Reducing our energy use not only reduces our costs, it also leads to reduced air pollution and carbon emissions. While about half of our energy consumption in the home is devoted to heating and cooling, we also consume energy during our many day-to-day activities without realizing it. For example, when you Google a search on the web, the amount of energy it requires to complete 100 searches is the equivalent of keeping on an incandescent light bulb for 28 minutes.
The energy-saving tips below are relatively easy to accomplish and are low cost. For additional inspiration check out these money saving conservation tips from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.
It’s Time to Switch to LED’s! LED (Light Emitting Diode) lightbulbs are between 70-90% more efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs. Each LED bulb used for an average of 3 hours a day can save roughly $8 in energy costs per year or up to $1,000 over a ten-year period. Your exact savings depends on how many hours you use the lightbulb each day, and how much a Kwh costs for the electricity supplier you choose.
How do LED’s Work? In LED lightbulbs, electrical current passes through a microchip, which lights up the tiny LED’s. The energy is released in the form of photons, a process called electroluminescence. This transfer of electrical energy to light is 8 times more efficient than in a traditional, incandescent bulb. An incandescent bulb only uses 10% of the energy it consumes to create light, and about 90% of the energy to heat up the filament inside the bulb. LED’s last between 30,000 and 50,000 hours, or until the lumens (light output) falls below 70%. An incandescent bulb by comparison only lasts on average about 1,000 hours.
What is the Difference Between CFL and LED Lightbulbs? Compact Florescent Lightbulbs (CFL’s) use essentially the same technology commonly found in fluorescent ceiling lights in schools or commercial buildings. CFL’s are more efficient than incandescent bulbs, but not as efficient as LED lightbulbs. LED bulbs do not contain any mercury, so unlike compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs), they do not require separate disposal practices.
WATT to Look For: LED lighting technology has improved dramatically, allowing you to purchase bulbs in various shapes for a variety of different fixtures. There are bulbs that have a bright or warm color, and that can be dimmed.
SMART LED’s are LED’s that can be turned on and off, dimmed or have a capability of color change through APPS or Wifi. These are a newer, more expensive bulb technology.
For more information, visit the Energy Star Lighting Guide
The average American home has 20-40 appliances, electronics and other products that are constantly drawing electrical power — even when you are not using them. This “phantom” or “vampire” load can account for up to 5-15% of your monthly electricity bill. Unplugging your appliances and electronics when you are not using them will save money and electricity.
Tips for Unplugging:
1. Since unplugging electronics one by one can be a hassle because of their location under desks or behind couches, plug them into a power strip and turn them off when not using them. Advanced power strips (or APS) have built-in features that further reduce the energy consumed by many consumer electronics.
2. Buy an energy monitor device like a killawatt meter to find out how much electricity each household device is costing you, whether on or off, in order cut down your energy usage.
3. Use products that are energy efficient and have lower standby power.
4. Appliances that use a remote need to always be “on alert” in order to receive a remote-control signal, and can consume nearly as much electricity off as when you are using them if left plugged in.
5. Electronics and appliances with digital displays also continuously draw power — so turn off your coffee maker after you finish your first few cups and place the rest in a thermos.
Curious about these phantom loads? Check out this handy Phantom Load Calculator for typical phantom loads for electronics. The efficiency of major appliances greatly varies, as does the phantom load.
Programmable thermostats are the perfect solution for those of us who want to save energy, but may forget to adjust the thermostat every time we leave for the day or go to bed at night. You can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting. Even small adjustments can make a big difference: save 1% to 3% on your heating costs for every degree you dial down.
Traditional programmable thermostats replace the thermostat on the wall of your home, and have settings to automatically raise and lower the temperatures. These cost typically $25-50 dollars and have a quick payback period when properly installed and programmed. These are not recommended for heat pumps or electric base board heating systems, as those require a different type of thermostat.
Tip: If you have a traditional programmable thermostat, have an “at home” temperature and an “away from home temperature,” and keep those consistent for at least 7-8 hours, rather than adjusting continuously throughout the day.
Smart Thermostats or Wifi Enabled thermostats allow you to also automatically raise and lower temperatures in the home- but you can adjust the settings from your phone or laptop. Some models can be set to recognize your habits, and will anticipate the patterns of temperature preferences and adjust them for you. Other types have the addition of remote temperature sensors in individual rooms to increase their effectiveness. Smart thermostats are more expensive than traditional programmable thermostats.
In Hot Water with Your Electric Bill? Water heating is the second largest energy expense in your home after heating and cooling. It typically accounts for approximately 18% of your utility bill. Investing in more efficient water heaters, dishwashers and washing machines can result in significant savings.
Washing your Clothes in Cold Water can reduce your hot water usage significantly, while still getting your clothes clean. Ninety percent of energy used to wash clothes comes from heating the water used for your laundry. So washing your clothes in cold water can save you money: save between $50-150 a year, depending on your washing machine. Each household that makes the switch to cold-water washing avoids approximately 1,600 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions a year — a significant reduction without any financial investment.
Washers have changed. Even though newer more efficient washing machines use less water, they have been designed to clean clothes better in cooler temperatures to meet the EPA’s new energy guidelines for efficiency.
Detergent has changed. The composition of laundry detergents has changed to adapt to the new washing machines, and have new enzymes that work to remove dirt and stains in cold water and are actually less effective at higher temperatures.
Clothes last longer. Washing with cold water extends the life of the fabric of your clothes and their color. Washing with hot water can shrink, damage, and fade many of your clothes.
Tips for going green with your laundry:
Money Still Going Down the Drain? You can also shower better in order to save money on water and water heating costs:
Take Shorter Showers
Take 5! The average person can save 1500 gallons of water a year just by taking shorter showers. A five-minute shower creates 2.25 lbs of CO2 and a ten-minute shower 4.5 lbs of CO2. Taking five minute showers for a whole year would save as much CO2 as is sequestered annually by half an acre of U.S. forest.
Replace Your Showerhead (and Place an Aerator in Your Faucet)
Replacing your showerhead with a more efficient Water Sense model, which has been certified to use less water, and installing an aerator on your faucet will decrease your water and energy use and save you money. According to the EPA, running a hot water faucet for 5 minutes uses about the same amount of energy as burning a 60-watt bulb for 14 to 22 hours.