There are many ways to save energy at home. But how does one prioritize?

Everyone has heard the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” mantra when it comes to how to dispose of the stuff in your life. But have you heard of “Conservation, Efficiency, Clean Renewables?” It’s my golden rule. 

Think of conservation as using less power. 

Conservation options often have zero cost and save you money. Here are some tips that cost you nothing:

  • Turn off the lights.
  • Turn down the thermostat when nobody’s home. 
  • Move lamps and TVs away from the thermostat.
  • Hang the laundry to dry.
  • Lower the temperature on your water heater.
  • Use the microwave or toaster oven instead of the oven.
  • Wash clothes in cold water.
  • Defrost your refrigerator.
  • Use blinds, shades or curtains to block the sun in the summer and welcome it in the winter. 
  • Turn off your computer and printer.
  • Run the dishwasher and washer/dryer at night.
  • Don’t leave your mobile phone plugged in all night. 
  • Use a ceiling fan. 

Efficiency is about being smart. 

I noticed that we often left the basement light on as we traveled from the garage to the first floor, arms laden with groceries. So we installed a motion sensor at the bottom of the basement stairs. The light comes on as we enter the basement from the garage, and even when we walk down with a laundry basket. So we’ve saved energy, and find it more convenient. 

Some efficiency options have a cost that can be recouped from reduced energy bills—often within a year! There’s an upfront cost to the list below, but these changes will save you money quickly:

  • Replace your light bulbs with LED bulbs.
  • Use smart power strips.
  • Learn to use a caulk gun and seal drafts.
  • Clean or replace filters regularly.
  • Set a timer so outdoor lights only operate from dusk to dawn.
  • Install a programmable smart thermostat. If you have an erratic pattern of coming and going, these thermostats learn your patterns, and adjust the heat accordingly.
  • Get appliances with Energy Star rating. Select the most efficient one, preferably one that is electric instead of fracked gas. 
  • Get double-pane windows.
  • Upgrade your HVAC system.
  • Insulate your home and ducts.

If you can, go solar!

Gas and electric bills both show total usage. The gas usage is in hundred cubic feet (ccf), and the electric is in kilowatt-hours (kWh). Start looking at these each month, and see what conservation and efficiency ideas you can implement to lower these annual numbers. Give yourself a year. After these annual numbers have dropped and stabilized, you may be ready to take that final leap to clean renewables. In our region and on your own home, the most viable is rooftop solar. My solar-powered, frack-free home is fully powered by the 22 panels on our roof—even for our electric car needs. 

Please share your own tips as comments to this article, so we can all learn from one another.

This was written for the March 2020 issue of GRID Magazine.


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