Recent rises in energy costs have many households struggling to reduce their power consumption. The average American family spends $2,060 per year on utilities, with rates looking set to rise. Tweaking your energy usage and replacing outdated appliances are some of the best ways to decrease your energy consumption and reduce your monthly power bill.
#1 Switch Your HVAC System
Annually, air conditioners consume around 6% of the energy produced in the United States, costing homeowners approximately $29 billion. Many homes are equipped with outdated central air conditioning, which can lose energy through ductwork and cause problems with your indoor air quality. Ductless air conditioners like the MRCOOL DIY Mini Split system are an energy-efficient alternative that can help you save on your utility bills.
Ductless mini splits operate without ductwork, so no extensive renovations are needed to update your home. They use an indoor handler unit and an outdoor condenser to remove warm air from your home and recirculate cool air inside. Many models also feature HEPA-grade filters, air purifiers and humidity control to improve indoor air quality. Choose an Energy-Star-rated mini split system with a SEER rating of more than 20 for the most energy-efficient model. To meet testing standards, air conditioners must have a minimum SEER rating of 15 in most regions of the country.
#2 Check Window and Door Seals
Heat loss and gain from poorly sealed windows and doors can strain your HVAC system, causing it to consume more energy to heat and cool your home. Weatherstripping your doors and windows creates an airtight seal to reduce airflow and heat convection so your HVAC system functions optimally, decreasing your energy bills. There are several weatherstripping options, including caulk, magnets, tension seals and reinforced foam, that vary in efficacy and price. Consult a general contractor to find out which is the right method for your home.
#3 Change to Energy-Saving Bulbs
While switching off lights when you leave a room is a quick and easy way to save a few dollars on your energy bill, replacing the bulbs in your lighting fixtures with energy-efficient LED bulbs can help you save hundreds of dollars every year. LED bulbs use around 90% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and can last approximately 25 times longer. This can save your home up to $225 each year. You can also equip LED bulb light fixtures with dimmers to lower light levels and reduce energy consumption. Or install a light timer that switches off after a certain amount of time has elapsed. Motion sensor lights are another excellent option for outdoor fixtures. You can also find solar-powered LED lights, perfect for lighting garden paths, porches and steps.
#4 Turn Off Stand-By Appliances
When it comes to saving energy, every little bit counts. Your home’s phantom load (the energy consumed by an electronic device while in standby mode) costs the average American household $100 each year. Standby refers to an appliance’s rest mode. Almost every appliance that uses an external power supply, from your laptop to your microwave, continuously draws power unless it is unplugged or shut off at the main supply.
While one or two appliances need to remain plugged in, like your fridge or freezer, you can reduce the phantom load in your home by unplugging your devices (and their chargers) when not in use. If the number of appliances in your home makes this inconvenient, consider plugging the devices into a power strip. Plug all related devices into the power strip, such as your TV, cable box, and DVD player, and then simply unplug or switch off the power strip.
#5 Purchase Energy-Efficient Appliances
If you have outdated appliances and are ready to replace them, consider buying energy-efficient models. People are often reluctant to purchase energy-efficient home and kitchen appliances because they typically have a higher upfront cost. However, they can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars in utility bills over the appliance’s life, and you are often eligible for tax breaks and rebates when you buy Energy Star products.
Invest in Energy-Star-certified outdoor kitchen packages if you are renovating your outdoor area. This can help you save money during the summer when yearly energy demands peak. Energy Star products are independently tested and certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure that each product delivers the efficient performance and savings consumers expect.
#6 Adjust the Temperature on the Water Heater
According to the Department of Energy, heating your water is your home’s second-largest energy expense, accounting for up to 18% of your total utility bill. Most water heaters are set to 140°F, per factory specifications. However, lowering your water heater to 120°F can save between 4% and 22% on your energy bill without impacting your comfort. Several other reasons to lower your water heater temperature include avoiding scalding and burns and reducing hard mineral buildup in your pipes.
To adjust your hot water heater, turn the power to the water heater off at the circuit breaker for safety. Some models have a dial that you can use to change the temperature without needing any tools. However, in some cases, you may need to remove the access panel using a screwdriver, and then use a flathead to turn the thermostat up or down. If your model has two thermostats, ensure they are set to the same temperature. If in doubt, refer to the manufacturer’s instructions or user manual.
#7 Install Low-Flow Shower Heads
In addition to reducing your water temperature, you can limit your hot water consumption to save on your energy bills. Install low-flow shower heads and faucets with the EPA’s WaterSense label. These shower heads use less than two gallons per minute (gpm) compared with a standard model that uses over 2.5 gpm. Low-flow shower heads don’t mean poor water pressure. These models use two mechanisms to control the flow rate: aeration and laminar. Aerated heads force the water through a fine-mesh screen, mixing air with the water, creating a high-pressure spray. Laminar shower heads distribute water in larger individual streams and are often marketed as rainfall shower heads or massage heads.
Save Money and Save the Planet
Reducing your energy consumption isn’t just good for your wallet; you also protect the environment by decreasing emissions and your overall carbon footprint. Making simple changes to how you use your appliances today can ensure a greener planet for future generations.