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Comparing the ROI of Different Home Energy Hacks

Thanks to technological innovations over the last 150 years, it is now possible to heat a house when there’s snow outside, light a room when the sun is down, stay cool indoors during the hotter months, cook food and boil water with the mere turning of knobs, and enjoy long showers at personally adjusted levels of warmth. It can all be done off the remains of decomposed flora and fauna stretching back through eons of time.

People throughout the industrialized world often take for granted just how lucky they have things in terms of electricity. There are parts of the Third World with weak electrical infrastructures, whereas here the United States, 903 kilowatts of electricity are used annually in the average household. While Americans bask in the convenience of having various electrical functions just a switch away, it all comes with a hefty price.

Electric bills in most U.S. households hover around $2,200 on annual basis, while the nation’s 115 million homes collectively account for 22.5 percent of domestic energy usage. Considering how the global supply of fossil fuel is limited, one might assume that populations would make efficient, conservative use of this resource, but that isn’t the case. To the contrary, most people waste vast amounts of energy due to household faults like non-optimal kitchen appliances, loose window sills and numerous other factors. Thankfully, there are various DIY home energy hacks that can help you cut down on energy use, make your home more eco-friendly and save money on your electric bills.

Building an Energy-Efficient Home

In an effort to help consumers become more energy efficient, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has compiled the following stats on how energy usage is broken down in the average American household:

While some of those percentages might not seem so high, they can all be reduced with just a few simple adjustments in daily habits around the house.

How to Save Energy at Home: Seal Off Air Leaks

Your house could have a number of leaks that you’d hardly even notice, but they can leak heat from your rooms and hallways at times when you need it most. If you live in a house that’s more than three decades old, there’s an even greater possibility that your living areas are no longer equipped with the level of air tightness that was intended at the time of construction. These leaks can be very taxing on energy efficiency and heating costs, because your heating system is forced to exert far more energy just to keep your rooms sufficiently warm.

Leaks could be present in various parts of your home, such as in the attic, basement, crawlspaces and on or around the ceilings, doors, fireplace or fixtures. One way to test for such leaks is to light an incense stick and see if the smoke gets pulled in a particular direction. If leaks are present, the DOE recommends sealing off the gaps through which the air escapes your house. For maximum protection, check for the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) logo – an official certification of quality – on any product you use to ensure that the sealant is heat-resistant.

Saving Energy at Home: It Starts With the Refrigerator

In many households, refrigeration temperatures are set at exceedingly cold levels. This can be a needless energy drain that will ultimately lead to higher-than-necessary electric bills. Even though refrigerators with ENERGY STAR ratings are more efficient than older models, it’s still wise to manually set the fridge temperature at around 38 degrees, with the freezer set to zero. It’s also wise to keep the frost from building up in the freezer, as that could otherwise cause lags in efficiency.

Refrigeration units that place the freezer above – rather than beside – the fridge are generally more power-efficient. While a larger unit might be necessary for a larger family, households with one or two people can save more on their electric bills by opting for a smaller refrigerator.

Freezers: Always Well Maintained in Energy-Efficient Homes

Every time you open the freezer, cold air comes gushing out which the freezer must then replace once you close the door. This can be quite demanding on the power supply, and too many occurrences of opening and closing the freezer door can put a strain on your electric bill. If a freezer is packed, however, there’s less open air contained within that could come bellowing out at each opportunity. Therefore, it’s best to maximize your freezer by allowing suitable foods to absorb the coldness. If you don’t consume enough freezable goods, try filling out some of the empty space with towels or newspaper.

Save Money on Your Electric Bill: Use CFL or LED Lights

Incandescent bulbs were widely known to be an energy drainer long before countries took measures to phase them out completely. Due to the lack of similarly priced alternatives with comparative lighting quality, incandescent bulbs were omnipresent in households around the world for many decades. Nowadays, however, as compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) and light emitting diode (LED) lights take the place of incandescent bulbs, consumers are realizing that the extra amount spent on these bulbs leads to savings over the long run. This is due to the greater lifespan and higher efficiency of the two alternatives.

LEDs, for instance, last 25 times longer and save users 25 percent on electrical costs over incandescent bulbs. CFLs, meanwhile, use 75 percent less energy than traditional bulbs. If every U.S. household used just one CFL in place of a traditional bulb, it would greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save enough energy to light 3 million homes.

You can also save money on your electric bills by using only natural, incoming light from the sun. Equip your windows with blinds or light shades, and arrange your reading and working areas accordingly. The sunlight that enters your rooms will not only help you save money on your utility bills, it’s also a healthier option that provides an aesthetically pleasing alternative to unnatural light.

For the hours when you do need bulbs, consider installing a movement-tracking sensor in your house that can turn lights on or off based on the presence of members on your household. This way, energy won’t be wasted if you forget to turn off a light or leave a room only for a minute and end up gone for more than an hour.

Trees: A Shield From the Heat

With each passing year, summers are breaking record-level temperatures. Since the dawn of time, trees have been one of the best defenses against heat for humans and other species. If the placement of your windows is such that hot sunlight blares straight into your living quarters, consider planting a tree outside to shade your window from the sun. In the summertime, a tree could reduce heat and help you save on cooling costs. When autumn comes, the leaves will fall off in time to allow the cooler light of winter into your home.

Windows: Reinforce, Cover Up and Insulate

If you live in an area with extreme weather, where summers are scorching hot and winters are icy cold, air cracks in your windows could make temperatures in your home rise or fall to uncomfortable levels. The older your home, the likelier this is to be the case, especially now that climate change is making seasonal temperatures more extreme. In any case, you can cut down on heating and cooling costs by insulating your windows to make them more airtight. Look around the windowsills and panes for tiny gaps that could be letting air slip through, and apply sealant over those spots.

When heat waves occur, indoor humidity is mostly caused when the sun directly hits your house. While sunlight through your windows will normally help you save on lighting costs, sunlight when its 90 degrees or more outside could result in far costlier cooling bills. Therefore, the economical choice during the hottest days of the year is to cover your windows to block the sun from coming inside. You might still need some fans or air conditioning in your home, but you won’t need to draw as much power from them if scorching sun rays are blocked entirely from your living quarters.

Go Light on the Water Heater

Of all the energy supplies in a given household, none are taken for granted more than the water heater. You may never think about the energy that gets consumed each time you wash your hands or do your dishes, but it’s an energy source that most people couldn’t live without. After all, without a water heater, it’s virtually impossible to take showers or wash clothes. In essence, water heaters are the backbone of human hygiene. However, you can boost the efficiency of your water heating system with the following hacks:

  • Set the thermostat at a maximum of 120 degrees F
  • Lower the temperature of water used for washing dishes; rinse dishes before putting them in the dishwasher
  • Set the washing machine to cold water; use detergents that are more optimal for colder settings

DIY Home Energy Hack: Dry Clothes the Old-Fashioned Way

When it comes to cleaning clothes, there are few things that can beat an old-fashioned washing machine. It might use lots of water and electrical power, but washing by hand would be strenuous, time-consuming and much too archaic in this day and age. Drying clothes, however, is another thing altogether, since the only thing that’s really needed in order to do the job is air – one of the world’s most abundant resources. So instead of using up untold amounts of power each week just to spin your laundry dry, consider hanging up the garments with hangers and clips. Most garments will dry within 24 hours, so if you do your loads on the weekend and hang them to dry, they could all be ready to wear by Monday morning.

Always Dress for the Weather, Even on Indoor Days

As everyone knows, clothes are often seasonal. There are winter clothes like scarves, overcoats and snow boots; and there are summer clothes like shorts and tank tops. While most people publicly dress with the weather in mind, fewer people consider adjusting their wardrobe according to indoor temperatures. Trouble is, your HVAC unit works extra on those days when your outfit doesn’t reflect the day’s forecast.

So instead of suiting up with the AC blasting on a 100-degree July day, or sitting around half-dressed by the heater on a white Christmas Eve dress as you would outside when you’re indoors. In the heat of summer, wear less; sleeveless shirts, shorts, and slip-on shoes are all you might really need on the hottest days. In the cold of winter, wear more; sweaters, scarves, double-layer socks, stocking caps and long underwear could all come in handy when the reindeer run through town. As Jimmy Carter once told the nation during the energy crisis of the late 1970s, “turn down the thermostat, and put on a sweater.”

The Ceiling Fan: More Useful Than It Seems

One of the biggest money-savers as far as indoor cooling could be a certain home and condominium feature that’s often overlooked: the ceiling fan. While often dismissed as ineffectual, a ceiling fan can actually make a crucial difference when you follow the other summer hacks such as covering your windows and dressing lightly. Better yet, a ceiling fan can pull cold air up and away from your living area when spun in reverse during winter months.

Minimize Vampire Power Consumption

The typical consumer will often leave electronic equipment plugged into a wall 24/7, totally unmindful of the fact that this uses up energy every second to some degree, even during hours and days when such devices aren’t in use. This wasteful drain of energy can add up significantly on your electric bill over the course of a year, but it can largely be circumvented with a smart outlet strip: the kind that’s programmed to detect when a device is not in use and lower the allocation of power accordingly. You can further cut down on costly energy consumption by opting for smaller electronic units, such as laptops over PCs and mp3 players over large stereo systems.

Energy-Efficient Homes Choose Power Wisely

In order to lower your electric bills, save money, conserve energy and help the environment, it’s important to cultivate economical, eco-friendly habits around the home. Within a short amount of time, energy-saving hacks that work best in your household should become second nature. It’s also important to have an energy service provider that offers solid, efficient power at affordable rates. Shipley Energy Home Services has been providing power to homes in Pennsylvania and Maryland for 90 years. Our range of energy service options include electricity, natural gas, propane and more. Visit our home energy page to learn more about our energy options.

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