If you’re in the habit of turning off the lights when you leave a room, you’re on the right track. But that’s just the beginning; according to one study, nearly ¼ of all residential energy consumption is used by devices in standby mode. Of course, you’re not going to run around unplugging every single thing when you’re done with it; thankfully, there are easier ways you can save money. Give these seven tricks a try to start slashing your electric bill today.
Plug into Power Strips
If you don’t, for example, have enough outlets behind your TV stand, you may be using power strips already. But are you turning them off when your items are not in use? After all, it’s only a single switch. Doing this for all devices, even just while you’re out of the house, could save you around $100 per year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
Wash Your Clothes in Cold Water
This simple adjustment can save over 50 percent in energy costs compared to hot water—and it’s also the gentlest choice for laundry, says Shel Horowitz, author of Painless Green, a guide to lowering your carbon footprint. Your clothes will end up just as clean and last a lot longer, he adds.
Load Up Your Dishwasher
Before running your dishwasher, make sure it’s loaded to full capacity; you may use it less often and therefore use less hot water. Also, turn off the heat-dry setting. “Pull the top rack out and turn the cups over so they can air-dry instead,” suggests Horowitz.
A professional energy auditor can help clarify how you use energy and point out areas for improvement. According to the DOE, fixing troublesome air leaks could save you up to 20 percent on your annual heating and cooling bills. Add this task to your calendar about every 2 to 3 years, recommends Jonah Reynolds, CEO of Pangea Builders. Pricing varies, so contact your local utility company; or visit RESNET or the Building Performance Institute to find an auditor near you.
Switch to LED Bulbs
What are the five most frequently used lights in your home? Replace their regular incandescent bulbs with Energy Star–qualified Light Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs and you could save around $75 every year, according to the DOE. If you think “fluorescent” when you think LED, take another look. “The quality of light that LED bulbs are giving off has gotten much better,” says Horowitz. “It’s much softer and warmer than when they were first introduced.”
Remember: Maintenance Matters
The appliances that use the most energy in many homes are the refrigerator, air conditioner and water heater. Make sure they’re running at peak efficiency by properly maintaining them. “Look at your water heater first,” says Reynolds, “to see if you’re using electricity.” If you are, look into switching to gas or propane. For your HVAC unit, Reynolds recommends cleaning and straightening the fins, changing the filter and lubricating the motor once a year. With your fridge, brush and vacuum the coils at the bottom or the back with a coil-cleaning brush (available at most hardware stores) twice a year.
Pick Smart Upgrades
When it’s time for new appliances, look for the Energy Star label; it means the product meets strict standards for energy efficiency. “Every year these appliances get better,” says Reynolds, “especially over the past 10 years.” Take a look at the DOE’s appliance energy use calculator to compare appliance efficiency and identify potential savings.
Controlling costs in your home doesn’t have to be complicated. Get a quick quote from the GEICO Insurance Agency on homeowners insurance and find out if you could save.
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By Nicole Cherie Jones