At Chariot Energy, we get a lot of questions from curious energy customers, but hands-down, the most frequently asked question is:
How can I conserve more energy at home?
There are just two ways you can accomplish this crucial task:
- Take a good look at the current price you’re paying for your energy usage compared to the prices for current energy plans in the market. You could be getting ripped off! Switching to a low fixed rate is the easiest way to lower your energy bill.
- The second-best way is to use less energy. You want a lower electricity bill, but oftentimes you don’t know how much energy you could save just by washing your clothes in cold water, unplugging your phone when charged or even buying a new showerhead.
Lucky for you, we compiled 29 tips and tricks to help you conserve energy in your home, ranging from effortless to intense.
#1. Wash your clothes in cold water
This tip is so easy, you don’t even have to think about it, which is why we put it first! You can implement this tip right now. You could save as much as $40 annually just by switching to cold water, according to the EPA.1 It may not seem like a LOT, but you’ll soon see these small tips start to add up.
#2. Air dry your clothes
Some of your clothes have to be air-dried anyway, so why not air dry all of them? This isn’t as ideal for apartment dwellers, but if you have a backyard, it’s easy to hang a clothesline and let your clothes dry under the — wait for it — sun! We realize this still isn’t feasible for everyone, so our extra tip for dryer users is to use the “cool-down” cycle and let the remaining heat finish drying your clothes.2
#3. Only run a full dishwasher
Seriously, who wants to wash dishes? Dishwashers are great, but they use a lot of energy! This is why it’s important to fully load your dishwasher before running the cycle. Otherwise, you’re wasting water and energy.
#4. Air dry your dishes
Speaking of wasting energy, the heat setting on your dishwasher is super convenient but definitely unnecessary. Once the rinse cycle is done, hand-dry your dishes or just open the machine and let them air out on their own. The water is already hot, so it will evaporate quickly.
#5. Avoid your oven and use your microwave
Ovens are great for cooking food, but they use a lot of energy and make your home warmer. In turn, your air conditioner works even harder to cool your home, which leads to big spikes in your bill. To solve this, 1) cook with your microwave as much as possible, which is a more energy-efficient appliance, and 2) skip preheating and just pop your dish in the oven.
#6. Clean your refrigerator coils
If your fridge is constantly humming and has trouble staying cool, the condenser coils likely need cleaning. Depending upon the make and model, they could be located under, behind or on the back of the fridge. Whether you clean them yourself or call a professional technician, this will cut down on the energy consumption of your fridge.
#7. Cook outside as much as possible
We love a good cookout! You can skip the oven and use the microwave with some dishes, but no one wants to cook chicken or beef in there. Bleh! And while grilling can help you avoid heating your house with the oven, charcoal and propane do release emissions. So, you should keep that in mind when tracking your carbon footprint.
#8. In winter, set the thermostat to 68 °F
We wrote a whole blog on this topic, but the gist is this: use 68 °F as a guide and then adjust to your family’s comfort level. When you’re asleep or away from home for more than an hour, we recommend setting it even lower. Per the Department of Energy, you can save up to 10% of your heating and cooling costs by turning your thermostat back 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day from its typical setting. Remember: heating and cooling your home accounts for 50% of your energy bill!3
#9. In summer, set the thermostat to 75 °F
Follow the same strategy during the summer as with winter, but use 75 °F as a starting point. If you’re uncomfortable, turn it down, but keep in mind, this will drive up your bill. But if you feel comfortable, try turning it up even more. When you’re away from home for at least one hour, set the thermostat to 78 °F. The closer your home’s temperature is to the outside, the more savings you’ll see on your electric bill.
#10. Figure out which direction your ceiling fan spins
We realize this is such an overused tip, but it’s essential in reducing energy costs.
- In the summer, ceiling fans should spin clockwise. Because of the angle of the blades, the fan pushes cool air down into the room and across people’s skin.
- In winter, ceiling fans should spin counterclockwise. This creates a vacuum effect, pulling warm air from the center of the room to the corners where there are cold air pockets.
#11. Take shorter, cooler showers
While this tip does save energy, it also protects your skin. The longer you stay in the shower, the more your skin dries out. Plus, hotter showers — those that use more hot water and thus more energy — strip our skin of its natural oils leading to a higher risk of itchy dry skin. Keep your shower short (between five and 15 minutes) and hot but not scalding.4
#12. Install aerating, low-flow faucets and showerheads
You should turn off the water when brushing your teeth, but you can save water even when the water is on with low-flow faucets and showerheads. When choosing a showerhead or a new faucet for your kitchen or bathroom, look for a WaterSense label. This can reduce your water flow by 30%, — which reduces how much water needs to be heated for showers and washing hands.5
#13. Use less hot water
We talked about this above with the washing machine and the dishwasher, but hot water accounts for approximately 20% of your utility bill. It’s directly related to how much energy your water heater expends. Implement this in all forms of water usage: handwashing, rinsing vegetables, showering and baths.6
#14. Set your water heater temperature to 120 °F
There’s one more way to solve this hot water issue: lower the temperature on your water heater. Chances are your water heater still uses its factory settings, which is set at 140 °F. Thus, the EPA suggests you turn this factory setting down by 20 degrees.7 Better yet, you won’t even notice it in the shower, but you will see it on your bill.
#15. Insulate your hot water tank if it’s warm to the touch
Water heaters typically have an “R-value.” However, it is super confusing. The simplest way to tell your water heater needs insulating is just to touch it. If it’s warm, it needs insulation, because it shouldn’t feel warm to the touch. A water heater insulation blanket costs around $30 and could save you 7-16% in water heating costs. The insulation will quickly pay for itself and then some!8
#16. Implement passive solar tactics
Passive solar is a modern home design that maximizes the power of the sun. While we realize most people’s homes aren’t passive solar homes, you can still implement passive solar tactics in your home. Just by strategically opening and closing your curtains and windows to heat and cool your home at key times of the day, you create a passive solar home. You’re using the heat of the sun to regulate your home’s climate without the use of electricity.
#17. Replace incandescent bulbs to LED bulbs
While LED lights used to be expensive, they are now super affordable! Compared to incandescent lighting, LED bulbs use 75% less energy, and last 25 times longer.9
#18. Always turn lights off in an empty room
We thought about not including this tip since it’s painfully obvious. We nevertheless included it because it’s important and not everyone “walks the walk” and actually does it. Per the Department of Energy, the rule-of-thumb is this:
- Leave the room lights on if you’ll be back in 15 minutes or less.
- Turn the lights off if you’ll be gone for more than 15 minutes in any given room.10
#19. Utilize natural ventilation
During the Texas summers, we are not opening our windows to 100 °F heat. But during the milder spring and fall months, you can cool your home by raising your windows. Also called the “chimney effect,” this form of ventilation relies on elementary physics: Hot air rises and cool air sinks. The convection of these two forces creates a breeze that circulates throughout the house without using electricity.11
#20. Replace your air filters regularly
Not only does your air filter help keep your home’s air free of dust, dander, and other allergens, but it can also keep your HVAC’s energy consumption down by 5-15%. You should change your air filter every one to three months, or simply follow the instructions of the company that built your HVAC. If you combine that with a fan, you can raise the thermostat 4 degrees and won’t even know it.12
#21. Install a programmable thermostat
The ultimate set-it-and-forget-it tool, a programmable thermostat allows you to adjust your home’s temperature based on your family’s schedule. It’s perfect for people who are always in a hurry and just don’t have time to constantly fiddle with the temperature every time they come and go.
#22. Unplug your devices when not in use
Appliances that use energy when they’re not in use are called vampire appliances, and many Halloween and horror movie-related puns have been made about them (i.e., energy suckers, slay vampire appliances, taking a big bite out of your wallet, etc.). Bad jokes aside, these appliances account for 10% of your energy bill.13
The easiest fix is a power strip that collects as many plugs as possible into a single location. When you’re not using the devices, you can simply switch off the power strip. Vampire appliances include computers, TVs, game consoles, phones and e-readers.
#23. Turn off computers and other equipment when they aren’t in use
Another way you can slay these cold-blooded devices is just to turn them off. Revolutionary, right?
#24. Set your television to the “home” or “standard” setting to reduce the brightness
This one-time step reduces your TV’s energy use by 18%-30%.14
#25. Stream content with ENERGY STAR-approved devices
Today, washers and dryers aren’t the only appliances bearing ENERGY STAR logos. Now, you can stream Netflix in peace knowing that your energy-efficient TV uses, on average, 25% less energy than conventional models when on, asleep or idling.15 That said, you should still have this vampire appliance plugged into a power strip (see tip #22).
#26. Replace your weatherstripping
Freeze! Put down the newspaper slowly, slowly, slowly. While stuffing the periodical in between your window seals may be a cheap fix for sealing drafts, weatherstripping — materials manufactured for sealing your home’s openings — are inexpensive and one of the quickest ways to save money.
Simple weatherstripping includes replacing the rubber sealants around your door, the felt in your window sashes or foam tape around your attic hatches. These simple steps can save you 10%–20% on your home heating and cooling costs.15
#27. Caulk cracks, gaps and leaks
It’s important to note that weatherstripping is used for sealing areas that are used and moved often (i.e., opening and closing doors, windows and the attic). Caulking, on the other hand, is used for sealing things that DO NOT move, such as cracks, openings in and around windows, and seams and joints around your home. This is just as important as weatherstripping.
#28. Seal your fireplace when not in use with a chimney balloon
Let’s look at a fireplace for what it is: a giant hole in your home that lets smoke escape when you light a fire. It’s a great way to heat your home without using electricity, but when not in use, it needs to be sealed just like your windows and doors.
A chimney balloon is a heat-reactive plastic balloon that inflates to seal the opening of your fireplace when the chimney isn’t in use. Don’t worry: If you forget it’s there and light a fire, the balloon will automatically deflate since it’s heat reactive. Phew!
#29. Install an insulated box to seal leaky attics
Another hole to the outside, your attic leads toward a space in your home that typically isn’t insulated. Thus, it’s important you air seal the opening to maximize your energy savings. This can be done with an attic box, which you can build yourself or buy one premade. It’s a removable insulation piece that covers the hole in your attic to block any air in your attic/outside from entering your home.16
How Do I Know Which Tips I Need to Implement?
This can be solved with an energy audit. An energy audit is an inspection of your home, including how it uses energy and the methods in place (i.e., weatherstripping, LED bulbs, water heater insulation, basically everything on this list, etc.) that make your house more energy-efficient. There are two forms of energy audits:
- Do-it-yourself energy audit
- A professional home audit
A DIY energy audit is a great “high level” inspection of your home. It’s easy to spot big drafts, non-LED light bulbs, poorly insulated hot water heaters, and old weatherstripping in your home. However, a professional energy auditor will inspect with tools such as a Thermo imaging camera and door blower that detects the smallest of air leaks that are invisible to the naked eye.
After an energy audit, you’ll have a much better idea of which methods (and maybe even more) you should implement in your home if you really want to lower your electricity bill.