Taking Small Steps Toward Improving Energy Efficiency at Your Home

Improving energy efficiency doesn't have to cost a fortune. Too often, homeowners look at the cost of installing new windows and doors or of adding new appliances and believe energy efficiency is out of reach of their budget.

The truth is many of the small things you do each day out of habit may be wasting energy. Those small things in a month's time add up to a big utility bill.

Water Use

Hot water uses a lot of electrical energy in our homes. The water in the tank heater must be maintained at a set temperature at all times.

Traditionally, we have set our water heaters at 130 degrees. This was necessary to provide hot water for laundry but today we don't need to have water heated to 130 degrees.

The 120 degrees is more than sufficient for needs in an average home today. Dishwashers have heating elements that boost the temperature of water to sanitary levels so we only need water heated to the level we like for a hot shower.

Energy efficient washers and new detergent formulas make cold water washing as efficient as using hot water for most laundry needs.

New front loading washers user significantly less water for each laundry load and have heating elements to boost water temperature for bedding, diapers and other hot water washes.

If you have a dripping faucet, stop making excuses and fix it! You would be shocked at how much water can be wasted in one day from one dripping faucet.

If the drip is from the hot water pipe you are paying for water lost down the drain and for power to heat water lost down the drain. It's a double loss and leaky faucets are easy to repair.

Take five minute showers to conserve water and don't over water lawns and flower gardens. Using only enough water to maintain plants encourages the development of deeper roots and results in plants that need less water to flourish.

Consider adding a rain barrel to collect free rain water that can be used to provide liquid refreshment to grass and flower beds.

Appliance Use

When you do laundry, wash full loads of clothing. Install glass doors if you have a fireplace to stop heat from escaping up an open chimney. Keep the fireplace damper closed except when the fireplace is in use.

When using a clothes dryer use a lower heat setting. If you dryer does not have a dry sensor feature, check the clothing after a time to prevent over-drying which can damage clothing and waste energy.

Close curtains or blinds on windows with a Western exposure on hot summer afternoons and dress properly for the season even when indoors.

Wearing shorts and short-sleeved t-shirt inside on a cold day in January will make you feel cold as you are aware of the outdoor temperature.

Cover the t-shirt with a sweater and add socks and shoes and you'll be able to keep the thermostat at a lower setting.

Use fans to circulate air in the home. This is an easy and inexpensive way of improving energy efficiency.

In the summer circulating air feels cooler on your skin while in winter a fan will prevent warmed air from settling near the ceiling of your rooms.

When it's time to replace appliance large or small, look for products with the EnergyStar rating.

This rating is awarded to manufacturers who produce appliances using less energy to run. If you take a good look around your kitchen you will notice how many things are "plugged in".

Use your microwave when possible as it uses far less power than heating up a burner on the stove. A small toaster oven is an efficient way to toast bread or cook single portions of food without using a large oven.

Winter months are a great time to use crock pots and to simmer soups and stews or do a lot of baking in your oven. The heat will spread throughout the room and reduce the amount of time your furnace will need to operate to maintain a warm temperature.

During hot summer days, cover pans as much as possible to keep heat from spreading into the room and use a ventilation fan to route oven exhaust to the outside.

Vents and Doors

If you have rooms in your home that are seldom used, close the doors and vents in those rooms when they are not in use. Guest rooms are great when family comes to visit but why heat and cool an empty room day after day?

If you have a formal dining room that is seldom used, adding French doors will allow you to close off the space except when it is needed.

Improving energy efficiency at your home is often a simple matter of using common sense and taking a clear look at how you use the systems and appliances.

Use the savings from decreased utility bills to add new energy efficient appliances or a passive solar system and save even more energy!

When improving energy efficiency, minor adjustments in the way you live in your home can make a big difference in energy use.

P.S: Make sure you don't miss our guides on renewable energy resources as well!