Energy conscious people can take big steps to reduce electricity use. But even a few small changes can make a dent in electricity use - and power bills - over time.
Awnings can cut down on solar heat in the summer by 65 percent on a south-facing window and 77 percent on a west-facing window, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Interior window blinds are more effective at keeping out heat in summer than at keeping heat in during winter, but can reduce heat gains by around 45 percent. Drapes with white-plastic backings can reduce heat gains by 33 percent in summer and reduce heat loss from a warm room up to 10 percent in winter.
Adjusting the thermostat by a few degrees can make a big difference in your heating or cooling costs – as much as 1 percent per degree – if you’re willing to maintain the altered temp for eight hours.
Heating water uses as much as one-quarter of the energy consumed by a home. To avoid wasting some of that energy, turn the temperature down to 120 degrees, and insulate the storage tank (follow manufacturer’s recommendations to avoid fire) and the first 6 feet of the water pipes connected to the heater. Also, drain a quart of water from the tank every three months to remove sediment that impedes heat transfer.
Most people know that LED lights are more efficient than other types of lighting. For instance, a 15W LED light costs about $1 a year to operate, while a traditional incandescent is almost five times that much. That math works at the holidays, too. It costs $122.19 to buy lights and illuminate them on a 6-foot Christmas tree 12 hours a day for 40 days over 10 years. Buying and illuminating the same bulbs with LED technology would cost $17.99 over 10 years – and the strings won’t overload the outlet.
While computers do use a little extra power when they boot up, it’s better to turn off a monitor if you are going to step away for more than 20 minutes. Shut down the entire computer if you’re not going to use the machine for more than two hours. Remember to plug equipment into a powerstrip/surge protector to make it easier to turn off everything at once. Using the sleep mode built into your computer also can save you $30 a year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
If you’re curious, the U.S. Department of Energy offers a calculator and some guidance to help you determine what it costs to run various appliances for a year. For instance, a home computer and monitor turned on for four hours a day year-round will run about $43.