Learn how to make the most of the energy you consume, stretch your dollar the farthest you can, and shrink your footprint! This handy list of tips – courtesy of Missouri Wind and Solar – is full of simple but incredibly effective DIY measures you can take to reduce your energy bill by as much as 50%. We’ll be taking a look at the most energy intensive items around your home, as well as how you can improve their efficiency.
1. Shower heads
Did you know that the average shower head uses around 10 gallons of water per minute? If you’re like most Americans and you like your showers hot, that’s a lot of water to be heating each minute. In a 15 minute shower, you’ve heated 150 gallons of water – now that is energy expensive!
Conversely, a water-saving shower head uses only 1.5 gallons of water per minute. That means that in the same fifteen minute shower, only 22.5 gallons of water have been used. That’s 127.5 gallons of water saved, for an 85% reduction! Not only is this conservation of water more environmentally responsible, you’re also using way less energy to heat the water, which, after a month’s worth of showers [hopefully] really adds up in your favor!
When it comes to light bulbs, there’s quite a bit out there for consumers to choose from. The standard 75-watt incandescent is the more conventional choice, however it is far from the most energy efficient. By swapping these out for a compact fluorescent bulb, consumers can run 5 bulbs for the amount of energy expended by one 75-watt incandescent! Just check and make sure you’re not buying the orange variety – this tinted bulb gives off a harsh and unsightly colored glow. Other forward-thinking investment bulbs include the LED 10-watt variety and the LED 30-year design. LED 10-watt has an 8:1 efficiency output as compared to the 75-watt incandescent; the 30-year LED by comparison, runs 10:1.
3. DIY Insulation
You don’t have to spend hundreds to have your home sealed off for the hot summers and cold winters here in Missouri. Insulation is as simple, and as green, as installing a repurposed sheet of bubble wrap to your windows to keep the warm or cool air inside. 1″ bubble wrap is a common packaging material that is all-too-often used once and discarded. To get the most our of your wrap, simply cut to the size of your window, lightly mist window with water, and apply the flat side of the wrap to the wet glass. This simple installation will keep cold air from entering your home in the winter, and will keep hot air out in the summer, causing your heating and cooling to run less. It’s also a great way to find alternative destination for your plastic bubble wrap that does not involve the landfill – the same wrap can be used over and over for years!
*NOTE: If you’re not able to find any bubble wrap for this one, there are also plastic window kits specifically designed for home insulation that you can find at most stores.
4. Ceiling Fans
While we’re on the subject of heating and cooling, ceiling fans are another great tool for energy efficiency, often underutilized by Americans. They can really help you stretch your heating and cooling as far as it can go by following a few simple rules. The first thing most people don’t realize is that the direction of the blade spin actually does matter – a lot. In the summer, the fan should be set to rotate counterclockwise, clockwise in the winter [looking at the fan from the floor up]. A switch to change this setting is found on the body of the fan in most models, as pictured below.
In the winter, never set the fan above the “low” setting, as any higher will cool the air inside. On this low setting, however, it will circulate the heated air, pushing it across the ceiling, down the wall, and into the middle of the room. With the warm air better circulating, your heater will turn on much less frequently, saving you tons on heating costs.
One more thing you can do to maximize your heating while minimizing cost this winter is to keep the air in your home humid. Humid air will hold heat much longer than the dry air we often experience in Missouri winters. Buying a humidifier and adjusting until the air in your home runs about 55% humidity will ensure that the heat you pay for lasts longer, again causing it to run less, once again saving you money.
And finally, perhaps the biggest home energy wasters,
6. Phantom Loads
Microwave ovens are a staple tool in nearly every American kitchen, but did you know that most of the energy they consume is burned up when they aren’t even in use? This is due to “phantom loads”, or perhaps more aptly-named “energy vampires”. The usually square black box on the end of the appliance is always sapping power, even when the microwave is dormant. That little digital clock on your microwave? It costs a surprising amount to keep that little guy going all the time. These phantom loads are not limited to the microwave, however – they can be found on all sorts of appliances throughout the home and kitchen, including, but not limited to, stereos, coffee makers, cell phones and MP3 players. According to the Daily Green, tell-tale signs of phantom loads include features such as remote controls, continuous digital display (think that clock on your microwave or DVD players), rechargeable batteries (think cordless phones), and external power supplies (think inkjet printers and iPod or iPhone chargers).
So what can you do to fight phantom loads? Start by investing in a kilowatt meter. Plug this device into all of your appliances to find out how much power they use when they’re not in use. Once you’ve identified the phantom loads, plug all of these appliances into a power strip. This strip can then be turned on and off as needed, so you’re only using (and paying for!) electricity as needed, rather than continuously. How much energy are you really saving though? How much could it really cost to keep these things “running” all of the time? You’ll be surprised! As for the convenience of time-keepers, as on the microwave, DVD player, clock radio, etc., I’d suggest investing in a good watch :)