Believe it or not, improving your home’s energy efficiency doesn’t require an advanced energy science degree. It’s really just a matter of being more aware of choices and recognizing whether they save or waste energy. Individually, some energy-wasting practices might not amount to much, but when you add them all together, you’ll gain a better picture of how how much you could save. To help you live Live Brighter, our “Energy Efficiency ‘Round the Home” series will showcase ways you can lower your home energy usage and possible reduce your monthly energy bill.
Energy Efficiency in the Bedroom
Our bedrooms are supposed to be comfortable places that provide us sanctuary and rest from the daily tumult of living. We want them to be comfortable and soothing. Yet, while bedrooms aren’t the biggest energy using rooms in your home, we want to help you reduce your energy bill AND get a good night’s sleep.
Switch out your money-burning incandescent and halogen bulbs to energy-efficient LED lighting. And when shopping for those LED bulbs for your bedroom, you want lighting that won’t interfere with your natural circadian rhythm.
Cool blue-white or “Daylight” bulbs (color temperature of 4,100° Kelvin or higher) have been shown to suppress melatonin at bedtime. Just being exposed to blue-white light for a short period of time before bedtime reduces sleep time by several minutes. Instead, select warmer amber or orange color temperature (2700° K) bulbs, especially for reading lamps, to provide subdued lighting that will encourage sleep.
- Old, drafty windows not only waste energy, they also encourage mold growth during cold weather and during rough weather can rattle noisily at night. Replacing these with EnergyStar rated windows cuts drafts and will take care of the noise.
- If you have newer windows or valuable antique windows, they might just need a little maintenance. Check over and replace worn weather stripping and look for broken seals around the outside frame. Reseal these with caulk. Look for other signs of wear and tear such as loose glazing, not closing properly, or gaps where sashes meet and repair as needed.
- Use curtains to reduce drafts, insulate, and block out exterior light. Insulated curtains reduce a room’s heat loss by 10% in the winter and cut summer heat gain by 33%. Remember that heavy drapes collect dust, so it’s important to regularly wash your drapes to clean off allergens and kill off dust mites.
- If you have a room-sized window air conditioner more than 5 years old, replace it with an EnergyStar rated one to use about 15% less energy. Also get the right “sized” air conditioner. Properly sized air conditioners will keep the room cool and dehumidify it. A larger size might cool the room, but it will shut off before dehumidifying.
- Keep air supply and return vents clean and free from obstructions. Blocked or closed off ventilation makes heating and cooling your bedroom more difficult and can trap dust.
- Keep closet doors closed. These spaces are for storage and don’t need much heating or cooling.
- Set your thermostat higher in summer while you sleep, cooler in winter. As it turns out the human body tends to lose 1-2° F (1° C) of heat when sleeping, and this helps ensure a good night’s sleep. In summer, use fewer covers on your bed, while in winter, add an extra blanket or comforter to keep you comfortable but not over-heated.
- Avoid relying on space heaters during cold weather. Not only do they increase your energy bill, they also are a potential fire hazard.
Televisions, Technology, and Sleep Trouble
Of course, your life doesn’t just curl up outside your bedroom door when the day is done. All the same, our modern addiction to technology shows some disturbing habits that are interfering with getting enough sleep:
- The National Sleep Foundation says that that 95 percent of people use an electronic device (television, computer, phone, or tablet) within one hour of bedtime. One in five adults tackles work-related emails before bed.
- According to the Nielsen Company, about 54% of homes in the U.S. had three or more television sets in 2009 —one being in the bedroom. Ten percent of all gaming consoles are in master bedrooms, 19% are in kid’s bedrooms.
- One quarter of Americans admitted to falling asleep in bed with their smartphone in their hand; the rate is nearly double (44%) for younger millennials (ages 18-24). In a Bank of America poll, of respondents to the question “Where is your mobile phone at night?”, half answered “On the nightstand”, 13% said “On the bed”, and 3% answered “In my hand”.
As already mentioned, the blue-white light emitted from televisions, computers, phones, and tablets reduces the production of sleep-inducing hormones that help you fall asleep, and it may also have longer-lasting health effects. Many people really like having a television in their bedroom and the convenience of having their technology near as possible.
Looking at the issue in terms of energy efficiency, electronics (like big televisions) are by far the biggest energy user in the room, so turning off all electronics one hour before bedtime saves energy AND improves your sleep hygiene.
Still, habits can be hard to break. Fortunately, there are a few ways you can improve your TV and tech efficiency in the bedroom a little bit more:
- Purchase an Energy Star television with a timer feature. Some allow you to set a specific time, others allow you to set a shut down time after a certain interval.
- Use a smart power strip to completely shut off the standby power used by televisions, game consoles, and computers.
- Set up your device charging station in another room, such as the living room or kitchen. Plug your phone in its charger before you go to bed and unplug it when you arise. That way, you can banish your daily life outside your bedroom to some extent and get a healthy good night’s sleep.
Media center controlling our electric bill? Let us console you! In our next edition of Energy Efficiency ‘Round the Home, we’ll show you that the living room is more than just a game!