turning down the thermostat, and limiting shower time, but you are still getting high energy bills, it may be due to energy vampires. Energy vampires are appliances that remain plugged in when they aren’t in use. Keeping devices, such as computers, phones, an electric heater, toaster, and even the coffee maker plugged in when you aren’t using them will consume a lot of energy even when the device is turned off. Most modern devices, such as televisions and computers have a built-in memory chip that resets everything when it’s powered back up, so you don’t have to worry about losing settings.

Replace the Roof

If you are looking for one of the best ways to minimize energy use at home, it may be time to look up at the roof. Your roof is the best defense against the winter cold and the summer heat. A poorly insulated, low-efficiency roof can let out too much heat in the winter and let in too much heat in the summer, resulting in extremely large energy costs. If you don’t have the budget to replace the roof with a newer, more energy-efficient option, a roof coating is another option. Roof coating is a product that is applied by a roof coating contractor. The coating helps to make the roof reflective, which will reduce the temperature on the surface of the roof, which in turn will prevent heat from seeping in and cool air from escaping.

Toilets, Pipes, and Faucets

One of the best places you can minimize energy use at home is with the plumbing. Addressing plumbing issues will not only save on energy costs but will also help to significantly reduce your water consumption and the cost of your water bill. The first place to start is with the toilet. If the toilet is running when it’s not being used, it may be due to a leaky flapper, which causes more problems than simply being annoying; it can waste up to 200 gallons of water each day. Replacing the flapper will generally cost you less than $10, but it will save you about $50 a month. Calling a plumber to replace existing faucets, showerheads, and toilets with low-flow, energy-efficient ones can help to reduce your water bill by as much as 20 percent. Another way your plumber can help you reduce utility costs is by insulating the plumbing pipes in your home and inspecting all water lines for leaks.

Geothermal Heating and Cooling

A highly effective way to minimize energy use at home, while effectively heating and cooling all rooms in your home is with geothermal heating and cooling. The system uses the Earth’s energy to provide heating and cooling to your home. Just a few feet below the surface of the earth, the temperature remains consistent throughout the year, so the installation of a geothermal system will help your home maintain the same temperature year-round. You do not need another heating or cooling source, and you don’t need a solar appliance, all you have to do is have the geothermal system installed, and you will have comfortable temperatures in the summer and the winter.

Energy Efficient Doors and Windows

Whether you are considering replacing the doors and windows in your home for aesthetic reasons or because they have come to the end of the lifespan, replacing them with vinyl doors and windows can help to significantly minimize energy use at home. Windows and doors that are manufactured from vinyl will help you not only help you save on the cost for cooling and heating, but they are durable and long-lasting, don’t require painting or staining, and are quick and easy to install. Vinyl doors and windows have moderate to high R-values, which means they are resistant to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the greater the heat resistance and the higher the energy efficiency is.

Insulate the Attic

If you run your air conditioner or heater most days, you may save a significant amount of money by insulating the attic. Upgrading the insulation in the attic from R-11 (standard insulation rating) to R-49 is a low-cost, DIY project that you can do in a day or two, but it will save you about $600 a year on your cooling and heating your home, depending on where you live and the type of heat you have. Upgrading the insulation will also increase the resale value of your home should you decide to sell it in the future.

Change the Furnace Filter

Regardless of whether you have an electric heater or a gas heater, the device has a filter that must be routinely cleaned or changed. It is recommended that the furnace filter be changed every month unless you have pets or live in a dusty area, then it should be changed more frequently. A dirty furnace filter causes your heater to work harder than it needs to, which in turn will increase the cost of your energy use. Another way to ensure you are taking steps to minimize energy use at home is with routine maintenance and annual tune-ups for your HVAC system. The better the system is running, the less work it will be for the system to heat and cool your home, which means you will have a comfortable temperature all year round and save money on energy costs.

Washing and Drying Laundry

If you are washing and rinsing your clothes in hot water, you are wasting a lot of money heating the water. Although it may be somewhat inexpensive to operate the washing machine, it does require a lot of energy for an electric water heater to heat all of that water. Instead, wash your clothes in cold water, which will still get your clothes clean, but save you on the cost of heating the water. If you do have to wash a load in hot water, switch the rinse cycle to warm or cold. Be sure to not overstuff the washer, especially if you intend on putting the load in the dryer. If your dryer has a cool-down setting, be sure to use it, because it will allow the remaining heat in the dryer drum when the cycle ends to finish drying the clothes without using much energy. Installing a clothesline will allow you to dry your clothes for free by using solar power instead of electricity.

Plant Some Trees

Planting just a few trees around your house is an excellent environmentally-friendly way to insulate your home. Trees will help to boost the insulation in your home, by providing enough shade to cool your home. For the best results, it’s recommended that trees and shrubs be planted about 12-inches from your home’s exterior. If you do choose to plant a few new trees and shrubs, it will help to improve the aesthetics of your home as well, but it’s important to remember to keep all trees and shrubs trimmed and well maintained to prevent the risk of damage to windows and the roof.

Being energy efficient and learning to minimize energy use at home isn’t difficult. You just have to focus on the small things that you do on a day-to-day basis and try not to be wasteful when it comes to energy use. Small changes like turning off the lights, replacing the light bulbs, and limiting your time in a hot shower are all great ways to start noticing a decrease in your energy costs. The more often you notice a drop in energy costs, the more excited you will be to try other ways of reducing energy, and before you know it, your energy bill will noticeably smaller.

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