We won’t kick fossil fuels anytime soon. The more energy we use, the more energy companies must extract from the ground. And the more greenhouse gas emissions we account for. Green living therefore requires we all practice energy conservation techniques at home.
Energy conservation and energy efficiency are closely related concepts. Energy conservation means any behavior that uses less energy. For example, turning off lights when you leave a room is a common example. Energy efficiency uses technology that uses less energy to perform the same function as something else. For example, using LED lights instead of incandescent lights.
For the purposes of this article, the distinction doesn’t matter. Practicing energy efficiency results in energy conservation, provided we don’t somehow waste the savings. Also, this article concerns electricity usage. I have a separate article for saving gas in the car.
When you buy appliances or electronics, consider power consumption. If Energy Star certifies something, then models with the rating will use less electricity than those without. The Energy Star-certified product will probably cost more to buy, but it will cost less to operate. You will quickly earn back the additional outlay.
But energy conservation techniques encompass more than what you buy.
Many appliances continue to draw power even after you turn them off. They’re called energy vampires. They can account for as much as 20% of your monthly energy usage. Telltale signs include large black-box plugs. Look at the difference between the plug on a simple lamp and the one for your TV or cellphone charger.
Other examples include anything you operate with a remote or anything considered a standby, such as a coffee maker that’s already working when you get up in the morning.
It helps to have the whole computer system, the whole entertainment system, multiple chargers, etc. plugged into a power strip. You can turn off multiple units with a single switch. A smart power strip can even detect when something isn’t being used and turn it off automatically.
Unplug energy vampires, or turn off the power strip, when you’re not using them. That can be easier said than done, of course. Shut down your wi-fi, and it can take several minutes for it to come back. You probably don’t want to wait for the whole system to reboot first thing every morning.
On the other hand, when you go on vacation, unplug the computer and peripherals, the entertainment center, etc. You can afford to wait a few minutes for everything to reboot when you return.
In any case, unplug chargers for your cell phone, laptop, and similar gadgets as soon as they’re through charging.
Heating and cooling
Heating and cooling used to account for more than half of all household energy consumption. Now it’s less than half. Part if that is increased energy efficiency in HVAC design. Part of it comes from using more appliances than earlier generations.
HVAC still counts for a greater percentage of energy usage than any other category. Therefore energy conservation techniques at home must include careful attention to it.
To control your HVAC costs, use a programmable thermostat. Using it means more than just installing one. Take a few minutes to program a daily schedule for heating and another for cooling. If you need to buy one, make sure it will automatically switch from heating and cooling. After all, in the spring and fall, the weather can change from hot to cold very frequently.
The vacation settings let you save even more. Heat and cool the interior of your home only enough to protect the structure and furnishings. No one will be there to be uncomfortable.
Good insulation and weatherstripping prevent heat loss. So do energy-efficient double-pane windows. If you still have single-pane windows, you probably have storm windows. If you can afford to replace your windows, you probably don’t need additional storm windows except in the coldest parts of the country.
Finally, maintain the filters. A dirty filter constricts air flow to the furnace and air conditioner. When they have to work harder, they use more electricity.
Miscellaneous energy conservation techniques
- Even if you have replaced all your incandescent lights with CFLs or LEDs, it still helps to shut off whatever lights you’re not using. There is little sense in lighting an empty room, except perhaps for one lamp when you’re away from home.
- If you or someone in your household frequently forget to turn off lights, consider installing occupancy sensors. They can turn on a light when they detect motion and then turn it off when they detect no one is there. For the bedroom, you can get a vacancy sensor instead, so the light won’t turn on if you move around at night. But if you turn it on in the morning, the sensor will turn it off after you leave if you forget.
- In winter, keep your house cool. Make up for it by wearing heavier clothing.
- Don’t run the dishwasher or washing machine until you have a full load. You save both water and the energy needed to pump and heat it.
- Consider hiring a company to perform an energy audit. It can make recommendations specific to your house.
- You can perform a partial energy audit yourself. Use our Energy Cost Calculator to see how much your appliances and gadgets cost to run.
Honeywell Home RTH7600D 7-Day Programmable Touchscreen Thermostat
Outdoor 28 LED Wireless Waterproof Security Solar Motion Sensor Lights
The Visual Handbook of Energy Conservation: A Comprehensive Guide to Reducing Energy Use at Home
. . . How to Save Money by Making Your House Energy-Smart