The cost of renewable energy has continued to decline over the past decade. It has become so affordable that is just makes good sense to invest in it and give yourself a little more security. In fact, the long term outlook is that the cost of energy provided by power plants driven by fossil fuels is expected to far out pace the cost of renewable energy. Therefore, if you truly want to establish some level of self sufficiency and personal security, then take the time to learn something about renewable energy and the many benefits.
But before we get started on this topic, there is one important and often overlooked concept:
It is far easier to save electricity than it is to produce it!!
As a result of this often overlooked concept, it is important to first have a discussion on saving electricity prior to discussing how to produce your own electricity.
The average person consumes far more energy than what is actually necessary to live a comfortable life. Perhaps this is because we take our available energy for granted. Hence we walk into our home and flip on the lights, turn on the TV, get on the internet, and cook a meal without any thought of where the energy actually comes from. Consequently, we never seem to give much thought about the numerous ways we could actually save on electricity.
As a result of this attitude, when people think of adding alternative energy sources to their home to cut electric bills, they often forget a very basic concept.
It is far easier to save electricity than it is to produce it!!
Consequently, I decided it was important to have a basic discussion on how to save electricity. This is in fact the best place to start. In fact, learning how to save electricity will set the very foundation of designing and installing a renewable energy system. Before installing such a system, look closely at the numerous ways you can actually cut back your energy consumption. If you focus on even a few simple ways to save electricity, you will save a considerable amount of money on installing a solar array or any other form of alternative energy.
Continue reading to learn 35 great ways to save electricity and reduce your electric bill.
35 Ways to Save Electricity
1) Adjust your behavior
Changing your behavior in several ways has the greatest potential to save electricity. For example, heating and cooling expenses account for almost one half of a family’s monthly utility bill. So, turn down the thermostat. Reduce your use of air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter.
It is also important to simply turn things off when not in use. This means lights, appliances, fans, electronics, etc.
2) Start with an energy audit
An energy audit is simply an assessment of you home energy consumption. This audit will identify energy efficient improvements that save electricity and will reduce your utility bills. The auditor will look at the exterior, attic, doors, walls, water heater, appliances, furnaces, as well as many other things. The cost of such an audit will vary depending on who and how it is performed. Shop around for this service. There are non-profit organizations, government agencies, as well as utility companies that may perform this service for free.
3) Install a programable thermostat
These thermostats can be programmed to turn on and off during times that you are sleeping or away from home. This greatly reduces unnecessary heating and cooling. Smart Thermostats can also be accessed remotely. Check out the variety of smart thermostats at Lowes.
4) Cut out “phantom energy” usage
The so-called “phantom energy” refers to the electricity that is drawn by appliances that remained plugged in even when they are turned off and not in use. Many types of electronics and office equipment continue use a certain amount of electricity regardless of being turned off.
The solution to this is to unplug any appliance that is not in use. If several electronic devices are in close proximity, then use a power strip which can easily be turned off instead of unplugging each individual piece of equipment. Smart power strips are also available that will cut off the power to electronics when not in use.
5) Use energy efficient light bulbs
The traditional incandescent light bulbs consume a lot of electricity. Furthermore, a lot of the energy produced is lost in the form of heat. There are several types of bulbs that use significantly less energy. Halogen bulbs, compact florescent lights (CFLs) and light emitting diodes (LEDs) consume 25% to 80% less energy and last 25 times longer compared to standard incandescent bulbs. These bulbs will cost more money upfront. However, most of them last for 25,000 hours, which is considerable longer than standard light bulbs. The long lifespan of these bulbs coupled with the energy savings makes these bulbs a much better choice.
6) Use natural light
Whenever possible, open the blinds and curtains and take advantage of the natural light, which costs nothing. If you have a lot of large windows and are concerned about the energy loss, simply use insulated blinds, shutters, etc.
7) Use task specific lighting
Turn off over head lights and use deck top or work bench lights that have a lower wattage rating.
8) Wash dishes by hand
Most of our major appliances consume a tremendous amount of energy. Even with a busy schedule, you can plan ahead and take the time to hand wash your dishes and cut the use of the dishwasher.
9) Reduce the use of your stove
If you are using your stove top or oven, simple turn it off a few minutes before the food is completely cooked. The heat that is retained in the oven, the stovetop burners, as well as the cookware, will continue to cook the food for at least 15 minutes or more. This is especially true if you use cookware that retains a lot of heat such as cast iron.
10) Reduce the heat in your kitchen
On those host summer days, try cooking outdoors. Put something on the BBQ. This prevents over heating the kitchen and thus saves on cooling cost.
11) Cover pots and pans when cooking
Keeping pots and pans covered retains heat inside the cooking containers. Water boils faster and food heats are efficiently. This means your cooking will be far more energy efficient.
12) Wash only full loads of laundry.
Appliances use a huge amount of energy. Save a little by washing only full loads of cloths.
13) Wash clothes in cold water
Washing clothes in cold water will save on water heating costs.
14) Dry clothes on the line
A clothes dryer uses between 1800 and 5000 watts. It takes very little time to hang clothes out on the line to dry.
15) Insulate electrical outlets
Electrical outlets and switches are a big are of energy loss that is easy to correct. If you do not believe this, place your hand over one of your outlets on a windy day. It is really inexpensive to purchase outlet insulators and install them behind the covers.
16) Do some landscaping
Things heat up quickly with direct exposure to the sun. Do some landscaping to shade your home and your air conditioning unit. I used to have a house that was well shaded and my cooling costs were half that of my neighbors.
17) Reduce water heating expenses
There are three ways to do this: 1) Purchase an energy efficient water heater, 2) Add extra insulation to your present water heater to keep the internal temperature more constant, 3) Turn down the thermostat on your water heater.
18) Install a tankless water heater
A tankless water heater is also known as an “on-demand” water heater. There are both electric and gas models. These units have built in sensors that detect water flow. When water starts to flow, the heating element turns on and produces hot water in a few seconds.
19) Install storm doors
Storms doors can cost as much as $200 or more per door. But they will go a long way toward providing better insulation to your home. In most cases, energy efficient improvements to your home qualifies for tax credits. Such credits will help you to recover some of the cost.
20) Use low flow shower heads
Traditional shower heads flow at a rate of 5 to 8 gallons per minute. Low flow shower heads flow at a rate of 1.6 to 2.5 gallons per minute. Using less water to take a shower means less water to heat. These are very inexpensive to install, which makes this a great place to start saving energy.
21) Purchase energy efficient appliances
Appliances are responsible for approximately 12% of household energy use. When purchasing any appliance, there are two things to consider: initial purchase price and annual operating cost. As a general rule, an energy efficient appliance is going to cost more up front. However, the operating cost for such appliances is as much as 25% less than a standard appliance.
Look for the Energy Star label. This is an Environmental Protection Agency voluntary program that focuses on superior energy efficiency. Therefore, the Energy Star Label is a guarantee that the appliance will consume less electricity than other standard appliances.
22) Upgrade computers and electronics
Ditch the old desktop computer and go for a more energy efficient laptop. Also, get rid of that old TV set and purchase an energy efficient upgrade.
23) Install energy efficient windows
Windows are a source of significant energy loss. Upgrade to double pane windows with Energy Star ratings. For colder regions, install interior or exterior shades to reduce heat loss. Interior insulated blinds are also a fantastic choice. For warmer regions, awnings and blinds can reduce excess heat gain through the windows.
Another option is to install low-E windows, aka low emissity windows. These windows have a microscopic coating that is transparent and reflects heat. This low-E coating means that these windows reflect exterior heat and retain interior heat. Therefore, installation of such windows translates into energy savings.
24) Schedule some disconnect time
Technology is becoming more and more a part of our lives. Try turning off everything and enjoying some quiet time or just reading a book.
25) Put on more clothes
Instead of turning up the heat, put on more clothes. Find your best sweaters, hats and insulated underwear. It will save you money.
26) Upgrade your HVAC system
Even if it means total replacement, upgrade your system to something that has an Energy Star rating. I had to do this once. It was an expensive upgrade. However, it saved me a tremendous amount of money on a monthly basis.
27) Properly insulate your home
When I purchased a home in South Carolina a number of years ago, I was surprised to find that the home had very little insulation. I greatly improved my energy efficiency, and reduced my heating and cooling bills, by investing in a bit of insulation.
28) Close your chimney flue when not in use
Whether you have a fireplace or a wood stove, warm air is going to escape and cold air is going to intrude. Remember to close the flue when not in use.
29) Recharge with solar
There are many devices that are easily recharged with a simple solar set up. Even if you know nothing about solar, there are numerous “plug and play” systems on the market these days that will easily charge smart phones, laptops, tablets, battery packs, as well as many other things. Take advantage of these products, learn some of the basics of solar, and get free electricity. It’s a fantastic way to live.
30) Use outdoor solar lighting
Instead of leaving a flood light or porch light on all the time, install solar powered lighting. These lights can be easily found online and installation is often as simply as placing a few screws. Since I live off the grid full time, I use a lot of solar powered lights as peripheral lighting.
31) Use fans
Fans simply circulate cooler air around the room. Consequently, by the nature of what they do, they use a lot less energy than turning up the HVAC system. Just be sure to turn the fan off when you are not in the room.
32) Read a book
How many people do you see everyday that spend their idle time staring at some sort of electronic device. That device of course uses energy and then has to be recharged. Instead of doing this, get in the habit of reading a book. Go outside and read. Reading can provide hours of energy free entertainment.
33) Plan your meals carefully
If you need to thaw food for a meal, plan ahead and take it out of the freezer the day before. This will save you the energy needed to thaw food with the microwave. If food needs to be chopped, take all of the food out of the refrigerator at once. All out, then all in reduces the number of times you are in and out of the refrigerator.
34) Schedule you own power outage
At some point in time, we have all experienced a power outage for at least several hours. During that time, we all experienced the joy of simply finding other things to do. We had to be creative. Take this to another level and schedule your own power outage. Shut everything down for 4 to 6 hours, maybe longer, and see how you do. It will take some time to adjust. However, you will become accustomed to this and the next time the power goes out unexpectedly, you will be prepared. Besides, the longer you can leave the power off the more energy you save.
35) Teach your children to save electricity
Children are far more observant than we give them credit for being. They learn by example. Consequently, they learn by watching what we do. Provide a good example and consistently engage in energy saving habits and you will pass this along to the next generation. Besides, if you teach them good habits, they will save you electricity and teach others to do the same.
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