How many times have you read your electricity and gas bill and taken a second look at the astounding total amount due?
If it’s quite an often scenario, it’s high time you seriously considered using energy at home efficiently. And that includes your power plan for your garden log cabin, backyard summerhouse, outdoor storage sheds and garden offices.
So what is energy efficiency?
Let’s say, you trade in a traditional incandescent bulb for a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL), which uses 75% less electricity than the former and yet produce the same brightness. Or, you added an insulation on the walls and attic to maintain the right warmth or cool inside the home, than constantly adjust the heating and cooling systems as temperature changes.
That is being energy efficient – using as little energy as possible whilst producing almost the same service or convenience.
This should not be confused with ‘energy conservation.’ Both are closely related to the concept of smart energy consumption, but conserving is practically reducing or foregoing the use of energy. That includes plugging off wires when unused, taking shorter warm water showers, and turning the thermostat low during winter.
The best possible solution: Do both strategies.
The many ways to conserve and get efficient with home energy
Now we’ll go through the different ways to cut down on energy cost, starting from the simple things you can do every day.
Save big with your very own electronics
Did you know: Electronics top as the most energy-consuming appliance with 1.8 million tonnes of oil equivalent – the 2015 UK domestic energy consumption reports.
- Avoid energy vampires. You may not realise it, but home electronics consume 5-10% of energy even when they’re turned off and left plugged in. So best to cut them off from their power sources if you don’t intend to use them.
- Unplug battery chargers. As well as avoiding overcharges or overheat, unplugging phone and laptop batteries when full makes a very wise energy-reducing habit. And note, only 5% of the power drawn by a phone charger is used to charge the phone. The other 95% is wasted when it is left plugged in.
- Set computer monitor to energy-saver mode by reducing the brightness to 70%, turn off screen instead of using screensavers, or change old CRT monitor to LCD ones.
- Plug electronics into a smart power strip. This is unlike traditional power strips that allow you to keep electronics plugged in all the time and keep drawing power even when not in use. Smart power strips work to reduce your power usage by shutting down power to products that go into standby mode.
Get smart with heating a room
More than half the money spent on fuel in almost all UK households goes towards providing heating and hot water, either through a central heating system or electric storage heaters.
- Inspect windows and walls for any air leakage. Windows are a major source of heat loss in a home so regularly checking for leaks will help reduce heat loss by up to 10%. Use caulk to seal cracks or duct tapes to seal leaks in duct joints.
- Set the thermostat to a low level. You may save as much as 3% on your energy bill for each degree you lower your thermostat, not to mention the CO2 emissions spared. You can reduce more at night or when you are away for more than four hours during the day.
- Clean or change the filters. Mind the dirt that might have build up in the filters of your heating system for it to work at optimum efficiency.
- Take advantage of the sunlight. Allow the heat of the sun to flood your room and save 10% on heating or minimise the use of anymore heating system. During the daytime, leave window shades or blinds open.
Proper Water Heating
- Lower the temperature setting. Reducing the temperature of your water heater from 140 to 120 degrees will save you more heating cost whilst keeping the water hot enough for showers and cleaning dishes.
- Install your water heater near the kitchen. The nearer the water heater is to the kitchen, the nearer the hot water need to travel and the lesser heat is lost.
- Turn off your water heater. If you plan on leaving home for a few days, best to cut power off your water heaters. You may also opt to set timers to automatically turn off water heaters. Most models will reheat the water to the set temperature in only about an hour.
- Check the faucets or water pipes for leaks. Hot water that drips from the faucet or pipes does not only increase the water bill but also wastefully consumes much electricity or gas for heating the water. One drop a second can waste up to 48 gallons a week.
Stay cool whilst being efficient
- Change or clean your air conditioning filters. Regularly check on the air filters for dusts and dirts and clean up at least once a month. This will help keep your air conditioning system running at its peak performance.
- Make use of a programmable thermostat. Adjust the room temperature with more ease during the day using a programmable thermostat and save as much as 15 percent on heating and cooling costs. Set your thermostat fan switch to “auto” to save more energy.
- Fine tune your air conditioning unit. Running an inefficient AC will push the system to work harder and use up unnecessary energy, which then results in higher monthly bills.
- Use ceiling fans instead. Ceiling fans cool off a room by using less electricity than AC units and much like a standard light bulb. The breeze from the fan makes a room steadily cool even when you reduce the use of a thermostat.
- Close exterior doors, windows, and unused air vents. When using your AC, tightly close all possible air exits like doors, windows, and air vents. You can save even more energy by turning off kitchen and bath exhaust fans.
- Go green and keep cool with trees. Not only will trees provide you with shade from the heat outside but also keep the surroundings cool. This will lessen the need to use cooling systems and cut down energy consumption significantly.
Bright ideas with lighting
- Replace standard bulbs with CFLs. As mentioned, compact fluorescent light bulbs use less energy than regular incandescent bulbs, whilst giving off the same amount of light. CFL also works better and 10 times longer for outdoor use than regular bulbs.
- Use halogen light bulbs for outdoor lighting. Security lights and spotlights placed on your outdoors may do well with a halogen light bulb, which uses about 25% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs.
- Consider using timers. This will automatically turn the lights on or off during the day.
- Clean the light bulbs. The dust and dirt that accumulates on your light bulb reduce the light output to almost half. Clean them off regularly.
- Install fluorescent tubes. This is an efficient way to light up your workshop or playroom.
Save big on appliances
- Set the temperature between 30 and 42°F.
- Check the door seals for possible cool air leaks or moisture.
- Don’t forget to dust your fridge or clean off the coil vacuums behind the refrigerator for peak performance.
- Either keep your freezer full when turned on, or turn it off completely when empty.
Microwaves, toasters, ovens, and pots
- Use a microwave to cook meals whenever possible; it uses about half the energy of a conventional oven.
- Keep the oven door closed whilst cooking or the temperature will drop by as much as 25 degrees each time you open the oven door.
- Use crock pots and slow cookers as they can be 75% more energy efficient than stoves and ovens.
- Turn off your oven or burners when food is almost ready and let existing heat finish the cooking for you.
- Scrape dishes and rinse with cold water before loading them into the dishwasher.
- Set your dishwashers to economy mode to use lesser amount of water and electricity.
- Fully load the dishwasher before running as a full load uses the same amount of water and energy as for smaller loads.
- Turn off the dishwasher after the wash cycle and let your dishes air-dry to save energy and keep the dishwasher from heating up the kitchen.
Washing machine and dryers
- Wash and dry as much laundry loads as the machine allows to save on energy.
- Adjust the water level according to laundry load size. You can save energy by using less hot water for small loads.
- Clean the dryer lint filter before every new load to help keep your dryer efficiently running.
- Separate wash loads into light and heavy fabrics for the shortest drying times.
Invest in one-time and big-time changes
Some of the more energy-efficient measures require hefty investment but the conveniences and cut-down on future energy budget highly offset the cost and effort in the initial purchase.
- Install insulations in parts of the house where heat or cool may be lost. It is estimated that more than 50% of a home’ energy consumption goes toward heating and cooling. But this constant change in room temperature may well be kept in balance through proper insulation. Add insulation to the following areas:
- Look for Energy Star-labelled products. They are basically built for energy-efficiency. Replacing energy-consuming appliances with newer models will hugely help reduce your energy cost. They may cost more than other appliances but will likely make up that additional cost through energy savings.
- Add solar panels. Getting solar panels for your home allows you to produce your own electricity from a free source as the sunlight. This will not only help reduce your energy costs but can also give you extra income from government incentives for going green and energy-efficient. South-facing solar water heating panels can generate up to 60% of your hot water needs.
All of the energy-saving measures above will help cut down on your energy bills, but you need not stress over following everything. Implementing two or more of these changes every passing day will add up to a more energy-efficient home. Plus, you also leave a mark in keeping your environment cleaner.