The United States constitutes roughly 4% of the world’s population yet consumes 17% of the world’s energy. As carbon emissions continue to increase, now couldn’t be a better time to take stock of your household energy usage. Not only will this benefit the health of the planet, but your wallet will be thanking you too!
If going off-grid and starting a new life in the woods sounds neither appealing nor practical, check out our tips for cutting your carbon footprint without even leaving the house.
A bit of a no-brainer here but turn appliances off when not using. This includes every Dad’s favorite nag of turning off the lights, but also check that appliances like TVs, computers and microwaves are not on standby mode and where possible unplug electrical devices that aren’t in use. United States law requires that household appliances display labels outlining energy efficiency, helping you to make informed decisions when purchasing new electrical goods. When buying light bulbs make sure they are energy efficient. For example replacing 10 halogen lights for LEDs will save you around 5.94kWk/week. If installing new lighting, avoid choosing downlights as they use up far more energy than regular lights and also penetrate insulation, making it less efficient. You can also opt to perform tasks manually rather than using appliances, such as hang-drying clothes or hand washing dishes.
Hot and cold
Key to becoming more energy efficient is optimizing your house’s ability to keep cool when it’s hot and retain heat when it’s cold outside. If you own your own home, deciding to fully insulate your property will keep your house warm in winter and cool in summer. On a smaller scale, investing in good quality curtains will do the same thing. Making sure that you retain heat in the winter is particularly important, so if you can, make sure your doors and windows are well-sealed when you install them. For a cheaper and more immediate option, draft excluders can be bought fairly cheaply. Lastly, just take note of your habits around using air conditioning, saving it where possible for really hot and humid days.
If you are using AC, timers and thermostat controls can keep your energy usage down. Making the switch from air conditioning to ceiling fans is a big energy saver, with the bonus that they also look pretty cool (no pun intended).
Assessing your water usage can help you cut down on both the amount that you use and energy you are using to heat it. Checking the water efficiency of any new devices that you buy- like washing machines and tea pots- is a good place to start. When using your tea pot, try not to automatically fill it to the top, but rather heat just the amount you need, cutting your tea pot energy usage by up to 30%. Another key change to make is buying a water-efficient showerhead to reduce both the amount of water you are using, and the energy used to heat it. A silver lining to the severe droughts that California has experienced in the past is that residents have discovered some pretty creative ways to save water. For example, bringing a bucket to the shower while waiting for the water to heat up is an efficient way to collect water for your house plants or garden. Also, check out our article on how to start collecting and recycling water.
If it is within your budget, investing in a renewable energy system, such as solar panels, ensures a clean, sustainable energy source that is more cost effective than standard electricity. To make this option more affordable, the government provides a tax credit that allows you to deduct 26% of the cost of installing a solar energy system from your federal taxes. Additional incentives such as rebates, low-interest loans, and property tax relief vary by state. Visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewable and Efficiency to learn more.
We hope you find these tips useful, and remember that with some trial and error to find out what works for your home, even seemingly small changes can over time drastically reduce your energy usage. Happy saving!