Cutting Energy Costs To Help the Environment: 10 Tips
As more information becomes available about energy use in the U.S., it’s apparent that we need to do something to reduce energy waste. By adopting better energy usage policies, we can reduce carbon pollution, mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, and lower energy bills. Let’s look at ten simple ways consumers and businesses can cut energy costs and, in turn, help protect our planet.
1Switch to Eco-Friendly Power Companies
One thing we can do to cut energy costs is to contact an energy broker. Energy brokers work with power companies on your behalf to find cheaper energy rates, as well as service plans that are ideal for your wants and needs. They can also help you find eco-friendly energy providers that are committed to supporting the environment.
Because states like Texas allow you to choose which energy provider you want, you have the autonomy to select the provider that gives you the cheapest Texas electric rates. Contact an energy broker to explore the possibilities for your household or business. You might be surprised at what kind of deals are available. In addition, many brokers offer their services free of charge. They are paid a fee by the energy company that adds you as a new customer.
2Only Keep Lights on When You Need Them
It may seem like a no-brainer, but you might be surprised how much energy is wasted by leaving lights on when they aren’t needed. According to the EPA, about 40% of the energy usage in the U.S. is used to generate electricity. This makes electricity use an important part of each person’s environmental footprint. That’s why we should ensure that our electricity usage is put toward actual use, as opposed to letting lights remain on when no one is in the room or building.
When we leave lights on in an empty room, we waste energy production that creates carbon pollution and drives up our electricity expense. A good rule of thumb is to turn off lights when we leave the house or go to bed. By doing so, we can shave a significant amount from our electric bill and become less wasteful of energy simultaneously. It’s a win-win situation for the environment and your electric bill.
3Switch to Energy Efficient Light Bulbs
Using energy-efficient light bulbs is another easy way to cut energy costs and help preserve the environment. For example, switching to LED bulbs in your home or building can dramatically reduce energy usage and provide the same level of illumination as incandescent bulbs.
In fact, according to Energy Star, LED and Energy Star approved bulbs use approximately 70-90% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs. They also last at least 15 times longer than traditional incandescent lighting, saving you about $80 in electricity costs over the lifespan of a single light bulb. Another fact worth mentioning about energy-efficient bulbs is that they produce about 70-90% less heat than incandescents. On top of cutting electricity costs, you can save money on cooling costs in warm weather.
Try using LED bulbs or other energy-efficient bulbs for a few months, then compare your current electric bill to the previous ones. LED bulbs may cost more than incandescent bulbs, but the investment is worth every penny, considering the money that you can save on your electric bill.
4Unplug Small Appliances at End of Day
Another simple way to cut energy costs is by unplugging certain products overnight, or after we’re done using them. Simply “turning off” an appliance or other plug-in products isn’t enough in some cases. With today’s technology, many appliances and products use “idle power”, even when they are powered off and not in use.
According to a Harvard University study, the total amount of electricity consumed by idle electronics in the U.S. annually is equal to the annual output of 12 fully operational power plants. That’s a significant amount of energy to waste in the form of appliances left plugged in.
“Idle power” products include desktop computers, laptops, televisions, cable boxes, stereos, coffee makers, and toasters. Simply unplugging the appliances after you’ve used them will help you see a meaningful reduction in your monthly electricity cost. However, unplugging each appliance at night and after use can become time-consuming. Luckily, there’s a quick and easy way to disconnect these products altogether.
To make unplugging appliances easier, connect them to power strips. According to the same Harvard University study mentioned above, flipping the switch on a power strip has the same effect as unplugging each appliance from the socket in the wall, preventing phantom energy usage. Try grouping similar appliances with one another on a power strip (examples: coffee makers and toasters). That way, you won’t forget to turn them off individually after using them.
5Switch to Energy Efficient Appliances
We can also cut energy costs in homes and buildings by purchasing energy-efficient appliances through Energy Star. For example, according to Energy Star, if you use a dishwasher made before 1994, you’re paying an extra $35 a year in utility expense compared to using a newer Energy Star model. There are dozens of different energy-efficient appliances available for purchase at Energy Star’s website.
6Install Energy Efficient Doors and Windows
Older doors and windows may be aesthetically appealing, but they often have air leaks that allow warm or cold air from outside to enter your home or building. This can potentially drive up the cost of heating and cooling bills. In order to save on energy costs in the long run, it’s worth making an investment in doors and windows that are energy efficient. Doing so may also increase the real estate value of your property.
To see which doors and windows will provide the most energy savings, consult this energy performance chart provided by the Department of Energy.
7 Apply Weather Stripping to Older Doors and Windows
Having a leak in an older door or window can be frustrating and expensive. To compensate for unwanted cold or hot air entering your home or building, you’re forced to crank up your heat or AC units, resulting in more money spent. If installing new doors and windows isn’t in your budget right now, applying weather stripping to doors and windows is the next best thing.
By applying weather stripping to older doors and windows, you can save a significant amount of money on heating and cooling. In fact, according to the Department of Energy, air sealing an old, drafty home can cut heating and cooling costs by 20%. That’s ⅕ of your monthly bill taken off by simply weather stripping old doors and windows that produce drafts.
There are various types of weatherstripping available that differ in terms of application. More specifically, there are types of strips made for different types of weather, different temperatures, and the wear and tear particular doors and windows receive. Check out this chart provided by the Department of Energy to see which type of weather stripping best meets your needs.
8 Seal Gaps in Your Structure That Let Air in
Weather stripping isn’t the only way to seal gaps around your home or building. There are other materials you can use for situations that aren’t suited for weather stripping. For example, you can use fiberglass insulation to seal stud cavities that are left open in your attic. Before installing the insulation, stuff it into plastic garbage bags to help block airflow from entering your structure.
9Replace Old, Deteriorating Insulation
Insulation is one of the best lines of defense for keeping cold or warm air from escaping your home or building. In fact, according to Energy Star, proper insulation can make your heating and cooling systems run 20% more efficiently. However, if the material is old or damaged, it provides a poor defense against outside temperatures.
If the upper levels of your structure are too cold in the winter or too warm in the summer, it’s time to take a look at your insulation. Make sure to do so before your energy bills start to climb and financially force you to consider a new insulation solution. There are several types of insulation. Contact a licensed installer for guidance on choosing the best kind for your structure.
10 Turn Off Heating and AC When You’re Away
Another way to save on heating and cooling costs is by turning off your furnace or AC when you’re away from your home or building. Running these systems constantly can consume lots of unnecessary energy.
If you’re leaving your home or building in summer and are worried about the temperature of the structure when you return, keep a few of your windows slightly ajar to create airflow through the structure. Generating airflow can cool down your home or building a few degrees and make it more comfortable when you return.
Meet the Author
Alfonso Gonzales is a freelance writer based in Malibu, California. He spent 25 years in the construction industry, working roofing, plumbing, electrical, and more before retiring. In his free time, he likes to work on home repair projects.