Energy Wise

U.S. households account for 17 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Here are some ways to save both energy and dollars in your home:

Watch the heat

Home heating accounts for the biggest portion of household utility bills, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Check for leaks and drafts around windows and doors. Add caulking and weather stripping to fix drafty areas.

  • Turn your thermostat back 10 to 15 percent for eight hours a day. Not only will you conserve resources, but it can cut heating bills by as much as 10 percent. During the winter, keep thermostats at or below 68° F. During the summer, keep thermostats at or above 78° F. Install a programmable thermostat that can adjust temperature when no one is home. (Remember to update the timings if you’re going out of town or if your day-to-day schedule changes significantly.)
  • Close the fireplace flue damper if the fireplace is not in use.
  • Clean and replace air filters. Dirty filters make air conditioners and furnaces work harder.

Stay out of hot water

Heating water is another significant source of energy use within homes. To reduce hot water use:

  • Set your water heater thermostat to the lowest temperature needed to provide sufficient hot water. While thermostats are often set at 140° F, 120° F will typically provide sufficient hot water for household needs.
  • Set your washer to use cold or warm water, not hot.
  • Install low-flow shower heads and take shorter showers.
  • Wrap your water heater in an insulating jacket to keep heat from escaping.
  • Turn faucets to cold water when using small amounts of water.

Beware of energy vampires

Some of the biggest wasters in homes are “vampire” electronics — appliances and devices that use energy even when they aren’t actively being used. Microwaves, DVD players and any other device with a digital clock use electricity even when not in use to keep the digital clock running. And even if your computer is “asleep,” it’s still using electricity.

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimate that standby power accounts for up to 10 percent of household consumption. You can save that energy by unplugging appliances and devices when they’re not in use.

Other handy tips

  • Clean the dryer’s lint filter after each use.
  • Dry full loads, but don’t overload the machine.
  • Set refrigerator temperatures to 37° F and freezer temperatures to 3° F. If your refrigerator has an energy saver switch, be sure it is turned on.
  • Run your dishwasher when it is full. Allow dishes to air dry. Not using heat in the drying cycle can save about 20 percent of your dishwasher’s total energy use.
  • Replace light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights, which last longer and use less than half the energy of traditional incandescent bulbs.
  • Choose appliances with the U.S. DOE’s ENERGY STAR® label.

Don’t forget to recycle

By now consumers are used to seeing the small triangle that indicates an item is recyclable. And, most communities have curbside or drop off recycling locations. Recycling reduces waste sent to landfills, conserves natural resources, and prevents pollution associated with collecting new raw resources. For example, according to the EPA, recycling 1 ton of paper saves 17 trees and 7,000 gallons of water.

Recycling also saves significant energy. Keeping one glass bottle from the garbage saves enough energy to light a 100-watt light bulb for four hours, according to the EPA. One recycled aluminum can saves enough energy to run a TV for three hours. As with conservation in your home, even a small recycling effort can have big results.

This article by Tonya McMurray and other articles related to clean and efficient energy may be found in our Spring/Summer issue of Natural Living. For more energy saving tips, see energysaver.gov.