If increasing your home’s energy efficiency to reduce your electricity bill is one of your New Year’s Resolutions, you’re in luck! We put together a list of energy efficiency improvements that not only save you money but are also really, really — and by the way, did I mention REALLY — easy to do. Yes, they’ll take a little planning, and some will even be a little messy, but they will make a difference to your monthly energy bills and even improve your home’s comfort. Here’s our 6 Easy Energy Efficiency New Year’s Resolutions.
1. Plan how you can save money on doing laundry.
The average American family washes about 300 loads of laundry each year. Washing clothes alone can use between 14 and 40 gallons of water per load. Add in the price of heating water and the cost of running an electric dryer for one per load, and you can see how the different energy costs contribute to the cost over one year: about $300. Of course, there are a few simple things you can do to reduce that burden.
- Install a hot water heater jacket and pipe insulation. Both jacket and insulation are incredibly cheap but they help keep more water warm for a longer period of time.
- Wash full loads only. Small loads use much more energy than a single full load. Therefore, be sure to wash full loads of like fabrics.
- Do more washing in cold water. Use the right amount of detergent per load. Most detergents are now formulated to work fine in cold water — so long as the water is above 65°F so that the detergent will activate. Use hot water only when you need to sanitize fabrics.
- Clean out your washing machine monthly, and your dryer yearly. Dirt, lint, and soap scum collect in plumbing traps and build up on the sides and top edges of the wash tub. Front-loading machines need routine cleaning around door gaskets to both ensure a water-tight seal and to kill mold or mildew. Meanwhile, dryer lint clogs reduces the air temperature in the dryer, traps moisture, and makes the dryer run much, much longer — costing you a lot more money. Clean machines do a better job cleaning your clothing.
- Stop relying on your dryer. At night, use drying racks and fans instead. Hang your clothing on drying racks or even doorways in a hall and set a fan to blow on them over night. Your clothing will gently dry over night, take less damage from tumbling and twisting about in a dryer, and use far less energy.
2. Be more mindful of your HVAC system.
Your furnace and air conditioning heats, cools, and circulates air in your home to keep it comfortable. Anything that interferes with heating, cooling, or circulating that air reduces the HVAC’s efficiency.
- Inspect and seal leaky ductwork. Vibration and poor installation techniques are often the things that cause badly sealed or leaky ductwork — even in new homes. Duct work, especially flex-duct, should be adequately supported without kinks or constrictions that impede airflow. Look for loose connections and reattach these with screws and seal with aluminum duct tape or duct mastic. Holes can be sealed with caulk.
- Check that furniture or carpeting is not blocking the supply and return vents. Keep the air flowing unimpeded to ensure your heating or cooling system isn’t overworking to pull air into the system and to push it out again.
- Change the air filter. It is recommended to change your air filters every 1-3 months OR according to the manufacturer’s recommendation.
- Sign up for a HVAC check up. Seasonal inspections by a trained HVAC technician can catch problems with your heating or cooling systems before they stop your furnace cold.
3. Plan how to switch all your bulbs to LED light bulbs.
Most homeowners have already gotten rid the old energy devouring incandescent bulbs. While CFL bulbs do use less energy, LED bulbs are even more efficient with more lumens/watt and last decades. If you’re not sure where to begin switching over bulbs, keep these things in mind:
- Prioritize the lights you use the most. Swap in LED bulbs into those light fixtures as their CFLs burn out.
- CFLs don’t always perform well in cold weather. Swap your outdoors lighting with LED light bulbs instead.
- CFLs don’t tolerate constant vibration or frequent off/on switching. LED light bulbs can handle this rough service much better.
4. Be more mindful of using ceiling fans.
- Reverse fan direction in the winter. This helps to circulate heated air through out the room.
- In summer, only turn on the ceiling fans when you are using the room. Ceiling fans don’t cool the air but their breeze makes you feel cooler. So having the fan on for an empty room means wasting electricity and higher bills.
- Clean the blades monthly. Blades collect dust, pet dander, and allergens. Cleaning these off allows the fan to spin more freely.
5. Plan to replace your oldest appliance.
If one of your major appliances (refrigerator, washer, dishwasher, water heater, etc) is more than 10 years old, there’s a very good chance that a new EnergyStar qualified model will use 20% to 50% less energy. But if you want to really know how much the savings can be, check out Energy.gov’s Appliance Energy Calculator to find out. EnergyStar appliances are competitively priced with non-qualified appliances, PLUS many local utilities offer rebates when you purchase an EnergyStar appliance.
6 . Plan to install a smart thermostat.
While programmable thermostats offer the convenience of setting an energy saving schedule for your home’s heating and cooling, smart thermostats bring additional control, flexibility, and more savings through usage data analysis. The Nest Thermostat learns from you to program itself and could help you save an average of 10-12% on heating bills and 15% on cooling bills. Right now, you can sign up for Direct Energy’s Comfort and Control Plan which gives you a great fixed rate and a new 3rd generation Nest Learning Thermostat at no cost (a $249 value).