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As if 2021 wasn’t already complicated enough, it’s also shaping up to be one of the hottest years on record. Temperatures in the United States are scorching hot, and federal government policy could be making things worse. But how to save on electricity if you are at home all day ?
Subsidies for utilities included in the March CARES Act are about to expire or have already expired. This means that utility companies can start shutting off electricity for non-payment when the summer heat reaches its peak.
10 easy ways to reduce energy consumption in your home
Most people don’t know how easy it is to run your home on less energy. Drastic reductions in heating, cooling, and electricity costs can be achieved by a few simple changes, most of which can be done by homeowners themselves. Of course, for homeowners who want to take advantage of the latest knowledge and home energy efficiency systems, you can perform extensive testing to find the best energy solution for your particular home.
Why make your home more energy efficient? Here are some good reasons:
- Economic incentives at the local, state and federal level, for example, the tax exemption, are very advantageous for homeowners in most of the United States.
- It’s economic. It costs less to supply houses that have been converted to be more energy efficient.
- The level of comfort in an interior is increased.
- Our impact on climate change is reduced. Many scientists believe that excessive energy consumption contributes significantly to global warming.
- Pollution is reduced. Conventional energy production introduces pollutants that then find their way into the air, soil, and water supplies.
1. Find better ways to heat and cool your home.
As much as half of the electricity used in homes goes towards heating and cooling. The following are some ways in which the electric bill can be reduced through adjustments in the heating and cooling systems:
- Install a ceiling fan. Ceiling fans can be used instead of air conditioners, which require a large amount of energy.
- Periodically replace air filters on air conditioners and heaters.
- Set the thermostat to the appropriate temperature. Specifically, thermostats should be turned off at night and when no one is home. In most homes, about 2% of the heating bill can be saved for each degree the thermostat is turned down for at least eight hours each day. Lowering the thermostat from 75° F (24° C) to 70° F (21° C), for example, saves about 10% on heating costs.
- Install a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat saves money by allowing heating and cooling appliances to turn down automatically during times when no one is home and at night. Programmable thermostats do not contain mercury, and in some climate zones, they can save up to $150 per year in energy costs.
- Install a wood or pellet stove. These are more efficient sources of heat than furnaces or boilers.
- At night, the curtains drawn over the windows will better insulate the room.
2. Install a tankless water heater.
Demand type water heaters (tankless or instantaneous) provide hot water only as needed. They do not produce the standby power losses associated with traditional storage heaters, which will help save energy costs. Tankless water heaters heat water directly without the use of a storage tank. When the faucet is turned on, cold water travels through a pipe and into the unit. A gas burner or an electric element heats the water. As a result, tankless water heaters deliver a constant supply of hot water. You do not need to wait for the storage tank to fill with enough hot water.
3. Replace incandescent lights.
A typical household spends 11% of its energy budget on lights. Traditional incandescent lights convert only about 10% of the energy they consume into light, while the rest is converted into heat. The use of new lighting technologies, such as LEDs (light-emitting diodes) and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), can reduce the energy use required by lights by 50% to 70%. Advances in lighting controls offer even more energy savings by reducing the amount of time lights are on without being used. Here are some facts about LEDs and CFLs:
- CFLs use 75% less energy and last about 10 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs.
- LEDs last even longer than CFLs and consume less energy.
- LEDs have no moving parts and, unlike CFLs, do not contain mercury.
4. Lock and insulate your house.
Enclosing and insulating your home is one of the cheapest ways to make your home more comfortable and energy efficient, and you can do it yourself. A tightly closed house can improve the comfort and quality of the interior space while reducing the electric bill. An energy auditor can assess the building envelope leak and recommend fixes that will dramatically increase comfort and energy savings.
The following are some of the more common places where leakage can occur:
- electrical receptacles/electrical outlets;
- mailbox slots;
- around pipes and cables;
- wall or window mounted air conditioners;
- the attic hatches;
- chimney drafts;
- inadequate door seals;
- the baseboards;
- window frames; and
- the plates.
Because hot air rises, air is more likely to escape into the attic. Homeowners can perform a variety of repairs and maintenance in/to their attics that save them money on heating and cooling, such as:
- Plug the large holes. The places in the attic where there is the most leakage are probably where the walls meet the floor of the attic, behind and below the triangle formed there, and in drop ceiling areas.
- Close the small holes. You can easily do this by looking for where the insulation has darkened. The darkened insulation is a result of dusty air being filtered by the insulation before escaping through small holes in the building envelope. In cold weather, you may see icy patches on the insulation caused by warm, moist air condensing and then freezing as it meets the cold air from the attic. In hot weather, you’ll find water stains in these same places. Use expanding foam or caulk to close openings for ventilation pipes and electrical wires. Cover the ares with insulation after the putty is dry.
- Close the access to the attic with the door seals. You can cut a piece of fiberglass or rigid foam board insulation to the same size as the attic hatch and glue it to the back of the attic access panel. If you have stairs or a (loft) door that can be pulled, these should be covered in a similar manner.
5. Install efficient (shower) heads/showers.
The following systems can be installed to conserve water use in homes:
- low flow showers. Low-flow showerheads are available in different flow rates, and some have a pause button that turns off the water while the bather lathers up;
- low flow toilets. Bathrooms consume 30% to 40% of all the water used in homes, being the largest users of water. Replacing an old 3.5-gallon (13-liter) toilet with a modern, low-flow 1.6-gallon (6-liter) toilet can reduce your water usage by an average of 2 gallons (7.5 liters) per flush, saving 12,000 gallons (45,425 liters) of water per year. Low-flow toilets typically have “1.6 GPF” marked on the bowl behind the seat or inside the tank.
- toilets assisted by vacuum cleaners. These types of toilets have a vacuum chamber that uses the siphoning action to suck air from the retentate under the bowl, letting it quickly fill with water to clean out debris. Bathrooms with vacuum cleaners are relatively quiet; and
- double cistern toilets. Double-flush toilets have been used in Europe and Australia for years and are now gaining popularity in the United States. Dual-flush toilets allow you to choose between the 1-gallon (or less) flush for liquid waste, and the 1.6-gallon flush for solid waste. The 16 GPF bathrooms – double cistern reduce water consumption by an additional 30%.
6. Use appliances and electronics responsibly.
Appliances and electronics account for about 20% of the electricity bill for a typical home in the United States. The following are tips that will reduce the energy required by appliances and electronics:
- Refrigerators and freezers should not be near a stove, dishwasher, or heat vent, or in direct sunlight. Their exposure to hot areas will cause them to use more energy to keep their temperature down.
- Computers should be turned off when not in use. If unattended computers have to be on, their monitors should be off. According to some studies, computers are responsible for approximately 3% of all energy consumption in the United States.
- Use efficient appliances and electronics considered ENERGY-STAR. These devices, approved by the ENERGY STAR program of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy of the United States, include televisions, home theater systems, DVD and compact disc players, receivers, speakers, and more. According to the EPA, if just 10% of homes used energy efficient appliances, the carbon equivalent of 1.7 million acres of trees would be reduced.
- Chargers, such as those used for laptops and cell phones, draw power when plugged in. When not connected to electronics, chargers should be unplugged.
- Laptops (portables) consume less energy than desktops (table computers).
7. Install natural lighting as an alternative to electric lighting.
Daylighting is the practice of using natural light to illuminate the interior of the house. This practice can be accomplished using the following approaches:
- the skylights. It is important that they are double glazed, otherwise they may not be as profitable in terms of efficiency and costs. Aiming the lights correctly is the key to avoiding escape;
- light shelves. Light shelves are passive fixtures designed to bounce light deep into the building. Shelves can be inside or outside. Light shelves introduce light into a space up to 2 ½ times the distance from the floor to the top of the window, and advanced shelves can introduce four times this amount;
- Clerestory windows. Clerestory windows are low, wide windows that sit high on the wall. Protected from the summer sun by the overhanging roof, they allow the winter sun to shine through for natural lighting and warmth; and
- the light tubes. Light pipes use a special lens designed to amplify low-level light and reduce the intensity of light coming from the midday sun. Sunlight is channeled through a tube covered with a highly reflective material, and then enters the living space through a distributor designed to spread the light evenly.
8. Insulate windows and doors.
About a third of all heat loss in the home occurs through windows and doors. The following are some ways to reduce energy loss through windows and doors:
- Seal all window edges and cracks with rope caulking. This is the cheapest and easiest option.
- Windows can be sealed with a special liner that is inserted between the window and the frame. For doors, apply caulking around the entire perimeter to ensure a tight seal when closed. Install quality weather stripping on the underside of
doors, if not already in place.
- Install shutters on windows with only one pane. A removable glass frame
can be installed over the existing window.
- If existing windows have damaged or rotted wood, cracked glass, leaking caulk, frames that don’t fit properly, or locks that don’t work properly, they should be fixed or replaced.
9. Cook smart.
A huge amount of energy is wasted while cooking. The following recommendations and statistics illustrate less wasteful methods of cooking:
- Convection ovens are more efficient than conventional ovens. They use fans to push hot air to circulate more regularly, thereby allowing food to be cooked at a lower temperature. Convection ovens use about 20% less electricity than conventional ovens.
- Microwaves consume approximately 80% less energy than conventional ovens.
- Pots should be placed on the same size fire/heating element.
- Using lids on pots and pans will heat food faster than uncovered pots and pans.
- Pressure cookers dramatically reduce cooking time.
- When using conventional ovens, the food should be placed on the top shelf. The top rack is hotter and will cook faster.
10. Change the way you do laundry.
- Do not use the middle option on your washer. Wait until you have a maximum load of laundry, as the medium option saves less than half the water and energy used for the maximum load.
- Avoid using the high temperature option when the clothes are not heavily soiled. Water that is 140° F (60° C) uses a lot more energy than the 103° F (40° C) water in the warm option, but 140° F isn’t much more efficient at making clothes clean.
- Empty the lint each time before using the dryer. Excessive lint is not only a fire hazard, but will also lengthen the amount of time required to dry your clothes.
- If possible, air-dry your clothes on vents and racks.
- Spin dry or wring your clothes before putting them in the dryer.
Economic difficulties to pay public services
NPR recently spoke to Americans who are worried about paying their bills once relief and forgiveness programs run out. Some are unable to turn off the air conditioning due to underlying health issues, while others are already stretching their savings to the limit, relying on curtains and clotheslines to cut costs and usage. A 2015 survey found that about a third of American households had trouble paying for utilities, and that was before the current pandemic-driven economic crisis.
How to save on electricity if you are at home all day
We already know that this is largely a matter of politics, and many times we want to hold elected officials accountable. However, if you are worried about your own bills, there are things you can do individually to reduce expenses.
The Citizens Utility Board, an Illinois-based watchdog group, offers its tips for lowering your electric bill. Many of his tips relate to maintaining efficiency, whether it’s checking your home’s insulation or cleaning your air conditioner’s vents and filters as recommended by the manufacturer. Apartment dwellers often have less control over their environment than homeowners, but no matter what, every effort helps at some point.