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How to save energy at home

Four ways to cut back on your energy bill and energy use to save money and help the planet

by Jonathan Trout ConsumerAffairs Research Team
Gray house with white door

Introduction

Being smart with how you maintain your home and use your home’s appliances can have long-lasting benefits to the planet by reducing your daily energy consumption.

Eco-friendly changes can be surprisingly simple and affordable, so how can you save a little green and make your home a little greener?

The first step is to identify where energy dollars are “flying out of your home”, says Mike Nicholson, owner of Nicholson Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning.

Man sealing windows

Seal cracks

One of the biggest problems homeowners face is air leakage. Conditioned air that constantly seeps through cracks and is replaced by unconditioned air will cost homeowners big bucks, says Nicholson.

"Sealing leaks could cut heating and cooling bills anywhere from five to 40 percent, depending on how many you have," he added.

Use your hand to feel for air around cracks near doors, windows and anywhere the exterior structure of the home has been joined together. Leaks can be sealed with caulk, weather stripping, spray foam insulation or even Flex Seal®.

For a thorough leak detection inspection, you can hire a contractor to do a blower-door test. This test involves placing a blower door fan at the front of your house to suck out all the inside air, depressurizing your house. This lets outside air come in through the leaks. While your house is depressurized, the contractor uses a pressure reader that uses light to scan areas of your home. If a cold-air leak is detected, the light turns blue. If a warm-air leak is detected, the light turns red.

Power strip on wooden floor

Use power strips

Electronics drain large amounts of energy, even when they’re turned off. Plugging electronics and appliances into a power strip can help minimize “phantom power,” which is electricity that plugged-in electronics draw from outlets even when they’re turned off. Here’s a breakdown of the standby energy consumption for common household appliances:

  • Stereo: When on, your stereo uses 22 watts. In standby mode it’s still using 12 watts.

  • TV: Your TV uses 100 watts when it's on and 10 watts in standby mode.

  • Computer: Powered on, your computer uses around 130 watts, compared to 15 in standby.

  • Modem: Your modem uses 14 watts constantly.

Using power strips, and turning them off when you leave a room, can cut your household power usage by up to 10 percent.

Leaky faucet

Fix leaky faucets

One drip per second from a leaky faucet wastes 540 gallons of water per year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). You’ll see that wasted water show up on your water bill. A leaky faucet will cost you anywhere from $20 to $200 per year, depending on the extent of the leak.

To fix a leaky faucet, either hire a professional or take the project on yourself. DIYers can tackle the job in just five steps from Popular Mechanics:

To fix a leaky faucet, either hire a professional or take on the project yourself. DIYers can tackle the job in just five steps from Popular Mechanics:

  1. Make sure the water supply is shut off, from the handles to the knobs that control the water supply from the main line. When in doubt, turn off the main water supply to your entire house.

  2. Pry off the decorative handle coverings with a flathead screwdriver. Remove the screw underneath each knob that mounts the handle to the stem, and remove the handle.

  3. Loosen the packing nut with a wrench and remove the stem. Some stems twist off and some pop off.

  4. Check for damage on the stem, O-ring and washer inside your valve seat. These could all be the cause of the leak. Replace the washer and O-ring. It’s important to make sure the washer and O-ring are an exact fit. You can ensure they are by taking the old ones with you when you go to the hardware store to purchase the new ones.

  5. Reassemble all of the parts in order of washer, O-ring, stem, packing nut, screw and handle.

Single lightbulb on wood ceiling

Replace old bulbs with LED bulbs

LED lights use 85 percent less energy than conventional bulbs, last longer, and save you up to $100 over their lifespan.

If you use an LED bulb for around two hours a day, paying the national average of 12 cents per kilowatt hour, a 12-watt LED bulb will set you back about $1 per year, according to CNET. Compare that to a conventional bulb which will cost you around $5 per year in the same scenario.

Nicholson recommends choosing LED bulbs over compact fluorescent bulbs. LED bulbs cost more upfront, but their energy savings and their long lifespan easily offset the cost.

Energy efficient light bulbs

Conclusion

Little fixes and and energy upgrades save you money over an extended period of time. Most of them are quick, easy and inexpensive. If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, swing by your local home improvement store and start with some easy projects.

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by Jonathan Trout ConsumerAffairs Research Team

As a member of the ConsumerAffairs Research Team, Jonathan Trout believes having access to free, comprehensive information on products and businesses is vital to making smart purchasing decisions. He focuses his efforts on researching and reviewing multiple brands across a variety of industries, with the goal of writing unbiased buyers guides to help inform consumers on impending purchases.