In honor of Earth Day, we have some energy-saving tips that will not only reduce pollution, but also help save money. Wondering what practical steps you can take to lessen your environmental impact? Being smart about energy efficiency is an immediate cost-effective way to take action. It’s not just good for the wallet; it’s good for the planet too.Here are 7 practical ways that you can reduce energy consumption in your home:
1. In winter, let the sunshine in
Speaking of the planet, you probably already know Earth’s axis is tilted. During winter months, the Northern Hemisphere is tilted away from the sun, which causes the sun to appear lower in the southern sky. What does all of this have to do with energy efficiency? Opening the curtains on your south-facing windows during the coldest months is a great way to bring extra heat into your home. Closing those same curtains after the sun sets will make sure it stays there.
2. Insulate, insulate, insulate
A single family home can lose hundreds of dollars in wasted energy each winter due to improper insulation. (We allow so much heat to escape our homes, we should start calling it Houdini.) Weather-stripping doors and windows is a great place to begin correcting the problem. You can go one step further by purchasing inexpensive insulation from your local hardware or home improvement store and covering other areas where heat might be escaping (the attic is a likely suspect). Many people assume that insulation is just for the purpose of keeping their home warmer in colder weather. That’s true, but insulation actually slows the movement of heat between two spaces. This means that during the summer months, the insulation keeps your home cooler, preventing overheating.
3. Dress for the season
This one is probably a no-brainer. When the temperatures start to fall, it’s time to bundle up. Cashmere throws, flannel blankets, and warm comforters aren’t just cozy winter accessories. They’ll help you save money by resisting the temptation to crank up the thermostat. Then, when temperatures begin to rise in warmer months, it’s time to take off the long sleeves and wool socks. Break the habit of always reaching for the thermostat. You’d be amazed at how much your clothing can affect your body’s temperature.
4. Thick curtains, weighty savings
Not to pry but… how thick are your curtains? Energy saving curtains aren’t just a thing, they might be just the thing you need to shave a few extra dollars off your energy bill. (Jargon alert: They’re also referred to as thermal insulated curtains.) They come in all sorts of styles. You could choose a stylish, multi-layered look or a single, heavyweight textile. Just don’t forget to close your curtains at night. They do their best work while you’re fast asleep.
5. Program your thermostat
No less an authority than the Department of Energy reminds us we can save money on our heating and air conditioning bills by resetting our thermostats when we’re asleep or away from home. A programmable thermostat enables you to adjust the times you turn on the heat according to a predetermined schedule. Pretty handy. Our friends at the DoE also tell us that we can save about 10% on our heating bills by turning our thermostats down 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours each day. If you have central AC, try setting the thermostat a few degrees higher during the summer so that your house gets warmer when you're away for more than a couple hours.
6. Clean your furnace
It’s as simple as this. A clean furnace is a fully functioning furnace, and a fully functioning furnace can save you money. Check your filter monthly and replace it when it gets dirty. This isn’t simply a tip for saving energy. It’s a best practice for proper home maintenance.
7. Smart ways to stay cool
Bay Area residents don’t always want—or need—air conditioning, but if you do have it in your home, there are smart ways to improve its efficiency. If you have a window unit, you can select the "re-circulate" option so it will re-cool the inside air instead of using excess energy trying to cool and pump the outside air into your home.
Final words of advice
We’ve pointed out a few simple steps you can take to reduce energy consumption. (More great ways to reduce energy costs here.) Now for a few extra tips:
Pro tip #1: Turning up your thermostat higher will not warm your room faster. We’ve all done it because it’s intuitive. The reality is that it takes the same amount of time to warm your home regardless of the heating level. Cranking up the heat actually wastes energy.
Pro tip #2: Programmable thermostats can help create energy efficiency and generate savings—but you can’t just “set it and forget it.” If your thermostat isn’t set properly, you’ll spend more time overriding it manually than enjoying its benefits. It’s worth making an effort to ensure that the times and temperatures you’ve entered are the right choices for your lifestyle.
Pro tip #3: If your house isn’t as warm as you like it, it’s not necessarily the furnace’s fault. You’ll need to replace your furnace eventually, but you might be pleasantly surprised to discover you can extend the life of your unit by cleaning it, updating your insulation, and inspecting your ductwork. If that doesn’t work, it might even be worth calling a technician to take a look. They won’t try to sell you a new heater, and they might just be able to add a few years to your old one.
Reducing energy consumption can save you money, and also helps ease our impact on the planet. That’s what we’d call a win-win—every season of the year.