Every October is Energy Awareness Month. Take these steps to help reduce your energy consumption. Computers are some of the biggest energy users in office buildings and homes. Switching your electronics to those with an Energy Star label can significantly reduce your energy consumption and therefore your energy bills. An Energy Star label signifies that an appliance is more energy-efficient than 75% of other appliances, therefore saving energy and money.
1. Shutdown your computer
Computers are some of the biggest energy users in office buildings. Turn your monitor off at night and ditch the screensaver. Today’s computers can be turned on and off over 40,000 times. Opting to shut down over using a screensaver does not affect your computer’s lifespan. (EnergyStar). So power down!
2. Choose the right light
LED bulbs are the most energy efficient lighting option. LED bulbs use 75% less electricity than incandescent bulbs (Energy Star). They also have no mercury, and last about 25 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs (DoE).
3. Eliminate vampire power: unplug idle electronics.
Devices like televisions, microwaves, scanners, and printers use standby power, even when off. Some chargers continue to pull small amounts of energy, even when plugged in (a good judge of this is if a charger feels warm to the touch). In the US, the total electricity consumed by idle electronics equals the annual output of 12 power plants (EPA).
4. Use a power strip to reduce your plug load.
To avoid paying for this “vampire power,” use a power strip to turn all devices off at once. Flipping the switch on your power strip has the same effect as unplugging each socket from the wall, preventing phantom energy loss.
5. Turn off the lights!
Consider some of these energy-saving investments. They save money in the long run, and their CO2 savings can often be measured in tons per year. Energy savings usually have the best payback when made at the same time you are making other major home improvements.
Insulate your walls and ceilings. This can save 20 to 30 percent of home heating bills and reduce CO2 emissions by 140 to 2100 pounds per year. If you live in a colder climate, consider super-insulating. That can save 5.5 tons of CO2 per year for gas-heated homes, 8.8 tons per year for oil heat, or 23 tons per year for electric heat. (If you have electric heat, you might also consider switching to more efficient gas or oil.)
Modernize your windows. Replacing all your ordinary windows with argon filled, double-glazed windows saves 2.4 tons of CO2 per year for homes with gas heat, 3.9 tons of oil heat, and 9.8 tons for electric heat.
Plant shade trees and paint your house a light color if you live in a warm climate, or a dark color if you live in a cold climate. Reductions in energy use resulting from shade trees and appropriate painting can save up to 2.4 tons of CO2 emissions per year. (Each tree also directly absorbs about 25 pounds of CO2 from the air annually.)
Weatherize your home or apartment, using caulk and weather stripping to plug air leaks around doors and windows. Caulking costs less than $1 per window, and weather stripping is under $10 per door. These steps can save up to 1100 pounds of CO2 per year for a typical home. Ask your utility company for a home energy audit to find out where your home is poorly insulated or energy inefficient. This service may be provided free or at low cost. Make sure it includes a check of your furnace and air conditioning.
Turn your refrigerator down. Refrigerators account for about 20% of Household electricity use. Use a thermometer to set your refrigerator temperature as close to 37 degrees and your freezer as close to 3 degrees as possible. Make sure that its energy saver switch is turned on. Also, check the gaskets around your refrigerator/freezer doors to make sure they are clean and sealed tightly.
Set your clothes washer to the warm or cold-water setting, not hot. Switching from hot to warm for two loads per week can save nearly 500 pounds of CO2 per year if you have an electric water heater, or 150 pounds for a gas heater.
Make sure your dishwasher is full when you run it and use the energy saving setting, if available, to allow the dishes to air dry. You can also turn off the drying cycle manually. Not using heat in the drying cycle can save 20 percent of your dishwasher’s total electricity use.
Turn down your water heater thermostat. Thermostats are often set to 140 degrees F when 120 is usually fine. Each 10-degree reduction saves 600 pounds of CO2 per year for an electric water heater, or 440 pounds for a gas heater. If every household turned its water heater thermostat down 20 degrees, we could prevent more than 45 million tons of annual CO2 emissions – the same amount emitted by the entire nations of Kuwait or Libya.
Select the most energy-efficient models when you replace your old appliances. Look for the Energy Star Label – your assurance that the product saves energy and prevents pollution. Buy the product that is sized to your typical needs – not the biggest one available. Front loading washing machines will usually cut hot water use by 60 to 70% compared to typical machines. Replacing a typical 1973 refrigerator with a new energy-efficient model, saves 1.4 tons of CO2 per year. Investing in a solar water heater can save 4.9 tons of CO2 annually.
Home heating and cooling
Be careful not to overheat or overcool rooms. In the winter, set your thermostat at 68 degrees in daytime, and 55 degrees at night. In the summer, keep it at 78. Lowering your thermostat just two degrees during winter saves 6 percent of heating-related CO2 emissions. That’s a reduction of 420 pounds of CO2 per year for a typical home.
Clean or replace air filters as recommended. Energy is lost when air conditioners and hot-air furnaces have to work harder to draw air through dirty filters. Cleaning a dirty air conditioner filter can save 5 percent of the energy used. That could save 175 pounds of CO2 per year.