Top 11 Ways to Save Energy at Home

How to boost energy efficiency while sheltering in place.

En español: For many people across the country, the spread of the novel coronavirus and shelter-in-place orders means a lot more time spent at home. This shift in “place” also means a shift in how we consume energy. We’re keeping the lights on longer in our homes. We’re doing the dishes and turning the microwave on more often. We’ve left communal spaces, which means we’ve also left our communal energy consumption, and are increasing our energy use as we isolate ourselves. For some, this might mean an uptick in electric bills, even at a time of financial uncertainty. Here are some tips to reduce your energy use.

Reduce Energy Use on Big Appliances

Daily needs like heating and cooling, washing your clothing, and doing the dishes are made a lot easier by energy, but most of us can find ways to meet these needs more efficiently. 

  1. Adjust the temperature. Check your water heater temperature. In many households, 120 degrees is a sufficient temperature to heat water, saving you money and energy compared to higher temperatures. 
  2. Change your washing habits. For both washing dishes and clothes, wait to run a load until the washer is completely full. Wash your clothes in cold water and then line-dry or rack dry your clothing to skip a drying cycle. When washing dishes in a dishwasher, skip the “heated dry” and simply open the door at the end of washing. Your dishes will air-dry. 
Stop Energy Leaks

If yours is like most homes, a sizable fraction of the energy you use for heating and cooling—ten to twenty percent of it—is wasted as a result of drafts, air leaks, and outdated heating and cooling systems. Every home is different. But all homes need to keep conditioned air in, once we’ve gotten it to the temperature we want. Here are tips to stop energy leaks: 

  1. Use insulation. Insulation reduces heat flow in and out of a home. The greater the difference between the indoor and outdoor temperature, the more energy is required to keep your home at a comfortable temperature, so if your home is losing air that’s “just right”, you’ll use even more energy. Basements, chimneys and attics should all be well-insulated

  2. Properly seal your home. Leaks and holes in windows, doors and chimneys and poor connections in ducts let “just right” air escape too. In a typical house, about 20 percent of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks and holes. Once you find the leaks, caulking and weatherstripping are simple and effective sealing techniques. These can be a DIY project

  3. Keep windows and doors closed. Windows and doors are pathways for energy to enter and exit your home - even when they’re closed. Window frames should be sealed and well-insulated. If yours aren’t, use weather stripping to reduce drafts. When your heating or cooling system is running, make sure doors and windows are closed. In warmer months, use passive-solar rules to keep your house cooler: close windows and shades or curtains on the sunny side of your house, and leave the cooler side open. In colder months, use storm windows to prevent cold air from entering your home. 

Modernize and Update

Small changes, such as switching to LEDs can modernize your home to increase energy savings. Here are tips on modernizing and updating your home: 

  1. Be smart about lighting. Replace your lightbulbs with light-emitting diode (LED) lights. LEDs are today’s most energy-efficient lighting technology. They use up to 15% less energy and last an average of 15,000 hours longer than compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL). When compared to traditional incandescent light bulbs, LEDs save up to 80% more energy and last an average of 24,000 hours longer. 
  2. Check your faucets and showerheads. Repairing leaks in fixtures - faucets and showerheads - can significantly reduce hot water use.
Power Down and Unplug your Electronics

While many of us are relying on electronics and technologies to connect with others and work from home during the coronavirus pandemic, many suck energy when they aren’t even being used. Here are some tips to reduce the energy use of your electronics: 

  1. Unplug phone and computer chargers. Chargers continue to draw energy even when they are not plugged into the electronics they are intended to charge. Unplug them or plug them into smart charging strips that prevent them from drawing energy when not in use. 

  2. Unplug your microwave. The average microwave uses more power displaying the time in one year than it does heating your food. Unplug your microwave after use or, if your microwave allows, turn down the brightness settings.

  3. Power down TVs, cable boxes, and video game consoles. Make sure electronics are fully powered down when you are done using them. Over the course of a year, these electronics will use more energy in “standby mode” than they do when they are in active use.

  4. Use low power on your computer. Opt to use low power or sleep modes on your computer instead of screensavers. Most screensavers use the same amount of energy as when the screen is in normal use.