Install new windows. Get solar panels. Insulate your house. Whew! These are all great ways to cut energy consumption, but they take a lot of time and a significant budget, which we don’t always have. The good news: There are lots of little steps we can take that cumulatively can make a big difference in our energy consumption. In addition to basic energy savers such as turning lights off when you leave a room, try one or all of these quick tips and see how spending small amounts of time can steer you toward big energy savings.
1. Five seconds: Bake with glass or ceramic dishes and you can lower your oven’s temperature by 25º F.
2. Less than one minute: Change your computer’s settings to go into standby mode after 15 minutes of non-use and hibernate or sleep after 45 minutes of non-use to cut it down to just a few watts of electricity used. If you work on a desktop computer, turn off the monitor when you walk away — that’s half your computer’s energy use right there.
3. One to five minutes: Lower your water heater’s temperature. Manufacturers say to set your water heater at 140º F, but for most households, 120º F is plenty high enough. According to Energy.gov, “set too high, or at 140º F, your water heater can waste anywhere from $36 to $61 annually in standby heat losses [heat from the machine itself] and more than $400 in demand losses [what your household uses].”
4. Five minutes: Keep your freezer full and refrigerator airy. Freezers work most efficiently when they are full or nearly full, so even if it’s just ice cube trays, fill it up. Refrigerators, on the other hand, need airflow to keep from working too hard. Space out your refrigerated items, with produce further away from the cold air inflow spot (so they don’t freeze) and less delicate items closer to it. This simple step will shore up one of your home’s biggest energy saps.
5. Seven minutes: Change to energy-efficient bulbs. Fluorescents are a great option, but now you can get affordable LED bulbs, which you can use with a dimmer switch (unlike CFLs) and get all the mood lighting you want. All it takes is a quick order online and however long it takes to screw in a light bulb (insert your joke of choice here!)
6. 10 minutes: Plug electronics into “smart” power strips to decrease what’s called “phantom” or “vampire” energy drains in your home. Even when your appliances such as TVs, DVD players, and printers are turned off, they still draw energy, as much as five to 10 percent of your household energy consumption, according to some estimates. Smart power strips automatically shut down power to your appliances that are off or go on standby, thereby eliminating the energy vampires in your home.
7. Bonus tip — 1.5-hour install: Collect water from your roof in a rain barrel. It’s so easy, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. Most gutters can be adapted to deposit rainwater in the barrel, perfect for keeping your flowers blooming and lawn green with none of the water bill cost or guilt of wasting water.