The former United States Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, shared some wisdom: “As the saying goes, the Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones; we transitioned to better solutions. The same opportunity lies before us with energy efficiency and clean energy.” Going through the steps to be energy efficient not only saves you money on bills, it can also help improve the economy and the environment. Understanding that your actions are part of something much bigger is important. It’s a powerful phenomenon when we all work together toward a common goal, which in turn can increase our quality of life as a whole, across the entire universe. In fact, in the U.S., we even have a dedicated Energy Efficiency Day – October 3rd – a nationwide effort to raise awareness on this important concept.
It all starts at home. On average, 43% of a U.S. household’s energy bill goes to heating and cooling, 20% to heating water and 9% to appliances.(1) Although these are all necessary home functions, simple and small changes can really add up to significant cost savings and improvements over time. That is why tighter restrictions and transparency on energy use and appliances are now in effect. For example, the “Energy Star” seal provides a certification on consumer products indicating it meets specific standards for energy efficiency. This provides customer confidence that the product is not only energy efficient, but also functions as advertised.
When replacing or buying a new energy efficient appliance, some items will pay off better than others. We break down the top 4 appliances that have biggest impact on your energy use here (2):
- Refrigerators & Freezers: an old refrigerator uses about twice as much energy as a new Energy Star refrigerator. Furthermore, an energy efficient refrigerator can save you on average $270 in five years. By using an energy efficient refrigerator, the average family can reduce their carbon footprint by about 3,600 pounds.
- Washing Machines/Dryers: these machines work hard, with the average American family washing 300 loads of laundry each year. By using an Energy Star certified model, you can save approximately $75 per year on utility bills. Furthermore, it saves about 3,000 gallons of water per year. Plus, these newer models include sensor drying – which means clothes will get dry, without overheating and using unnecessary energy.
- Dishwashers: replacing an old dishwasher can save nearly 4,000 gallons of water over the lifetime of the appliance. Additionally, Energy Star certified dishwashers offer improved water filtration systems that can remove food effectively and efficiently, as well as more functional designs to accommodate different types and varieties of dishes.
- Air Purifiers/Dehumidifiers: some purifiers can use more energy than a refrigerator; therefore, it’s important to be mindful of energy efficient models that impact the quality of air in your home. Energy Star certified air purifiers consume 40% less energy than traditional products, which can save you $230 over the life of the product. Furthermore, Energy Star certified dehumidifiers use 30% less energy than traditional products.
In addition to upgrading these appliances, here are some other good home habits to follow to continue the journey to conserving energy.
- Turn off power strips with plugged-in electronics when not in use (this can save 12% on an energy bill, or $100 for the year) (1)
- Turn down the thermostat 7 to 10 degrees for eight hours a day (which can save up to 10% annually on heating and cooling) (1)
- Use smart laundry tips – for example, wait until you have a full load of laundry, ramp up the washer’s spin speed and clean the dryer’s lint filter1 for the best machine functionality. Furthermore, avoid washing clothes with hot water, and instead use cold or warm water. Since the majority of the energy used by the washer is used to heat the water, this simple adjustment can save a significant amount of energy overtime.
- Start a compost pile to store organic waste in a pile or container so it decomposes over time. This can include items such as fruit or vegetable waste that can be repurposed to fertilizer. (3)
- Install Low-Flow Showerheads which have a flow rate of less than 2.5 gallons per minute, whereas a conventional showerhead uses 5 gallons per minute, drastically improving your home’s water efficiency (3)
- Seal all windows – keep up on maintenance and seal any air leaks in or around your windows. For a quick fix, you can even add weather-stripping around the frames to help with drafts coming in. Repair any cracks or gaps to help lower unnecessary energy costs. (3)
- Be mindful of water usage. The average household can save $170 per year with simple, small changes to their water usage, such as turning off the water when brushing your teeth. (3)
- Replace incandescent bulbs with Halogen bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diode bulbs (LED) for longer-lasting light and more energy efficiency than old incandescent bulbs.
- Unplug unused chargers – the average cell phone or battery charger consumes 0.26 watts of energy when not in use and 2.24 watts when in use. Although these may seem like small usage numbers, they are often referred to as “energy vampires” since collectively, these can really suck your energy bill. (3)
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It’s a powerful thing when we can all work together toward a common goal. Make sure to do your part at home to continue the charge toward a more energy efficient planet. After all, “small changes add up to huge results,” so don’t think your part won’t make a difference… it does.