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Reduce energy in your home to save money
Decreasing electricity usage can be money in the bank
Many people are looking for ways to cut back. Saving energy is one way that a good amount of money can be saved over the long term. Whether you are trying to be green, or just trying to save some money, I'm going to discuss a number of ways to save money by reducing electricity. The ways to save electricity seems endless - too many for me to cover, but I will try to hit on a bunch of them. Hopefully this helps you be more mindful of reducing electricity as a way to save money.
The easy/inexpensive ways
The suggestions in this category really involve changing habits and being more aware of wasted electricity. So, here it goes. It sounds like common sense, but turn lights, fans, TV's, and other electronics off while not actually using them. Fans don't cool people if the people aren't in the area that the fan is operating. Even the newer greener fans are a waste of money when being operated in an empty room.
Many electronic devices consume power even when they are turned off. Unplugging these devices will save wasted electricity. If you have multiple electronic devices that are used together, you could plug them into a power strip. Simply turn off the whole strip when the items are not in use. Gaming consoles are another big power draw. Turning off an idle PS3/XBox can save a lot of energy. Also, change the power settings on the system to automatically turn the system off after idling for a period.
If you have an easily accessible hot water tank, adjust the thermostat when it won't be used over a long period of time, such as a vacation. There's no point keeping a big tank of hot water for an extended period of time when it won't be used. Many newer models are simple to adjust, which makes it much less of a hassle.
In the summer when the blazing and relentless sun is trying to penetrate your home, keep curtains or blinds shut during the day to reduce heat infiltration. In the evening when it is dark, they can be opened to let heat escape. This will help reduce air conditioner usage, or simply keep your home cooler. Every bit helps. In the winter, the opposite should be done. Let the sun enter through the windows to help warm rooms. In the evening, close windows to try to trap the heat in. This will help reduce the running of heaters to keep rooms warm.
Fairly inexpensive ways
Switching to low-energy light bulbs and fixtures can be expensive. However, not only do these bulbs use significantly less electricity than traditional incandescent bulbs, they also produce much less heat, which in turn helps reduce cooling costs. Once you hit the breakeven point of the expenditure of installing CFL or LED bulbs, they can save a pretty good chunk of electricity and money. Also. dimmable compact fluorescent light bulbs are available for fixtures that have dimmers. They are typically a little more expensive, and not as readily available though.
Sealing your home can help save on both heating and cooling costs. Weather-stripping, caulk, and foam sealers can all be used to keep hot or cold air out of your home. Windows and doors can be big energy leaks. Inspect them to see if weather-seal may be beneficial. Air that escapes your home is wasted and causes your air conditioner or heating system to work harder and use more electricity. This is an inexpensive project that can have a big impact on heating or cooling bills.
A house painted with a light color, such as white, will stay cooler in the summer. The color will reflect heat away from the home rather than absorbing it. If your house is a dark color, and it is time to paint, consider changing to a light color. This single change may reduce air conditioner usage drastically in the summer.
Using passive cooling techniques can help keep your home cooler in the summer. Planting shade trees at an appropriate distance to provide shade to your home reduces the heat absorbed through walls or the roof of a home. Shrubs can be planted close to a house to provide a barrier from heat and act as insulation on the outside. Vines can also be used on a structure such as lattice, or even directly on a house (depending on the house and type of vine). Some vines are fast growing and make an impact quickly. Additionally, plants or vines planted close to walls can have a cooling effect. This works best on the south and west-facing walls. Consider giving your outside air conditioner unit a break - adding shade to it can help the efficiency of it. Shading it with a shrub or tree may help reduce how hard the unit has to work to cool air into your home.
A programmable thermostat is a convenient way to cut back on cooling and heating, and only use it when you want it. Programmable thermostats are available that can be configured by the day to turn the air conditioner or heater on and off multiple times. For example, the system can be set to turn off at the time you leave for work, and set to turn off shortly before you normally arrive home. Or you could set it to adjust throughout the night when you are asleep. There are even programmable thermostats available that can be connected to Wi-Fi and can be controlled remotely over the internet. That way you can turn your air conditioner on or off remotely to suit your needs.
More expensive improvements
Some of these energy-reducing efforts cost a substantial amount of money. I can say from experience that the reduction in the monthly electric bill is substantial as well for these purchases. Cooling comprises a huge portion of electric bills in some parts of the country. If your air conditioner is older or in need of expensive repair, consider replacing it with a newer and more energy efficient system. You may be eligible for rebates or tax credits, which help make the cost more affordable. From the point that your system is installed, you'll likely see a much lower electric bill in the warmer months.
Improving the insulation of your home improves both cooling and heating efficiency of your home. This is a possible DIY project, as many hardware stores rent equipment to blow insulation. If not, this is a relatively inexpensive way to greatly improve the comfort in your home by making temperatures more stable, and less susceptible to large fluctuations. This is one of the best bang for the buck improvements I can think of. On top of that, there may be tax incentives for completing this improvement.
If you are replacing a garage door, consider purchasing one with insulation. Garage doors are available at various levels of insulation. This can help keep the temperatures in your garage reasonable throughout the seasons. It makes sense to try to keep your garage at reasonable temperatures so that the hot or cold air is not making its way into your house. Of course this can be expensive, but buying an insulated garage door instead of a non-insulated or lightly-insulated door may not be a huge increase money.
Hot water heaters are another big source of electricity usage in most homes. Newer models are more energy efficient and have better insulation than older ones. That means that the water will be heated more efficiently, and then held at the hot temperature better due to the improved insulation. Insulation "blankets", which help hold heat in the tank, are available and may be helpful for older, less energy efficient models. Tankless hot water heaters are also available as an alternative to traditional tank water heaters. They are more expensive than tank water heaters. They are available in electric and gas-powered. However, gas-powered is likely to perform much better than electric.
Appliances that are Energy Star rated offer better energy savings and are more efficient that non-Energy Star models, or older models. Front-loading washing machines are significantly more efficient than older top-loaders. Front-loading machines typically use about a third less energy than top-loading ones. They use about a third less water, which means that your hot water heater doesn't have to heat as much water to be used in the machine.
Check it out for yourself
If you want to find out how much electricity a particular light, device, or appliance is using, there are products available that allow you to do this easily. The "Kill A Watt" is an example of these products. You simply plug the unit into a wall outlet and then plug the device that you want to test into the "Kill A Watt". This will give you a variety of readings about the electricity usage. It can also be set to monitor devices or appliances over extended periods of time. You can enter your local power rates into the "Kill A Watt" and it will report an estimate of how much money it costs to operate the device that is plugged in, even over a range of time. You will be amazed by how much energy certain things you use.