You can’t control energy prices, but you do have some control over your family’s water and energy consumption. Of course, there is the obvious solution of remembering to turn things off—switch off the lights when you leave a room, turn off the television when it isn’t in use, shutdown your computer in between Facebook, Twitter and email.
On the other hand, many electronics continue to use energy even in standby mode. If unplugging everything before you leave the house or go to bed is daunting, consider putting the bulk of your electronics on a power strip so you can just flip one switch. (The one in our store allows you to be sure your DVR is kept separate so you won’t risk missing your favorite shows!)
Making a few simple product switches, such as the power strip, can go a long way towards reducing your energy consumption but don’t get caught up in spending money on new purchases. That would negate the entire idea of saving money. However, when something needs to be replaced anyway, making energy-efficient choices will foster long term savings. CFL light bulbs are a good example. If you haven’t already made the switch, I highly recommend it. We noticed a drop in our electric bill the month following our changeover. (Though, again, I don’t specifically recommend buying them all at once—just be sure to use CFLs when it is time to replace a burnt out bulb.)
On a larger scale, energy efficient appliances can do wonders for your monthly energy costs. When your kitchen appliances or washer and dryer die their final death, look closely at Energy Star ratings, specifically average energy costs. In addition to lowering your home energy costs, you may be eligible for tax credits when you make energy efficient upgrades. Always check the list before you purchase. We were recently able to upgrade our front door because the model we wanted and the model that qualified for a tax credit were comparably priced. It was worth spending a few minutes on the government website to discover that buying a much better door would result in only a little more out of pocket.
We’ll get to deduct 30% of our new door and storm door. The higher quality door only costs a little over 30% more than the one we had originally intended to buy anyway. We will more than make up for that with the additional energy savings. Our storm door is already paying off as well. It is amazing how much cooler it is in the house when you have the opportunity to create a breeze with the use of a screen door and open windows. I’m excited to be able lower our cooling costs in the fall and spring. I also think the added insulation will help reduce cooling and heating costs in the summer and winter.
Sealing drafts all over the house is another great way to reduce home energy costs. You may be able to seal cracks in the attic or behind the baseboard with a can or two of spray foam insulation. Exterior wall electrical boxes are another hidden draft—pre-cut insulation for outlets and switches is very inexpensive and really helps seal the leak. Now is the time to take work on sealing up your house. I know our energy costs practically double in the winter and those of you who are on gas heat will benefit from this as well!
We’ll be continuing our utility savings series so be sure to check back for ideas on reducing expenses on water, phone and cable. And, if you have any ideas of your own, I’d love to hear them!